A few weeks ago, I was teaching a lesson on poverty in the Victorian era (for context to ‘Great Expectations’) and I said to the class, “Imagine what it would be like to visit a place where you genuinely felt horrified that people lived in such a state.” A little voice from the front asked, “Like Blackpool?”
Blackpool has this image of run-down, faded glamour amidst swarthes of chavs and hen parties. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t an element of truth to this. However, part of this is what holds the charm of Blackpool for me. Beneath the dilapidated amusements arcades and boarded out shop fronts, there are some gems to be found in Blackpool.
Aidan and I love a little look round on a Saturday: circling the charity shops like seagulls, searching for treasures to pluck from the shelves; wandering through the amusements, feeding two pences into the penny falls machines’ gasping mouths; before purchasing fish (for me) and chips to quickly scoff on the beach, using purple fingers to eat rapidly, eyes streaming in the wind. Saturday 13th February was such a day and what a magnificent day it was.
It seems to have been some time since we were last there and there are changes about. Above is part of the regeneration of the centre. It is a beautifully tactile sculpture, comprising of the silver wave with diving person stretching into the sky, and miniature sea-green icebergs dotted around it. Even as we looked at it and took photos, many other people were wandering over to look at themselves stretched in the funhouse style mirrow of the sculpture; children balancing themselves treacherously atop the icebergs.
Across the newly laid cobbles lies a beautiful church:
It wasn’t open for us to have a look inside, but the effect of the whole square was beautiful. It seems to be starting to encourage a growth of new shops, cafes and restaurants around it – surely a welcome contrast to some of the more rundown areas.
As well as the new, there are some amazing examples of the old: fifties and sixties designed buildings are strewn around Blackpool. Actually, not so much strewn as crammed – every single street seems to force together different eras. We spotted this tiled wall next to a shop selling cushions featuring dog motifs:
How unbelievably 1950s is that?! I would love to have those tiles in a bathroom or a kitchen. These were covering an entire unit, with only a door breaking up the tiles. Why on earth they were used is a mystery… But really, how fantastic do they look?
And these weren’t the only bit of fabulous Fifties-ness that we spotted:
This is the stairwell to the side of a shopping centre. Note the misspelling on the sign for the fortune teller:
Inside the market, Aidan spotted these:
I am now the proud owner of a Fifties’ plastic heart-shaped brooch that says ‘Betty’. I would probably have liked the whole tray! The front sheet had names such as, ‘Vivienne’, ‘Audrey’, ‘Rose’, ‘Glynis’ and ‘Elsie’; while the sheet behind it had, ‘Joanne’, ‘Tracey’, ‘Valerie’ and ‘Sharon’. Seemingly, each sheet was for a different decade of names.
As I’ve already mentioned, you cannot go to Blackpool without eating a portion of fish and chips on the beach. Unfortunately, the shop this wall is attached to no longer sells the traditional seaside food:
We wandered further inland to find our fish and chips, but then headed back to the beach to wolf them down. After successfully finishing them without being attacked by the watching seagulls (or losing fingers to frost bite), we went for an extremely quick wander down to the seashore and back. This time of year, it is extremely quiet and makes for some beautiful shots of the area.
One shot of it had to be taken, really:
Opened to the public in 1894, Blackpool Tower was built in response to the Eiffel Tower after the mayor of Blackpool, John Bickerstaffe, visited the Parisian monument and was so impressed that he encouraged a group of local businessmen to finance Blackpool’s very own version. Nowadays, it hosts a number of ‘family-friendly’ attractions such as ‘Jungle Jim’s Towering Adventureland’. Not my cup of tea, but I like the idea of the North West having its own miniature Eiffel Tower.
At the end of the day, we had thirty minutes to waste while we waited for our train to whisk us back to Manchester and Glossop. On a previous visit to Blackpool with my friend Claire, we’d found a lovely little cupcake cafe. However, on subsequent visits with Aidan, we’d never managed to find it. This time we were successful! And thoroughly enjoyed our cupcakes and hot chocolate:
So there you have it: the hidden beauty of Blackpool. I’m beginning to think that everywhere has a certain charm to it… if you just know where to look.
