Someone sent me this. It’s good.
But out of all the horrors you encounter at Christmas, there’s possibly nothing more potent than a visit to your own hometown. Nothing kills the festive spirit quite like a walk under a badly flickering light display, among a concrete trench of a street, attempting to get a few last-minute presents in the few shops that have remained open in the face of amazon and recession. Nothing, except staying too late on those same streets as office parties burst onto them, angry, disappointed and really, really drunk. There is bad singing. There are fights. People in Santa hats sing at you, try to kiss you under sprigs of plastic mistletoe, fall over. You recognise one of them from school. He doesn’t recognise you. And does a little sick by your feet.
The sky is dark and cold and wet – snow would be too much to hope for. None of your friends are back. You didn’t buy enough presents. Someone is weeing in the the fountain. There is canned music and violence in the air. The buses are all running late. You remember why you left in the first place, even as you realise that you are stuck. It all starts to feel horribly familiar…
And if you’re lucky, that’s when you’ll realise you’re home again. That this is where you have your most important memories. That you kind of like all those drunk fools in silly hats, and the ugly buildings, and the bad lights. Even if you’re glad you only have to see them but once a year…
Hull is going to be the UK City of Culture in 2017! It’s not even a joke. The formerly smelly city has beaten off stiff competition from Dundee, Swansea and Leicester. Hopefully soon, thousands of tourists and millions of pounds will be heading in its direction.
It’s safe to say that the town that came first in the original Crap Towns in 2003 has turned a corner. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying eating my ten-year-old words over the last few weeks. Hull it turns out, has got a great deal going for it. Poetry, community, history… Who knew?
Well, everyone who’s read the new book Crap Towns Returns for a start. I’m relieved to say that I’d already realised that Hull has made great strides from the good old bad old days and included it in a section at the back devoted to accentuating the positive.
And I’d realised, mainly because people were saying such good things. Ten years ago, thousands were writing in to Crap Towns to slag the town off and report how far it had fallen. They laid down brilliant insults. Hull “smelt of death”. It would, we were told, best suited to providing housing for the damned come judgement day. Now far more of the correspondence I’ve had has been about hard work, serious regeneration and better fortune. There are still problems in Hull – and some of them aren’t funny at all – but this is a city heading the right way.
The winning city of culture bid is the icing on the cake. It’s also worth noting that this bid was all about coming out of the shadows. In my vain moments, I like to hope that this means that they’ve used Crap Towns as a platform for change. That’s certainly how I hoped things would turn out ten years ago.
The other thing that’s really nice about Hull’s good fortune is the way it proves that anywhere can improve. Ten years ago, Hull was on its knees. Now it’s standing proud. Hopefully, in ten years time, I’ll be sending a similar letter about the improvements in Bradford and the massacre of the bankers in London… Sorry. I mean: “of the gradually reducing house prices and of the much cheaper public transport in London.” No killing necessary. Hopefully.
Anyway, if Crap Towns is a force for good, and does help nudge towns in the right direction, it’s thanks to you. Most of the readers of this post have contributed in one way or another. Those that visit the site help make the book what it is. So you should all take credit. You’re helping Britain get better. Even as you make funny jokes about how rubbish it is. Bravo!
Hey! I’m making it sound as if to buy a copy of Crap Towns is to act as a force for good aren’t I? That wasn’t my intention when I started typing this post, but I’m liking the sound of that. That’s some serious marketing schtick. Of course, if that doesn’t convince you, I’m always equally pleased if people just buy it because they think it might make them laugh and occupy them enjoyably while they’re on the toilet. Even if it doesn’t save all our cities, Crap Towns Returns can at least improve our shitties.
It’s time to sign off, isn’t it?
Here’s to Hull and a brilliant year of culture in 2017
We asked you what are the crappest towns and you voted in your thousands on our online polls, left comments and posted photos and now we’re giving you the chance to give them their glory. We have a Crap Town certificate that we want YOU to download and present to a town that made the Top 50.
Simply fill in the details for the town you are awarding and take a photo of yourself giving the town the award. The best photo for each town will win a copy of Crap Towns Returns.
Feel free to knock on Town Hall doors, hang pride of place in town centres, shake hands with the mayor. Go big and bold the whole town deserves to know that they’ve won a place in the Top 50! No animals, people or buildings must be harmed in the taking of photos.
The long-delayed results of our dullest town poll are in. It shames me to admit this, but I was kind of putting off getting to announcing this result because doing all the leg work seemed, well a little boring. Which just goes to show how wrong I can be. You see, once we started crunching the numbers it proved to be anything but dull. It was, in fact, fascinating.
So, to recap. We asked you, the Great British Public, a simple and straightforward question: which is Britain’s crappest town?
