Linda Colling: Why am I cringing?

Artist Grayson Perry in Sunderland City Centre on Saturday night.

Artist Grayson Perry in Sunderland City Centre on Saturday night.

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I’VE never used one, never would, and that’s why I’m delighted the last council sunbed at the Silksworth Community Pool, Tennis and Wellness Centre is being scrapped.

This comes after a review of popularity, maintenance and energy costs. Which came tops? What tipped the balance I wonder? Perhaps a heady mixture of all three.

Whatever, it’s good news. In spite of repeated warnings, too many, especially young teenage girls are hooked on tanning themselves and baking to a turn, heedless of the risk of skin cancer.

That risk increases by 75 per cent for those who first use sunbeds before the age of 35.

But so many refuse to heed the warnings and reckon it won’t happen to them. And then, as an Echo investigation revealed in 2007, four out of the city council’s then six tanning facilities failed to offer the correct health and safety warnings to an undercover reporter.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has lambasted councils which continued to provide sunbeds despite their link with cancer. But an “astonishing” 30 per cent of councils continued to provide sunbeds and other artificial tanning facilities.  

Rightly David Kidney, the organisation’s head of policy, said: “Having sunbeds in council leisure facilities premises is like having cigarette vending machines in a hospital,” Too right. They should all be scrapped.

On a lighter note I’m reminded of Joan, a friend of a friend who ran no risk of melanaoma when she and her pal Pat, both in their sixties, signed up for ten sessions of vertical tanning before their holiday to Tenerife.

Each had a walk-in sun shower and both went to their separate cubicles. After six weeks Joan said to Pat “I don’t think it’s working. I’m not very tanned .” And Pat rolling up her sleeve, says to Joan who is as white as a milk bottle: ”Oh, well, I’m tanned.”

Narked for her mate, Pat said “It’s not right.” And they both went to see the man in charge, with Pat telling him straight: “This can’t be right. My friend is very pale. Hers mustn’t be working. You must need to change the tubes.” He replied, “No, they were changed last week.” But Pat persisted with: “It’s just not right. Come on we’ll go and have a look.”

So they all went into the tanning booth and opened the door into the area where you get undressed and leave your belongings. Then the boss opened the door to the tanning booth and all the lights went on and the heat, and Joan says: “What’s that?” And he says “Well, it’s where you go and stand.” To which Joan replies “ Nobody told me that was where you had to go.”

So for six weeks she had been standing in the changing room naked under a 60 watt bulb ... more fantastic than tanfastic.

As for eccentric artist Grayson Perry choosing Sunderland along, with Tunbridge Wells in Kent and the Cotswolds, for a Channel 4 documentary exploring modern life in Britain, I have misgivings about how we will be portrayed.

It’s nice of Grayson to say: “We chose Sunderland because it has a proud working class tradition where the people are not afraid to say they are working class.”

Given he will be filmed having a night on the town as his alter ego Claire, I have huge reservations how this city will be shown in the TV programme and artwork called Taste.

We can only hope that we will be shown in good taste. Why am I cringing?