View Full Version : Death by the sea

28-04-2018, 23:10
how drug abuse is scarring Britain’s coastal towns

In Barrow, Thirsty Thursday wasn’t as billed. Traditionally it’s the night when the thousands of employees working in the town’s cavernous warehouses where the next generation of Britain’s nuclear submarines are being built, hit the pubs.

But last Thursday the Cumbrian coastal town seemed preternaturally quiet. By 6pm there were more seagulls than people in the town centre. A couple of restaurants were doing a lively trade, thanks to special happy-hour offers, but most were empty. Scores of boarded-up shops and “to let” signs suggested Barrow had seen better times.

Geography plays a big part in this story. Clinging to the bottom of a peninsula overlooking the Irish Sea, Barrow, or Barrow-in-Furness to give it its proper name, is a place that few outside the defence, wind power or extractive gas industries are likely to visit. If anyone knows anything about Barrow it’s that it was the birthplace of footballer Emlyn Hughes and in 2014 was judged by the Office for National Statistics to be the most miserable place in Britain.

Unlike Blackpool down the coast, there is no end-of-the-pier feel about Barrow. It’s a working town of terraced houses and tenements built when Barrow’s shipyards were thriving. But with only one road in and one road out, even those who live in the town accept that it can seem an isolated place. “They call it the longest cul-de-sac in Britain,” jokes Kimber-Lee Moore, 27, a bar worker who moved to the town from Carlisle four years ago. They are calling it something else, too, now.

After 12 drug-related deaths since December, Barrow is now Britain’s most infamous “brown town”. A place that was once dubbed England’s Chicago because its economy was growing so fast is now synonymous with heroin.