ã 2001 Sean Gillen. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
This work was completed in part-fulfilment of an MA Tourism and Leisure. Lancaster University, UK 2000—1, and is reproduced here strictly for scholarly purposes.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach: Interview transcripts
and introspective exercise.
These interviews were carried over a period of
two days at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
On Initial approaching prospective interviewees, I introduced
myself as a researcher from Lancaster University, asking if they would
be happy to talk with me for a few minutes.
No specific information on the nature of the research was
offered, beyond that I was investigating the kind of ‘experience that
these places offer’. Interviews
were usually carried out immediately following exposure to a ride,
informally and a natural setting such as on nearby seats, stood in a
group, or in one case, around a table in a burger bar over lunch. Every
attempt was made to include respondents from a diverse range of social
background, although it is acknowledged that this kind of tourist
attraction might not attract a representative proportion of older
people, and may be more popular with ‘working class’ visitors than
other kinds of sights.
Interview One: 13th July 2001.
Group of four people in their mid twenties,
three male and one female. The
female was from China, the others from Malaysia, and all had just
graduated from Aberdeen University.
This transcript is as full as possible, although some speech has
been omitted due to excessive background noise, and some difficulty with
accents, that rendered some of the interview unusable.
SG: Why did you come to Blackpool Pleasure
F: My friend had been here and said it was very
interesting, she said the biggest rolling coaster in Europe was here.
SG: So the fact it was the ‘biggest’
M1: Yes, it would satisfy our needs! [laughs]
SG: Did you just go on the Big One?
F: Some small ones first
M1: We had to try some small ones first!
SG: What did you think of the Big One?
F: It was very scary, but not too much. It was
just too high!
SG: Did you have to queue much?
M1: Yes, a very long Queue?
SG: So what were you thinking when you were
M1: I feel nothing, and a little bit tired. I
was driving a lot today!
SG: What about the rest of you?
M2: I didn’t go on, I felt scared, I just
SG: What made you feel scared?
M2: It was really high, I was watching it go up.
F: it was quite scareful watching it [points
above her head]. It goes up very slowly. I was quite scare, he was
trying to calm me down.
SG: What did you say?
M1: Because I know her, very much, I just tell
her something like fun or things we like to see, something to, like,
cool her down.
F: Usually if I came by myself I wouldn’t do
it but having someone beside you it is better
SG: OK. So
you are at the front of the queue, can you talk me through the
experience? Tell me about how you feel, and the big moments!
M1: I think she had more big moments than me!
F: we were coming her definitely to do it, I
mean for the rolling coaster, so I knew I had to do it even though it
was scareful. But the most scareful moment was when you open your eyes!
SG: So you had your eyes closed?
F: Yes, because it goes up and up, takes you
higher and you don’t know what will happen next, but its not that
M1: I agree, not that bad, I like it because the
higher I go then I can see more further.
SG: Was it as bad as you thought it was going to
M1: No, no…
F: I thought it would be more scareful, but it
was okay. I Had my eyes
closed at the top and you go down quite fast.
We went down and then I open my eyes and it wasn’t too scareful,
then it was okay.
M1: The first bit was very fast, you go straight
down, I laughed. I was okay. Then it was just fine, just normal.
SG: How did you feel after?
But I definitely don’t want to do it again! [laughs]. I felt
better. The worst bit was
at the beginning.
SG: Going up?
F: No, getting in the car, when u can’t go
back, you know you cant go back! After,
I felt more relaxed.
SG: So what other rides have you been on?
M1: We went on the first one, in the building.
F: Yes, its not scareful, but everyone was
screaming! [all laugh]
SG: Why were you screaming?
F: I didn’t feel scared but everyone was
screaming, people were screaming, it was funny!
SG: Did you scream? [to M1]
did Scream, not because I was scared but because everyone was screaming.
SG: Did you read the information about the ride
before you went on; about the vikings and the legends?
M1: No, we just came and went in.
[some of the interview is omitted her due to
difficulties mentioned above]
SG: Did you feel safe on the rides?
F: Yes, some I did
F: I didn’t feel so safe on the other one, the
Big Dipper because it did not have any seat belt.
SG: So the seat belt made you feel safe on the
F: Yes, but also I saw the others.
So many other people had been on them before. I felt safe, yes.
[No more of this interview was transcribable].
