In June 2023, to coincide with the publication of Pleasure Beach, author Helen Palmer led a number of writing workshops in schools and sixth-form colleges in her home town of Blackpool, where the novel is set. The extracts published below were all produced during these workshops. The students were given the chance to do free writing exercises, to write about how they feel about Blackpool, and to think and write about feelings, emotions and sensations.

Thanks to Ashleigh Roberts at Armfield Academy and Rebecca Bain at Blackpool Sixth for hosting these workshops, and to Arts Council England for funding support. It was a fantastic experience!

Callum Collins

The Forgotten Arcades trampled on by the loved, famous, eventful piers in Blackpool as the owners of the arcades are jealous of their success, the fame and the fortune they obtain on a daily basis as the owners rot in their graves left to die with little to nothing to live off and their families barely getting by, barely able to eat, barely able to afford clothes and barely able to pay for a place to live, and their sorrowful souls suffer within this greedy town that wants nothing but money and fame, to leech the hard-working owners’ money to replenish their own needs.

Keira Eaves

Blackpool tower tries in vain
To replicate Icarus and reach the heavenly plane
But both burn into disarray.
Icarus dies.
And Blackpool tries.
It drapes the tower’s smoking carcass in lights
That flicker and die throughout the nights
In the name of commercial fun
And ignore the melancholy surrounding everyone
The locals burn, like the feathers on Icarus’s wings
They blaze into poverty and so many unpleasant things
That cannot be written on this page.
Because tourist, locals, and even writers follow Blackpool’s example
Performing a play a happy performance and setting a false example  
About a town that died long ago and cannot be revived no matter
How hard mother nature tries.
No amount of rain could save Icarus
Or this rotting place that contains too much hubris
To hide and restore the damage from the flames.

Samuel Thayre

Freedom at a price. Those despairing dungeons were now but a memory. Sweet melancholy washed over me, reminiscent of the waves upon my hometown’s shore. Ravenous squawking from a distant seagull formed a semblance of belonging. A reminder of days spent on the pier, a reminder of what I had lost, a reminder of nostalgic days long gone. Yet, one thing was for certain – there was no going back; a second chance was a mercy too great to bestow. For, after all those days spent oppressed, fate’s ethereal hand was wringing my neck.

Brooke Turner-Thompson

If the younger version of me knew what I have been through, I wouldn’t be the same. A school life of defending myself from bullies, losing my best friend to cancer, life in and out of hospital and the movement from my hometown to Blackpool. I left most of my family behind and I was left constantly feeling anxious. However, two years into high school, I met the girl of my dreams, Quiarnah. She was beautiful but was taken far to soon. Without her, I was left feeling lost and my coping mechanism lowered, but I found my true self. I didn’t need to care about what people said to me or others’ opinions. As long as I was happy. Some days I couldn’t push myself and other days I felt normal. I could go out with friends, skate down the promenade and even with a couple of minutes of kicking a ball around I feel like I could escape from reality. I used to struggle putting my emotions out in the open, however writing is a way to help. Nobody has to read it or accept it. After all it’s my story not theirs.

Daniel M

My stroll down the promenade was long but I have finally reached my destination; my goal achieved. As long as I turned my head towards the clouds the sheer height of Blackpool tower filled me with a sense of awe. A monolith of rusted metal, screws and bolts with a flag sailing, the wind at its peak; at my wonderful sight. Awestruck and avidly curious, I entered the base of the tower and began to climb to the top like an ant scaling a mountain. As the sea glistened in the sunlight, the waves gently slid across the shoreline, captivated by…

Dylan Holmes

Last night I played warzone with my friends
this made me feel loved

Roses are red
Kiefer is yellow
Corey is mellow

Blackpool is lovely
Blackpool is nice
Pier and Towers
Give me a Fright

My dog eats chicken and I eat Kebab

Roses are red
Kiefer is yellow
Corey is sexy
And Corey is mellow

Last night I ate a kebab
It was fab
Pippa’s a goon
And Ruby’s a spoon
Miss is getting married
And the baby’s being carried

