I spent a happy Sunday in the sunshine at party on the Pier, meeting some lovely people who have now joined the ranks of The Chiswick Calendar newsletter readers. Welcome. Chiswick Pier, at the end of the E3 bus route, is a hidden gem and the Chiswick Pier Trust, aka manager Anne Gill, events manager Gill Exton and marketing manager Kate Vick, do a fabulous job of putting on events throughout the year – talks, cruises, parties. Their stated mission is to bring people to the river to enjoy it and find out more about it.
Pier House, home to the Chiswick Pier Trust, the RNLI, the Thames Explorer Trust, the Sea Cadets and Chiswick Pier Canoe Club, is owned by Hounslow Council and leased to the Trust. It was built in 1996 when the Corney Reach estate was built, on what had been the old Thorneycroft boatyard before it became a council depot. The council decided the estate needed a community hall, a focus in what could otherwise have been quite a soulless housing project.
Photographs above: Gill Exton, Kate Vick and Anne Gill
Chiswick Pier was built at the same time and the historic houseboats, which had previously been moored at the wharf, were offered moorings, giving continuity to the area’s traditional working relationship with the river. Now, as well as providing a home to the people who live on the boats and a picturesque platform from which to view a lovely part of the river, the pier is a hub of activity, of purposeful engagement with the river.
Chiswick Pier Trust, a charity whose income is derived from the moorings and the rents from Pier House, has responsibility for maintaining the building, the pontoon and the pier. Its raison d’etre is to bring people to the river and facilitate our enjoyment of it. Judging from the thousand or so people who turned up on Sunday, mission accomplished. Seven hundred people enjoyed the free boat trips, laid on throughout the afternoon. Others were happy to browse the stalls selling everything from socks to scented candles.
Events manager Gill Exton has hit on a winning formula which she repeats every year – a barbecue selling good quality meat sausages and burgers, a band, Shenanigans, who turn out the old rock and R&B standards with accomplished ease, and a Fuller’s bar. Amanda of Amanda’s Action Club keeps little kids entertained, quite unselfconsciously leading them in walking like a dinosaur and leaping about to her own brand of techno toddler party music. She, like the band and I suspect the burger vendors, has been doing what she does for more than 25 years, and she’s good at it. The kids were entranced, their parents grateful and the rest of us relaxed enough to hum along as the entertainment switched from Ba Ba Black Sheep with Amanda to Mustang Sally from the band. The children were quite happy to bob about gleefully to either; a new generation introduced to Wilson Pickett and the Beatles.
Gill puts on two parties a year, one in the summer and one for the Boat Race, and several cruises, leaving the pier and heading to Westminster and back for Mother’s Day, the summer Jazz Cruise and the Lord Mayor’s Fireworks show in November.
Kate Vick puts on a programme of talks about the river. Coming up in September, Talks by the Thames kicks off with Chris Everett from the Docklands History Group talking about the Port of London and the Thames in the First World War. ‘No Longer an Island’ will be on Tuesday 24 September at 7.30pm. In October Matthew Morgan from the Royal Collection will be speaking on James Abbot McNeil Whistler and the Thames: ‘An American in London’ on October 29th at 7.30pm. Kate’s talks are always on the final Tuesday of the month. A £10 membership will get you into the whole programme of talks for no additional payment.
Anne Gill is the manager who holds it all together. She told me they are expecting to hear in the next few weeks about the fate of Pissarro’s – the restaurant much loved by the community, but sold to a developer who just wants to put in more housing, against stiff opposition from the local residents. There have been two planning applications so far and two appeals – this second one is pending.