The Thing Is,,,, with Jacqui Morley, July 4, 2013

SUMMER SUN Could Blackpool gain from staggered term times?

SUMMER SUN Could Blackpool gain from staggered term times?

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How many times do you drive along the Prom on a sunny day with all the attractions open and wonder where the heck the holidaymakers are?

Pretty much every other day in my case. The only time it changes significantly is during the long summer holidays. Or the start of the Lights. I’m by no means certain charging people £34 to attend the Switch-On will work its magic in a dark economic climate. Watch this space.

Neil Jack, the young chief executive of Blackpool Council, made a good point the other day – relating to theatre in Blackpool. He said if you’ve never been to the opera or ballet are you going to try it at £20 or whatever they charge? But wouldn’t you at a tenner? Could that not be the way forward for the charge of the Lights brigade too?

Nor am I convinced that staggering school summer holidays by letting schools reshape their own term times is necessarily a ‘Bad Thing’ for tourism.

Is it so bad to dilute the mix rather than leave it concentrated? Might it not help ease the traditional cashing in on the main break if holiday traders play a guessing game on when, where and which schools will be on leave?

So, six weeks off – coming soon to a school child, or teacher, near you. Lucky so and so’s. I remember the joy of the long summer hols. But they were too long.

Our’s would start with a knickerbocker glory at a fairly shabby cafe on the Prom - long gone. We would catch a tram or walk – funds permitting– to the Pleasure Beach. It was our rite of passage into summer and it didn’t get any better.

No, I really mean it didn’t get any better. We didn’t take holidays. We took away days. Runabout tickets for trains. Organised with military precision by our mum who would stride forth with egg butties, water, and some dandelion and burdock powder you could buy at a shop near Stanley Park.

And because we lived in a holiday place it meant other people came to us – often uninvited. Hence a stockpile of corned beef and tins of ham (and countless cuts from those horrible keys used to open both). Enough to see us through a nuclear winter rather than a summer of spontaneity by relatives willing to kip on the floor – if we weren’t hiding behind the door hoping they would get the hint and go back to the Coliseum bus station.

And we didn’t really mind not going anywhere else for a longer stay than a day because where was better than Blackpool? We only tried Prestatyn, our very first family holiday, after our dad died ... and I got told off for digging up the felt on a snooker table at Pontins and we all got berated by an elderly Welsh nationalist outside the slate mines.

To this day I remember the annoyance of finding the souvenir rock bought in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch was made in Blackpool.

It wasn’t even longer than our own rock – they cheated and put Llanfair-etc through it.

Nostalgia ain’t what it was. Today stricter policies relate to schools out, kids in short supply until the long holiday starts after the Longest Day is over. It makes no real sense. It’s just traditional. And the surge doesn’t help Blackpool address gaps in the market.

n Steve Canavan is on holiday and returns next week.