It doesn’t look like that early on this March afternoon as I arrive in Blackpool.
But it’s still so very Blackpool though. Even on a damp Tuesday afternoon. Full of the memories of coming here all my life. Early days on the X61 Ribble Bus, before the 1965 blue Cortina arrived to bring us all here in style. Later still all of us from the Corpy Housing Department coming to ‘see the lights’ on a fleet of Corpy buses. Messing about in the Fun House then getting ourselves tucked into a very large pub and taking no notice of the illuminations at all. Golden days!
Deliberately early for what I’m here to do I go for a walk about.
In my hotel I’ve noticed that they hold George Formby conventions four times a year! Not so much as a ukulele in sight today though.
Now it’s a bar called The Albert and The Lion. As good an excuse as this blog will ever get to bring you this monologue of flat out eccentric genius from Stanley Holloway:
These old ones, much like we had in Liverpool until one bleak day in 1957 now just do ‘Heritage’ runs, but beyond wonderful to see them.
Blackpool has clearly spent a lot on grandiosing the front, even since my last visit nearly nine years ago now. But just a few streets back both the struggles and the pluck of the place are clear to see.
Today they’ve taken me on as part of their Golden Section series of talks:
“Golden Section is LeftCoast’s monthly creative conversation where we invite a visiting artist, creative or generally extraordinary person to town to give you the chance to hear about how they got where they are today.”
Left Coast have specifically asked me to talk about my life and experiences and how I got into what I do now. So there’s lots of talk of early days and Cathy Come Home, and council housing and housing associations, then me and Sarah taking our risk with ‘a sense of place’ and doing only what we loved for a living. All the social enterprises and films and mentoring leading to now and Homebaked and Granby. The unexpected detour of the Turner Prize and my abidingly ferocious passion for the social housing and ‘you can’t do anything with your life without a secure place to call home’ that first got me going all those years ago. Or words to that effect.
Thanks for the interest and all the questions and kindness you people of Blackpool. You have so much going for you collectively. And it was great to hear so much about your ideas and successes.
Next morning I set off to visit ‘Jobs, Friends & Houses’ who’d been at the evening’s discussion and had invited me to come and visit.
The organisation’s name pretty eloquently explains what its about:
“Jobs, Friends & Houses supports, empowers and employs people in recovery from addiction, offending, homelessness, mental health problems, long-term unemployment or family breakdown.”
So yes, what do you need if you’re coming through all those kinds of things? Well ‘Jobs’ Friends & Houses’ would be a good start.
I sit down and talk through the short history of the organisation with Katie Upton, their Communications Manager and Steve Hodgkins, their CEO. Katie’s background is in journalism and Steve is a Police Sergeant in the Lancashire Constabulary, who’s on full-time secondment to here.
Jobs, Friends & Houses then, take over empty houses in Blackpool, work on them together with people in recovery from the addictions and issues listed above – who then live in the houses and continue to work on other houses and within the organisation as they work on options for futures free from their addictions. A brilliantly simple idea that clearly contains huge and individually based complications as they do what they’re for.
The three of us find so many parallels in our Blackpool and Liverpool lives that I’m sure we’ll be meeting again and influencing each other’s work.
Already full of ideas and inspiration Katie then takes me around Blackpool for some more. We go to houses they’re working on, talk to the people living there and the people working on their next houses. And it’s so interesting it’s going to have to have it’s own blog post on here one day.
Plus it’s getting a blog of its own soon anyway, and we meet an old friend of me and my partner Sarah who’s working on it with them.
Len it was who said to Sarah twenty years ago ‘I think you’re a self-employed type?’ And helped us change our lives.
A brilliant organisation and a great two days in Blackpool. I’ll be back!