Even when I was a young lad growing up in Yorkshire, Blackpool was always regarded as a resort for the working classes. It was a place where factory workers from Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire used to go for their two weeks summer holidays. In those days, the middle classes preferred Cleveleys, Lytham or Southport for their vacations.
The attractions that drew my family to Blackpool were the world famous lights, the tower and of course the wonderful fish and chips. On the few occasions that we holidayed there, we’d stay in B&Bs; spend our days on the beach with our parents, sat in deck chairs on the prom and by night we’d visit the Tower Circus, enjoy a show or just stroll along the prom with a bag of those fish and chips.
Since those days of my youth, I have only been back to Blackpool on a few occasions. When I was Master of my Masonic Lodge, Pam and I went there for the Master’s ball. I also went there to receive my promotion into Provincial Grand Lodge. I remember that we took our children once when my parents stayed outside the town in their caravan. Other than that, our preference was for the more genteel resorts on the Dorset coast.
Yesterday, Pam and I went for the day to Blackpool with Jemma, Laura, Dave and Molly and it was an eye opener. By day, it was just the same but without the deck chairs. There was a good mix of families, young and old enjoying a day of sunshine. We went into the Tower Ballroom to watch the dancers twirl elegantly across the floor to the sounds of the Wurlitzer organ. We ate fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s and then strolled out along the North Pier. Finally we walked back along the promenade to see the lights. It was a great day out that we all enjoyed.
As I say, by daytime it was much the same but as darkness fell you could sense that the town was being transformed. The families had largely gone home leaving the promenade to the young who were out for the night. There was a party of young ladies (I use that word reservedly) dressed as Victorian tarts whose first port of call was for food – very sensible because drinking copious shots of vodka on an empty stomach is not clever.
If we’d stayed longer I have no doubt we would have seen many similar groups of both men and women hell bent on consuming as much alcohol as they could before the night was out. By the early hours of the morning when these young people eventually spilt out onto the pavements - it would not have been a pretty sight.
The argument goes that it is these stag and hen parties that keep Blackpool going by bringing money into the town. That may be true but they are also adding fuel to the all too familiar image of modern Britain as a country where binge drinking and excess are regarded as the norm for young people.
Sadly, Blackpool has a long way to go if it wants to shake off the tawdry image that is has created for itself and return once more to being a resort where families feel safe to stay.