An entire family making North Pier their very own

Pier-tulengros: three generations, from left  Nancy, 17, mum Sarah, daughter in law Whitney (who's married to William) with baby  Sonny Boy, six weeks old, (named in honour of his great-grandfather) and Julie, 22
Pier-tulengros: three generations, from left Nancy, 17, mum Sarah, daughter in law Whitney (who's married to William) with baby Sonny Boy, six weeks old, (named in honour of his great-grandfather) and Julie, 22
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They call them the Pier-tulengros these days. The Petulengros, part of the resort’s rich Romany gypsy heritage since the turn of last century, have made North Pier their own.

First time visitors can be forgiven for doing a double, indeed triple, take at so many familiar faces.

There’s matriarch Sarah Petulengro in the fortune booth – when she’s not up the road at her booth at Blackpool Pleasure Beach where her son William, now a dad himself, runs a tattoo stall.

Sarah’s daughter Julie, 22, is the resident Romany at the pier proper, the one to whom the regulars now return year after year, initially – as she puts it – “looking for mum but then realising I’m better...”

The family banter helps hold this close knit clan together.

Julie’s sister Nancy, 17, and a rising music star, works on the pier too ... running the music shop, selling the old world CDs which still sell well today. Nancy’s the singer who caught Simon Cowell’s eye when she rose to his challenge and cut her two sisters out of their Britain’s Got Talent music act in order to reach the next stage.

She did so well on that and X Factor that she’s now recording her own album, working on material written for her by those with a proven track record of success in the music industry.

Running her own music shop gives her the chance to rehearse and trial her own songs while others stroll the pier in the sunshine.

She also helps out at her dad Mark’s ice cream shop at the front of the pier, near the brand new digital screen now showing images from the pier’s 150 years in business.

They also have a sweet concession on the pier which was run by Nancy until she ate too many of the profits.

It’s a family affair indeed – and even the girls’ sister in law Whitney Langdon works on the pier too, in her husband William’s former ice and waffle business named in honour of his grandad, the late Sonny Boy, who started the family’s business link with the pier by opening a darts stall on the same spot back in the 1960s.

His widow Leah still has a reputation for being one of the resort’s finest fortune tellers - to the stars.

Now, in full circle, there’s a Sonny Boy back there, the youngest of the Petulengros (or Langdon’s), Whitney and William’s son, all of six weeks old and already at his mother’s side.

Julie reckons it’s the best possible childhood for her nephew. “We used to love coming here as kids, sitting at the back of mum’s booth while she told fortunes. We’d be having all our favourite treats – and would go really brown in the sunshine too. It was better than going on holiday like other kids did.”

Today it’s hard work making a living out of fortune telling, or selling ice cream or music and Julie and Nancy admit they would be lucky to make more than those on minimum wage some days, but there’s freedom in being self employed and it helps support their dreams too.

Julie, a world champion accordionist, has the looks and talent to become a big name fortune teller to rival some of her more famous relatives. “I’ve been doing this four years now and have come into my own. I charge the same as my mother but I should charge more as I’m better!

“Some of my regulars come from London which is a long way to come. Paul O’Grady came here looking for my mum for a brew – but my mother had taken the kettle with her!”

Nancy, also an international accordionist as well as singer and guitarist, is also clearly going places.

“I went to the World’s End pub in London to do some of my songs and that went well. I’m doing some of my songs for Radio Lancashire later this month. Karima Francis has asked me to do some of my original songs at the Beach House too.

“I’ve been singing and playing the accordion since I was five – I was on the Joe Longthorne show in front of 3,000 people.

“I even enjoyed being dumped from BGT and X Factor. Simon was nice. Alesha was a bit iffy.”

Whitney’s loving her time in the sun – with her son. “It’s the best possible start for him.”

As for Sarah? “This is still a beautiful place to be and work. Peter Sedgwick (the owner) has changed so much here but people don’t see it.

“One of the best things he did was scrap the entrance fee - it was only 50p but it put people off. We get a lot of regulars.

“It was run down by previous owners.

“It was such a nice pier. Peter is a businessman and he has a lot to do and he does the best he can – he even does the painting himself when he can.

“He’s been very fair with us and helped us a lot. We knew him before he owned the pier. Our livelihoods rest in this place but it’s a way of life for us and proper quality of life too.

“Now my daughter in law Whitney works here too – and she brings my grandson Sonny Boy to work too. I think my dad would be delighted, thrilled to know his great-grandson is here.

“You could call it fate. I just call it family!”