Morecambe Library. An open afternoon (with tea and biscuits).
We sit in the meeting room wondering who might turn up. If anyone will turn up. A few notices around the town these last few weeks, a feature in the ‘Looking Back’ column in the Morecambe Visitor, and a live interview for the local radio- standing on the promenade with a real sea breeze blowing in and the chatter of seagulls riding the wind over the Winter Gardens… ‘Come and tell us a story’.
And they did.
A steady stream of memories flowing in from people who had worked in the building, from heydays ’til the last days, the final curtain call.
A woman who remembers her grandfather shovelling coal into the theatre’s boiler room, eighty years ago; his wife bringing him his dinner in a basket… A man who began working there, up in the ‘limes’ [the lighting box], in 1937 – stories of footlights and floodlights and early cinema projection, the ghost of a violinist haunting the circle, and being cradled to the ceiling, painting it bit by bit; a Morecambe Michelangelo… A man who still remembers firewatch duty- 1942 in the glass-ceilinged ballroom, and tells us how the stage is one of the few in the world built to take an elephant… A rush of ushers and usherettes, cleaners and ticket sellers through the post war years – 50’s, 60′ 70’s… Mrs B. who sold ice creams in her maroon uniform – just all the ordinary flavours… A flyman in the 60’s, holding down a day job at the docks and making it to the theatre for the two shows an evening; 6.30, 8.30, then out on the dancefloor half the night… A man who briefly owned the place… And the woman who locked the theatre doors for the last time, after the final show in ’77, and then spent 4 years as the sole occupier of the building, a lonely round of checking windows and collecting rents from the fairground tenants round the back….
And then they were gone.
And now we are left with their stories.