Thursday, 31 July 2014

Child Sexual Exploitation work in the North of the UK by the Seaside

Emerging from the Victorian town amongst a light breeze, sunshine and clear blue sky, we suddenly dropped sharply down, carefully excavating hair pin bends until we reached the once pirate infested fishing village. The sapphire ocean ebbed and waned quietly and serenely across the perfect golden sands, around the awesome and dramatic bay swung way out to a rugged breath taking peninsular. I gasped with delight. Seagulls squawked as they circled above gaudy striped wind breakers and deck chairs laden with sun soakers while children with brightly coloured buckets and spades were emphatically digging moats and building sand castles. It was a scene of sheer beauty and personified the stereotypical English seaside postcard. My tummy fluttered with childhood memories.

The promenade and pier were alive with locals and visitors enjoying the rays and wares of this beautiful coastline. Jolly round rotund shirtless men and boys chattered and debated fishing equipment and surf wear. Strappy topped mothers and children perused flip flops, sunhats and beach balls. Some ate cones with flakes, others fish and chips. Some enjoyed a beer in the pub garden, others a cola at the Surfs Up CafĂ©.
As I devoured my toastie perched on the promenade I watched this English street parade with glee. Dogs on and off leads scurried in and out of legs with as much excitement as the little children; they were all glad to be at the beach on this beautiful English summers day. There was a hubbub of chatter and laughter. Traditional old English carousel music gave a back drop to the scene while the continuous squeak of the quaint Victorian cable car transported families twenty yards up the sheer cliff face to the town centre. Ye Olde Sweet Shop was abuzz with children deciding whether they wanted to savor lemon bonbons, cola drops or fluorescent sticks of rock from large glass jars, lined up like soldiers on parade on all four walls of this little brightly painted beach hut.

The promenade was alive with the smell of vinegar, strawberry sauce, the ocean and sweat. I loved every single minute of this wonderful sensory experience. My brain was alert with childhood memories and cravings. My camera was on overload as I ventured out onto the pier and felt the sea breeze brush my face and whizz through my hair. What a good feeling that was. The simple wrought iron girders were decorated with funky and topical knitted samplers made by anonymous crafters who attached them to the girders in the depth of the night. Everyone was in awe and no one knew how they got there which made them all the more wonderful. Cameras flashed, visitors giggled at the quirky array and their was much chatter about this secret sect that only came out at night.
The horizon was crystal clear and crammed with tankers and ships delivering goods in and out of the port just along the coastline. It was a breath taking sight below a clear cobalt sky. Not a cloud was in sight. I turned and looked back at the promenade and it was like viewing a water colour painting in a gallery by a celebrated artist. I stood still for many minutes just taking in this unexpected landscape, breathing the sea air and watching the sheer simple enjoyment of being at the beach.

You see I had come to this haven for three days (after a long five hour drive) to facilitate workshops with young adult victims and survivors of child abuse and exploitation. I had no idea I would be faced with such a beautiful canvas amongst my important work. What an amazing juxtaposition I was in the middle of. The workshops were powerful and a great success; the young people were phenomenal and my hosts were amazing. What a privilege on all accounts and levels to deliver this important work just outside this beautiful picture postcard harbour and coastline with my fabulous partner in crime. We had no idea we would be able to relax in such a beautiful haven.

I know we made a fantastic duo, we definitely made a difference and left behind tips, knowledge and a way forward for the fab young people we worked with. We will definitely be back to continue our good work very soon.

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