Sleeping Beauty

Tony Aldous examines the restoration of Morecambe’s winter gardens.

‘The Albert Hall of the north' they called it – the 2,200-seat theatre built ninety-one years ago on the seafront at the Lancashire seaside resort of Morecambe, alongside an already existing glass-roofed ballroom which gave it its name: the Winter Gardens. Now it stands empty and in increasing dereliction amid debate about whether it can or should be saved. Is it potentially the catalyst for down-at-heel Morecambe's revival or a terminally ill white elephant that should be quietly left to die?

In its hey-day no-one had any doubts about the building's usefulness or even profitability. It welcomed nationally known stars such as Gracie Fields, Charlie Chester, Arthur Askey, the Black and White Minstrels and the Goons. Bands which played there include Geraldo, Billy Cotton, Jack Hylton, Joe Loss and Ted Heath. Richard Tauber made its richly decorated auditorium ring with many a popular aria.

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