And when asked the public never fails to speak. The public holds forth and exhorts. The public speaks truth to power. Embracing digital technology, the public not only flocked to tell us the name of the cruddiest place in which to subsist on these once golden Isles – they tried to game the heck out of us in the process.
Let’s have a look at the first count:
Burnham Market 128
Bury St Edmonds 135
Chipping Norton 223
Fort William 176
Leamington Spa 3326
A pretty massive victory for Leamington Spa, it seems. But here’s the thing. The public, it seems, not only wants to tells us that their detritus be-splattered carparks are better than your refuse guanoed bus shelters, they want to swindle us out of a job of fairly judging between those dark satanic mills and these ordure clouded hills…
We asked the Great British Public a simple and straightforward question – and they cheated.
Leamington, it seems, is Britain’s cheatiest town – we counted over 3000 votes coming from the same IP address. Or maybe that’s unfair. Maybe, someone from Chipping Norton (we all know about Chipping Norton and hacking) has been gaming the results and fixing poor old Leamington. Either way, we can’t stand for it. A similar thing happened in the unlovely Maidenhead, with 1400 fake votes. And in third place Thetford! Where? Exactly.
So, we’ve had to clean things out. Once we’d nuked all the fake and duplicate IP addresses we got the following:
Chipping N 151
Fort W 103
That makes Hatfield the dullest town. Although, of course, now I want to know which place is the cheatiest. Or at least I would, if the thought of doing the poll didn’t make my head spin quite so much.
For now, we’re contenting ourselves with trying to find our about London’s most unloved borough.
And of course, this week we’ve revealed the really important prize. The book is out there, and there are 50 towns in it and they are the worst places to live in the UK. Well done London. You suck.
Real actual books!
London is officially the worst town in the UK and isn’t it nice to have the truth out there? That London has been making life miserable for its own inhabitants and the rest of the country. That the only people who can still afford to live in the middle of the city are politicians, criminals and bankers. That… Hang on! I’m going off on one about London again, but there’s no need. It’s all in the book. Plenty of other people have written far funnier pieces than my latest rant.
What I should be doing is writing out the top ten:
- Chipping Norton
- High Wycombe
There are another 40 towns in the book too. Not to mention five improvers. It’s hitting the shops now if you want full details. And also the fun of reading all the jokes, outrage, scandal, gossip and rage in the book. Not to mention of thumbing through the pictures… The UK has definitely supplied some great photographic material this time around.
So! The book is available at this splendid network called Hive
It’s also available at Waterstones.
You can pre-order the ebook all over the place. Here’s the apple link.
It’s also available in all kinds of high street books stores and supermarkets.
And yes, you can get it on amazon. If you knew how often I was checking the amazon chart, you’d laugh.
Meanwhile if you’re waiting for the results of our dullest place to live poll, check back on the site later in the week. Sorry it’s taken so long to share the details. Guess what? That’s right, Writing about Leamington Spa was so boring, I never quite got round to doing it…
Finally, quite a few people have been getting in touch with me to try to claim that London isn’t a town. Oh yeah? Take that up with Bucks Fizz:
Night life in Camberley
Our new poll asks: which is the dullest town in Britain? How you define “dull” is up to you. It could be a question of nightlife, or lack of it. It could be a question of shops, or lack of them. It could be a question of architecture, or lack of it. It could be a question of entertainment… You get the idea. It could also be about the population, the council, the endless, endless roundabouts and traffic jams. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes things dull – but we all know what dull feels like. It feels like these places:
Bury St Edmunds
So which is the dullest in the UK? Vote in our poll and let us know. Or if you have another candidate, let us know about that too. Or if it turns out that we could be having the time of our lives in Rhyl, let us know about that too. I know. I know. We just like hearing from you.
Night life in Chipping Norton
Like all dull things, this poll is going to go on just a little bit too long. Instead of the rapid fire two weeks you had to do our ugly poll, you’ve got a whole month to do this one. Results will be announced on 6 September. It will almost be Autumn by then. Oh God. Then winter. That’s when things get really dull. Anyway. Let’s hit it. Which is the dullest town in the UK? Vote here.
Ugly, ugly, ugly
Meanwhile, on the subject of that ugliest towns poll, we have some results. (Slightly delayed. Sorry about that!) Before we do the big unveil, let’s do some analysis. The first thing to note is that one whole shitload of people (if you’ll excuse me using such technical statistical language) voted. Over 3,000 – which isn’t bad over two weeks. What’s also clear is that pretty much everywhere we listed is ugly. Since (to continue with the stats jargon), tons of people voted for almost every place place.
Anyway, that’s enough number crunching. Let’s just get down to details. The results, in order of ugliness:
- Hemel Hempstead – 785
- Luton – 592
- Slough – 352
- Bracknell – 338
- Birmingham -312
- Camberley – 311
- Coventry – 295
- Cumbernauld – 100
- Hatfield – 51
- Gateshead – 48
So! There’s one clear and obvious conclusion. That’s right! More people have been to Hemel Hempstead than Cumbernauld… I’m joking. The conclusion is that Hemel Hempstead is the ugliest town in the UK. Well done Hemel!
