HELLO: 999 what’s your emergency?
Well, my beach is dirty, a wet wipe has blocked the toilet, and I don’t really know what to do with soiled nappies so I chuck them out the back window into the garden.
Welcome to Blackpool. Or as comedian Joey Blower has taken to calling the Channel TV series featuring the resort’s 999 excesses “just eight more weeks of reasons not to go to Blackpool to come.”
The 10-week series started two weeks ago. I rather like it in a self flagellating sort of manner. It’s been an eye opener for an old hack who thought she had seen it all before and knew it all now. I swear my eyes and ears bleed each week after an hour’s exposure to the squalor that lurks a stick of rock’s throw from the seafront. And, boy, are we taking some stick from it.
What I’d love to see, of course, are all the case studies that ended up on the editing suite’s floor, that missed the final cut for simply being too nice, or normal, or not sensationalist or wince-worthy enough.
Such as the ordinary kids who may have fallen off their skateboards and broken an arm, or the lovely old ladies who trip on the way to the post office. Not the endless procession of drunks and “recreational” drug users that herald the weekly telly dose of hubble, bubble, here comes Bubble Pool. Again.
Is it really all so relentlessly grim? Is there nothing heart warming? I know there is because I live and work here and pay my council tax to Blackpool, to boot. I manage to have a night out without sniffing or ingesting garden fertiliser-based drugs or falling over drunk, or even getting mugged. The last time I ended up in A&E was with my mum after her last heart attack – and even then I’d called 111 rather than 999 to get her there (and she’s never forgiven me for that).
But as a local journalist I recognise that when a programme’s brief is 999 the emergencies or alleged emergencies are likely to fall into the sort of bracket which Makes Good Television.
And that generally means Uncomfortable Viewing for the community involved.
Is it disturbing because it comes too close to home for comfort – or because we wonder why we never saw it in such a light before? I still suspect the answer’s on the editing room floor in the bits that never made it. Join up the dots.
When you work on a local paper you see the best as well as worst of your town.
Balance is a great leveller because it connects you with people from all walks of life, homeless, addicts, prostitutes, offenders, even the occasional murderer, as well as the vast majority of decent law abiding people, young and old.
Blackpool isn’t broken. It’s dented – along with the rest of Britain. We just need to see the bigger picture. Watch the series by all means but remember to read between the lines too. Join up those dots.