West Pier

Photo:The "Bird Ballet" at its height

The "Bird Ballet" at its height

All photos on this page from the website of The West Pier Trust :

Photo:The fire begins to take hold and it's going ...

The fire begins to take hold and it's going ...

All photos on this page from the website of The West Pier Trust :

Photo:... going ...

... going ...

All photos on this page from the website of The West Pier Trust :

Photo:... gone. The Starlings must find a new home.

... gone. The Starlings must find a new home.

All photos on this page from the website of The West Pier Trust :

The Murmuration

By Tommy Coyne

People might be surprised at the seemingly inescapable attraction that the Seafront has for homeless people (well, maybe not during the summer months) but, in fairness, for those who choose not to "ham-and-egg" or "do the Issue", after a certain time of the day it is one of the few places to spend your time : the day centres have closed, the evening shelters won't open for a while, the library's shut (even on wet days), so down to the Seafront it is!

And it was there that I discovered the beauty of "The Murmuration" at the West Pier (to be honest, I didn't even know it was called that until I saw a video of this truly phenomenal sight for sale in a Seafront kiosk).

The amazing thing was you never quite knew when it was going to start: always at dusk, admittedly, but they just suddenly seemed to be there: a cloud of tiny shadows, swooping around the sky, creating stunning patterns, sometimes disappearing (totally!) for a fraction of a second before resuming their airborne ballet. Then you noticed the birds joining the corps from over your head: turn to face the City and here they came. Twos, threes, tens of birds streaming from wherever they had been to join the dance. And that is what it was - a thrilling dance, its choreography controlled by some avian Bob Fosse.
All that I could do was watch, amazed: for however long I watched the display, my worries about my situation left me: homelessness and its difficulties were forgotten, a cocoon of joy wrapped around me as I watched the starlings, enthralled. Since the West Pier burned down, I have not seen the Murmuration in its full glory - the starlings' "condominium" has been destroyed by man. However, it still happens and I can't help feeling that, before long, this glorious display shall return to its former heights.

Strange to think that they (or, at least, some of them) are homeless now.

From the Lesser Heard Voices project, 2003
My Own Memories on 12th July 2003
This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
Wonderful to read Tommy's words on the 'murmuration' - what a perfect name for that stunning phenomenon. Beautiful piece of writing evoking a joyful and uplifting sight.
By Joyoti (23/11/2005)

I have recently visited the two piers and there are still wonderful sights to be seen. Whilst most birds roost under the Palace Pier and give a reasonable show prior to roost; the better display is still over and around the West Pier ruins. There is another starling roost under Wetherspoons at Brighton Marina. Here I have seen the rather odd sight of starlings lining up on the riggings of dozens of boats prior to flying in to roost.

By Peter Whitcomb (14/12/2011)

If he were still alive, I'm sure the sad demise of the West Pier would have inspired that very unique writer, W.G. Sebald.

By Sedat Nemli (29/09/2014)

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