Paul O’Grady obviously hasn’t visited Southend for a while … The resort where the East End still goes for old-fashioned seaside fun now has a thriving arts scene, too
At the Village Green arts and music festival in Southend-on-Sea earlier this month, festivalgoers were pictured waving placards reading “Southend is not a shit hole”. I thought this was a bit odd, until I learned it was in response to a recent outburst by presenter Paul O’Grady – during filming for an episode of Blind Date, no less – in which he branded the Essex seaside town a shit hole, and “full of single mothers”. Harsh, Paul.
Like generations of Londoners before me, I had my first taste of the seaside at Southend. No matter that the beach was more mud than golden sand, or that the water – where the Thames meets the North Sea – was a murky brown. I have fond memories of making “sand” castles in the silty sludge, riding the roller coasters at Adventure Island until I felt sick, and then walking to the end of the (world’s longest) pier for an ice-cream and to watch the container ships sliding in and out of the estuary.