And here’s a few of the kind of comments we were getting alongside the poll:
Basingstoke, like Bracknell, used to be a lovely English market town but look at the concrete monstrosity that passes for a town centre now.
Paignton in Devon is totally crap with empty shops in one part of town and crap shops selling tourist tatt and kiss me quick hats, and the smells from the fast food, chip shops and the like is literally stomach churning. The pavements are a blobby mess of discarded chewing gum. Puts the MUD back in Cumber’mauld
Skelmersdale. Town centre is close friend of a Stalin-era gulag., in the middle of an acre of paving slabs laid by cowboys who didn’t have a spirit level.
The planners of Coventry have done more damage that Hitler’s bombs ever did. They have turned a beautiful city into concrete and glass ugliness that none one wants to visit, or to live in.
Gateshead town has been renovated and I can definitely say its not one of the ugliest towns anymore. I think you need to adjust your list.
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Those all rang very true for me, except one. I hate to criticise, but… I’m kidding. I love to criticise! I’m the author of Crap Towns. So, those comments are fantastic. But I have to disagree with the last. I’ve been to Gateshead and it’s pretty obvious that the renovated town centre is WORSE than the old one. Just wait and see. When we hold this poll in ten years time, Gateshead will be king.
All photos: Sam Jordison
So why is your town so crap?Well, apparently, it’s the fault of the architects. A mighty 513 people declared the profession the cause of our urban woes in our poll. Naughty architects! They even beat the Tories into second place. Who knew there was a group of people less popular than the Tories?! And all they want to do is build things and make stuff look nice… Isn’t it? Anyway, the public have spoken, and I’m not going to argue. I’ve read what else they have to say… But we’ll get back to that in a minute. First of all, the full breakdown of the poll:
Why Is Your Town Crap?
Architects – 513
Youth – 266
Drugs – 190
New Labour – 165
Tesco – 163
Buckfast – 54
Meanwhile, the Lib-Dems didn’t get a single vote. And I’m sure that isn’t the last time you’ll read that sentence over the next couple of years.**
Anyway, that’s enough politics.
No it isn’t!
Here are some more theories for the state (and I mean state) of the UK.
“Unbalanced economic policy. A failed bet on London’s bullshit industries. Outsourcing of the working class to China. Destruction of labour movement. Exploitative media. Trying to run a consumerist economy with consumers who don’t have any money. Replacing conviction with measurement, kindness with stakeholder consultation. If only there was someone to blame. The country shot itself in both feet when it gave up its hard-won freedoms and right to resist: the villains of the piece listed above are merely the vultures who have taken to the hobbled form. We sold our freedom and now eavesdropping on most conversations is like listening to the chit-chat of prisoners. I pity the NSA for having to listen to our shit. There is so much goodness in people and it is the responsibility of people in power to use that inclination for good to the betterment of all.”
“PLANNERS! Planners dictate what gets built where, where roads go, how buildings look, how big they are, what they’re made of and what they’re used for. They’ve the power to challenge designs and refuse them if they’re crap but they don’t because they can’t: they’re trained to follow rules and regulations and tick boxes, which means they make decisions according to numbers and checklists and not in the pursuit of better, more beautiful places. Their performance is measured (by their managers) according to the number of applications they process so they’re motivated to approve applications quickly, which means they don’t take time to think about the bigger picture and how things fit together, which means the towns they work for get crapper and crapper until they fall apart. They’re unaccountable. They’re thinking of their local authority pensions so they tow the line and make more crap decisions, and go home to anaesthetising suburbs miles away from the monstrous accumulations of crap they’ve approved in the town centres, and they’re EVERYWHERE! Planners have soooo much power, and they could make things better if they had the time, and souls that cared. On the continent, they do things differently – planners are ‘urbanists’ (french accent), or trained as architects first (in Denmark and the Netherlands), and they understand the cumulative effect of their decisions, and they don’t make crap decisions or make crap towns. Honestly, if you don’t know about planners, you’ll never understand what makes British towns so crap.”
“You’ve got “The Youth” in there, but you’re forgetting that many coastal towns in the UK are decrepit and lifeless due to the zombie pensioners having taken over and killed any prospect of life whatsoever. They even complain about the christians playing their happy-clappy guitar on the bandstand, on Sundays, which are never FUNDAYS, in Hunstanton … crap.”
“Middle class faux hippies that move down from London to Totnes, because they want a taste of the good life in Devon.”
