Last August I visited Blackpool for the first time. It was a fantastic day. On a ‘TwiTrip’ for the Guardian – an unplanned journey fuelled solely by live tips from Twitter – I was guided through the town, from penny games on the pier to The Big One.
But there are two things that I will never forget. The first took place in a transvestite cabaret club, where the people of Twitter had suggested I finish my day. As a Michael Jackson medley reached its climax on the stage I walked in on my own, plodded sheepishly to the bar, and ordered a drink. A group of fourtysomething women on an office night out were ordering at the same time. They insisted on paying for my beer, and decided that they were going to look after me while I was in there. I’m sure this kind of thing happens all the time in Blackpool, but as a hardened Londoner, I was rather moved. Classic British hospitality.
The second was the ballroom in the Tower complex (pictured above). I could hear the Wurlitzer organ playing a waltz before I got there. Inside, the dance floor was full of pensioners twirling each other around the room. The expertise was something to behold. And the feeling that these couples had been doing this for decades, in there, with each other – was wonderful. Above them, the hand-painted murals on the ceiling, the elaborate cornicing and the sculpted balconies completed the picture. This was romance as it used to be. Another British classic.
And this weekend, Blackpool experienced something very romantic indeed. Their football team, who four years ago were in the third tier of the English league and attracting an average attendance of just over 4,000, were promoted to the Premier League. In a play-off match against Cardiff, inspired by their lovably excitable manager Ian Holloway, they twice came from behind to win 3-2 and collect a bounty estimated at around £90m. The flood of football fans into the town next year could simultaneously generate just as much. And they’re in for a treat. Bravo Blackpool.