Jennifer Eaton

The amusement park had just closed and I was feeling tired and hungry. Hatred filled my body as I remembered being abandoned by my sister just so she could meet some mates. I started walking toward the closest fish and chips and decided to put my feelings aside. All that mattered was getting home and not losing my mind towards my sister. I started making my way to the tram station. I missed the last tram. I started worrying. How was I going to get home now? My phone was dead. I couldn’t get hold of anyone. An hour from home with no communication, no money and no transport. I had been left in Blackpool alone and afraid with no familiar people to find comfort within.

Sitting at the tram stop, many people walking, shouting as the night progressed. All of a sudden, a man stopped in front of me, not saying a word just staring at me intensely. Feeling anxious I turn my head to view the Blackpool tower. The lights flickering making weird confusing shapes, and figures appear as the lights change.

No communication, no money and no transport. Left alone in Blackpool. No familiar people.

Leo Braebaum

It was a solitary Saturday,
Cool breeze whipped,
Silky sand snarled,
Yet Golden rays stood

Specs of sand whipped,
Warm water waved,
Spiked reeds speared,
Yet the sands never stop

Hot tarmac toasts,
Split streamed cars speed,
Craving crows cry,
Yet the sea doesn’t calm

anonymous (1)

Today on Wednesday I feel tired and happy because I am relaxed.

This is a difficult task as I can’t think. I want a chippy or a Chinese. I have history after, not excited. I am frightened but somewhat confident.

Blackpool has three piers, central is my favourite. The tower is big, but the town is bigger.

anonymous (2)

Love beach with greedy fish and chips from seagull. Seagull steal chips, not funny. I am joyous after kebab. Jellyfish are confused and kind. Waxworks on tower super happy. Rage when no fish and chips. Vinegar + salt = happy and ecstatic. Promenade is a peaceful walk by the sea. I buy a rock hard and anger when broken. Ruby Love. Ruby love kebab and seagull. She is tired and whack. We eat fish and chips with the seagulls. Sorrow when food is finished.

anonymous (3)

When I heard the story of Charlene Downs I felt fearful and disgusted so then I went to Stanley Park to clear my mind but I still felt sad and the actions of the men were very questionable. However, when I looked down from the tower over my town I felt hope and was wishful for a better future.

Standing on the beach she felt tears roll down her face. Jealousy sparked in her soul a feeling of revenge… She watched proudly as the body of her ex-boyfriend flowed with the river Wyre.

anonymous (4)

I live in Blackpool. Blackpool is a busy, overcrowded tourist town by the sea. Residing in Blackpool is not fun. It is noisy and frustrating. The streets are a maze, all covered in bright amusement places or boarded-up shops. Navigating Blackpool can feel like a delusion. The promenade is plastered in litter and seagulls. Everywhere. Seagulls attacking children, seagulls stealing food, seagulls flying overhead, constantly making infuriating noise. People here are often rude, drunk, or angry about something. They always find something to complain at. Everywhere you go there are crowds and crowds of tourists standing in the way and walking slowly. Living in a tourist town is hellish and causes a nauseous feeling wherever I go.

Bella Hill

The late nights excite the lost, the devastated the ones who survive on their own into intoxication provided by the dozing shops along black and white streets. To feel neglected in one’s home, using the makeup to mask the fear. The fear of being left to bleed out on the streets of Blackpool. This is a city of lights. Attracting the moths and burning the flies. The ones who lie dying on the floor whilst they dance into the night. Flies are the pests! What difference do we have to those who buzz with excitement toward the famous Blackpool rock whilst we burn around the idea of a meal on the table. They flaunt their wealth as we drown in a cycle of poverty and vulnerability.

