I will always have happy memories of Great Yarmouth. I went there as a child for the beach, the funfair, the Saturday market, the rollercoaster.
That was many years ago now, the late 1970s, the early 1980s. I remember a rather scrappy but lively place, full of comfortable working class families like ours, with money to spend to enjoy the summer amusements. Yarmouth could hardly be mistaken for one of the well-to-do East Anglian seaside towns close by, like Southwold, Aldeburgh or Walberswick. But it had a robust character of its own, the streets leading down to the sea packed, the beaches lined with colourful windbreakers, the fairground rides full, the shops stuffed with glittering rubbish, the end-of-pier music hall host to many of the UK’s most popular old school comedians: Cannon and Ball, Rod Hull and Emu, even Morecambe and Wise from time-to-time.
Times have changed. When we used to go to Yarmouth it was beginning to struggle with the disintegration of the fishing industry on which its prosperity had been based. But it has been in sharp, severe decline now for decades, allowed to decay, without anyone paying too much attention, like a somewhat gaudy wedding cake left out in the rain.
But with Brexit Yarmouth and towns like it are in the news again. More than 70% of the town’s electorate voted to leave the European Union, one of the highest margins even amongst Britain’s depressed towns.
During a brief holiday back in East Anglia I visited Yarmouth for the first time in many years the other day to see for myself why that might be so, with a camera. I can recall the town when it was a chaotic but cheerful place. Now, it seems, there is not so much cheer.