I think Blackpool might be one of the strangest places I have ever been. Many of Big Dreamer’s family originate from this part of the world and today we were there to visit some of his mighty tribe. Given Little Owl’s ardent affection for modes of transport we simply had to try out the brand new trams that run along the promenade. We hopped off at the North Pier and Little Owl had a poddle about in the shallows.
On one side of you there is this incredible expanse of sky and sea made up of infinite blues, lilacs, greys and greens. Then on the other side, almost as infinite, there are innumerable amusement arcades, gift shops, tourist attractions, takeaways, and hotels. The place is a crazy mixture of shabby facades, vintage treasures, tourist bling, and action-packed billboards, clinging on at the mercy of the brutal Atlantic Ocean. Recently I heard Jean Sprackland read her book Strands on Radio 4 in which she talks of the mysteries uncovered on Ainsdale Sands between Blackpool and Liverpool as the sand shifts and swirls. Jean describes the area as a place of transformations. As the sun goes down and the Illuminations prick the night that description seems as apt for the Prom as it does for the beaches.
Just to add to the craziness of Blackpool vast sculptures have been sited along the sea front. My favourite was Dune Grass by Chris Levine and Gordon Young. Dune Grass is made up of giant pliable structures with balloon-like bobbles on the top that move in the wind. In today’s weather they swayed like sage old gentlemen and the action was mesmerising. Another one (pictured here) is called the Comedy Carpet. It’s a huge jingle-jangle of playbill styled jokes, songs and catchphrases to celebrate writers and comedians who have played at Blackpool. Apart from being a typographer’s dream it is also one of the largest pieces of public art ever commissioned in the UK.
As we strolled under the Blackpool Tower Little Owl’s head bent backwards by degrees until it was almost horizontal. Pointing at the bottom of the Tower she said, “It’s down there.” Turning to me in amazement and pointing to the top, “It’s up there too!” I can’t think of a better response to Blackpool.