Thomas Gribbon

I like food. Food is good. The zoo is not fun. It is boring. The winter gardens is fun. I like the illuminations the most. It is trippy. I love football. I support Manchester United. I hate Man City. They are bad. The tower is cool. I like fish and chips at the chippy. I like Quavers by the sea. They are nice. I love the beach, even though it is quite dirty. When I went to Victoria Hospital, I got free food. I do not like the food. The potatoes are soft but the pudding is good. Homelessness is common in Blackpool and that’s bad.

When I am in school, I feel tired. When I am on the promenade, I feel lively. When I’m happy, I eat Quavers. I get jealous when I see someone with a donut. It makes me want one. When I get one, I am cheerful. I find it funny when I go to the circus in the tower. I get excited when I see a kebab shop.

I like pizza. It makes me feel youthful.

I get bored at the zoo so I get pizza and donuts. I am no longer bored.

I feel rage when I watch the football because we are bad.

Jasmine Ekwensi

A cold, dreary night; dark if not for the bright flashing lights of the seasonal amusement riders. The orchestra of cars, terrible pop music and random conversation combined with the slightly off-putting mix of car exhaust, cheap food stands, alcohol and various vapes make for an overall uncomfortable sensory experience. Pushing the crowd at the frequently overrun MacDonald’s, looking for a familiar face. Scanning the faces of the teenagers haunting the corners, young families with disruptive toddlers and couples settling for a Big Mac as their dinner, she begins to have a sinking feeling that she’s been stood up.

Bramble Foster

The treacherous attraction rumbled along the rickety tracks, quaking the ground as it went screeching through the screams of its electron amplifier as they pass through in a split second.

The next coaster began the ascent.

A metal link silenced out by the coaster’s whines, a screw fell off the bearings. The chain made a final clunk, hurling the coaster down the tracks. The pressure mounted… then snapped.

The highest point of the top axel fell from its home. The racks of what’s falling from their bindings.

Time seemed to slow for a second.

All was silent.

Within seconds silence broke, joyful screams remained no more. Simply hollow, empty screams echoing throughout.

Luca Bruder

Blackpool, an endless black hole filled with hotels and fish and chips.

The smell lingers on my clothes, a pungent scent of Vinegar. Rancid. Get me Home. Although it may be amusing for tourists, my hatred for this ghastly place will always remain strong. Depressive.

Like an illness you want to escape and be purged of. Where is my sanctuary amongst this hell?

Maisie Newman

The wind twists and turns, huge rain-filled clouds hang over the deserted, waste-filled town that had been wounded by its own people and authority. That is Blackpool! The town I live in and like others desire to escape its rusty, choking chains. The sea bubbles with layers upon layers of diseased plastic bottles and undisposed nappies. This grotty place, fat, stubborn seagulls prey upon the people below, begging and starving for more, more food.

Brightly, the sun shines out of the gloomy, grey clouds; it shines upon the new hotel, the new cinema, the new shops and the new hope that the people who have lived here since Blackpool’s prime days will restore this little seaside resort.

Sara-Jayne Parr

The desolate beach had a ghostly feel to it as Jane trekked mournfully across the sand, the central pier casting a glaring shadow in the tired evening sun as she made her way towards the calm sea. The waves washed over her feet, cooling her down after the surprising evening she didn’t know she’d have to endure. Her hazel eyes scanned her surroundings, and without even trying, everywhere she looked reminded her of him. The holes, the ice creams and even the distant smell of fish and chips all brought her back to the very moment everything fell apart four years ago.

Sophie Gerlich

Throughout my life I’ve longed for something. Something to make me feel more than the hateful stories from others as I walk down Devonshire Road. Something to make me understand what is wrong with me to be so unlovable. Something to make me feel at peace: Alive. Just something. I wander this road often thinking about this, wanting to find some feeling to ensure my happiness in a fake town filled with fake people and their fake tan. I often hope there’s a small group of people like me who just want to belong, wishing desperately to be accepted. I want to scream to them, ‘Help me! Love me! Want me!’ It frustrates me knowing they are there always, but never in arm’s reach, like my happiness is a butterfly that can never be caught. They hide behind these fake people to ensure their security, their status; how ridiculous.