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From the Magazine: Postcard from Blackpool

“Is that who I think it is?” whispered a small girl, her head twisted to stare behind at a passing figure who looked very much like The Queen. “Quite possibly,” her mother smiled in reply. “Everyone is welcome to Blackpool.”

Elizabeth II’s look-alike was just one of 5,000 people who turned up to celebrate Watch Day at the famous seaside resort on the northwest coast of England. The three piers, included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch, are a stunning sequence of historic structures and important symbols of a town built to provide pleasure for the working people of Northern England. They are also structures that epitomize the dilemma for heritage in a world where climate change is a reality. Increased tidal surges threaten the piers, and World Monuments Fund is working with local partners, led by Watch nominator Blackpool Council, to find solutions.

However, the climate was generous on a balmy Saturday in June when the North Pier opened its doors for Watch Day, an event that is celebrated at Watch sites around the world with the aim of encouraging community engagement and local stewardship in the sustainable preservation of heritage sites. Blackpool is renowned for being loud, brassy, humorous, and above all, fun, and that’s what this Watch Day was all about. Promenaders dressed in Edwardian finery mixed with academics from the National Piers Society, while revellers from neighboring Pride celebrations took in the sea air and stunning views.

Over half the visitors were children who spent time making sandcastles, screaming with delight on the historic fairground rides, and enjoying a particularly English tradition, the Punch & Judy show. For those who wanted to understand more of the pier’s history, there were expert-led tours that included its unique end-of-pier theatre, and displays showcasing the many famous singers, comedians, and entertainers who have performed on this watery venue in the decades since it opened in 1863.

A happy day ended with raucous strains of music playing in the open-air Victorian Sunset Lounge. Queues of children clutched sticks of Blackpool “rock”—a traditional seaside candy molded in the shape of WMF’s logo—still waiting to have their faces painted. Those who attended came away with a renewed sense of urgency to explore ways to safeguard the precious piers that mean so much to so many.

As we were packing up a traditional coconut shy game at the end of the day, Carl Carrington of Blackpool Council said, “Do you know, I think we should have a Watch Day every year.” I for one look forward to returning in 2019. 

Support for Blackpool Piers is generously provided by American Express.

To read more stories from the 2019 Watch Magazine, click here.