. . . Hear the words ‘Up North’ and for most of us, places such as Manchester, Newcastle and Hull spring to mind.
With progress however, these areas have become more Southern-like in their appearance and attitudes. Living standards as a result of investment in modern industries, retail, inner city regeneration, arts and culture, have improved immeasurably. Additionally, as the cost of living in the South has increased beyond the pockets of many, thousands now move to the once ‘grim North’, bringing their cash and lifestyles with them.
Barrow-In-Furness on the other hand, tucked away in an extreme north western corner of Cumbria and miles from any major motorway network, is all but ‘invisible’ to the rest of England.
Barrow (and the vast majority of Cumbria) is reliant on three main industries – Submarine building (Trident), Nuclear reprocessing and Tourism in the Lake District. In fact, submarine building is the only major ‘local’ employer and with continual doubt as to the long term future of Trident, the very fate of Barrow continually hangs in the balance.
Submarine building is by its nature, a very skilled operation and with little in the way of alternative unskilled work, unemployement in the area is one of the highest in England. Many spend their time with little to do and nowhere to go.
The all too familiar problem of vacant shops is rife in Barrow High Street. Very few well known retailers have premises here and of those which still exist, these are mainly Charity Shops and discount stores such as B&M and Poundland.
Despite these ‘hurdles’, Barrow is a welcoming and caring place to be, wearing its heart on its sleeve and keeping an eye out for each other. An honest place, with no illusions of grandeur, never trying to be something its not. A place where you can still be yourself, without the pressure of keeping up with the Jones’s, in order to be accepted and respected.