Monday, 15 August 2011

Blackpool Born & Breed

08:14:00 Posted by Shaun , , , , , , 3 comments

I’ve spent the last week watching a pub come down, brick by brick. Happy memories, strange memories and those I never want back are crashing to the ground with the swing of a mechanical arm. Whilst this is hugely thought provoking, I suspect this is also the reason that I have been cut off from the world.

That said, the show must go on and, internet or not, phone line or not, I’m not about to be the one to let the side down and ‘not blog’...

This week’s theme is Blackpool. Ashley’s choice I believe and a rather appropriate subject to round off the first run of themes (one a week, six regular writers). For what it is worth, I love this town. Many will disagree and you are more than welcome to act upon that and move out but, for a local lad, I feel a real connection with the place.

For that reason then, I am going to take this opportunity to talk about both poetry and spirit here this week. In the wake of the appalling scenes up and down the country, you don’t need another opinion about rioters. To be honest, I don’t really know where I stand on the rioters anyway; whilst I don’t support mindless violence, thieving or vandalism as a general rule (and part of me wants the toerags stripped of any state-funded privileges, strung up on gallows and/or introduced to excessive community service orders stretching over years and years), something about the infectious wildfire spread of horror suggests to me that many young people feel swept aside, even failed by society.

Blackpool, I am happy to report, doesn’t seem to be in tune with these people. The aggrieved here either have too much money and made a trip to Manchester or simply thought better of it. I seriously doubt there was a ‘cup of tea’ moment involved. It has been one of those weeks when I was proud of our teenage mothers (indoors, minding baby of an evening), hooded kids and alcohol fuelled revellers... It seems everyone just got on with business as usual. We still though, have a voice, we are still people and we still want to be heard. As Blackpool FC, still licking the wounds of relegation, opened their home campaign yesterday, the mental fan next to me offered up some absolute beauties for chants.

“No wonder Preston went down...” he sang, before closing up and realising there was no obvious next line. “Ferguson, you did a great job at Preston,” came the next offering, again to taunting looks from his friends. It wasn’t an Obama speech, a Cameron sound bite or much more than a thought really. Still, he had a go at starting new songs and having his say- he got me thinking on the walk home.

Typical of Blackpool, he was trying to do something. He saw a light that was going out and eventually (conforming to the normal words) it caught on. He kick started the atmosphere again and started a chant. You tell me that this is not what poetry is about. To have a feeling, a belief, a new way of expressing something AND to have the desire to get it out there- for my money, that is where poetry should be going.

Barnsley have a Resident Poet. Whilst I doubt that the Tangerines are even remotely interested in having a poet, how good an idea is that. Someone at a meeting (a literature festival meeting, actually) said ‘Blackpool didn’t understand Wendy Cope’ not too long ago. I let the point pass at the time but it still eats up at me. Still, the woman in question strikes me as the type to agree whole-heartedly with the Forward Prize shortlist for the year... nobody under 50, not white, not male can have anything to say. She lives in the area- I doubt she even understands poetry herself, let alone anything that could be branded Forward!

As I said earlier, I live in Blackpool. The thirteen or so million tourists a year that come here might not give a hoot about the locals but I sure do. The government might not care how we get on so far away from Westminster but I sure do. With so much talk about the ‘broken society’, I am just thankful that we have our poetry group and with that, somewhere to really make a point heard.



Ashley R Lister said...


If I thought Blackpool FC were going to have a poet in residence I would insist that they gave you first choice at the position.

In fact, if anyone connected with Blackpool FC is reading this post - get in touch with the grown-ups there and demand that Shaun Brookes be brought in as Poet in Residence.

I can't imagine a person more suited to that job - or a job more suited to that person.

PS - great post.

vicky ellis said...

Blackpool has a resident poet, John Siddique. I believe he's from Manchester. You don't see him around much.

I like the idea of Blackpool having a well-known poet to represent the town but to my mind it makes more sense to support a local poet with that title. A local poet would be available, would know the town and care about events. I think it's a shame that we look outside our boundaries to add credibility.

There was a brilliant programme on Channel 4, quite late, last night called 'A life of rhyme'. Young rappers were interviewed and performed as the presenter, Akala, discussed the heritage of poetry in urban rhyme. If you missed it I recommend a catch up on 4OD. It links in with the disaffected/swept aside youth and attempts to align their creativity with tradition in an intelligent format.

Ashley R Lister said...


I'm not sure if Mr Siddique is still our resident poet. I think the position was only a single year's residency. It's quite possible that we're a town without a resident poet. How shocking would that be?