DURING the last year of the 20th century, the changing face of Skegness was much in evidence.
Three foot-long Shell Unearthed
The Body Shop, Wilkinson’s and the Tower Ballroom closed in February and March, subsequently resurfacing elsewhere, and their part of Lumley Road became a building site all summer, a three foot-long shell being unearthed in the process.
Despite a valiant Save The Outdoor Pool campaign and many expressions of concern about nightclubs and pubs becoming part of the Embassy complex, the centre closed for development in October; The outdoor pool was obliterated in days and, as the year ends, the Embassy dramatically resembles London at the height of the blitz. A new Focus Do It All store, to be built on the Wainfleet Road Industrial Estate, was announced in February; rumours of an imminent Macdonalds Restaurant were rife all year; an application from Lidl to build a supermarket on Richmond Drive received town council planning approval in October; and Somerfields confirmed in November that they will soon be moving across town to the present Kwik Save site.
The year began tragically with the brutal murder on the beach of schoolboy Christopher Swales, a crime for which Neil Walgate was sentenced to life imprisonment in November, after allegations and counter denials of a prior sexual encounter in The Street.
The first year of CCTV in Skegness ended in June, with the announcement that 600 crimes had been detected or deterred.
Fantasy Island’s new millennium roller coaster opened at Easter, was “blessed” in May, and then “approved” by the Rollercoaster Club of Great Britain in July. John Woodward made an unsuccessful bid in August to buy Wembley’s twin towers; plans for yet another roller coaster, this time codenamed Odyssey 2001 were approved in September; and the number of visitors to the Island this year was estimated at eight-and-a-half million.
In April, Mitchell Leisure announced plans to install a boat feature in a redevelopment of the pier this winter, and a new concept Butlins was relaunched in May, under a 42-metre-high Skyline Pavilion completed earlier in the year.
Clock Tower’s Birthday
The 100th birthday of the Clock Tower was celebrated with a Compass Gardens performance by Act Aware Youth Theatre or a Micheal Cooper play appropriately entitled Clocked Tower, and by ELDC chairman Coun Fiona Martin’s unveiling of a jolly Fisherman-shaped millennium countdown clock.
And in October the clock race displayed the wrong time for a week, after prematurely bringing British Summer Time to an end!
Skegness on TV
Landladies, a six-week Carlton Television series, featuring many Skegness hoteliers and narrated by Ken Dodd, was shown in the Central TV region in January and February, and in October it was given a Royal Television Society Award.
In a survey published in July, the Consumer Association’s Which magazine gave Skegness a glowing report and its top grading, ahead of resorts including Yarmouth and Blackpool.
Also in July, the national magazine Take A Break featured Skegness in a complimentary two-page spread, and Radio Four broadcast a played called “Skeggy” in September.
For once, the weather was in benign mood for all three of the main bank holidays, but a mini American-style “twister” was reported in June, and a tornado produced flash floods in the town centre in July.
The weather was kind, though, for the Illuminations switch-on when Otis the Aardvark attracted an audience of thousands and richly entertained them in what was generally accepted as the best switch-on ever.
The drowning of a Mablethorpe girl at Huttoft in April sparked Off a drive spearheaded by Court Sue Binch, to secure a ban on the use of inflatables, September was revised into a widely supported concerted safety campaign, publicising the danger of inflatables and a “safety postcard.” was included.
Dramatic Local Elections
A dramatic local elections upheaval saw Brian O’Connor topping the polls at his first attempt, and Sue MacGregor unseated, days before she was due to become Town Mayor.
The town council agreed in February to publish annual details of councillors’ attendance figures, and in November, despite much vocal local opposition, ELDC agreed to negotiate with Hildreds about closing the Lumley Road toilets.
Lincs Roadcar decided against repeating last year’s park and ride experiment.
County council plans to make Lumley Road one-way only met fierce opposition, and the November decision to drop the idea was warmly welcomed – but alternative plans to eliminate nearly all Lumley Road parking were strongly condemned.
There was also opposition to a proposed road link from Churchill Avenue to Winthorpe, but Neill Kirkup’s plan, produced for the Skegness Town Forum, which suggested a new town bypass route that would follow existing roads and therefore only necessitate upgrading, was warmly welcomed after its announcement in July.
Girls from the Janice Sutton Theatre School made highly successful appearances at the London Palladium in March and July, and Skegness playwright Micheal Cooper’s play, Jonathan, won the best original play award at the Hull Festival in March.
Ashley Wass graduated from the Royal Academy of Music (first class, of course!), played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1 beautifully at the Embassy in April, and saw his first CD finally released in November.
Farce of the Year
The Farce of the Year starred at the post office when, in January, following months of dithering, Post Office Counters declared that it would shortly be moving to a draughty caravan site on the Arcadia car park, then announced the week after that it would be staying at the Co-op until the end of the year, and later made that five years.
Bad Taste Brickbat
And the Bad Taste brickbat of the year goes to two women who lifted their blouses on the bowls green to “celebrate” victory in the September Bowls week!