Broadcaster and author Dame Joan Bakewell tells us about her enduring love for Britain’s pleasure piers, and the primal appeal of the sea itself. Interview: Alex Reece

My affection for seaside piers began in childhood. I used to go to Blackpool for my holidays, where there were three piers. The piers in those days (in the 1940s, when I was very small) had pavilion theatres at the end. You would go to the pier in the evenings for shows with very glittery line-ups of girls and so on.

I like a great many of Britain’s piers: Clevedon, Weston-super-Mare, Southwold, Llandudno – and there are many more I haven’t seen that I’d like to go to. Tragically, they are expensive and hard to maintain. But the National Piers Society [of which Dame Joan is a patron] is doing a lot to keep them going, as are local authorities, because piers are a great source of pleasure and enjoyment. They’re characteristically British, aren’t they?

There are many ways to support piers. First of all patronise them and enjoy them, speak of them, or tweet about them. But also people who live along the coast can lend support to local authorities or groups of citizens, coming together. That’s the way society’s moving. We’re all going to have to help ourselves, because governments aren’t going to.

I’m very fond of quite a number of seaside resorts. I like Margate, Hastings, Bexhill-on-Sea – I tend to like places that have got a bit of art.

My son lives in Dorset, and I’ve grown to know and love the Jurassic Coast very much. It’s varied and beautiful. It’s wonderful to go to Lyme Regis, because the beach is full of people with little hammers, going fossiling. We’ve done that too. It’s so impressive, the ancient nature of the coastline, and how the cliffs reveal the history of the earth itself.

Being by the sea is just exhilarating. It is one of the great forces – it’s absolutely primal. It’s a million moods and colours, in every nook and cranny, bay and harbour. The water falls differently in every place; it’s amazing.

Stop The Clocks by Joan Bakewell is published by Virago (£18.99). For more on the National Piers Society, see

For more celebrity interviews, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.

For more celebrity interviews, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.