Starting on Thursday 29th October, the Observer Building will be hosting small groups for guided tours. Rod Webb from HIP went along for a preview.

Artist’s impression

We met outside as a small group, huddled against the wind and rain and took refuge inside a derelict building: two journalists, a photographer, a writer and representatives from Heart of Hastings and White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures (the owners of the building) including the tour leader, Jay Simpson.

We were led via the executive stairway (soon the be restored to its former glory) up to the board room where artist in residence, Ben Fenton, was working on an enormous painting. The angular ceilings of the wide-open first-floor space evoke many of his paintings.

Ben Fenton working in the Observer Building

Ceilings evoke, artist Ben Fenton

Although there had been previous visits for various markets and exhibitions, this was the first time I’d had the opportunity to see the place in its entirety. But also, during this tour, the building could be seen as a coherent whole, waiting to spring into life. During previous visits, the air of dereliction had complemented the edgy installations. This time, with ceilings repaired and painted, basement brickwork sandblasted and much of the mess cleared away, it had an expectant air.

As we progressed through the building the scale of the project became more apparent. After years of neglect, this building seems set to become a beacon of regeneration – but you will have to wait until March 2021 to see the results of phase 1.

The Observer Building will be hosting two walkthroughs every Thursday until Christmas, starting at 12pm and 1pm, for groups of up to five people with a tour guide (Covid safe rule of 6). Anybody who is interested in seeing what’s been planned for the redevelopment, or just wants to walk around a huge derelict building, should take a look before building works start in January.

Responding to the lockdown, tours for November have been cancelled. These will restart in December if circumstances allow. As there has been a lot of interest, the organisers aim to have three or four tours per week to accommodate numbers. To book a tour, check the website for updates.

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