There’s a knock at the door at Peaches ‘sauna and solarium’ in Cookson Street – it’s another Blackpool girl asking for a job.
Times are hard in the resort and this may seem like just another promising job opportunity, which, when you consider the average £25,000-a-year wage, it clearly is.
Abbey Veasey has seen this a thousand times. She always invites the girls in and tells them like it is.
And she should know – a virtual veteran of the scene, the 44-year-old mum-of-five was almost killed when a punter went crazy and slashed her throat in 2010.
But, a job’s a job, and Abbey went back to work as soon as she was able – just as you might expect of a hard-working, single mum determined to put food on the table for her family.
And there’s little doubt Abbey has forged a successful career amid the garish lights of Cookson Street.
Despite this she still has very mixed feelings about the business.
She says she has a handful of girls contact her every week looking for work.
“We’ve all been at rock-bottom and Blackpool is not the easiest of places for kids to grow up and get a job,” Abbey says, “but I always take them in and explain the job. I then ask them to go away and think long and hard about the decision they are about to make.
“I make the job sound even more horrible than it is really – I have to because once you’ve done it you cannot undo it.”
Worryingly, Abbey says she has had girls – some probably below the age of 16 – asking to become sex-workers.
She added: “It’s horrifying. I don’t know whether it’s desperation or what.
“I just send them straight home – this is no job for school girls. I always ask for proper ID even if they look over 20.”
Abbey says many of the girls selling sex on the streets are doing it to fund a drug habit, but so many more are simply girls from decent backgrounds who want a job.
She said: “Most are really great girls, and they come into this line of work purely to earn some money. But you’ve got to remember there are an awful lot of down sides.”
Abbey’s story, while perhaps not quite typical, is certainly not uncommon.
Seven years ago she fled from a ‘nasty and problematic’ relationship. She took her children and was holed-up in a tiny one-room B&B.
She added: “I’ve never claimed benefits in my life, it’s just not me, but I had no income whatsoever.
“I happened to be walking along Cookson Street and saw all the parlours and thought ‘I’ve got to do something’.
“I was scared and I didn’t know what to expect – it was a spur of the moment thing.
“I suppose it was desperation. I just needed money and I wasn’t going to sign on. I’m a grafter and I don’t believe in sponging off the state.”
Soon she was earning £500-per-night and even when the recession hit was still making £200 on a good night.
She said: “It’s not the nicest of jobs. It is better money than most 9 to 5 jobs in Blackpool but it’s also much harder. I’ve worked behind bars in Blackpool and that’s a doddle compared to this.”
Perhaps Abbey’s most telling response is when asked whether her daughters would follow her career path.
Unruffled and candid as ever she simply says “I would advise my daughters not to do this – in fact I carry on doing it so that they don’t ever have to think like that.
“But all my kids respect me for what I do, I suppose I’ve provided a life for my children and now my grandchildren.”
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