Blackpool Museum Project staff have been exploring what makes Blackpool special to them. Every week a member of the museum team will publish a post about what they think makes this seaside town so unique, dynamic and exciting. Today the Learning and Skills Manager John Simpson-Wedge looks at what is Normal for Blackpool.

Normal for Norfolk

A Normal for Norfolk road sign. Credit: Martin, North Norfolk Guide

A Normal for Norfolk road sign. Credit: Martin, North Norfolk Guide

Before joining the Blackpool Museum Project I worked in Great Yarmouth for Norfolk Museums Service. While there I discovered a phrase much loved and often used by the locals; Normal for Norfolk.

Normal for Norfolk was originally used by doctors to describe patients who were peculiar or a little odd. However this rather rude phrase was quickly adopted by locals to celebrate all the unusual quirks and oddities which make Norfolk distinct. Street signs in the local dialect, unpronounceable place names and bizarre village rituals; all these things were ‘Normal for Norfolk’, and if you thought they were odd you definitely weren’t a local! Now, having lived in Blackpool for a year, I can definitely say that I’ve heard and seen things which are ‘Normal for Blackpool’.

 

 

An elephant enjoying a bath on the beach. Credit: Local and Family History Centre, Blackpool Central Library

An elephant enjoying a bath on the beach. Credit: Local and Family History Centre, Blackpool Central Library

Elephants on the Beach

Many residents and visitors have memories of the elephants from Blackpool Tower Circus

bathing on the beach. I can only imagine how surprising this must have been to visitors to the town.

However, whenever I am told about this incredible event by local people it is always with a matter-of-fact tone; the sort of voice which says that ‘this was a regular occurrence, nothing unusual about it whatsoever’. Definitely Normal for Blackpool.

 

 

 

 

King Kong

Credit: Local and Family History Centre, Blackpool Central Library

King Kong installed on Blackpool Tower in 1984.
Credit: Local and Family History Centre, Blackpool Central Library

Even more Normal for Blackpool was the appearance of King Kong on Blackpool Tower in 1984. He was added to celebrate the Tower’s 90th birthday, despite no obvious connections between the building and the ape.

Kong began life in New York in 1983 as a 50th anniversary tribute to the release of the original King Kong film. He was tied onto the Empire State Building and was supposed to be there for a week. Unfortunately poor King Kong couldn’t stand the high winds in New York and had to be brought down early.The next year he found himself on the side of Blackpool Tower, which, given the town’s windy reputation, might not have been the best move for Kong’s health. This brilliant and baffling publicity stunt made very little sense, but is a great example of the sort of thing which is perfectly normal for Blackpool.

King Kong on the Empire State Building, 1983. Credit: New York Daily News

King Kong on the Empire State Building, 1983.
Credit: New York Daily News

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackpool Today- Fairytale Carriages and Elvises

Fantastic images of things which are Normal for Blackpool have been captured by photographer JJ Waller in his brilliant new book Blackpool Vol 01. The book, supported by LeftCoast, celebrates all things Blackpool, including both the iconic and the divisive.

Photo © JJ Waller. 2015 JJ Waller’s Blackpool vol 01 is available from The Grundy Shop and Waterstones price £12.99

Photo © JJ Waller. 2015
JJ Waller’s Blackpool vol 01 is available from the Grundy Shop and Waterstones, price £12.99

The Cinderella-esque Landaus which have appeared over the last few years look like they’re straight out of a fairytale, and to many young visitors they offer a magical experience. Most residents however don’t even turn their heads as they pass. Anywhere else seeing a pumpkin carriage would cause surprise or even alarm, but here in Blackpool they’re pretty normal.

'Norma. Hotel Guest, Blackpool' © JJ Waller. 2015 JJ Waller’s Blackpool vol 01 is available from The Grundy Shop and Waterstones price £12.99

Norma. Hotel Guest, Blackpool © JJ Waller. 2015
JJ Waller’s Blackpool vol 01 is available from the Grundy Shop and Waterstones, price £12.99

Finally, this summer I had the pleasure of witnessing Europe’s Tribute to Elvis at the Winter Gardens. Blackpool was filled with a throng of Elvises and Elviras who flocked to celebrate the King of Rock and Roll. ‘This happens all the time’ said one staff member, ‘Elvis, Punk, Pigeons, we see all sorts. It’s pretty normal to be honest.’

However, she was quite excited, and clearly rather proud of the odd things going on in Blackpool, and that is the beauty of the ‘normal’ label. Normal doesn’t mean hum-drum or bland. When people say that these extraordinary things are normal, they’re taking pride and ownership of them; ‘We do this all the time’ really means ‘This belongs to us!’

What do you think is Normal for Blackpool?
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