Interview two: 13th July 2001
Two women, early twenties, immediately following
the ‘Ice Blast’. (Ride that launches the riders vertically into the
air to approximately 80 metres, keeps them there for a few seconds
before dropping them rapidly back to the ground)
SG: I haven’t been on that ride, can you talk
me through it…
F1: Its weird, the first bit doesn’t feel like
you’re moving does it, then you just open your eyes and you are, I
dunno, so many foot up in the air.
F1: You didn’t feel like you were moving?
F1: not really, until you start going down
again, you don’t realise because you haven’t got your eyes open, you
don’t realise ‘til it changes and you’re going down again, its
F2 Its like someone’s pushed you up and you
don’t feel it ‘til you’re at the top then you’re alright.
SG: What did you think about the queuing?
F2: It was alright yeh, only about five minutes
SG: Did you have a chance to watch it whilst you
F2: Yeh, it looked really scary
SG: It didn’t put you off going on?
F1: I don’t know really, I don’t really like
heights, I thought when it gets to the end [of the queue] I won’t be
able to turn back anyway.
SG: Would you go on it again?
SG: But you looked so scared!
But its brilliant, it is!
SG: How many rides have you been on today?
F1: Loads, but we haven’t been on the Big One
F2: We’re not going on the Big One!
SG: Why not…what’s wrong with the Big One?
F2: I can’t stand the big drop when it throws
you down like that [mimics the action of the ride with hand].
SG [to F1]: Are you going to go on the Big One?
F1: I don’t think so! (laughs). I’m not
going on my own, I might get her on the revolution later !
F2: We might go back on Valhalla in a minute.
SG: Have you been here before?
F1: I have
F2: No, its my first time.
SG: What does it do for you?
F1: It’s strange, it gets you relaxed so much
over each time…
SG: you find THAT relaxing?!
F2: Yes..[nodding, and smiling]
F1: Yes, once you’re up there [to the top of
the ride] and you open your eyes its really calm isn’t it? It’s
really weird. You have this big…smile and think ‘oh my god!’
SG: So you found that relaxing after
you got up there?
F2: After you got up…
F1: …After you got up, there’s just like a
few seconds, it’s really quiet, you can see for miles out…it’s
SG: But before the ride…
F1: That was very very scary, you should have
seen the state of me! [laughs]
SG: One final question.
Thinking about the whole place here, why do you come here?
F1: it just scares you…
F2: …it’s the thrill…
F1: people say they don’t want to be scared,
but they do. If they didn’t want to be scared they wouldn’t go on,
like, big roller coasters and stuff like that.
Interview Three: Sunday 15th July 2001.
Two people, one male, one female in
mid-thirties, immediately following the ‘Ice Blast’ ride.
SG: Can you tell me why you went on this?
F: It looked good!
M: Its up in the air isn’t it. It’s the
thrill of going up that quick.
SG: A big thrill?
M: yes, and when you get to the top you just
SG: Can you talk me through it from beginning to
M: its like, nothing, going up…
when you get to the top, in the sun, that gets your heart pounding.
SG: When you were queuing up did you feel like
F: Yes, especially when you come out and you see
them going straight to the top.
SG: Did that make a difference for you?
F: It did for me [laughs].
Made me think twice! I think if he wasn’t here I would be
turning right around and coming straight back out again. I wouldn’t go
on on my own.
SG: So they strap you in the seat and…
M: Yes, then this voice comes on in the
background telling you to hold tight, put your head back. It gives you
no warning when it goes up, it just lets go. You feel the acceleration.
SG: What’s it like at the top?
F: I had my eyes shut! [laughs].
M: But then you feel weightless at the top.
SG: what did you feel like? [to female]
F: Once you’re going up and you’re kind of
floating at the top it was lovely, yes.
SG: What about the dropping?
M: The drop’s nothing.
F: But then when you bounce back again it really
M: You can feel the heart rate.
If I could measure it before before and after…!
SG: The Big One has a meter for the blood
SG: So would you go on it again?
M: what that? Oh ah, Yes.
SG: What about the whole park then, why do you
come here, what’s the appeal of it?
M: We just come for a day out, drove up from
Worcester. Looked out the
door, looked like it was going to be nice…
F: It’s the atmosphere, coz you immediately
think of the fair as fun don’t you.
SG: Whats the appeal of these rides then, it’s
a bit frightening isn’t it?
M: That’s what it is isnt it, its
SG: so you like to be frightened?
M: It’s a thrill isnt it, yes. It’s the
adrenaline, it just gives you a rush…
SG: What is it about being frightened you like?
