Out There column

Swimming in the sea off Morecambe Beach. Picture: Ingrid Kent.
Swimming in the sea off Morecambe Beach. Picture: Ingrid Kent.

I’ve just spent the last three weeks working in Morecambe’s rival resort of Blackpool.

Although the two are ‘old enemies’ it has been fascinating to compare these seaside towns.

Historians often portray the towns very differently; Morecambe was originally more of an upper crust resort for well-heeled Edwardians, whereas Blackpool appealed more to the common punter.

No doubt there is some truth in both of these assertions but, to me, the present day towns are more similar than dissimilar.

The challenges of unemployment, health care, poor housing, derelict public buildings, struggling firms, drugs, crime and poverty are evident in both – albeit on a much smaller scale in Morecambe.

They also have a lot they could learn from each other.

So where was I working in Blackpool? Well, believe it or not, it was as a freelance reporter on the Blackpool Gazette. After years of working as news editor of The Visitor I was somewhat reticent about going back to the ‘coal face’ of reporting but I needn’t have worried.

Getting out of the office and into the community to hear people’s stories first hand was pure joy. The excitement of going to a person’s home or business and not knowing exactly what story you’ll come away with is one of the great thrills of journalism.

Reporting in Blackpool reminded me of my early days as a reporter on The Visitor. At one point I’d be battling along the prom in fierce winds and the next I’d be scouring the backstreets to find traders to interview on hot topics in the town.

On my way to jobs I marvelled at Blackpool’s wonderful old buildings. The town could perhaps learn a thing or two from Morecambe about conserving these architectural gems.

However, I understand that Blackpool is so much bigger and the scale of work needed is immense.

Thankfully, Blackpool is still investing substantial amounts in its tourism trade. Indeed, some leading tourism attractions told me that, due to the recent fine weather, they had experienced their best spring season since 2007. It would be marvellous if this turns out to be the same for Morecambe.

I also had the privilege of interviewing people who were facing extreme life changing situations such as a son’s suicide or the loss of a business. As in Morecambe, the people of Blackpool proved to be kind-hearted, friendly, creative, resilient and fun to be around.

The salt of the earth.

It’s this sort of character that will see the two towns through the most difficult of times.Both have various regeneration schemes in place and it will be wonderful to see them come to fruition.