The Arena Funfair, Morecambe
Morecambe, it’s fair to say, could almost be the resort Morrissey had in mind when he wrote ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’. It really does have the feel of a place they forgot to close down. The town’s heyday is long past. Looking at the flyblown bargain stores and low rent accommodation that line the seafront, it’s difficult to believe that Morecambe was once considered a more ‘select’ destination than Blackpool further down the coast. Even so, the place does have a certain appeal. There are gems like Brucciani’s unchanged 1930s tea room. There’s a special quality to the light which has attracted artists for decades. Large areas of the promenade have been given a sensitive makeover. The magnificent art deco Midland Grand Hotel is under restoration, and the Stone Jetty behind it is a great example of regeneration with a human touch. The bollards lining the Jetty are topped with witty sculptures of seabirds (incidentally, the patterns for casting them were made by my dad).
Between the Grand and the Jetty is a wind-blasted open square of concrete flagstones – the Arena Funfair. All that remains of this small fairground are two buildings glowering at each other like a couple of punch-drunk boxers. On one side there is the former fairground café, a squat bunker-like building with JUG OF TEA £1.50 carefully hand written on the front. Opposite the café is what was once an open stage. The only performances these days are by vandals and pigeons. Next to the stage is an empty shallow pool, coated in flaking cobalt blue. Painted by the same hand as 'JUG OF TEA £1.50' is a sign announcing REMOTE CONTROL BOATS. The stunning sunsets that Morecambe Bay is famous for only enhance the melancholic appeal.
Once, Morecambe had enough visitors to sustain the Arena Funfair and the much larger Frontierland over the road, as well as a couple of others. Frontierland is now demolished, and it can’t be long before the Arena goes the same way. The town is trying to reinvent itself as a weekend resort in the mode of Ostend. If you want to experience this little moribund corner of the Great British Seaside, you’d better be quick.
Update December 2008: Sadly, the Arena Funfair has been demolished, along with its companion the Jug of Tea kiosk.
More of Gareth's Morecambe photos
How to get there
Morecambe is an easy drive from Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. It's not far from the M6. The town is well served by trains, including a Virgin service from London with a change at Lancaster. Google map.