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Lineham, M., 2023.

Between Illumination and Darkness: Blackpool's Contemporary Amusement Arcade Atmosphere

Output Type:Chapter in a book
Publication:Consuming Atmospheres: Designing, Experiencing, and Researching Atmospheres in Consumption Spaces
Brief Description/Editor(s):Steadman, C., Coffin, J.
Publisher:Routledge, London

Situated within the abject and everyday landscape of newsagents, pubs and betting shops, the amusement arcade remains an overlooked space of consumption. Although found on many British high streets, arcades are rooted in fairground culture, and persist plentifully within traditional British seaside resorts, places which themselves, beyond emerging 'knowing' vintage Instagrammable arcades, the discerning classes might label as abject and marginal realms. Such views, however, overlook the rich and nuanced history of the family orientated seaside arcade and the seaside amusement arcade as a heritage site. Whereas existing research on arcades examines these places from a tourist perspective, much less is known about their sensory culture and the individuals experience the atmospheres of the arcade.

This chapter, therefore, analyses these themes through an auto-ethnographic study that focuses primarily on Blackpool. Utilising an artistic research approach, the chapter draws on visual and spatial analysis of documentary findings collected via observational writing and photography. The central focus is on the contemporary British seaside amusement arcade's light and dark affordances, considering the arcade's relationship with the broader lightscape of Blackpool as a visitor destination.

Diverse illumination, animation, colour, glow, interaction with other materials (reflection, sparkle) and popular cultural references are some of the key ways in which light and dark work together to contribute to the arcades' unique atmosphere, blending the imaginary and the real, the fantastical and the banal. This chapter, therefore, moves beyond the reductive understanding of amusement arcades as spaces primarily constituting sites of deviance and gambling, to challenge negative perceptions that situate these sites as merely places of low commercial culture. Ultimately, the research reveals the underexplored sensory affordances of the British seaside resort amusement arcade. It also reveals how banal spaces of consumption might provide a rich immersive multisensory experience, create unique atmospheres for visitors and sensory variation from the everyday.