As we bask in glorious sunshine, and the crowds flock in, I am sure I am not the only one grateful that Blackpool’s temperatures seem to always be a few degrees below those inland – without any diminution in sunshine. For those with hayfever, it certainly helps. Equally, we should never begrudge any sunshine, however fitful. By the way, we’re experimenting by adding a couple of photos this week, so let us know if it causes your computer to crash!
It was pleasing that the Sunday of Armed Forces Week turned out bright but not too hot. As ever, the crowds came out to show their support for the Armed Forces. And who can fail to experience a shiver down the spine when the sound of a Merlin engine slowly gaining in volume signals the imminent arrival of a Spitfire. Iconic, undoubtedly, but also, to me at least, a reminder of how vulnerable our freedoms are, and the lengths so many have had to go to, and the lives surrendered, in its defence. When remembering the Battle of Britain, I always want to remind people that of the1495 aircrew were killed, 47 airmen from Canada, 24 from Australia, 17 from South Africa, 35 from Poland, 20 from Czechoslovakia and six from Belgium – all for our liberty.
The past week or so has also seen renewed emphasis on securing that direct rail link. I met with Network Rail in a private one-on-one after the general meeting with MPs as I am still dissatisfied with their explanations. Chinks of light in the form of ‘mitigation’ did appear – this seems to involve delaying other trains by a minute or two at Preston station to allow the Pendolino to switch tracks – but I remain suspicious that the willpower exists when their bonuses are at stake if they don’t meet their performance goals. The following day we went to the Office of Rail Regulation with the Gazette to hand over the petition, underlining the level of local support.
I was also delighted to meet with Laura Tingle from Cleveleys and Blackpool Sixth Form when she attended the House to receive a national award from Pearson for her Outstanding BTEC Creative Art & Design Student award.
Blackpool Sixth is a creative hub we may not always be aware of, and is beginning to act as a major incubator of new businesses. As we seek to drive the diversification of Blackpool and Cleveleys’ economy, I hope that talented individuals such as Laura do come back to make their livelihoods on our coast.
Friday not only saw the launch of James Wharton’s EU Referendum Private Members Bill, which kept me down in London for a rare Friday, but also a chance to discuss with Energy Minister Michael Fallon some of the concerns regarding shale gas, how the governance arrangements of the community benefits might work, and my own concern that we do need to ensure people have a proper understanding of what shale gas and fracking amounts to, what it doesn’t amount to, and how the different regulatory regimes work – and why the UK’s is going to be the most stringent.
I had made it back in time for that Saturday’s summer fete at St Stephen’s on the Cliffs with its near legendary cake stall. I seem to be developing a reputation for hard spending at local cake stalls this summer, which may explain my expanding waistline. I just now can fit in my shorts now the sun is out. Later in the day, I went along to the Waterside Care Home on the Promenade near Cliff Place, officially unveiling their new name alongside local councillor Don Clapham. The new owners are making real efforts to turn the care home round, and they should be applauded for all their endeavours.
That evening, I had another chance to sample inclusive theatre at the Cleveleys Community Church with Phoenix Youth Theatre. Although my diary had promised me a performance of Oliver, I was delighted to find it was actually Olivia which involved not just Oliver, but a mix of My Fair Lady and Sherlock Holmes too. To see young people so clearly enjoying performing on stage, and gaining in confidence, is a tribute to the volunteer enthusiasm of Paula Hartley and the organisers.
As their Mission Statement makes clear:To provide a safe and friendly environment, free from judgement and bullying, so that young people aged 9 to 19 years from Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde, of all abilities and needs, can learn performing arts, theatrical skills and take part in performances. In doing this it is our aim that they will gain self confidence, self esteem and social skills, and thus be empowered to participate fully and responsibly in their communities.
Saturday, I was able to not only bask in the sunshine, but also do some useful constituency work too. Walking up and down Ormond Avenue (near Gynn Gardens), I was shown a fair amount that could do with sorting, and almost ran out of paper! I was also up in Cleveleys looking at how we can improve the use of the Promenade there, ahead of this Wednesday’s‘Future Cleveleys’ meeting. I won’t be there – but someone from my office will be, so I shall look forward to hearing what occurs.