AROUND 500 people braved the pouring rain and high winds on Sunday afternoon to witness the Bishop of Lewes officially bless Eastbourne Pier.
The Bishop, the Right Reverend Richard Jackson, said he was delighted to have been invited to conduct the ceremony by the new pier owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar.
After carol singing and demonstrations from the Stix Drummers of Eastbourne, the Bishop conveyed  a very simple but powerful message during his five-minute address to the large audience.
He said it was important to pray for the pier to be a success as a community asset, and he prayed for Mr Gulzar and his team to use their resources and wisdom well in the coming months and years.
He spoke of some of the bad in society today, in particular with recent happenings in other countries, and said it was important for communities to pull together, and the pier could be a central focus for Eastbourne.
Mr Gulzar thanked the Bishop for attending, and then invited everyone to complimentary drinks and snacks in the Waterfront on the pier.
The occasion was recorded by the BBC, and Mr Gulzar said he was delighted by the turnout.
‘It was a fabulous occasion. The weather was absolutely terrible yet still the people of Eastbourne turned out to support me and my team, and I thank them very much for that,’ he said.
‘I did wonder if the weather may put people off – but it clearly didn’t. It was an occasion I will remember for a very long time, and it was such an honour to have the Bishop of Lewes present.
‘It is important to bring people together from different cultures and to celebrate love and togetherness.
‘The Bishop was right in what he said – we do have some big challenges with the pier in the coming weeks, months and years, and I am determined to make it a huge success.
‘I think it is great that so many people are talking about the pier, and showing a genuine interest. Yes, there are a few who have been negative, but I believe the town is behind me.
‘The blessing was another step forward in the future of Eastbourne Pier.’