F: I dunno, its just something you need every
now and then instead of sitting behind a desk all day…
M: I don’t think you need it, I dunno…I
suppose because it here you go on it don’t you. That’s the main
reason why you do it, because if it wasn’t here...
SG: [to female] So you feel like you need it
F: No I don’t need it more, just get
complacent sat behin the wheel of a car all day.
Sometimes you need, I dunno, a bit of a lift!
Sunday 15th July 2001.
Group of Four women, one and two in early
twenties, third in late teens, fourth in mid fourties.
Just emerged from the ‘Valhalla’ ride, still wet.
SG: So you’ve just come from Valhalla, have
you been on before?
All: no, its our first time.
SG: tell me about it…
F3: its really good..
F4:…its really good, freezing, cold…
F3: …pitch black wasn’t it…
SG: did you like it?
F2: The best bit was the surprise wasn’t it,
somehting that you’re not expecting.
SG: You like the surprise?
F3: Yes, everywhere you go its different.
F1: …and it drops…
SG: How did that feel?
F1: wet! [laughs]
SG: Did you have to queue up long?
F3: no we went straight on…
SG: so you didn’t have time to think about it?
F2: The only thing I saw was the little pond in
the seat before I got in! [all laughs]
SG: would you have had second thoughts if you
knew what it was going to be like, or had longer to wait?
F3: No, we just had to try it
SG: Talk me through it from the moment you got
in the boat, what you can remember and how you felt.
F1: all wet! [laughs]
F4: It goes backwards and you think you are
going to go backwards for the rest of the ride but then it goes
SG: So what’s inside?
F4: Just all different extremes…
F4: things come out…
F1: And there’s that chandelier with skulls
SG: skulls? Does all that death stuff bother
F1: Well no because that’s what Valhalla’s
all about, its about where vikings go when they die.
SG: did that make a difference to you when you
went in there, thinking what it was all about?
F1: No I was just thinking in a big strop and
when I am going to get wet! [all laugh].
SG: so what about the whole park. Have you been
F1, 2, and 3: Yes
F4: :Years ago
SG: So what’s the appeal of it, what does it
do for you?
F2: Its got everything hasn’t it.
F4: The others have been going on the rides,
this is the first one I’ve been on.
There’s other things for you to do, y’know.
SG: You don’t go on all the rides then? [to
F4: no, Because I don’t like all the great big
rides, they terrify me.
SG: what scares you about them?
F2: The fact they break down…[all laugh]
F4: and the height…if anything goes wrong..
F2: …you were going to go on the big one
weren’t you, when it broke down.
SG: so what is it about it…
F4: the speed and the height of it. I f anything
went wrong at that height. If
something went wrong in there [Valhalla] you’re quite safe, you’re
not going to get really hurt like on the really big drops.
SG: So you are afraid you might get hurt?
F4: Yes! Isn’t everyone!
[Interview terminated but restarted when F4
revealed she had been into the Pasaje del Terror]
[Interview terminated but restarted when F4
revealed she had been into the Pasaje del Terror]
SG: Tell me about that!
F4: I enjoyed it and I’m glad I went in but I
could never ever knew how frightened someone could be.
If you’ve never been on it, its really really frightening. I
wont go on again. Ever.
SG: So what does it do? Do you walk through it?
F4: You walk through, its just like a
passageway, and all the way through there’s these real people…
F3: …real people..
F4…but they’re dressed in blood and cloaks.
And they’re coming at ya! And they’re tying to grab ya and you’ve
just got to try to get away, its really freezing as well..
F2: ..even though you know its not real, in me
mind I’m saying to myself ‘come on don’t be stupid, they cant do
anything to you’ but at the same time someone touches ya and you go
‘OH GOD!’. You’re really worried!
SG: Why do you put yourself through it then?!
F4: If ‘d known it was going to be like that I
would have gone home [all laugh].
SG: would you do it again?
F2 and f4: No!
F4: No, it really frightened me.
SG: So why is that more frightening than the Big
F4: erm , well I’ve never been on that one but
I saw it and knew I didn’t want to go on it, but on this other one,
all you see is a big video screen outside showing people’s reactions
as they come out
F2: You know when you come out, you come out
into a pub, from behind like a false book case, and you know how
frightened you must look, what a state you’re in, then you realise
you’re in a pub!
Sunday 15th July 2001. Two women, late teens. Recently come
of the ‘Big One’.
SG: What did you think about it, to be honest?
Talk me through it.
F1: oh, I don’t know.
F2: We’re going up, and we’re like ‘shit!,
shit! shit! fucking hold on tight!’
