Sunday, February 25, 2007

Favourite Shops No.2 - The Repository, Talbot Road, Blackpool, Lancashire.
This emporium of all things Roman Catholic is located next door to Blackpool's Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart. Being right in the heart of the original entertainment capital of the British North West, it's said that Variety entertainers of the RC faith often favour attending this grandly decorated parish church. Did Danny La Rue sometimes pop in for Saturday evening Confession inbetween matinee and evening show? Perhaps Keith Harris and Orville donated some of their appearance fees to the Jesuit's overseas charity work?
The Repository Shop must surely receive some financial support from the Sacred Heart parish, as the handful of times I've called in I've been the sole visitor. I imagine come that special time of the liturgical year they must do good business from the sale of First Communion dresses and cards. The only purchase I've ever made was a resin statue of Padre Pio, and the selection of statues was vast: from good old shamrock loving St.Patrick to traditionalist favourites like Our Lady of Fatima and, of course, the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The exterior of the shop sadly features a modern PVC fascia, but at least with its black and gold colour scheme an attempt has been made at sobriety. The old-fashioned feature I love is the amber coloured acetate sun-screen which protects the holy sacramentals on display in the window. This adds an aura of mystery to what is on sale inside and is the opposite of the contemporary hard-sell: if you really want a holy water-stoop for your hallway then you might just spot one through the thick layers of glass and ageing orange plastic. Inside the Repository you enter a dimly lit space, pleasantly overcrowded with Sympathy and Prayer Cards. What is refreshing is you can't freely browse the larger items which are situated on dusty shelves in non-revealing cardboard boxes. The elderly staff, in home-knitted tank-tops and nylon house coats, are happy to help in their quiet way and will slowly reveal the item you want on highly polished glass counters.
I hope this shop continues to remain in business. The Catholic Truth Society shop in Liverpool disappeared years ago. Most of the dwindling numbers of today's younger practising Catholics wouldn't dream of displaying religious images in their laminated homes when a Jack Vettriano print will do the job of inoffensive neutrality. The thought of a Repository bought photo of Pope Benedict would just cause embarrassed titters.
Drawing is from my 2001 mini-book of shop drawings A Nation Of Shopkeepers.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It is Shrove Tuesday today. While you flip those pancakes I hope you are thinking of what sacrifices to make during the holy season of Lent which begins tomorrow. Call me a gloomy old coot, but this is my favourite time of year. I love to watch during Lent the gradual awakening of the natural world from winter to spring. The liturgy of the Church reflects this profoundly as it slowly starts with the winter severity of Ash Wednesday and finally reaches the bloom and glory of Easter Day.

Picture is from V & A Museum leaflet from 1975, illustrated by Eric Ravilious.