Look At It This Way - January 17, 2014

The New Market in Waterloo Road - another casualty of the economy
The New Market in Waterloo Road - another casualty of the economy
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RHO Hills, Hunters, Lewis’s, Redmans. These were the shops and stores that set Blackpool apart in the glory days of the Sixties.

No more. We have added Woolies and Comet to the pick and mix of historic names long gone. Even Past Times fell 
on Hard Times.

Today there’s a plethora of pound shops and charity shops in the wake of them all.

The days have gone when Blackpool was synonymous with shopping.

The town’s always had an identity crisis. Shopping centre for locals versus holiday centre for visitors.

The two sit uneasily side by side, tawdry tat, beach towels you can see daylight through flapping along Lytham Road over the sticks of Blackpool rock, Mr Wrigglies and souvenir Tower globes below – along with shops where you can still source your weekly shopping needs and some treats beside rather than head for some out of town estate.

But. oh for the good old days when Blackpool boasted the “best of the old, the best of the new”. When RHO Hills reopened in 1968 thousands flocked through the doors of the most modern department store in England. Hills became Binns – which started out as drapers (and Quakers) in Rossendale in the late 18th century.

That closed for good in 1987 ending more than half a century of history locally.

There was a further wave of closures through the1980s and 1990s. Lewis’s gone, Blackpool’s Co-op, housed in imposing buildings on Sheppard Street levelled, the site undeveloped for years, dubbed the Black Hole, until redeveloped as a car park. Shades of the ABC today.

Yes, I’ve probably worked here far too long – 40 years in journalism.

But I sometimes wish my memory didn’t go back quite so far.

That I didn’t remember working in a high fashion boutique. Or buying individually sliced bacon from Redmans or make up at Lewis’s and clothes at Hills or Binns or even C&A.

I wish I could stop looking up or beyond the canopies and extensions to the facades of architecturally glorious buildings and wonder what the heck happened to the vision of the men who built them – before the economy spat out the postal workers, or traders, or market stall holders decades later.

The Waterloo Road area is a case in point. Fantastic buildings.

I remember when I used to come here for posh frocks in the sales in the hope the travel editor would say “fancy a cruise?” rather than an overnighter in Salford.

I used to work as a Saturday girl at the old Woollies, now the store where Christmas comes ever day.

It still has real shops, niche market stuff, but we still need butchers, bakers,grocers.

Some 20 traders could be found within New Market on Waterloo Road, some of them for the last 20 years.

Now gone. The very market I dropped in on the Day Recession Ended to find the war was far from over.

May we not replace it with yet another high street cheapie chain in an already saturated bottom end market place – as as happened elsewhere.

The loss may be a nail in the coffin, but let us not nail the lid shut yet. Retail is Blackpool’s Waterloo. Let us fight to improve what we’ve got - not just keep it at all costs.

P-p-pick up a penguin? Once bitten twice shy

It’s Penguin Awareness Day on Monday. Why the little blighters in birdie tuxedos have their own awareness day is beyond me.

But that’s because I’ve been bitten by them. When you’ve yomped miles to see penguins, and then taken three hours to edge ever so carefully towards them – a good beaking is not going to put you off.

Or even the pungent odour of several thousand very smelly breeding birdies who nick each other’s nesting material whenever one waddles off. Don’t buy the Happy Feet nonsense.

Somewhere there’s a picture of me squatting, for want of a better word, alongside a colony of gentoo penguins.

They’re the ones who look like they have white eyebrows. The males present partners with the nicest shiniest rocks they can find.

So I found myself between a rock and a hard place (or more precisely a vicious beak) having marched miles in the Falklands to see them up close and personal in Goose Green. The ones in Fox Bay were closer but had moved onto a minefield to avoid being pestered by squaddies or visiting press!