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The co-editor of Crap Towns takes on the local papers.
Since coming up with the idea for Crap Towns a couple of years ago, I’ve been labelled in assorted affronted local papers as “cruel”, “tasteless”, “insulting”, “scornful”, “obnoxious”, “greedy” and even “downright rude”. I don’t mind. It’s all great publicity.
I’d never really intended to cause such uproar. Admittedly I’d hoped to annoy a few corrupt local councils and smug provincial Tories, but in my naivety I didn’t realise quite how seriously the regional press would take things.
It all started quietly at first. A couple of years ago, my friend Dan Kieran and I were looking for a new way to tap the talents of the readers of The Idler (the magazine for people that live to loaf) for its website. We’d just had a reasonable amount of success with Crap Jobs, stories from the horrible world of work, and Crap Towns came naturally as a follow-up.
Friendly Cumbernauld and beautiful Morecambe.
We reasoned that everyone either grew up in, or has at least visited a town in the UK that they despise. I was – and still am – haunted by my experiences as a teenager in the desolate Northwestern seaside town of Morecambe. I put a piece about it on the site and encouraged Dan to do the same about his hometown Alresford (“purgatory with hanging baskets”).
We sat back and waited. A few Idler readers sent back hilarious pieces and we congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Soon, however, word spread around chatrooms and weblogs, and we had more nominations than our idle work ethic could cope with. It was great.
Happening Didcot and welcoming St Albans.
Then The Hull Daily Mail spotted a piece about their town and things went ballistic. They invited the writer of the piece, Finlay Coutts-Briton (they called him “the posho”) to have a look around Hull and ran a front-page article about his experiences. Fin admitted that actually he quite liked the place, but the die was cast and soon we were getting hundreds of entries about the reviled Northern town.
Other local papers soon picked up on the idea. We were roundly condemned in the Skelmersdale Champion, savaged in the Hastings Observer and torn apart in the Stockport Express (a local councillor there used a painfully brilliant put-down: “I couldn’t possibly comment,” he said. “I never say anything about magazines that have a readership smaller than my own family.”). The good old Hackney Gazette, meanwhile, conceded that perhaps we had a point.
Glamorous Basingstoke and wealthy Oxford.
It was only a matter of time before I found myself being insulted on Radio Wales, lauded in The Sunday Telegraph and joked about in The Sun. It’s all been a great publicity boost for the book on the Top 50 crap towns that Dan and I have compiled.
That said, I have to admit that I was slightly alarmed when a few months ago The Western Daily Press put a mugshot of the two of us on their cover and virtually exhorted their readers to exact their revenge. It was ironic really, because, as it turned out, hardly any towns from the Southwest even scraped the top 50. I wonder if they’ll print a follow-up. Sam Jordison 03 October 03
The Idler Book Of Crap Towns, edited by Sam Jordison and Dan Kieran, is out 03 October 03, published by Boxtree.
useful link: www.idler.co.uk
the top 50Hull, Cumbernauld, Morecambe, Hythe, Winchester, Liverpool, St Andrews, Bexhill-On-Sea, Basingstoke, Hackney, Portsmouth, Stockport, Crouch End, St John’s Wood, Croydon, Islington, London, Peterborough, Wolverhampton, Didcot, Ascot, Brighton, Aldeburgh, Leiston, Ipswich, Hayling Island, Horsham, Mirfield, Tintern, Peterhead, Oxford, Dover, South Woodham Ferrers, Newport, Billingham, Reading, Maghull, Huntingdon, Hastings, Keighley, Dagenham, Slough, Alresford, Bridgwater, Yate, Skelmersdale, Barrow-In-Furness, Widnes, Hinchley Wood, St Albans.
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