Growing Up in Blackpool

Author John Walsh

Growing up in Blackpool as I did in the 60’s and 70’s I was in awe of all the hotels and B&B’s. Never did I think that one day as HMO’s hundreds of people would be living in them as there wasn’t enough social housing in Blackpool for them.

Like many seaside towns people have moved to Blackpool for work or just to start again. This was true of my family, although never spoken of I believe my parents had a brief separation, but made up and we stayed as a family unit.

Had my mother started life in Blackpool with two young kids, how would she as a single mother been able to provide for my sister and me? I don’t think we’d have been able to afford our special Friday party teatimes with fancy cut sandwiches, crisps and cakes watching TV and shouting out “It’s Friday, it’s five to five and time for Crackerjack”

The chances are my mum would have been working in one of the B&B’s or hotels and serving someone else their evening meal while my sister was making another pan of soup or sharing a portion of chips and scraps from the pound left on the mantelpiece that day.

Or both of us would have been playing out hoping to be invited in for tea by a friends mum.
We weren’t the richest family in Blackpool by any stretch of the imagination but we did have a bond as a family and more importantly did things as a family.

Not necessarily days out every Sunday, going on the beach or Stanley Park, but one night a week my dad wouldn’t let us watch the telly in the evening.

We played board games, he taught us card games and tricks. Made sure the book I’d got from the school library was read. Asked what homework we were doing which like most kids I didn’t want to do. I guess what I’m saying is even though I probably didn’t realise it, they were showing they cared.

All the things I mention had one thing in common they didn’t cost a penny, but the time they shared has been worth so much value to me and I’m sure it helped my sister who became a nurse at the Vic and stayed there until she retired.

I grew up in what is now the Brunswick ward, which as we know has suffered immensely over many years. Throughout the years Conservatives and Labour have “won” the seat but what have they actually done for the residents?

What have they done for some of the most vulnerable who live in those streets around the vibrant pubs and bars, B&B’s and hotels.

The vulnerable ones include young girls like Charlene Downes, who as we know has disappeared off the face of the earth. Another statistic of a grim story that’s mirrored in many other northern towns.

These vulnerable people are what the councillors and MP’s don’t want to see, they hope they disappear. Charlene never had a chance in life, to say her family life was dysfunctional is an understatement!

She looked for a connection, she looked for affection where she could. For her there were no Friday party teatimes watching television or the midweek nights with no TV playing Snap or Fish, laughing when your dad landed on Mayfair with your two hotels on it as another game of monopoly was reaching the final few throws of the dice.
In her short life she never knew compassion, she never knew the true warmth of family. In the time since her disappearance, she’s also not received the investigation that she deserves.

Is this because she’s from a dysfunctional family from a poor area of a poor town in the North as opposed to a child from a middle class family in another area of the UK.

No child is worth more than another, it shouldn’t be a postcode lottery that decides which case gets extra headcount and coverage.

Yes, I’m alluding to Madeleine McCann, whose disappearance has seen special teams being set up, over twelve million pounds of tax payer money and media coverage as well as a Netflix documentary. Why the difference in the two cases, surely it can’t be due to the parents being physicians or their social status can it?
There’s a distinct possibility that it’s political correctness that is the reason.

There it is, I’ve said it and can’t go back now.

As far back as July 2013 journalist Sean Thomas noted in The Daily Telegraph that the original Charlene Downes article on Wikipedia had been deleted, in June 2007, and argued that this might indicate editorial bias regarding “racialised” murders of white victims, which, he wrote, receive less media coverage than similar murders of black and ethnic-minority victims.

At the trial in 2007 the jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial was ordered and scheduled for April 2008, but such serious errors in the Lancashire Constabulary’s covert-surveillance evidence were identified that the Crown Prosecution Office could offer no case, and the men were released.
Due to the failures by the police there should be a public inquiry, after all the Independent Police Complaints Commission themselves were critical and an officer was subsequently found guilty of misconduct by Lancashire Constabulary and told to resign, but the Police Arbitration Tribunal overturned the decision.
Charlene Downes deserves a Public Inquiry, voting Independent will help to ensure this can be fought for at the highest level and not brushed under the carpet as it has been so far.

Searching Hansard and going back to 2007, no mention of Charlene Downes no points raised by Blackpool MP’s.

Perhaps an MP could have raised the point that perhaps the local council should use the Food Regulation Act of 2015 that states animals slaughtered to meet Halal requirements (and Kosher) the meat is intended only to be consumed by Muslims (or followers of the Jewish faith)

This would be one way to prevent young vulnerable children to congregate around the fast food joints that Charlene frequented, and countless others have visited and been groomed.

