List spills dirt on UK's ‘crap towns'
It’s the scourge of tourist boards across Britain.
Now the increasingly infamous publication "Crap Towns" has published its long list for 2013.
Of 100 maligned British villages, towns and cities on the list, a shortlisted 50 will be included in a book, "Crap Towns Returns," to be released in October.
Readers nominate towns for inclusion in the list -- often places they live in or grew up in and escaped from.
Perpetuating a tradition of eloquent British miserabilism that stretches from Robert Burton’s 17th-century "Anatomy of Melancholy," through the poetry of Philip Larkin and the Gothic pop lyrics of The Smiths, "Crap Towns" encourages readers to supplement their nominations with lyrically bleak descriptions.
The result is a publication the Sunday Telegraph has praised as a “Domesday book of misery.”
"Shimmering shroud of doom"
“A huge sugar beet factory looms above the skyline and every so often (normally on a lovely sunny day) emits a cloying, sickly stench over the town like a shimmering shroud of doom,” reads one nomination this year for the Suffolk market town of Bury St. Edmonds.
The village of Tilston, near the Welsh border, exemplifies “the weird dichotomy that exists in isolated rural areas when overpaid bankers buy old farm houses and refit them at exorbitant cost and then attempt to co-exist with the local people … some of whom still point at the sky when planes fly over,” says one non-fan.
No doubt the good folk of Bury St. Edmonds and Tilston would beg to differ.
The Visit Bury St Edmunds website describes the town as a “dazzling historic gem.”
Small town tourist boards have even more to worry about because what "Crap Towns" call its “gallows humor” has gone social.
But could "Crap Towns'" mood be improving?
This year -- “excitingly,” the editors, Sam Jordison and Dan Kieran, say -- the book will include a list of “top 10 improved towns,” places that no longer deserve to be called “crap.”
Is this late-flowering happiness or a response to the kind of outrage that greeted the publication of earlier "Crap Towns"?
When Luton was voted Britain’s crappiest town in 2004, its then council leader rallied to its defense in the media.
Perhaps not terribly convincingly, he praised the town’s "excellent sports and fitness centers” and its “multiplex cinema.”
At the time, however, a former Luton resident responded: “Growing up there in the 1970s and 1980s, it was the kind of place that as soon as one of your friends could drive you spent every Friday and Saturday heading down the M1 to London.”
More “crap” town nominations and what readers said about them
“[W]e first noticed the pervading silence, not the idling calm of a settlement at its Sunday rest, instead a vacant, blighted emptiness originating in and emanating from multiple second homes … “
Broxburn, West Lothian
“The town’s social life ... is mainly concerned with fighting, drinking, smoking dope and hanging around the main street from 8 p.m. onwards.
"There the distractions include frightening little old ladies, shouting abuse at women on their own, being sick into litter bins and, occasionally, being picked up by the police.”
"Louth is the headquarters of the British Sprout Growers' Association, a body devoted to forcing children up and down the UK to eat a food that looks like mini green brains, tastes like an even worse kind of cabbage and makes you fart like a dying dog."
“[F]or a world city we are spectacularly unprepared for almost any eventuality. Be it snow, rain, heat or any other kind of weather we get every year the city will almost certainly grind to halt.
"Yes, we managed to pull off the Olympics but that was an anomaly. What the mayor called Londoners’ 'Olympic spirit' was more like stunned disbelief that for once everything seemed to be running smoothly."
Do you live in a "crap" town or have you visited one recently? Or has your town unfairly been called “crap”? Tell us about it.