Morecambe Winter Gardens is launching an appeal to raise money to install the original seats from the theatre that were thought to have been lost in 1982.
Earlier this year the theatre trustees were contacted by the Theatres Trust with the astonishing news that more than 400 of the original seats were now being used by the Leyland Masonic Hall, who were auctioning the seats on eBay.
Trustees of the theatre contacted the hall, who agreed to allow the Friends time to raise the necessary funds to bring the chairs back home.
With the help of local removal firm Edmondsons and the theatre’s volunteers, the last two weeks have seen more than 300 chairs returned to the theatre from their current home to enable time for the Friends of the Winter Gardens to launch a fundraising campaign, which will see people able to sponsor the seats to help raise the cash needed to pay for them.
Chair of the Friends, Stephen Jones, said: “We are delighted that the original seats have been found and we urge the local community to support us in sponsoring a seat.
“Your seat sponsorship is more than just the restoration of the building but will help us in our journey to bring the building back to its original glory at the heart of a vibrant seaside community.”
More than 300 chairs are currently on show in the Winter Gardens with early support pledged from Morecambe Business Improvement District (BID), who recently awarded a grant of £3,600 towards the purchase.
BIP chair Tom Powney said: “It’s great that BID can play its small part in reuniting the original chairs with the Winter Gardens. We believe this theatre is still one of the finest examples of its kind still existing in the UK and, with the advent of the Eden Project in Morecambe, it’s important that heritage is linked to our future. We have great faith in the Winter Gardens going forward and it’s fantastic to see there is some real impetus behind it now.”
Prof Vanessa Toulmin, acting chair of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust who will be responsible for installing the chairs in the Grand Circle, said: “We are delighted that the Leyland Masonic Hall contacted us regarding the seats.
“With the new heating system and now the chairs coming home it has been a fantastic few months.
“We could not have done this without our volunteers and board members who have rallied together to bring us this far.
“I will be sponsoring a chair on behalf of my late father Harry Toulmin, who loved Morecambe dearly and spent many years promoting the town.
“It is a fantastic opportunity to remember loved ones and all those who have happy memories of the shows.”
Sponsorship prices are £50 for three years for individuals, £100 for business with an additional £25 for a named plaque.
The Friends have a year to raise the money and return the seating back to the Grand Circle by May 2020.
For further details please contact the Friends of the Winter Gardens Take Your Seat campaign on www.morecambewintergardens.co.uk or drop into the theatre and pick up a sponsorship form every Sunday 1pm to 4pm and view the chairs.