The difference between Charlene Downes and Madeleine McCann cases is strikingly similar to that of Kevin Olsson and Stephen Lawrence.
One has seen trials and convictions, inquiry after inquiry, one is described as a cause célèbre; its fallout included cultural changes of attitudes on racism and the police, and to the law and police practice. It also led to the partial revocation of the rule against double jeopardy.
The other saw a confession, a trial with no conviction due to police inefficiency and no further action taken.
One had the Home Secretary taking the lead in what was clear political point scoring. One resulted in constant front page articles, one is only mentioned on Wikipedia as part of reference on a football hooligan’s entry.
One was at a bus stop and deemed to be racially motivated the other inside a football ground.
One saw a fifteen year old boy charged with murder, although he didn’t admit to being fifteen so wasn’t interviewed with a parent or guardian present, which led to his confession being inadmissible. Two other men with him faced minor charges and were fined at different court appearances.
Why didn’t Lancashire police look into Kevin’s case when the partial revocation of the rule against double jeopardy was used in the Stephen Lawrence case. This should have happened as one witness identified one of the other two men as the person who stabbed Kevin. Especially as the man identified as the attacker was at the time living in a bail hostel after leaving borstal for knife offences.
The above regarding Kevin can’t be read on the internet, it doesn’t appear in any news articles. So how do I know, it’s simple I was the witness who saw Kevin killed, I was walking up the steps with Kevin on the Kop that day in August 1974. We’d spent the halftime period talking about my 18th birthday the previous week. I was the one who shouted to the others to come back. I was the one who said it was one of the other two men who killed Kevin. I was the one told could go home by Joe Mounsey that night and not to say anything to the reporters who were outside South King Street that night.
I was the one who met the girl at Wigan Casino who had Bev and Olly tattooed on her hands. I was the one who she told “he didn’t do it, he was told to admit it as he’d get off with it if he didn’t let on about his age”
I’m the one who says there should be a public inquiry into the police’s handling of the Kevin Olsson case. Kevin and his family deserve justice, they deserve to receive exactly the same as Stephen Lawrence and his family received. They don’t deserve to be ignored because it happened in a town in the north of England. They don’t deserve to be ignored by the local politicians which they have for 45 years. An Independent will strive to see that victims and their voices are heard because they should be. They shouldn’t just be seen as photo opportunities for when politics decides they’re useful.

Sports Minister Dennis Howell visited the ground at the time and said the Government would consider implementing identity cards for football fans. Identity cards were again mooted after the riot at Luton Town against Millwall in 1985.

When Stephen Lawrence was killed in April 1993 the suspects were identified within 24 hours, within three weeks five men were arrested and two of them were charged with murder after being identified. The charges were dropped as the CPS believed the witness was unreliable.

A private prosecution was brought in September 1994 but failed in April 1996 and in July 1997 a Public inquiry was announced and opened in March 1998 and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Cordon apologised and admitted there had been some failures.

The CPS announce in 2004 there is insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for Stephen’s murder following a review. In 2005 Government drops the legal principle which prevents suspects being tried twice for the same crime.

A documentary in 2006 investigating the case raises fresh questions about the prime suspects, prompting the Metropolitan Police to review their evidence. In October 2007, the Independent Police Complaints Commission says it has found no evidence of wrong-doing by an officer as alleged in part of the documentary.

Eventually in November 2011 two men faced trial over the murder of Stephen Lawrence following a review of forensic evidence and in January 2012 both men are found guilty and jailed for murder.

Nobody can argue that the police and authorities did a fantastic job in bringing two men to justice for what was a terrible crime, but why did Lancashire police stop and not pursue the case against the three men arrested that day in August 1974. 

Even after 45 years the police should be made to say why they didn’t pursue the case, was it down to finances, or was it because they themselves made mistakes that allowed a killer to walk away and never be punished.

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One thought on “Growing Up in Blackpool”

  1. A Fantastic article. Being honest! it’s brought a tear to my eye. The case regarding Kevin will live forever in your heart. He was your friend, but rest assured, he will live in all our hearts forever John.

    We Blackpool Fans have had our fair share of heartache in recent times, and in all honesty, so has the town as a whole ‘ although people don’t like to face the cold hard truths.

    Here’s a quote I’ve found and I think it’s very apt after reading your Blog.

    When you’re young, you don’t have much sense. You don’t have any reasoning power. You don’t have any ability to take a blow, an insult, a hurt in the right way. There is no way a child can do that. All a child can do is feel the pang of it, the heartache of it.

    Your story needs to be heard by all. Proud to call you my friend John & I love you to bits

    RIP Kevin

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