A stone’s throw from the glamor of the Blackpool ballroom where Strictly took place last night, a man takes a long gulp from a can of lager as he strolls past a boarded-up shop.
He trudges down crime-ridden Central Drive, a neglected boulevard in the shadow of the northern coastal city’s iconic tower.
INSERT STRICTLY PIC HERE – caption: Strictly Come Dancing returned to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom last night
Just yards from the hustle and bustle of the BBC’s flagship dance show, which returned there for the first time in three years, lone drinkers and hooded figures roam the streets.
The high street, once lined with boutiques, elegant cafes and cinemas, is now interspersed with crumbling derelict buildings and a row of bargain shops.
The boulevard is so seedy that locals call it “Beirut” and claim they are too scared to shop alone, while drug dealers linger on the corners and teenagers target deals.
In September alone there was a staggering 555 crimes in the region, the vast majority of which related to anti-social behaviour.
Local Miles Bruschan, 55, told The Sun: “The Strictly Effect gets people to come to Blackpool, but glitz and glamor doesn’t exist outside of this ballroom.
“It’s not our reality. It’s a world away from what it really is. The streets beyond decay and decay.
“It’s obviously good for tourism as it gets people thinking about Blackpool, but it distorts people’s perceptions.
“It’s an annual event and the Tower Ballroom is a country ballroom, not a local ballroom.
“I have mixed feelings because if people just come to see the ballroom, do they really stop here and help the area?
“Blackpool may have a wonderful ballroom, but the city is falling apart. It’s a historic place, but it’s lost a lot of its character.
“It’s just concrete. There are no plants and some of the work they’ve done is a mess.”
The city of Lancashire has an unemployment rate of 25 per cent, compared to the national figure of 13.
Miles, a business travel agent, adds: “There is a huge problem with unemployment. Aside from tourism, there is no other industry that is suffering here.
“If all the hotels and shops close, there will be no more jobs for the locals.”
Maryll Maycock, 74, is a retired chef who moved to Blackpool ten years ago.
The grandmother is a huge Strictly fan but cannot get tickets to the event despite being on her doorstep.
She tells us: “It’s all glitz and glamor really, but the locals are never allowed to leave. We have applied every year since we moved here and have never been selected.
“I was only in the ballroom to watch the local dancers. There’s a dancer who’s been here for years and never got a ticket.
“It is not right. Why should people who never come to town be able to see it? They should open it up to people on the street.
The Strictly Effect draws people to Blackpool, but the glitz and glamor doesn’t exist outside of this ballroom
“The event does not reflect the city because a street above has decayed and been left behind.
“The council is getting a huge grant and I hope they invest it in local infrastructure.
“They must put the main street in order. More tourists would come if more money was spent making it back to what it was in its heyday.
“It’s such a shame because years ago it bloomed. I used to come here all the time. We had a trailer and brought our grandson to see the illuminations since he was a baby.
“People still come here every year and they love it. You’ll be drawn in by the lights and beautiful seafront promenade, but the back areas have been neglected.
“They are renovating the car park for the seafront promenade and yet the road beyond looks terrible.
“All the shops have been boarded up and replaced with discount stores.”
Top hotel accommodates 400 migrants
On the High Street, a shopfront has completely collapsed and is filled with rubbish and debris, while a dilapidated hotel is covered in soot and ash after the dilapidated building caught fire earlier this year.
It’s a world away from the charming promenade where holidaymakers stroll while enjoying the views of the Irish Sea.
The two-mile stretch of seafront road is home to Blackpool Tower, where Strictly has hosted a water park and zoo since 2009.
The promenade is also home to Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park, which once held the record for the world’s tallest roller coaster.
Despite its rich history, the town has suffered a sad decline in tourism, with locals blaming cheap package holidays to sunny destinations like Ibiza.
The once-splendid Metropole Hotel, which still stands proud by the sea, used to be reserved for A-listers but is currently home to 400 asylum-seekers.
A week ago, the city received a $40 million top-up grant.
But locals claim that’s not enough, saying the council needs to restore the back streets to their former glory.
Karen McKinlay, 66, is a retired psychotherapist who has lived all her life in Blackpool.
She says: “It absolutely brings people to the city, but I have concerns about how much it means to the area.
“I don’t think the stars wander the dingy streets behind the ballroom, they probably have a safe place to stay.
“My husband calls the area Beirut because it’s so run down it’s like a slum.”
Karen claims that half the stores are now “buckling themselves” while the rest are “severely neglected” or discount stores.
“The street is full of junkies, alcoholics and prostitutes. I advise people to avoid Central Drive,” she adds.
“The Metropole Hotel accommodates asylum seekers. The hotel used to be the most prestigious in the area – it speaks to the decline in tourism.
“I feel sorry for them and understand they have somewhere to go, but we should mind our own. We should invest in social housing and help the homeless on the streets of Blackpool.
“We should give priority to local people in housing and lodging.”
Children terrorize locals
Joke shop owner Sam Parker, 52, has lived all her life in Blackpool and says Strictly is great for spreading the word about the town, but it’s not enough to save it.
She says: “Over the years there has been a decline in the high street and B&B guest houses.
“People used to come to Blackpool for up to a week, now they only come for a day.
“This morning I parked my car and one of the builders said, ‘Don’t leave anything on display because I just saw a burglary’.
This morning I parked my car and one of the builders said, “Don’t leave anything on display because I just saw a burglary.”
Sam Parker, resident of Blackpool
“The children between 10 and 15 years terrorize us all summer long. They come in and steal things.
“They’ve always been a nuisance but they’re only getting worse because nothing is being done about it and they know they can get away with it.”
Sam has been told her family business, which opened in 1969, will have to close due to the £300million leisure development in January.
She adds: “Our store is being demolished to make way for the car park. It’s annoying because we’re successful as a company.
“The area needs rehabilitation but there are so many shops that are closed and the unemployment rate is sky high that you would think they would include us in their plans.
“We’ve been here for decades and keep people busy. It’s really sad because the store means a lot to the locals.”
Mugged on Main Street
A local resident, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “Main Street used to be wonderful. It’s a dangerous place now.
“An elderly woman I know was attacked there at 4pm in broad daylight.
“The locals don’t dare to walk these streets alone, especially at night. They’re full of junkies and shady characters.”
Steven Waters, 46, moved to the area from Swindon last month.
Currently unemployed, he says he traveled frequently to Blackpool as a young lad and was drawn by the low house prices, but insists the area needs refurbishing.
He says: “When you see Blackpool on Strictly it looks amazing and gives you a certain image of what it’s like.
Locals do not dare to walk these streets alone, especially at night. It’s full of junkies and sketchy characters
“When people come to visit, it doesn’t live up to their expectations.
“If people came here after seeing the show, they would be shocked.
“In the middle is an abandoned Woolworths. It’s an eyesore, the ceiling has collapsed and is rotting.
“There are more homeless people now – that needs to be addressed.
“When tourists come here and see the burnt down buildings, they will not want to come back.
“The city could be restored to how it was in the 1980s. She just needs a drastic makeover.
“The appeal of Blackpool was that you could come on a whim and there was always a place to stay and always something to do, but that’s not the case anymore.
“It was ruined by package tours. Covid has meant more people are holidaying in England and Blackpool has been busy this year.
“So who knows, maybe new holiday habits will encourage tourists to visit.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/6720105/real-blackpool-strictly-addicts-crime-broke-britain/ Crumbling shops, junkies loitering and locals too scared to shop… how REAL Blackpool is “worlds away” from Strictly Glitz