8 Comments Add yours
You have such a way with words (perhaps it comes from being a teacher) that you make me want to visit places with bad reputations around here and discover their hidden charms. (Or find out that the reputations are deserved.)
You also seem to have the most amazing collection of pottery!
Thanks for your comment and kind words! Love it or hate it; Blackpool is definitely worth a visit. I’m sure if I’d blogged with a different set of photos, I could reinforce the stereotypical view of the place. But why would I want to do that? I love finding the hidden underbelly of a town; though not everywhere I’ve come across has that hidden, wonderful side to it… Thanks again! Emma
The underbelly of the town is exactly the opposite of what you reported! You didn’t go outside of a 1m perimeter of the town centre. If your into towers that look like the Eiffel Tower, go to Paris!
Idiots that come here for a visit only encourage businesses to hire people for 6 months of the year, leaving most of the Scottish that move here without jobs over the winter period, which doesn’t help with crime statistics!
The only investment in the town seems only to help the council, hotels, shops, and you visitors.
Maybe you should find the hidden gems of where you are from, instead of trying to escape to somewhere else! Unless a couple of buns is worth hiding from your troubles.
What, exactly, have you got against Blackpool?! I wonder, Chad, did you actually read my blog properly? I specifically said I’m not a fan of the tower, but it is undoubtedly a draw for many people. Also, apparently I’m an ‘idiot’ for visiting – yet, is February really a touristy time of year? I’d also like to know what perceived ‘troubles’ you think I have, and also why you think it is relevant (or polite, for that matter) to make a comment such as that. Is it really such a bad thing to try and find something good in an area many people dislike? It’s a shame that you cannot seem to respond to another’s opinion (and a different viewpoint to your own) without resulting to childish insults veiled by articulacy.
Blackpool seems to be a nice place….would love to go to England soon. The problem with Ryanair and is that if you find something you want to bring home…it doesn´t work very well. Think we´ve to bring the car!
May I just point out that all of these photos shown here, were taken within a mile of each other, as things that could be mistaken for charming really are few and far between the farther out from the centre you go. I think maybe it was just the fact you were visiting for a short period that you were able to just ignore the bad points. Blackpool, for it’s population, has some of the worst crime figures in the whole of Britain. You only have to go out of the centre of Blackpool, and you will see the people that give Blackpool it’s Horrible reputation. Mix these people with the drunken louts that have their stag and hen parties here, and it’s a sure hit for being able to see people beating what little sense they have out of each other. I cant remember a time when I could go into town (day or night) and not see a fight, or somebody who can’t walk because they’re too drunk or drugged up.
Hello! I stumbled across your blog while looking for information about a two-colour chocolate and grey W German chimney vase – then saw the ‘vail of fortune’ pic – ha ha. There was some signage for a palmist in Bridlington I once saw – Rose Petrulengo, I think – who came from an ‘impressive decent’ of palmists and clairvoyants.
Loved the pics of Blackpool. My son lives and works there at the moment but is dying to get away. I’ve been over to visit a few times. Coming from in a small fishing village in Ireland, I find B’Pool a bit of a culture shock so your sympathetic and kindly insight into the charms of Blackpool was very refreshing.
Anyhow, don’t know if you can help… am still looking for info on a large chimney vase.. It has the two-houses logo of Carsten Tonnieshof (info found on http://www.ginforsodditiques.com/wgermanmarks.html) and is marked W. Germany 7827-25 on the bottom. It;s mainly a chocolate brown with a light grey raised pattern of circles and, for want of a better way of describing them, lines of herringbone stitching. If you know of any good resources (other than yourself!) and wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d be delighted to go research the piece.
Hi Hel, thank you for your lovely comments. I’m glad to give you an alternative view of Blackpool; that was my aim in writing this, to explore another side of a town so often negatively considered. With regards to your piece of pottery, I can suggest several places to continue your research. Firstly, try potsandpots.com – it’s actually my partner Aidan’s website and is a good starting point. Also try the Pottery and Glass forum and two facebook groups: West German Pottery and Fat Lava Lovers. There are many knowledgeable people out there who love sharing their information and pictures of pottery. Good luck!