Southport is a seaside town in the north west of England. Its inclusion as part of the county of Merseyside and metropolitan district of Sefton is an ongoing source of concern for certain parts of its population. 1
Southport has a population of around 100,000 people, with approximately 40% of the population over 55 years old and around 55% defined as social class ABC1.
Southport, in its present form, was founded by William Sutton in 1798. However, there have been settlements in the area for a lot longer than that: the northern part of the town around St Cuthbert's Church, formerly North Meols (now known as Churchtown), was mentioned in the Doomsday book, and some areas of the town have names of Viking origin.
Southport grew quickly in the 19th Century as it gained a reputation for being a more refined seaside resort than its neighbour-up-the-coast Blackpool. A certain amount of this snobbery remains (see the 'Out of Sefton' discussion mentioned above) but mostly, Southport is a busy and friendly resort.
Tourism still plays a large part of the economic make-up of Southport but its reputation of being a nice place to live brings in wealthy families commuting to Liverpool, Preston, Manchester and further afield. Its location, reputation and range of expensive houses also brings in a variety of footballers from local teams.
As a seaside resort, its main attraction are the miles of apparently golden sand and recently restored seafront, a Victorian pier, Pleasureland fairground, six golf courses and the wide boulevard, Lord Street, in the town centre, allegedly the inspiration for the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Its shopping, restaurants and bars are worth a visit. Southport is home to the "Southport Weekender" 2, an annual dance event. Unfortunately, the town's busy nightlife has major problems with alcohol-related violent crime and underage drinking.
Southport also hosts varied events including annual air and flower shows, an open air classical music concert concluded with a fireworks display, a jazz festival, and the turning on of the pleasant town centre Christmas lights. During the summer there is an Orangemen's March, which is one of the busiest days of the year.
A concern with Southport's seaside appeal is that the Irish Sea is the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world 3, due to the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in West Cumbria, just up the coast. Southport's horizon looking out to sea is also marred by several natural gas platforms. Despite these problems, some people still choose to bathe in Southport's sea - a practise that was the reason Southport in its current form was first founded. The more pleasant beaches and nature reserves of nearby Ainsdale and Formby are highly recommended.
Southport's suburbs are built around (and still named after) the old villages of the area. Along with Churchtown, the districts include (north to south, pretty much) Crossens, Marshside, Blowick, Birkdale and Ainsdale, with Woodvale (home to RAF Woodvale) stretching down to Freshfield village and the town of Formby below Southport towards Liverpool.
Politically, Southport is a stronghold of the Liberal Democrats with the Conservative Party also strong in some areas. In 2002, a local independent party calling themselves the Southport Party was established, whose main policy is Southport out of Sefton (as mentioned above). Three council seats were won in the 2002 local elections but the following year there were no gains and a drop in the number of votes for the party. John Pugh is Southport's current Member of Parliament.