“Morecambe has started to get its mojo back and one of the main reasons is the brilliant rebirth of one Britain’s most iconic hotels, The Midland,” Wayne Hemingway, MBE, designer extraordinaire and my lovely Dad tells me to tell you. My Dad was conceived in Room 9 – too much information – and grew up fishing from the stone jetty and being coerced into amateur dramatics at the lavishly ornate Winter Gardens across from The Midland. He remembers being paraded up Morecambe pier dressed as Elvis, a Beatle and Tarzan by his Mum and Grandma, being held aloft in a wrestling ring by his Red Indian father, Billy Two Rivers, and later dancing with my Mum Gerardine all around his hometown.
Wayne In King + I at Winter Gardens, Morecambe 1965
My Mum and Dad in Morecambe 1960
Dad hopes ‘Vintage-by-the-Sea’ at the Midland and the Winter Gardens will give his birthplace the shot in the arm it desperately needs. Taking place this Saturday (September 14), Morecambe will see a celebration of British fashion, music and food from the ‘30s to the ‘80s with stalls, exhibitions and live entertainment and the whole family will be there joining in, excited to see Dad’s hometown bursting into life again.
If it draws the expected crowds, we plan an even bigger version next year. A joint £20,000 funding bid has been submitted to Morecambe Town Council by Hemingway Design and Lancaster City Council, which could see a two-day Vintage-by-the-Sea replace the Morecambe Seaside Festival on September 6 and 7, 2014.
During a golden period before the Second World War, The Midland, recognised widely as a 1930s art deco masterpiece, played host to luminaries and fashion icons such as Coco Chanel, Wallace Simpson, Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward, who enjoyed the panoramic views across Morecambe Bay to the Lake District fells in the distance.
Morecambe had been a fashionable place full of dancing on the two piers, cool coffee bars and iconic public buildings. My Mum and Dad were part of that scene as you can see in some of the photos.
Sadly, like so many seaside towns, the rot set in the 80s and by the 90s The Midland was little more than a doss house. The town’s declining tourist industry, coupled with years of neglect forced Morecambe’s Art Deco masterpiece to close its doors in 1998.
By the noughtie’s demolition of the Midland had become a serious threat. Thankfully the hotel was purchased in 2003 by Urban Splash and, following a length restoration, the Midland Hotel reopened it’s doors in June 2008.
Now I am going back this Saturday, 14th September 2013, as The Vintage Festival transforms the hotel and surrounding landscape for a celebration of music, fashion, film, art, dance, food and design from those halcyon days when the Midland Hotel opened in 1933.
So come, take in those views, explore the Hotel, lap up all that vintage loveliness and don’t forget your dancing shoes.
Written by Tilly Hemingway, designer at Hemingway design and daughter of Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, founders of The Vintage Festival and Hemingway Design