Words by Liz Corlett
If ever there was a town which looks for silver linings, it’s Morecambe. And just occasionally, that delicate gleam is not the promise merely of more rain. On my first stay in Morecambe, I’ve only been in town for half an hour when Ian Pashley, who works at The Midland Hotel, tells me how the West Pier was swept away in storms in 1977. It wasn’t all bad, he says: unfettered one-armed bandits disgorged money all over the beach, to the delight of hordes of salvagers in short trousers.
Time and fortune have not been so bountiful to Morecambe as a whole. It’s commonly defined by what it used to be, what it lost and can never recover. In less than half a century, the town has been demoted from a seaside Shangri-La for hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers to a magnet only for faint distaste and amusement. You’re going to Morecambe? people say. But why? Curiosity. A certain perverse pleasure in the downbeat, even the seedy. And lastly, politeness – it’s just not the done thing to judge a book by its cover.
Morecambe’s sea front is actually not unlike a book. East Promenade, with its flowerbeds and chin-up guest houses, is the front cover; turn over to West Promenade and another tale is told in charity shops and boarded-up windows. And the spine? The lovely Midland, which has borne the freight of Morecambe’s hopes for regeneration since reopening in 2008. Its Deco curvature – swelling out towards the bay, embracing the town – is as eloquent a vow of resistance as you’re likely to find.
Revisiting the town with Phil, we’re told by a man in the Joiners Arms that “Morecambe is dead, man. Oh, it’s dead”. I’m not convinced, not least because the vivacity (or otherwise) of a place is sometimes in the mind of the beholder. It’s fairer to say that Morecambe’s tide simply went a very long way out, for this at least admits of the possibility that it could be due to flow back in – any day now.
Words and images copyright Liz Corlett and Phil Kneen, respectively.