"I once went to Brucciani's and it absolutely made my day...
It would have been about 1997 and so struck was I that I thankfully
took the above photos... the table, chairs, sugar and ashtray
are so spot on. Wonderful." Built on the eve of war in 1939,
the local paper feared that Brucciani's might not be good for
the sedate Victorian image of Morecambe and that its presence
could be positively harmful to young people. Originally a milk
bar, Brucciani's typifies the simple, geometric 'high street
deco' styling popular at the time. The brown wood and chrome
exterior has black lacquer base panels to the street, porthole
lamps above the doors, ziggurat pattern doors, classic deco handles
and original menus. The interior preserves extensive wall panelling,
a slightly reworked counter, red Formica tables, red upholstered
chairs, wall-to-wall etched glass of Venetian canal scenes, mirrors,
deco clocks and even the original penny-in-the-slot cubicles
in the cloakrooms. That most Art Deco of confections, the Knickerbocker
Glory is still served throughout the summer season.
The Independent | 22 February
2004 | by Michael Bracewell
... decaying confections of fantastical
architecture, rotting art deco, the dance hall glitterball and
the ornamental balustrade... faded grandeur abutting sea-front
dereliction... affordable, exotic, alternately camp and luxuriously
sad - a kind of gilded social realism...
To a particular kind of cultural tourist,
the seaside towns of England have always articulated an extreme
form of romanticism, firstly in a literary idiom which would
then be updated by pop. From TS Eliot's apostatical reference
to Margate Sands, through Paul Nash's essay on "Seaside
Surrealism", to the "sopping esplanade" from which
WH Auden predicted England's decline, the seers of British modernism
set out a particular - and enduring - relationship with the ritual
landscape of the English coastal holiday.
I suspect that what they found there, in
the protracted twilight of Edwardian gentility, was the quality
Frank Kermode described as "the sense of an ending".
That in some heightened poetic way, the bandstands, ornamental
gardens and chilly vistas of our old resorts held a mirror to
the passing of an epoch - to the gradual dimming of an earlier
In this, the English seaside towns have
developed an allegorical identity - a mood of acute romanticism
in which they recollect their past within their present. In their
every detail you can glimpse an earlier age - the more so in
those run-down resorts which seem to articulate Graham Greene's
pronouncement that, "Seediness has a very deep appeal; it
seems to satisfy, temporarily, the sense of nostalgia for something
lost; it seems to represent a stage further back."
Such a relationship to nostalgia has a
perverse kinship with glamour - perfect to re-enchant the whole
world of pop. And as the seaside towns developed in step with
the history of popular culture, so in their dance halls, wintergardens
and ballrooms you can feel pop's ghosts around you...
Towards the end of the 19th century, the
bravura sweep of Morecambe Bay had earned it the label, "The
Naples of the North", and the resort's popularity had been
confirmed in the early 1930s by the construction of Oliver Hill's
breathtaking art deco Midland Hotel. By the early 1950s, the
bathing beauty pageants at the Super Swimming Stadium were attended
by thousands of visitors, while over at Heysham and neighbouring
Middleton Sands, two big holiday camps - one built to resemble
an ocean liner on dry land - combined the vivacious pleasure-seeking
of the first pop age with the coast's reputation for having some
of the most dramatic sunsets in the world...
the conceit of the sunset seemed to be
its defining image. Morecambe had even been advertised, in the
1930s, as "The Sunset Coast", while in a more impressionistic
sense the colours of the lingering twilight seemed to comprise
an elegy for the long departed seaside carnival.
As a resort, Morecambe went into steep
decline during the 1970s, unable to compete with the new availability
of cheap holidays in Spain and Majorca, and further challenged
by the construction of the dramatic but environmentally unsound
reactors of a nuclear power station at Heysham. Today, the town
is geared to major, and welcome, regeneration - focusing on the
resurrection of the Midland Hotel as a deluxe boutique establishment,
by Tom Bloxham's hugely successful Urban Splash company. Indeed,
the phrase being used to describe the proposed regeneration of
Morecambe is none other than "The Brighton of the North"
- and the plan looks likely to succeed...
those fading grand hotels, silent boarding
houses, dormant ornamental gardens and windswept piers is both
an ultimate expression of Englishness and its plangent requiem
- the "sense of something lost", perhaps, prompting
nostalgia for a former innocence. It's a moment which John Betjeman
caught in his poem a bout wartime Britain, Margate 1940, and
which, at the beginning of the 21st century, seems equally relevant
to the sci-fi lullaby of today's coastal drift: "And I think
as the fairy-lit sites I recall/ It is those we are fighting
for, foremost of all." "