SG: Did you think that!
F2: I thought we were going to come off, because
I had nightmare about
falling off into the sea…
SG: That was before you even went on it?!
F1: Yeh, she’s never been on it…
F2: …falling into the sea and dying…
F1: …but, I thought it was going to be worse,
the big dips, were going to be a lot worse.
SG: what made you think it was going to be
F1: Just what everyone talks about it, and then
when you went on it I thought, ‘no its not that bad’. I put me arms up and I didn’t think I’d put my arms up
but I did.
SG: So did you have to queue up long?
F2: no we went straight on, it was quite quick.
F1: I didn’t even know I was going to go on
then all of a sudden I’m just standing there and thinking’ oh,
alright, may as well’
F2: …and we went on it, it was good.
SG: so how did it feel?
F1: Really good, I wanted to go on it, like
another five times.
SG: So when it takes you up to the top…
F2: I didn’t like it going up,
F1: …it was scary cos you’re thinking about
what’s coming next…
F2: because you don’t know
SG: So when you et out at the end, how are you
F2: ..Dead ‘ard!…
F1:… yeh cos’ you think you’re hard, its
really good [both laugh].
SG: So what’s the appeal. What does it do for
F1: We wanted to get pissed, so we come here for
the weekend, and thought we would go on the Big One. Its dead dear!
15th July 2001. Group of four, two
male and two female, English, late twenties to early thirties.
Approached following a ride on the Big One.
SG: So why did you do it?
F2: I’ve been on it before when I was younger
and I haven’t been on it for a while, but the older you get the more
nervous you get!
SG: so you were quite nervous?
F2: …they put us on the outside and you feel
like you are falling out, there’s like nothing!
M2: you’ve got to go on, when you come to
Blackpool you’ve got to go on this…
F2: [looking at photograph from ride]: I look
like an animal!
F1: …you look better than I do, Oh my god!.
SG: That [photo] says a lot though!
SG: so talk me through it, did you have to queue
F1: No not really…
M1: Two minutes…
M2: The fellas [ride attendants] were winding
them up, telling them they were checking for cracks under the seat!…
F2: …yeh, when I asked what it was they said
they said they were looking for cracks in case we fell out!
M1: Got on it, didn’t say a damn word apart
from ‘f’ ‘f’ ‘f’ ‘f’ all the way up that first bit, and
then ‘f’ ‘f’ ‘f’ ‘f’…
SG: Who was doing that?
F1: he’s just too butch to admit he was scared
coz it was so high!
M1: Because you’re at the back, you get the
full speed when it goes over…
SG: It wasn’t very nice going up then?
F2: Yes, I liked it…
F1: I liked it! We were just afraid we were
going to fall out, because we were outside [on the right hand side of
SG: what was it like going ‘over’?
M1: it felt really fast because we were at the
back, you get pulled over the top…
F1: I didn’t need a wee before we went on and
I don’t now, but then…! [all laugh]
SG: would you go on it again?
M2: I would
M1: Next time, not now!
SG: You two [females] had to think a bit more
about that didn’t you!
F1, F2: [laughing] Yeh!
SG: Have you been on any other rides?
F2: no not yet, today.
M1: We’ve been on them before though…
F2: that Valhalla ride frightened me a bit.
That’s quite scary that.
SG: what’s scary about it?
F2: Its pitch black inside, it gets your
heartbeat going. Its really clever. Its brilliant how they’ve done it
inside, it feels like you’re really in danger…
F1: It is quite frightening, you don’t know
what to expect next. its like a roller coaster inside. If you suffer
M1: whats your research about?
SG: its to do with this kind of experience, how
it affects the body and mind, and all that kind of stuff.
F2: I think with that [the Big One] it’s the
SG: did you like it?
F2: yes, but it wasn’t the G-force, it’s the
thought you might fall out
SG: it’s the safety?
F1: yes, you had those things over you to feel
SG: So did you feel secure?
F1: yes, mine was secure, it hurts you.
You need it coz it does throw you about.
I mean you couldn’t go on it if you had something wrong health
wise, [f2: with your posture], yeh, with your back or something.
SG: You’re form Southport, why come here?
What’s the appeal?
F2: Its nice wether, and it’s a bit of a
laugh, isn’t it.
M2: Southport’s got two of these rides, this
place has got loads, you know what I mean?
F1: Its the scary rides, we want scary rides,
just want to go on scary rides.
SG: So you want the scary rides?
