Memories of when seafront was entertainment magnet

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

CLIVE SMITH: English pigs? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

0
Have your say

One of the best memories I have of being young is of throwing myself head first down a helter skelter.

My grandmother, the late Nellie, would watch as I and a heap of other boisterous nine-year-olds would whoop our way to the bottom before racing back up the steps to do it all again.

Behind us, there was nothing but water. In front, the ballrooms of South Parade Pier, Southsea.

A few growing-up years later, I was back on the pier but this time waiting in line on a Saturday night to go to the club night Chaos.

Other nights I might be over the road from it, queuing to get into Images or one of the other venues along South Parade.

Nights out were vibrant, trouble was almost non-existent, from what I remember, and I loved every minute.

Another venue in Portsmouth has good memories for me, too.

I was so excited when The Pyramids Centre opened – it had a wave machine and a flume, and so therefore was the last word in cool.

Again, like the pier, it would be somewhere I’d visit when I got a bit older, too.

I would watch gigs with my friends and enjoy a drink or two in the Frog on the Front.

But then off I went to university and when I came back it was to a place that really had changed beyond all recognition.

The police and the council, fairly understandably, wanted to corral the drinkers and the party people into one place in the city.

So the clubs along the seafront disappeared and the buildings were bought by Harry Redknapp, who spectacularly failed to turn them into houses.

The pier, too, changed hands many times and now you can’t even walk where once children played, never mind enjoy a night out.

And the Pyramids has had a rollercoaster of fortunes, though hopefully now yet more new management has been announced it might once again be a place Portsmouth can be proud of.

If only the same could be done with the pier and the nightclubs – to stop the cycle of climbing to the top just to helter skelter back down again.