“The small narrow minded public who are dead set against any change or modernisation. Stoke on Trent is backwards in almost everything it does but this is not for the lack of trying from investors and local gov. Its the people who still want the old coal mining and Pot banks back. If someone said we will give you a money tree they would find a way to object round here.”
“Chipping Norton, not crap for Daylesford which i think was one of your reasons (agreed Daylesford is full of tossers and vastly overpriced but its 5 miles away – so not in ‘Chippy’) or the so called Chipping Norton set (they aren’t actually here either, oh hang on there’s Clarkson on the outskitrs & Cameron 5 miles out so perhaps you’re right ); but because it’s full of cretinous bigots who threatened to burn down a building because the owners offered it for use as a mosque; who complain about Oxfam having a bookshop – because they’re not local (and presumably they’d prefer the shop to still be empty). And the greedy town council who do nothing much for the community except pontificate – and who have successfully encouraged massive amounts of fly tipping by refusing to negotiate a sensible rent on a ransom strip in front of a proposed new waste transfer station (which most of the town thinks would be a good idea – not least because it’s next to Clarkson’s house.) And for the boxing-day meeting of the Heythrop Hunt; where the blue bloods dinosaurs and their toadies congregate to swill their stirrup cups before chasing idiotically around the countryside and getting arrested for illegal hunting…”
Oh and we were also asked:
“so where do you cunts actually live then?”
I live in Norwich. KISS MY FACE!
Anyway, since we’re blaming buildings, we thought that the next poll we should run should be to try to find out which is the UK’s ugliest town centre. The candidates are:
Just whizz over to the front page: craptownsreturns.co.uk to place your vote.
And in case you need a refresher:
Slough image from: http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/slough-by-john-betjeman/
Hatfield image from: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/83439
Bracknell image from: http://www.bracknellskips.com/images/bracknell-skip-hire.jpg
All other photos by Sam Jordison.
Quercus HQ have told me that the Fib-Dems did get some votes after all. Writes Caroline:
Lib dems got 30 votes.It would appear they were stood next to New Labour in the spreadsheet and so I did not spot them…Oh the irony.This hasn’t affected Labour’s numbers though.
Funny. And they still came last. The Quisling fucks.
Following a lovely article in The Guardian and variously amused and outraged follow-ups in dozens and dozens of papers around the country the Crap Towns debate is in full swing. Pretty soon I’ll be posting your videofy.me videos here and I’ll also try and do justice to the hundreds of new nominations, defences, attacks and hilarious comments that have poured into the site and facebook page in recent days. I’ll also drop a few hints about how things are shaping up. Maybe.
First though, our current front page poll is going very well. In spite of my repeated voting to get those naughty Tories blamed, it seems that architects are taking an insurmountable lead as the chief, well, architects of urban malaise. The Bullingdon Club are close behind, followed by the youth and drugs. New Labour and tesco are neck and neck behind them. The EU and Buckfast behind them. And, as usual, the Lib Dems can’t even buy a vote. Interesting! We’ll run another poll soon. We also welcome suggestions for things we should be asking and any good scapegoats.
As for the bigger survey… Well, in truth, I’m not really liberty to say how things have changed – or even if they’ve changed, and certainly not why they’ve changed. Hell, I can’t say much at all. But I can tell you that it’s good news for a few towns so far. And hilariously bad for others. My publisher is very keen that I stress that I’m not talking about Bury St Edmunds. Even though I am. London is coming in for some real punishment too. Not so much because of individual nominations, but because every other person defending their town point out that at least they don’t have to get on the Northern line or endure Boris’ verbal flatulence.
Not that you should read anything into any of that, honest.
On the subject of reading, here are a couple of my favourite recent comments:
Here’s one from Brian on Brighton: “Do you want some….?” takes on a whole new meaning in Brighton: booze, drugs, a knuckle sandwich, breakfast cereals. Take your pick.”
Here’s a poem. A Poem!
The New Temp
For nigh on forty years he’d been working,
And in a factory for most of his life,
And the poor sod had been made redundant,
And besides that fact so had his wife,
I guess a holidays out of the question,
And his answer depresses me still,
For he’d put away all his SUN vouchers,
For a week,
In a caravan,
Smalltown Man points out something that we at Crap Towns HQ refuse to acknowledge: “Excuse me chaps, but you have to remove Calais from the list because – er – it’s in France?”
Mr CQ George asks a pressing question about Chipping Norton: “Who is Alex James, I’ve not heard of him yet?”
Thank you everyone for your contributions. They’ve been very funny.
Meanwhile, in case you’re looking for video ideas, someone also alerted me to this song about Bury St Edmunds:
And, if you haven’t eaten recently, you might also enjoy this film of someone doing a poo in a front garden in Lowestoft. I know. I’m sorry I had to type those words. The human race is disgusting.
(Full instructions on how to make your video and get counted can be found if you scroll down to the bottom of this page.)