Morecambe Winter Gardens to welcome visitors back after lockdown with special day of free films

After eight months of lockdown Morecambe's Winter Gardens is to reopen with a screening of free films as part of a May Bank Holiday weekend of entertainment.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 12:30 pm
From left: Coun June Ashworth, Prof Vanessa Toulmin (Winter Gardens), Coun Tricia Heath, Coun Cary Matthews, Coun Paul Anderton, and Helen O'Neil (Winter Gardens).

The last 12 months have been especially difficult for cultural and performance venues who, alongside pubs and hospitality, have seen their revenue disappear.

But now, the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust is hoping that sunnier days are on their way and will be reopening the Grade II* theatre with a specially commissioned show celebrating Morecambe on Film and two days of tours and events.

Over the past eight months of closure the trust has embarked on an ambitious restoration project and is keen to welcome visitors back into the theatre and to share their work with the people of Morecambe.

Films range from the earliest images of Morecambe on film in 1898 to the famous Mitchell & Kenyon scenes of Morecambe in 1901 to 1902 and post-war highlights of Heysham Head, West Coast Holiday and home movies from the 1960s. Photop: British Film Institute

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, chair of the Preservation Trust, said: "Although we have been closed to the public and unable to do our normal operations we have been incredibly busy carrying out a huge programme of infrastructure on the building.

"This is the largest capital investment in the theatre since 1991 and we hope that this is just the start.

"With the support of Historic England and other funders, more than £500,000 of restoration has been carried out on the building alongside the long-awaited installation of a new heating

system for the theatre.

Films range from the earliest images of Morecambe on film in 1898 to the famous Mitchell & Kenyon scenes of Morecambe in 1901 to 1902 and post-war highlights of Heysham Head, West Coast Holiday and home movies from the 1960s. Photop: British Film Institute

"Over the past six months, teams of engineers, restoration experts, building contractors and heating engineers have worked tirelessly alongside our restoration and maintenance volunteers.

"Local firm Bay Builders have installed a state-of-the-art heating system and specialist conservation plasterers Hayles and Howe have carried out essential work on the fibrous plaster ceiling."

To mark this special occasion and as a thank you to all the support shown by the people of Morecambe and beyond, the Winter Gardens has put together a special weekend

programme of free entertainment from the British Film Institute and the North West Film Archive.

Morecambe Winter Gardens.

Starting on Saturday May 29, there will be two screenings of Morecambe on Film, a filmic journey through the history of Morecambe.

With the support of Morecambe Town Council, the event will be free to the public and co-presented by Prof Toulmin, an expert in early film, and Geoff Senior from the North West Film Archive.

Films range from the earliest images of Morecambe on Film in 1898 to the famous Mitchell & Kenyon scenes of Morecambe in 1901 to 1902 and post-war highlights of Heysham Head, West Coast Holiday and home movies from the 1960s.

Tickets for the Saturday screenings are free but Covid restrictions will still apply with a reduced capacity of 250 per screening. Tickets can only be booked up to a maximum of six people within a group.

The Winter Gardens reopens with a special film day on May 29.

Prof Toulmin believes the films will bring back many memories especially those from the 1960s but believes the early ones will delight and amaze, and the Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust is delighted to host this celebration of Morecambe on Film.

Sponsored with the support of Morecambe Town Council and in association with the British Film Institute and the North West Film Archive, the screenings are a filmic history tour of our

beautiful seaside town.

Coun Jim Piling, chair of Morecambe Town Council's grants committee, said: "It is great to see Morecambe Winter Gardens open its doors once more for this celebration of Morecambe on Film. Members of the committee were thrilled to be able to contribute £2,435 to this project and we hope the event will be enjoyed by all."

Coun Tricia Heath, vice chair of Morecambe Town Council's grants committee, said: "The work that is being undertaken to restore Morecambe Winter Gardens to its former glory is fantastic. This event will certainly help to reopen Morecambe as Covid-19 restrictions ease and hopefully there will be many more opportunities to enjoy this iconic building in the future."

Coun Cary Matthews, chair of Morecambe Town Council, added: "The past year has presented many challenges for residents and Morecambe Town Council is delighted to be supporting an event which is free for all to attend. This filmic history tour of our seaside town will bring back memories for so many and show our future generations the Morecambe of yesteryear."

The plaster mould for the Winter Gardens restoration work.

The weekend will also see the Winter Gardens begin its popular heritage tours again, with two bookings available on Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday.

The trust is hoping that the ever-popular Peter Jepson will be on hand to play live organ music and the café will be serving hot drinks snacks and cakes.

To book a ticket for either the 2pm or 6pm screening go online here or you can also support the Winter Gardens by visiting over the Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday from 11am to 4pm or book on a heritage tour here.

Part of the newly repaired ceiling at the Winter Gardens.
Films range from the earliest images of Morecambe on film in 1898 to the famous Mitchell & Kenyon scenes of Morecambe in 1901 to 1902 and post-war highlights of Heysham Head, West Coast Holiday and home movies from the 1960s. Photop: British Film Institute