How Morecambe Winter Gardens will grow in 2017

Photo Neil Cross:  Evelyn Archer at the Winter Gardens theatre looking ahead to the new year, with their new Eric Morecambe statuette.

Photo Neil Cross: Evelyn Archer at the Winter Gardens theatre looking ahead to the new year, with their new Eric Morecambe statuette.

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It took many years of hard work for the Winter Gardens to re-emerge as the town’s premier venue.

Now with a packed events calendar including big-name concerts and major new music festivals, Morecambe’s reviving theatre is ready to celebrate its 120th birthday year with a bang.

Photo Neil Cross: Volunteers at the Winter Gardens theatre looking ahead to the new year, with their new Eric Morecambe photos to be displayed on a new Morecambe and Wise wall in the bar

Photo Neil Cross: Volunteers at the Winter Gardens theatre looking ahead to the new year, with their new Eric Morecambe photos to be displayed on a new Morecambe and Wise wall in the bar

The team behind the Winter Gardens’ resurrection, led by longtime Friends of the Winter Gardens chairman Evelyn Archer, are excited about their plans for 2017.

“We’re filling up week by week,” said Lin Cody, Evelyn’s daughter who works at the theatre.

“We’re doing weddings and private functions.

“And we had a lot of feedback from the theatre being on Witness for the Prosecution on TV over Christmas. People said how good the building looks.”

The Winter Gardens closed as a full-time venue in 1977 but year-by-year volunteers have gradually renovated the building so it can now hold hundreds for regular entertainment shows once again.

Events booked for this year include a ska festival in March headlined by top 80s act The Beat, a show by soul legends The Drifters and original lead singer Ray Lewis, performances of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, and a summer ‘Modfest’ festival bound to bring back memories of Morecambe scooter weekends of yore.

Regular ‘Open Mic’ Sundays where anyone can come along and sing, tell jokes, dance or recite poetry will also begin in the theatre’s Parisian Bar in February.

Winter Gardens staff hope the Open Mic concept can eventually move into the main auditorium, giving the general public chance to perform on the stage once graced by Morecambe and Wise, and Laurel and Hardy.

“That stage is magic,” said Steve Middlesbrough, the DJ and promoter who organises many events at the theatre.

“People stand on it and they are entranced. We get people coming in all the time who want to sing on it, because they think about who stood there in the past.”

Morecambe and Wise themselves, who performed at the Winter Gardens in 1958, will also be getting their own tribute in the Parisian Bar.

A wall will be dedicated to posters and photos of the comedy duo, with pride of place going to a statuette of Eric and Ernie.

Sculpted by Graham Ibbeson, the man behind our town’s Eric Morecambe Statue, this miniature bronze replica was presented to the Winter Gardens last year.

It forms part of a Morecambe and Wise Heritage Trail at venues in town with a connection to the comedy duo.

Appropriately, the Winter Gardens also hopes to become more of a hub for live comedy in 2017. Lancaster TV comic Jon Richardson has sold out the venue in recent years and the theatre has been in touch with another big-name comedian hoping to secure his services for later this year.

The Winter Gardens is also in talks with a well-known 1970s band for a show at the theatre.

Steve Middlesbrough’s programme of music nights will include jazz or blues evenings on Fridays, monthly ‘Skaville’ ska nights starting in March, a ‘Motown Magic’ soul night headlined by singer Diane Shaw and her seven-piece band on May 20 and a Beatles weekend in August .

Other events in the pipeline include the annual 1940s weekend in September, an electro 80s and ‘New Romantic’ weekend, a ‘Zombieville’ Halloween event for families and a goth music night called ‘Corrosion’.

Meanwhile the team of volunteers still work diligently every week in the theatre, gradually and lovingly making alterations to improve it as a venue.

After 120 years the Winter Gardens is still Morecambe’s jewel in the crown and

exciting days lie ahead.