How two proud grandads helped transform Morecambe church

Shane Johnstone at work transforming the windows of the old St Laurence's Church in Morecambe.
Shane Johnstone at work transforming the windows of the old St Laurence's Church in Morecambe.

A grand old church of Morecambe will glow with pride once again with the help of two proud grandfathers.

The boarded-up windows of the derelict St Laurence’s Church are being transformed by Morecambe artist Shane Johnstone, the man behind the Venus and Cupid sculpture on the prom.

Work has begun on transforming the St Laurence's Church windows in Morecambe.

Work has begun on transforming the St Laurence's Church windows in Morecambe.

The artwork includes two fairground carousel horses named after Shane’s granddaughter Arizona and Mimi, granddaughter of Morecambe musician and ‘world’s fastest one-man band’ Pete Moser. Both Shane and Pete are members of Morecambe Artists Colony.

The window art will pay tribute to Morecambe’s fairground heritage and the tradition among fairground people of naming horses after new-born babies.

Mimi and Arizona were both born while the artwork was being created.

“They represent the town’s future and in using their names we acknowledge the need to provide now, the best we possibly can for them and all our local children, to ensure that culturally, educationally and economically we leave them a fitting legacy,” said Shane.

When finished, Shane says the windows will look like “inside out stained glass that glows on the the outside”.

The church windows are getting a colourful makeover as part of a street art project to brighten up Victoria Street and pay tribute to Morecambe’s heritage.

Last week the first piece of artwork in the Victoria Street Press scheme was completed - a ‘Sand and Seas’ themed graffiti mural on the side of the old Vic pub.

This second artwork is called ‘The Allegory of Morecambe Bay’.

Mr Johnstone has used a traditional fairground painting technique involving dozens of layers of coloured lacquer laid over a bright metal leaf.

The artwork also features a rising tide of sea green wave patterns and an art deco cockle shell motif.

“This is a tribute both to our town’s early 20th Century heyday and the seafood that along with the shrimp has made Morecambe Bay famous,” said Shane.

“The bay cockling disaster of 2004 reminds us of the bay’s infamous dangers; indeed old cockle fishermen would describe the sudden arrival of the riptide as a wall of water, impossible to outrun, that would bear down upon them, faster than a galloping horse.

“Perhaps a seaside 
carousel horse’s astonished gaze and flowing, storm swept mane might represent something other than benign childish fun.

“Just over 200 years ago another threat from the sea stalked the land. England lived in the fear that Napoleon Bonaparte might invade at any time.

“Local coastal defences were built and although the architecture of war is long gone one name remains. A huge canon was mounted on a local promontory. As a result that location was named the Battery.

“In salute to its role in defending the town our horses are decorated to ‘cock a snoop’ as the old gun did, in defiance of ‘Old Boney’.

Typography from an early review of Morecambe illuminations is also included. It reads: “Sparkling Sea ablaze from Bare to the Battery” and describes the reflections from the electric lights reflecting on the Bay.

Above the text and over a deep red stylised sunset, silver stars represent a way to find home for sailors and the musical and entertainment stars that graced Morecambe theatres.

In all, six buildings will be covered in artwork as part of the project, funded by the Morecambe Portas Pilot project and Arts Council England, and managed by Deco Publique.