Living in the midst of Blackpool’s red light districts makes people feel safer, according to a report.
Dr Emily Cooper, who is originally from the resort, carried out dozens of interviews with residents, sex workers, and police and council workers over an 18-month period, which she said ‘smashed’ her preconceived ideas about massage parlours in Cookson Street and Central Drive, and how they affect people’s lives.
One person even told the 28-year-old University of Central Lancashire lecturer: “It’s better than daytime television.”
Dr Cooper said: “It’s important to recognise that, for some people, living or working in close proximity to sex work produces feelings of unease.
“However, my research found that, generally, the massage parlours had much more complex roles in everyday lives for some of the local people than simply just being a disorderly feature.
“They evoke feelings of safety and security via their often 24-hour presence, they are distractions from the mundane hours of work, they contribute economically via the use of taxi services and other amenities for clients and sex workers, and finally, a role that is never reported, the sex workers are also neighbours and friends who ‘put the bins out like everybody else’.”
Dr Cooper, who grew up close to Blackpool Sixth Form and attended Cardinal Allen in Fleetwood, said media reporting on massage parlours often excludes their positive impact, and praised authorities for their tolerance.
“While I don’t wish to discount reports by local people of nuisance behaviour associated with the sex industry in the media, or within community consultations by police and the local council, it is important to recognise that these are potentially not the only experiences,” she said.
“Sex workers reported good relationships with the police in Blackpool, which is vital for their safety, and several residents also discussed good relationships with sex workers as friends and neighbours.
“I rarely see this presented in media reports, or in local authority discussions of sex work more broadly – I’m talking about beyond Blackpool here too.
“Finding ways to encourage more cohesion between different members of the community, including seeing sex workers as part of this, is important for everyone going forward.
“I think many local authorities could learn from Blackpool’s more tolerant approach.”
Nobody at Blackpool Council was available to comment.