M2: You come to Blackpool, you go on the
playstation, [ride named after Sponsor], you go on the ‘Big One’,
you’ve got to go on.
SG: you like the scariness, you say?
SG: You like being scared?!
F1: No! [laughs]. I like the adrenaline. To be honest I’d say I was a bit
nervous, I like the fear of it…
M2: …it’s the adrenaline rush when you’ve
done it, you come off it and you’re like ‘yeh, I did it’, you
M1: …it gives you a natural high doesn’t
M2: yeh, it does
F1: you should look into that, because it
releases this chemical into your body, what is it?…that is what it is.
F1: yeh, that’s what it is.
Introspective exercise: The Pepsi Max Big One.
15th July 2001.
I had spent two days watching, listening and
discussing these rides with tourists.
I admit I had a concern that these accounts might affect my
interpretation of the experience to follow.
This was dispelled as soon as I began to make my way back to the
Big One as the conscious recognition of a raised heart rate preceded
thoughts that I didn’t really need to do this, that I had enough to go
on by now. Already, my subconscious was attempting to remove the need to
take part in the exercise. The
fact that I had been on twice before should have calmed me, yet it was
this very fact that augmented the trepidation I was feeling; I already
knew how frightening it was.
Unfortunately, there was no queue to give me
time to reconsider. Within
two minutes I was sat in the train, giving no conscious thought to the
characteristics of my feelings. What
was going through my mind were flashbacks of previous trips, I knew what
would be the worst bits, and knowing that made me even more nervous
about what was to follow. As
the train climbed the slope, it was difficult to decide what to do at
the top, I knew that closing my eyes would make it a bit easier, but I
forced myself to look ahead. In
fact that was all I could do. My
body would not let me look down or to the side; my mind didn’t want me
The first drop, and the ensuing turns and twists
repeatedly made me fear for my life.
There was no way this train could stay on the track ahead at this
speed. Either it was too
fast, or too slow to gain sufficient centrifugal force.
How could this two hundred-foot structure actually stand, with a
base no more than ten feet across?
The weaving beneath other ride’s track and into tunnels
didn’t help; the fact that this train was approaching a solid object
was a major concern. I even imagined where the train would land if it
came off, plotting dotted paths of descent in my mind, estimating the
chances of survival. Yet I
also felt ridiculous. I had
watched the ride many times, I had been on twice, I had talked to may
other ‘survivors’ and worst of all, the two teenage girls behind me
were happily chatting and giggling whilst I could barely breath. However, I knew that people had died here and at other parks,
people who probably felt quite safe.
This last point highlights to myself the basis
of part of my fear. I
don’t like heights, and in doing this I realise I am putting absolute
trust in designers, engineers and maintenance staff.
Our life is literally in their hands when we take part. It is unnecessary risk I thought. Ultimately it was a fear of death brought on by the fact that
accidents on these things can and do happen.
But it was not an exciting fear, one that relaxed or relieved me;
I admit to being too mortified to enjoy it at the time. My enjoyment is only retrospective, of having done something
so apparently reckless and being able to tell people I had.
I would do it again, even though I now know that I wouldn’t
actually enjoy the experience. If
it doesn’t kill me, it at least makes me feel more alive.
But why did I feel ridiculous when acknowledging
the different demeanor of the young girls behind me?
It is here that I confront what I am supposed to be, as a
society demands that I am strong, resilient and perhaps have a British
‘stiff upper lip’. I
am not supposed to express such irrational fears.
Yet this is the point; to me my fears were entirely rational,
based on a lack of knowledge of structural engineering and physics,
which caused me to imagine its imminent failure.
It might be reasonable to assume however, that such thoughts
might not cross the minds of the girls behind.
Alternatively, they might have been on the ride so many times
that their fears dissipate in the face of experience.
But my fears were real, and another cause was made obvious on the
drive home. Here again I
was sat in an object designed and built by others, using processes I
have little understanding of [although I am aware of how steering,
brakes and suspension and tensile strangth of steel add to my apparent
safety. So what was the
difference? Here, in my car
I am in control of the speed and direction [but not other’s], unlike
on the ride where from beginning to end, control was removed from me. But I am well aware that I am not a ‘control freak’,
often enjoying the idea of following rather than leading. So my fear of loss of control can be understood as a fear of
loss of control of my own destiny.
The feeling of being ‘ridiculous’ in comparison to the girls
on the ride is therefore itself ridiculous, because it is what I bring
to the ride experience that has in many ways determined my reaction to