A Postcard To Blackpool: Sowing the seeds
“Why do you love Blackpool so much?”
It’s a question I get asked all the time by family, friends and colleagues alike, and not one I can easily answer, so I’m going to go right back to the beginning, to my very first visit when I was barely a teenager.
As a child I traveled a lot with my mother, a lot of the time abroad to places much more exotic than this. As usual I had no say on where I was going or even if I wanted to go, all I knew was that, today, we were going on a bus trip to Blackpool.
Coming from the North-east of England I already frequented the seaside towns of Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, the still thriving amusement arcades of the 80’s, the souvenir shops and tourist attractions, most notably the ‘Spanish City’ funfair, but that’s another story. As we disembarked onto the promenade my initial impression was that I’d seen it all before, a drab, bleakly northern seaside town, but vast in scale, too vast to absorb in a snapshot in time.
Even at a young age, I was a very reflective kind of person, I took things in, thought about the story behind the place. But as I stood on the wide, spacious promenade, the British weather took an expected turn for the worse, and we headed indoors to a market. A few weeks earlier, my uncle had introduced me to the first band I was ever really passionate about, that I wanted to research more. “Queen – Greatest Hits”. So the focus of the day now became a hunt for my first ‘proper’ Queen album. As I scoured the isles of stalls I eventually came across a collection of music cassette tapes, labelled alphabetically. In the Q section I pulled out a black and white cassette, simply labelled “Queen – Jazz”. I was none the wiser and hurriedly exchanged money for the cassette without further ado.
Maybe the weather had spoiled our plans, or maybe there was no plan, but the the rest of the day was so uneventful it has faded from memory, bar some indoor rides with friends of my mother I didn’t care to know. Truth be told I was glad to be back on the coach home, it was now dark but still raining heavily, but as I sat on the stationary coach peering through the window, Blackpool finally revealed itself to me.
The promenade was unlike anything I’d seen before, attractions for as far as the eye could see in both directions. Bright neon lights begging for your attention, your custom. Promotions for shows of all kinds, comedy acts, magic, cabaret and tribute acts. As the bus rolled out I noticed not one, not two, but three piers!, one featuring a big wheel but all of them boasting their own range of features and facilities. It was too much to take in, an assault on the senses as I struggled to focus on one thing as the attractions flashed past. The illuminations were also in full swing but they didn’t interest me as much, what occupied me more was a feeling i’d experience every time I left Blackpool from now on, a melancholic feeling of loss, of leaving the party when it had just begun, of missing out, a humbling envy that home just wasn’t as much fun, of returning back to the doom and gloom of normal life.
As I slotted my new cassette into my walkman, I was introduced to what would become my favorite Queen album (and by extension, Album) of all time. Tracks like the “Dreamer’s Ball”, “In only Seven days” and “Leaving Home” seemed to gel to the backdrop of the big shows and ballroom, melding with my whimsical thoughts. I had a knot in my stomach and lump in my throat, as though I was tearing myself away from the place against an inner will.
The seed had been sown, and as the last few garish illuminations petered away from view all I wanted to do was go back.