But rather uniquely and prior to this I was scheduled to attend a “curly hair” workshop…it was something you might talk about with your friend how to tame hair, it is hard enough as a woman, constant maintenance, brushing, cutting, dying your hair. I was trying to “rock” the grey look for some months, but last week I caved and dyed it back to the closest brunette colour I could get to my original colour. The atmosphere was reminiscent of “Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle Stop Cafe” which was uncanny as a community garden was in the making with a strong connection to tomatoes.
There is something about a hair salon, secrets being shared, jokes being told. The expectant feeling of beautification of what could be. The local lady from Haweside who had suggested the “curly session” arrived with an admirable main of natural curls of which we all coo’d over and talked of her great love for Northern Soul. Advice was administered, an experience shared, new friendships established and confidence perhaps gained as I bumped into her again on Comedy Carpet for Blackpool’s Northern Soul Weekend.
Living Room Gig
The day arrived for my Brothers living room gig. I was nervous, it was raining. The children were excited but there was a whiff of mischief in the air. “No pictures” the children cried – we did a switcheroo and they wore masks. Des the guitarist arranged his amp and started his set, we swayed, we ate nibbles, we had the gig inside because of the threat of rain, my brother who suffers a bit I think with dreadful confidence issues (like all us creatives) showed his madelin off and apparently played it – when I stepped out of the room. Those children are going to remember that I thought, those shared experiences are immeasurable, my mum even cracked a smile.
Fleetwood is a little drive away from Blackpool, but Fakefleet Junior School is putting the place on the map. That is where I was destined for and to experience the wonderful Love Letters from Blackpool hosted by Ruth Cockburn. The comedy show is a somewhat autobiographical journey through one womens hunt for love on The Fylde Coast referencing her own experiences, her parents experiences and some very interesting Sandgrown characters of which Peter Kay would be proud of.
It was a warm evening in Fleetwood, I arrived in time to get a brew and capture the audience coming in. I chatted to Muriel the resident tea lady, I think originally from The South but inherited a local accent, her tea lady outfit is to die and has to be seen and her mobile tea trolley is to be admired greatly.she made everyone at home with tea and biscuits. Ruth’s show is an over 18’s show but a notable show touring the UK including The Edinburgh Fringe and this was the first performance of the two scheduled. London, Edinburgh, Fleetwood, Marton. The audience were sold, they laughed, we laughed, Ruth laughed – there is something about Ruth’s shows where the audience connects to her like a warm embrace of freshly toasted donuts from Blackpool prom or a freshly brewed coffee from Blackpool’s favourite independent coffee shop: Shaws.
A church hall a bowl of fruit and a plethora of biscuits and paint. I have not attempted watercolor since GCSE art a tough medium to master with the paint having a mind of its own as it slips this way and that. The host Tina knew how to make the large Fleetwood group who attended feel comfy though, so comfortable I ended up attempting a painting, grabbing a courgette and an orange, I set about with Tina’s advice playing with the paint to fashion my own watercolour. I felt proud – it was rewarding, we were all in it together that day, admiring one another’s versions of a variety of fruit and bonding over our shadows and highlights. I am not sure how but some participants felt so relaxed that they suggested that a “new skill” they might like to learn for the Welcome Collective sessions was Burlesque?
Circus on Our Street
Next up on The Welcome Collective Tour we arrived back in Fleetwood at Ocean’s House a resident artist working from a house in Fleetwood. Working with mostly photography she appeared to have made friends with every child within a 10 minute radius, collaborating with them for their own “welcome” experience. The Circus School arrived that day to teach about tightrope walking, juggling and riding a unicycle, the children wanted to do everything at once, ordering tea from Muriel (mobile tea lady and local resident) balancing the cups in one hand while balancing on a one wheeled cycle, grabbing analogue cameras off Ocean and flipping popcorn into their mouths in the sunshine.
I remember those days as a child, it was pretty quiet where I grew up on Halton Gardens but one summer it must have been between high school and junior school for some children but everyone seemed to be out to play. It was a thrill hanging around with some older children as we bought bottles of fizzy pop from the shop and pieced the tops to shoot fizz into our mouths. Making use of the local embankment area to build dens and 6ft. tall mazes from wild grasses to run around and hide from one another.
Powell Ave - Summer Solstice and Growing Gardens
Not once but twice I arrived here, a place not far from Empire Bingo on Daggers Hall Lane, near the number 6 bus stop where me and my mum used to “bus it to town” before she passed her driving test (it was the 70’s and there were fewer women on the road) and when the strange super market existed down a back alley selling round wheat based snacks with a squirrel illustration – remember those? Maybe I dreamt that.
Down the mystical Powell Ave sits a green space, a space it is said where a house once was, it sank apparently? Well Blackpool does have a history of marsh, we can be a bit wet and we are subject to being close to the coast line.
I love tomatoes and I love gardening. Our first session involved both, I met some lovely local children who shared their names with pop stars, very similar to Cher in “Clueless” but less Beverly Hills. They were super happy to help that day decorating their own plant pots to take mini tomato plants home but had a fixation with the inflatable chairs which they were trying to take home when we were not looking.
That day others arrived bringing tomato based recipes to pin up and discussing the market gardens and donkey sheds that were strewn around the Marton area. I crept into a local garden which had been turned into a vegetable garden, full of turns and twists and special benches to drink tea and soak up afternoon sunshine.
Second time around it was Summer Solstice and the weather agreed, the longest day of the year – kicked out the vibes. The same suitable named popstar kids turned up and this time there was a Northern Soul DJ in attendance along with homemade lemonade and Sam Simpsons “We Love To Dance” session which is designed to enable a shared experience through movement. Ribbons were distributed to float through the air, children jigged around and asked for another lemonade from Muriel the Tea Lady who obliged with a smile. Natalie the resident artist tended to the community garden and Sarah Community Activist chatted to the attendees of the Solstice Happening on the plot where the house sank on Powell Avenue, near Empire Bingo and dead close to where I grew up.