GAZETTE COMMENT: Gorka's lost opportunities to set record straight
It appears we will never know what happened to poor old Gorka.
Is this is a case of tabloid sensationalism or was the Strictly dancer really attacked and left injured by a feral pack of Blackpool thugs?
Whatever the truth, this tale has been hugely damaging to our town.
Blackpool people are the first to criticise things about the town – just look at the debate about the tram extension and the Prom – but woe betide any outsiders having a pop about us without any fair justification.
Conflicting statements from the BBC, his continued silence to police and everyone else on his ‘experience’, credible conspiracy theories about what really happened and the total lack of CCTV evidence do nothing to quell the suspicions that all is not what it seems.
Marquez wasn’t actually quoted in The Sun’s story but he has had plenty of opportunity since to tell us exactly what happened.
But the longer it dragged on, the harder it perhaps became to unspin the story.
Council leaders are understandably reluctant to criticise anything to do with Strictly as it is undeniably amazing kudos for the town and the highlight for many in the calendar. It shows the Tower Ballroom in all its wonderful glory.
But others are furious our town has been dragged through the gutter without any real explanation. And quite rightly so.
People remember the negative headlines.
Who can forget the furore following the 999 What’s Your Emergency? debacle when hoteliers reported visitors cancelling their bookings in droves after unsavoury scenes portrayed to millions on TV?
While Mr Marquez’s may have made a swift recovery – aided by those lovely flowers no doubt – Blackpool’s reputation may take longer to heal.
And that is grossly unfair and should not go unchallenged.
WHAT THEY THINK....
Coun Simon Blackburn, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Blackpool always receives fantastic coverage and publicity when Strictly comes to town so we were all disappointed when the national media ran a story with a whole host of allegations that haven’t now been backed up.
“I realise that people are interested to know what happened that night but I don’t think that is ever going to happen. Hopefully the fact that it wasn’t reported to the police and that there is no investigation shows that it wasn’t a serious incident.”
Coun Tony Williams, Tory leader on Blackpool Council said: “Clearly there seems to be more to the story. The fact that everyone is being tight-lipped about the incident might seem to indicate that it may have been a ‘domestic’ issue.
“Blackpool has a lot less violent incidents than most inland towns but because of the resort’s fame, and in this particular case where the victim is a known personality, we continue to get bad national press probably from reporters who have never visited the town.
“Before checking all the facts the mainstream press would rather continue their mantra of doom and gloom about our town – a so called ‘shocking headline’ is cheap reporting so why spoil a nice nasty piece with the truth?
“Thank goodness The Gazette was more considered in its coverage and supportive of our town to help redress the balance.”
Hotelier Mick Grewcock said: “It didn’t do us any justice. It was a wonderful night and for it to end like that is a real shame.
“A wonderful bit of free advertising and then that happens.
“We don’t know whether it’s true or not - if so, why wasn’t it reported to the police?
“We do get unfairly slated at times. We get stereotyped when it’s really not like that at all. Bispham is lovely and quiet and there’s no trouble here. You walk down the street and you don’t see one boarded-up house or broken window.
“With the Tower and the piers, we have got more to offer here than anywhere in the country.”
Claire Smith, hotel owner and head of Stay Blackpool, said: “What happened was a very unfortunate incident, but at the same time very unusual because the investigation has been dropped and it was never reported to the police.
“I think the attack will be forgotten in time, whereas the images of the fabulous ballroom and everybody dancing will be retained.
“I would hope that people will focus on what it’s really all about, and that’s the dancing.
“What we must remember is these incidents are in the minority.”
Stephen Pierre, owner of the Galleon Bar and Jazz and Blues Festival organiser, said: “Strictly Come Dancing is one of the biggest shows on television, with that comes a lot of good publicity for Blackpool when filmed at The Tower Ballroom
“Equally the publicity the TV show generates places Blackpool in a vulnerable position, especially by the negativity shown from some of the national press.
“Do I believe that ‘Gorka Marquez’ was physically attacked in Blackpool? It’s questionable and the police investigation has raised all kinds of speculation. I do believe ‘something’ may have happened to him or his entourage, but I very much doubt it was as serious and as transparent as the national media initially published.
“With no CCTV evidence or record of a police call out, ambulance log or local hospital admission I believe this alleged incident could have taken place in some backstreet premises or dark alleyway.
“Was it an embarrassing private matter that was leaked to the press? I don’t believe it happened within close proximity of a busy nightclub with CCTV and in the vision of licensed door staff.
“Whatever happened or did not happen has without any doubt had a damaging effect on Blackpool and its reputation.
“This kind of negative reporting would put off any of those decent viewers wanting to come to Blackpool.
“Not only does the bad publicity affect tourism, it has a massive knock on effect to residents and business owners. Every time Blackpool receives a slating in the national press this will undoubtedly slow down the interest of business investment and affect commercial and residential property prices.
“The silence shown from those involved in this debacle in my opinion actually speaks volumes.
“Because of the ambiguity, Blackpool deserves some form of acknowledgement or apology about how the alleged incident was reported. Some folks say there is no such thing as bad publicity, I would argue with publicity that a bad name spreads faster than a good one.”
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “Given the confusion as to what actually happened, it would really be helpful for Blackpool if there were a factual, straight forward statement on the events that took place from the people concerned.”