Journey to the heart of British stagnation

Published on July 1, 2024 at 08:49. / Modified on July 1, 2024 at 08:57.

It’s barely midday at the Three Monkeys pub and the beer is already flowing. Nothing to celebrate, it’s a Thursday like any other. Eddie, Dobby and Richard, three retirees, sip their pints not so quietly, ruminating on the slow decline of their town. The decline began with the gradual closure of the shipyards from the 1970s, then the virtual cessation of the steelworks – 200 jobs remained there – and finally the gradual disappearance of the city center stores. “This town is finished,” asserts Eddie.

Hartlepool, in the north-east of England, is one of the poorest places in the country. The street in front of the pub is dominated by three types of shops, the only ones still surviving: bookmakers, pawnbrokers and charity shops selling second-hand clothes. In a corner, people are selling cigarettes on the street.

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