Wednesday, 5 October 2011


I’ve wanted to visit Blackpool for about a year but had struggled to find anyone willing to come with me and, not being a lone wolf kind of guy, it wasn’t until my big brother agreed to go that I was finally able to see Fabulous Las Blackpool. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why I wanted to go, it stems from the notion of wanting to visit somewhere completely off the “alternative” radar, unlike Brighton or Brick Lane. I mean how cool do you sound if a friend rings you and you can say; “yeah, sorry I can’t, I’m in… Blackpool??”

My head was filled with romantic images of a desolate seaside town complete with fading ballrooms, peeling shop fronts and empty amusement arcades, all swathing in the smell of stale batter. In a perpetual cloud of drizzly gloom, a relic of the great British Summer, dissolving into the Irish Sea. Unfortunately my visions were severely hampered, as they so often are, by a lack or proper research. It turns out millions still visit Blackpool and, according to an unreliable source, has more hotel beds than the whole of Portugal. So with the combination of it being the hottest October on record, a big football match taking place and the illuminations kicking off, it was actually rather hard to find somewhere to stay.

We eventually managed to check into the Fairway Lodge, a typical Blackpool hotel nestled in the warren of B&Bs that run behind the promenade and only a saveloy’s throw from the tower. The hotel has a bit of Tardis thing going on, from the outside it only looks like a double fronted end of terrace, but inside there are staircases flying in every direction with bars and breakfast rooms and small corridors winding their way to even more suites. After dropping our bags off in our room somewhere deep in the bowels of the hotel, we headed down to the esplanade.

Walking down the high street we were flanked by platoons of uniformed stag nighters and hen partiers. The centre of the town was overrun with arguing families packed into cafes whilst rude staff shovelled cold tea and musty battered cod at them. However, it wasn’t until sunset that the magic truly began to happen. The illuminations, billed as the “Greatest Free Light Show on Earth”, manages to hit an offbeat lameness that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anywhere else. Despite being tacky, at least things like the Bellagio fountains or the Hong Kong laser show are technically challenging to compose. The illuminations are just millions of 70s Christmas decorations taped together. They’re not really a spectacle at all but a thinly veiled excuse so people can justify a trip to Blackpool to get pissed.

Not feeling 100% and with the seaside air not really helping I spent most of the evening being mesmerised by those 2p sliding arcade machines inside an amusement arcade perched on the end of a pier. The next morning I was well enough to partake in the ritual of the full English breakfast, flung at us across the dining room. Walking around the town on a damp Sunday morning I was able to grab a glimpse of the idealised Blackpool I had formed in my head. In retrospect, I think the future for the town is promising. Despite falling visitor numbers, it has an eccentricity that won’t fade and a hidden quirkiness that more and more people will start to notice, so in about 10 years Blackpool will also be too mainstream to be seen in, so it’s off to Skegness next!

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