What can usefully be said about a town whose main claims to fame, as revealed by the briefest and most cursory of internet searches, appear to be a man who drives around the town centre blasting the decades-old Tony Christie hit ‘Is This the Way to Amarillo’ on his car stereo, an elderly woman with the delightful nickname of ’50p Lil’ who regularly defecates in the street, and someone who gets his kicks out of dressing up as Pennywise the clown? Celebrity, it must be said, has trodden lightly in these parts. Try and make a list of famous people from Northampton. It isn’t easy. Famous bands from Northampton? Harder still. Sporting heroes, inventors, politicians? You get the picture.
Expanding on the theme, very few famous people actually come TO Northampton, and you can’t blame them. It’s partly our fault, of course, because there are so few decent live music or entertainment venues here, so touring bands, comedians and stage shows tend to leapfrog over us, as one would a stagnant, muddy puddle, as they trundle their way North or South. Laurel and Hardy came here in the 1950s, which you’d think would still be a pretty big deal. What’s on the site of the theatre they performed at these days? The abandoned shell of what used to be a large branch of Primark. Any blue heritage plaques? Don’t be silly. This is Northampton, where apathy rules OK.
For many decades now, Northampton has won itself a reputation as a cultural cul-de-sac – a kind of post-apocalyptic dystopia where you’re being watched and judged by unseen eyes, glaring from its omnipotent, architectural centrepiece: the obelisk-like monolith of the former Express lifts tower, a building which – quite magnificently – appears to be giving the whole town the middle finger salute.
Sure, local bands perform every so often, they play a couple of gigs, cut a demo CD, put up posters and maybe score the occasional television slot (on BBC Look East, but a break’s a break) – but pretty soon, they realise it’s all been for nothing, as the average Northampton resident would much rather point and laugh at his mate making an arse of himself at a karaoke night than watch some genuinely talented musicians or budding singer-songwriters giving it their all.
Comedy clubs in Northampton have come and gone at a staggering rate, doomed to crash and burn because, once again, people in Northampton have no appreciable sense of humour. Don’t believe me? Take a wander through the town centre on any given weekday. You won’t see many smiling faces amid the beggars, the derelicts, the drunks, the junkies, the chavs, the loonies, the decrepit, the mentally handicapped, the inbred yokels and the lifelong dole scroungers.