Morecambe’s iconic Winter Gardens is to become a whole lot warmer after a successful cash bid saw almost £100,000 in Government funding awarded to fix the heating.
The historic theatre has been awarded £96,550 to refurbish the heating system, to make it more comfortable in the winter months for visitors to attend shows and events.
The investment in the north west includes more than £9.8m from the Coastal Communities Fund and almost £224,000 from the Coastal Revival Fund.
The funds have been awarded to 11 projects to help develop and improve tourist attractions, create jobs and promote socio-economic growth.
The Coastal Communities Fund projects are forecast to collectively support more than 12,000 jobs, and attract up to £14m in additional investment from the public and private sectors.
This latest investment represents awards from the fifth round of the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund and the third phase of the Coastal Revival Fund in 2018/19.
It comes on top of more than £180m from both funds invested in more than 350 projects so far across the UK.
The full funding bid was submitted on January 22 by the new board of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust after a initial Round 1 application of interest was put forward in April 2018 by past chair Evelyn Archer with a professional grant company.
The new board, with the support of Morecambe MP David Morris, was invited to submit a full second round application to replace and update the existing heating system to bring to modern environmental and preservation standards and increase visitor capacity all year round.
Prof Vanessa Toulmin, acting chair of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust, chair of popular entertainment at the University of Sheffield, and also director of City & Culture, Office of Partnership & Regional Engagement, submitted the full application.
She said: “We are delighted that this award demonstrates that the new trust and governance we have put in place since the sad loss of our former chair Evelyn Archer demonstrates the faith and belief that national and regional organisations have in the future of the Winter Gardens.
“We are indebted to the support we had from Theatres Trust, Historic England and Lancaster City Council, in particular Tom Brown whose last minute advise was essential, and additionally David Morris, that enabled such a short turn around in submitting this grant.
“My fellow trustees Susan Lomax and Martin Shenton alongside our advisory board members have worked tirelessly since January to demonstrate to national bodies that we are facing a new start and a vital and vibrant future.
“We are particularly indebted to David Morris and our former chair Evelyn Archer for paving the way for this to put forward this full Round 2 application in late January.
“It was a challenging deadline for us but we are delighted that this was successful and hope it will be the first of many.
“The award will enable us to put forward a new heating system which will form the backdrop of important renovation challenges that we face moving forward.
“I am delighted at the response of local volunteers and new friends in helping us move forward over the next six to 12 months.
“My fellow trustees and advisory board members have worked tirelessly over the past three months and this is a great boost for us in challenging circumstances.
“The heating system will increase our capacity to open in the winter months, enable a cheaper and more effective model of running events and open the fantastic and beautiful Winter Gardens to the people of Morecambe and beyond.
“When we have more information on timings and contracts for tender we will keep everyone informed.”
Stephen Jones, on behalf of the Friends, expressed their delight that things were moving forward and hoped this would be the start of a full preservation and maintenance of the building to national standards.
“This demonstrates the faith that the authorities have in our new structure and governance and we are delighted that all our hard work is starting to reap benefits for the Gardens,” he said.
David Morris said: “I am delighted that I was able to successfully lobby for the £96,550 grant from the Coastal Communities Fund to enable the trust to put in a whole new heating system.
“This bid started back in 2016 when Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry visited the Winter Gardens and met the late Evelyn Archer, he was impressed by the Winter Gardens and encouraged us to work together to submit a bid.
“I was pleased that Eveyln had been informed of the bid passing to stage two just days before she passed away, as this successful bid will be her legacy to the Winter Gardens.
“Evelyn’s sad passing, meant that the new leadership at the trust not only had to put a new structure in place but had to quickly put a detailed bid together for stage 2 of the grant.
“Special thanks must go to interim chair Vanessa Toulmin who put a brilliant bid together at such short notice.
“This allowed me to ensure I was able to lobby the Ministers making the decision on the funding and ensure that we can continue to preserve the Winter Gardens as it starts a new chapter under new leadership. We have a fantastic asset in this building and I will continue to do all I can to support the new team in any funding bids in the future.‘
Other projects receiving funding include £2.35m awarded towards a £5.55m Experience Morecambe Bay project by South Lakeland District Council to create major, new transformational visitor attractions along Morecambe Bay including marketing the new attractions, routes and experiences to visitors.
Jason Syers, Lancaster City Council’s director for Economic Growth and Regeneration, said: “The funding is fantastic news for the future of this iconic Grade II* listed building, the rejuvenation of which plays an integral role in our plans for the regeneration of Morecambe.
“The city council is tremendously excited to be working with the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust and shares its passion for restoring this illustrious building, famed for music, dancing and cabaret in its heyday.
“It is hoped that the funding will act as a catalyst in generating more interest and investment in the building and the support needed to move the preservation project forward.”
The trust has had regular and vital support from Claire Appleby from Theatres Trust, who said: “Theatres Trust is delighted that Morecambe Winter Gardens has received funding through the latest round of the Coastal Communities Fund, which will make the Winter Gardens more comfortable for an expanding audience.
“Morecambe Winter Gardens has been on our Theatres at Risk Register since its inception in 2006 and is a landmark building, architecturally striking and a rare survivor of its type.
“We are looking forward to working with the Winter Garden’s trustees to help secure the building’s future.”
Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, said: “I am determined to support investment and development of our coastal communities across the north west and create an economy that works for everyone as we prepare for Brexit and beyond.
“All of the ambitious projects receiving funding today were designed and developed by local people who know what will make the biggest difference to their areas.
“The sheer range of ideas demonstrate the potential of our coastal communities and will all create good jobs, boost growth and improve people’s lives now and in the future.”
Northern Powerhouse and Coastal Communities Minister, Jake Berry MP, said: “This is an investment in the future of the Northern Powerhouse and our coastal communities which builds on their rich heritage and huge potential.
“The world-class attractions and innovative businesses supported by the Coastal Community Fund and the Coastal Revival Fund will increase tourism, encourage investment and ensure people thrive up and down the Great British Coast.”