Posted by: brigid benson | May 1, 2012

Blackpool: romance and the Comedy Carpet

It’s been a while since I was last in Blackpool but last weekend I went to see Imelda May at the Opera House and, despite the grey weather and the bitterly cold north wind, I took time to check out the historic seaside resort that traditionally provided holidays for workers from Lancashire’s cotton factories. When the factories closed for a week of repairs in high summer the workers hit the beach en masse.

As ever, all the pictures are taken on the camera of my phone.

One of the fleet of sleek modern trams on the prom; in high summer vintage trams also carry holiday makers along the seafront

Miles of goldens sands, elegant dance halls, three piers, a casino at the Pleasure Beach complex and a mighty tower, modelled on Eiffel’s Parisian masterpiece, must have felt a world away from the din of the nineteenth century factory floor. These were happy days, no wonder they sang ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.’

Since the decline of the cotton mills the town has reinvented itself several times, headlining top comedy acts, producing the late summer spectacle of fantasy illuminations between August and November – six miles of bright lights from Starr Gate to Bispsham, and more recently, earning the sometimes unwanted reputation of one of Europe’s favourite stags and hens destinations.

When I was there the town was gearing up for the summer season; silver painted railings were smartly refreshed.

In summer this beach is awash with deckchairs, sandcastles and donkeys

Attractive seaside shelters had been spruced up too. I love the cast iron pagodas along the seven mile promenade, where courting couples get cosy, senior citizens pour tea carefully from flasks and weary kids and parents stop for a rest or to shelter from the rain.

Blackpool’s elegant seaside shelters. What stories they might tell!

The Winter Gardens are a favourite place; here bands perform on one of the largest stages in Europe. Within the Winter Gardens, the opulent Empress Ballroom built in 1896 is breathtaking.

High light: dome at the Winter Gardens
Stage Door, Winter Gardens

The Roll Call of Honour at the Winter Gardens is a piece of social entertainment history!

Skilled entertainers all
The Winter Gardens: a recently refurbished temple of style and pleasure

The thrilling skywalk at the top of the Blackpool Tower is not for the faint hearted; walking on a glass floor at a height of 500 ft and looking out through huge floor to ceiling glass windows over the town and across the bay is exhilarating stuff.

Blackpool tower by night, out of season

With all the heart stopping thrills the resort has delivered over the years it is little wonder romance blossomed. One of my favourite Blackpool sights is a little known plaque, almost hidden away in the Winter Gardens it pays hommage to lovers and their stories.

‘thousands of love stories….’

From the sublime to the cor blimey -another of my favourite Blackpool sights is the Comedy Carpet. An ingenious celebration of all the catchphrases and songs that have caused mirth in the town over the years. It is a beautiful artwork, especially enjoyed in the early morning when you can have it all to yourself.

The inspired Comedy Carpet

The town is not afraid to look forward; a daring 10.5 metre high sculpture, The Wave, designed by Lucy Glendinning is a mighty crest of steel representing a breaking wave, studded with coloured resin inserts inspired by stained glass at St Johns Church. A  twice life size figure dives through the wave and hangs rather alarmingly in the air.

The crest of The Wave with the tower in the background

Public transport is great, the town has excellent rail and road connections and one of the nicest ways to get around on a sunny day is easy bike hire from depots around the resort.

Get your wheels here

There’s so much more to see and do in Blackpool even if you’re not gripped by the prospect of a fun fair and candy floss.

After my short visit I met these guys in party mood at the station; football fans on their way to savour the last game of the season, Preston v Charlton match in their finery.

Charlton fans dressed up for the last match of the season: Preston V Charlton, a 2-2 draw

For more information about Blackpool see  http://www.visitblackpool.com/

For news of Imelda May’s concerts see http://www.imeldamay.co.uk/


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