Let’s be honest, Blackpool isn’t exactly the most welcoming of resorts these days – in fact you’d be hard pressed to find a good reason to visit for fun. Unless your idea of fun happens to be binge drinking all day, intimidating passers by and then throwing up on yourself in the gutter, in which case you’d be in good company.
It’s an image Blackpool wants to change but it has a long road ahead of it, even if that long road has recently been given a £100 million makeover. The new curvy stepped promenade looks impressive and makes wandering down to the beach so much easier. Or as my photographer friend Dave found on our last visit, it makes getting soaked from the waist down by a rogue wave so much easier. Ignore the half-derelict shanty town-esque mess fronting on to it and you could almost pretend you’re somewhere respectable. If it wasn’t for the drunken hoardes intimidating passers by and throwing up on themselves in the gutter…
Doubtless to Dave’s delight, we arrived this time to find a gently receding tide in just the right position to keep his jeans dry – 20 minutes late to get the perfect twilight-blue sky in the main shot above, but otherwise I was happy with the photograph I’d come back to take. The tower is finally without scaffolding after years of engineering work and appears in one of my shots for the first time here alongside Central Pier’s Ferris wheel; a duo of fun and frivolity, their lights melting in to the sea like watercolours on the shore. Blackpool was shimmering and busy, the descending darkness creeping into the shadows and setting off the town’s illuminations – famous the world over and successfully hiding the less salubrious side of the promenade’s tired frontage.
I’d forgotten just how long that promenade was as we wandered from Central to South Pier to see if any of the novelty trams were waiting. They were, and this time it was ‘the ship’.
We hung around a while and then with this one in the bag we retreated for chips and ice creams, taking the long road home.
Say what you like about Blackpool (and as somebody that was born there I feel I can), they do put on possibly the greatest free light show in Britain. In a changing world where seaside resorts have to adapt and move with the times, this is one constant at least that remains a welcoming sight.