Think of Blackpool and the first things that probably spring to mind are the pier, the bright lights and a place people head to have a good time. But step away from the busy hub on the seafront and it won’t take you long to find a place with a different story to tell.
In 2019, eight of England’s top ten most deprived neighbourhoods were in Blackpool and Government statistics named Revoe as the second poorest. It’s right here that we’re partnering with Beacon Church to launch one of our newest Eden teams – Eden Central Drive. We caught up with Adrian, the leader of Beacon Church, and Matt and Hannah, the brand-new team leaders, to find out more.
Tell us about Revoe.
Adrian: It’s a great place just half a mile from the seafront that I love to call home. Everyone is really welcoming and down to earth, but you can’t deny that life is tough and people here have been trying to make ends meet for a long time.
There’s a story from back in 1893 when an injured gentleman from Ibbison Street, Revoe needed to see a doctor late one night. As he shouted through a letterbox to get help ‘a gentleman from Ibbison Street has been injured.’ To this the reply came back, ‘there are no gentlemen in Ibbison Street’. 128 years on and not much has changed, Revoe is still seen as a label of who someone is, not where they live.
How did you feel God calling you to Revoe and Eden Central Drive?
Matt: Hannah and I were at a bit of a crossroads. We both had jobs we loved in London, but felt God was moving us on and that we had to be open to what he had planned next for us. Looking back we laugh about it, but as I prayed I said to God, ‘I’ll go anywhere but the North’… I should have known! But seriously, it was at this time we heard about Eden.
Hannah: As soon as we heard about Revoe something just clicked into place for us. As we visited and walked the streets, we tried to do this with faith-filled eyes and God broke our hearts for the place and the people here. Looking around we could see that Jesus is here doing stuff, but the people of Revoe need to be shown him and need to know how much they’re loved by him. And we believe that as they discover how they’re loved unconditionally by God and their value in him, they’ll shed the labels they’ve been carrying their whole lives.
What are your hopes for Revoe?
Matt: Above everything, that people hear about Jesus, respond to him and that their lives are transformed. The word ‘revolution’ keeps coming up and it has two meanings: it can either be used to describe the turning of something like a tyre when it’s caught in a cycle – and this feels like Revoe now – or it can describe when things are changed significantly and get lifted up. I believe this is what we’re going to see happen for our neighbours – as they discover Jesus, we’ll see a shift in the whole community.
Adrian: Absolutely, people need hope. As well as leading the church I volunteer on the lifeboats with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Through this I get to connect with the community in a whole new way, seeing their highs and lows. As Covid’s hit, I’ve seen first-hand the huge impact it’s had on people’s mental health, and unfortunately, I see people after they’ve reached a crisis point. We need to be a light in the darkness and a beacon of hope for everyone in Revoe and Blackpool.
Eden Central Drive is only a couple of months old. What been happening so far?
Hannah: We’re here to be boots on the ground and we want to do life with our new neighbours. So we and the whole team are spending as much time getting to know our new neighbours as possible. As we chat to people, we’re building friendships for the long term. At the same time, we’ve been out prayer walking the area whilst also running holiday clubs for the local kids.
Matt: As a team, we want to meet the needs of the people of Revoe, so chatting to our neighbours about what they think the community needs is vital. From these conversations we already have plans to launch church services especially for families and to put things on for dads in the area as people have told us this is missing. The people we chat to also say they want safe places for their kids, so watch this space. We’re praying about it all and will see what happens from there and we can’t wait to see what God’s going to do through the team.
Interested in joining Eden? Visit joineden.org