HAZ poems: writers share the results of place-inspired workshop

Our Spring/Summer programme of creative workshops is now in full swing and Blackpool locals have been visiting Aunty Social’s newly-restored HAZ building at 28 Topping Street to take part.

Earlier this month artist Hannah Blackman-Kurz visited to invite participants to re-imagine the high street by creating their own colourful concertina fold out row of shops, and local writer Antonia Charlesworth Stack brought along a wealth of Blackpool artefacts to inspire short story writers.

Poet Linda Hampton asked participants in her place-inspired writing workshop to draw on their own personal histories and memories to plan and write their odes to the town. The results are fantastic, so we wanted to take the opportunity to share some of them with you.

Rachael Leitch’s Smoker’s Choice recalls a memorable shop on Church Street, now long gone, that she visited regularly as a young teenager; Kieron Green, in his prose poem Promenade, takes us high above the Golden Mile and shares his thoughts on the famous sights; Neal Sandwell’s poem, A Grand Time tells a personal story of his love for Blackpool’s Grand Theatre and the way his connections with it have changed through circumstance; and Susan Berry’s Winter Gardens is a wistful personal reverie on another of the HAZ’s important venues.

Linda’s own poem, Ghosts at the Cafe Continental, evokes memories of a love affair from long ago. The Cafe Continental on Topping Street is one of many buildings in the HAZ that has undergone a HAZ-funded restoration to its frontage.

We hope you enjoy reading their poetry, memories and thoughts inspired by our historic town.

Smoker’s Choice
Rachael Leitch

Behind the Promenade there lies,
A cocktail of colours,
A packet of delights.

For a shiny silver ten pence,
The adult world awaits,
Which colour will it be today?
And what mischief can I make?

If it’s pink, then it’s candy floss,
Before nicking on the Big Wheel,

If it’s green, then it’s Stanley Park,
And its familiar appeal,

If it’s yellow it’s sun and cider,
Once we have coppered up,

If it’s lilac it’s the hue of the evening sky,
When we know we’re out of luck,

If it’s coral it’s the lipstick,
Bought with last week’s tips,
Worn with the same old dress,
But feeling like new tricks,

One day I’ll buy the whole pack,
And hand them out with pride,
But for now I’ll stick to singles,
And take things in my stride.

Rachael Leitch is a lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University Centre, Blackpool and the Fylde College. In her spare time she enjoys writing.

Kieron Green

In front of me, as far as the eye can see is blue/green like your veins.
The horizon is a grey line. The sky is cracked crystal with many winged dinosaurs disturbing its regular smooth contours.
I lean against the railings, feel the sea calling me, want to fly over it, and hunt with the yellowed-eyed ones.
To my right; steel girders lifting the wooden walkway from the sand. It has many flashing neon lights and from it emits the sound of a mechanical riot.
My head is full of light; I know this feeling well.
I call to the seabirds, take me now, I am no longer afraid.
Behind me is the scene of many a hometown farewell kiss.
It’s metallic and changes colour like a chameleon.
I fly between its many interlocking diagonal supports; in and out until I reach its tapering cap stone.
Swooping down again to my right and returning to my human form.
Inside a building, where I’m a guest at some ancient pagan ritual; taking place no longer in a place of worship but in a gilded palace of pleasure.
The sea air always does this to me, opening and clearing my mind so much that anything could jump right in.
I return to the place where my shamanic journey began, leaning against the railing, looking at the sea again and remember as a child how everything was so much visually bigger then.
In my body and grounded, feeling a direct line of energy from the earth to the crown of my head.
I feel as though I’ve always been here, through many contrasting times and countless incarnations.
I walk briefly northwards and into the wooden and steel jetty, remembering how I used to love the smell of this place, as sweet as candyfloss; funny how your taste changes, preferring now something less artificial, patchouli oil and sandalwood.
I leave and head east, staring up at the great architecture, changing now red, now blue, yellow, purple and many other colours from outer space after that.
Having the gift of flight for a day was great but I much prefer the here and now.

Kieron Green is a student of English Language and Literature at the University Centre, Blackpool and Fylde College who writes haiku, and tales of the weird and wonderful.

A Grand Old Time
Neal Sandwell

A cherished Blackpool oasis
An escape from any sadness
With performance at its basis
That sits alongside the madness.

Where for over a hundred years
Be it music, farce or drama,
Old troupers bowed to claps and cheers
Forgetting their real-life trauma.

It’s crowded outside the stage door.
Everyone’s waiting for the stars
Who appear to a great uproar
As they try to get to their cars.

Now that I am in a wheelchair
The stage door no more can beckon
Unfit to feel the footlights glare
Performer no more, they reckon.

Once, I was part of the magic
Though now I just sit there and watch.
Please don’t think that I am tragic
I’ll dial my resolve up a notch.

From performing, I won’t abstain.
Although I cannot kick my heels
I will make it onstage again
I’ll just simply do it on wheels.

Neal Sandwell is a Blackpool based poet, short story writer and playwright whose play, Old Furniture, was performed in summer 2023 by Trinity Players.

Winter Gardens
Susan Berry

Over a decade ago
Strange how time flows
Live a river through your mind.
And time winds relentlessly
Like the ticking of a clock
And memory rewinds it the same way
Until I am stood here once more.

In the same place, in a different time.
The Winter Gardens. A building so grand and iconic
And the home of many a gin and tonic
I am wrapped once more in shiny metallic fabric.
My jet-black hair styled into a geometric shape.
I am a fake.
Like a knock off Andy Warhol
A pastiche within a pastiche.

I am a spectator of another kind of religion.
A star shaped counter cultural phenomenon
that has captured both my mind and heart.
I am swooning and drenched in a magical lust.
Tiptoeing through a glittery dust.
I am transformed by this musical creation.
Dancing alone with an abandoned elation.
But it all proved to be some kind of illusion.
A shiny veneer that would mask a tear.
A smooth-tongued lover
That lied with such a lexical smoothness.
That I am destroyed by its deception.
The recollections capture me.
They catapult me into the sea.
They smother me with a tidal wave of regret.
And so here it still stands, the Winter Gardens.
Weaving its web of memories.
And here I am captivated and once more.
Stood in my silver splendour dreaming of a love.
That will never be mine.

Susan Berry is a mature student studying creative writing at Blackpool & the Fylde College. She loves all things creative, green spaces and animals.

Ghosts at the Cafe Continental
Linda Hampton

Years go by;
Then once again
I’m back on Topping Street.
An invisible force makes me halt mid step,
Stare through a veil of time,
The street out of focus
As the old movie starts to play superimposed over the live show.
Scurrying passers-by on mute,
Know nothing of my time travelling.

That familiar lettering above the door,
And there we are,
Us, you and me,
Smiling in photograph pose.
Our translucent forms half dissolve into the
Pastel yellow of the window frames
Where once were grubby nets.
Gone the greyish peeling paint,
The scalloped shabby green and white striped awning.
Bright-washed walls have painted us out,
a streamlined canopy pays homage to the candy stripes
But crisp and clean now, all memories erased.

Only I see our outlines, rough sketches,
Scribbled graffiti that’s hard to remove.

A young couple startle me with their laughter,
like ghosts would never do,
Pass through us, through the door,
Take a window table,
Slip off coats,
Pick up menu,
Settle without guilt
or fear of being discovered.

Our love was not for keeps
At the Cafe Continental.
Just tenderly borrowed-
a summer season rental.

Linda Hampton is the author of Wish You Were Here Seaside Stories for children, and The Art Worms on Imagination Street, a quirky absurdist take on art and artists. She is a creative writing coach, writes poetry, plays and is (still) working on her first novel.