Wayne Hemingway reflects on the Vintage-by-the-Sea festival in Morecambe

Lancaster Bombers, make their historic fly pass

Lancaster Bombers, make their historic fly pass - Credit: Archant

Designer calls for world class developments in the town

50s Singer, Bexi Owen, from Morecambe, outside the Midland Hotel, Morecambe

50s Singer, Bexi Owen, from Morecambe, outside the Midland Hotel, Morecambe - Credit: Archant

Folk came out in their tens of thousands, people of every age and many who were either coming to Morecambe for the first time or the first time in a long time. We know how northerners enjoy putting on their glad rags but it was still uplifting to see so many people making a real effort with their outfits or by joining in with the Vintage Pooch Parade, the Vintage Bike Ride along the prom, the classic car show and much more.

Every nook and cranny of the event was packed with smiling faces and with traders, many of whom were having record days.

We know anecdotally that Kentucky Fried Chicken broke its record for takings by a ridiculous amount! A pub licensee told us they had taken more in two days than they normally do in a busy week. Morecambe Bay looked magnificent in the sunshine and we are sure many people will return to visit another time.

We aimed to deliver quality food, entertainment, music, workshops, set dress, products on sale, and an experience that was on a par with the equivalent of a modern creative British day offered in other towns and cities and we achieved that.

Jane Stanford, fundraiser and teamleader, helen Martin, community fundraiser, and Anna Webster, fund

Jane Stanford, fundraiser and teamleader, helen Martin, community fundraiser, and Anna Webster, fundraising support - Credit: Archant

The thing that made us most happy is that through a generosity of spirit from volunteers, the council, council workers , the local creative community and some of the local businesses, Morecambe has proved that if it aims high, residents and visitors to the town respond positively.

We have also had a wonderful response to Vintage-by-the-Sea. We’ve been inundated with positive comments in their hundreds. I don’t think we’ve heard anything negative at all and now we’re having lots of discussions about next year. Everybody, the performers and the traders, wants to come back but we’ve got to work out a way of doing this next year that makes it easier for everybody organisationally.

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Putting a festival on is pretty stressful, everybody was shattered the following week, the organising team barely cover costs if at all and you can only call in so many favours.

But what gets us through is knowing that we’ve done something really worthwhile and contributed to the regeneration and perception of the town. If one of those 40,000 people who were there decides to buy a house here, or is inspired to open up a nice new cafe in Morecambe, then the event has done its job. Without being too big-headed I would hope that the standards we set could set a benchmark for development that is being considered in the town.

Karen Harvey, from Preston, entrant of the vintage bike competition

Karen Harvey, from Preston, entrant of the vintage bike competition - Credit: Archant

The ex-Frontierland site, bang in the middle of the seafront, is a prime site that has been lying empty for many years. Opus North and Morrisons have put forward a development proposal for the site (futurefrontierland.co.uk/index.html) and having looked in detail, the big problem is the lack of detail.

Of course everyone should welcome the site coming back into use and the aspiration for decent retailers like M&S and decent eateries but if it comes back to life as a poorly designed, poorly detailed and poorly executed development then it will be worse than it remaining empty.

Morecambe, or any town for that matter, should never succumb to the philosophy that ‘any development is good development’. This is a strategically important prime site, on the promenade of a British seaside town that is starting to ‘turn the corner’ and should be treated with top-class design thinking.

The town , its residents and future visitors deserve a finished development that is intelligently and sustainably designed with architectural input that lifts the spirit and represents a town that is confidently embracing a new future. The landscape and spaces should be places that people want to linger, sit in and take in the views and the air and feel comfortable and inviting even when it’s blowing a gale. It should designed to be full of life and be primarily about human beings, with cars being very secondary.

Intelligent design thinking can achieve all this and more. The elevations and sketches that are in the public domain are so vague and lacking in detail that I fear that there is a danger that little of the quality the site deserves could end up being delivered.

Britain has seen too many wind swept carbuncles delivered over the years. I shudder to think what some of those 40,000 Vintage by The Sea revellers might find at the former Frontierland site when they return to visit the town again. Does the council have someone capable of being the guardian of this development to ensure that it has aspirations to be world class and that every effort is made to deliver world class?