Not long ago Blackpool had a Financial Times article written about it. It caused quite a kerfuffle on social media with many Blackpool residents leaping to Blackpool’s defence, with conflicting discussions arising across Facebook and Twitter. A more realistic depiction of Blackpool was presented through facts and figures and documented opinions – but I question how labels and assumptions effect people and how communities attach themselves to these kind of documents.
I always wanted to move away as a teen and jumped at the chance when I hopped off to University. It was only then that I really appreciated Blackpool. It amazes me that you can get journalists arriving here to write and photograph a place without actually making the effort to get to know the people, the culture, the place.
Perhaps I am biased but Blackpool is unlike anywhere else. Its past personality conveys vibrancy, and entrepreneurial spirit. It was the destination for visitors from all walks of life and in its hey day the ‘play place’ for Wakes Weeks workers from local mill towns arriving here in their droves to enjoy the benefits of the beach and sea. Times have changed, people were able to access affordable holidays abroad where sunshine is guaranteed – but anyone from here knows Blackpool is looking not dissimilar to California in its current climes.
The FT article made a number of us locals really question things. I think a lot about what makes a place and, in particular, my home of Blackpool; I think a lot about what we believe is usually represented by mass media or popular press. The lack of connection that these pieces offer is a huge irritation for proud residents. Blackpool is a great place for stories and photography, as any photographer will tell you. Many notable photographers have come to Blackpool to capture its essence, Dougie Wallace in recent times, Martin Parr, JJ Waller. Films have been made here, stories have been written.
Historically, Blackpool has been used as the poster girl for the UK’s problems: low employment, child poverty, homelessness etc but those who live here know that there is a lot more to our home town than the downside. It’s about time we looked at the upside. The only people that can make change are the residents – start by feeling proud of the place you live. Blackpool is unlike anywhere else, we have the most amazing ballrooms, heritage piers and history of performance that is unique – for goodness sake, Frank Sinatra once said he could be mayor here?
Leftcoast has recently commissioned five artists to respond to the FT article. Watch this space for a beautiful and artistic comeback.
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