BOSCOMBE (2022)

In 2021, Boscombe - in the south west of England - was named one of the worst places to live in the UK and within the 1% most deprived. Once a thriving spa and holiday town, the decline of the traditional English holiday market in the 1970s and 1980s meant that many of its guest houses became HMOs (houses of multiple occupation). The result was an influx of people on low income and on receipt of benefits.

This was coupled with a flow of workers from Liverpool, including drug users and dealers, and people with alcohol problems. These issues were further stimulated by the setting up of local treatment centres for drug misuse, most of which no longer exist.

However, despite its obvious social problems, Boscombe is also host to a colourful and close-knit community. The town holds a popular annual arts festival, and the High Street is lined with quirky restaurants, coffee shops and antique stores. There is a lively street market on Thursdays and Saturdays, and a vintage market on the first Saturday of every month. It also has the Chine Gardens, one of the top beaches in the country, and a popular pier.

It is a complex place that juxtaposes hopelessness and despair with a certain bright energy and strange, gritty beauty.