East Beach Cafe

Much has been written in the national press about Littlehampton’s East Beach Café. It was completed in 2007 to the designs of Thomas Heatherwick (of Olympic cauldron and London bus fame) and features rusted steel as the principle material.

Lots could be said, and has been, about both the building and its food. Bearing in mind Brighton & Hove’s inability to get anything of note built, I’m more interested in the battle that was fought by its creator, Jane Wood.

The story starts with Jane buying at auction a seafront flat in Littlehampton. She then acquired the chippy kiosk in front to stop it from being turned into something awful. Her saviour was a Concessions Officer at Arun District Council, Mary Campling, who bought into Jane’s dream of bringing world-class architecture to the town. Through Mrs Campling’s interventions, the council saw fit to do whatever was necessary to make it happen and granted a long lease with a nominal rent.

Although Jane speaks for England about her dealings with various councils in trying to get various projects moving, it is the case that she built the West Beach Café in 2008, the World’s Longest Bench in 2010 and the Stage by the Sea in 2014 by architects Asif Khan, Studio Weave and Flanagan Lawrence respectively. These buildings have worked wonders for Littlehampton.

If such structures are to be built, it has to be borne in mind that the businesses within them (cafes, museums, etc) are not particularly more profitable than if they had been built within drab seaside sheds. It is the rest of a town that ultiamtely benefits. That is why councils should be bending over backwards to attract people like Jane.

I wonder how we should be attracting the Jane Woods of the world to Brighton & Hove.