Morecambe and Wise project still on track despite doubts over site

Sculptor Graham Ibbeson with his business partner, fundraiser Jim Cadman.
Sculptor Graham Ibbeson with his business partner, fundraiser Jim Cadman.

A campaigner is pressing ahead with plans for a new Morecambe and Wise landmark in our resort despite doubt over where it will be sited.

Jim Cadman said “positive progress” was being made with a campaign to raise £70,000 for a new 10ft high bronze wall frieze of the comedy duo, created by the sculptor of the Eric Morecambe Statue.

How the new Eric and Ernie bronze relief could look.

How the new Eric and Ernie bronze relief could look.

Mr Cadman has asked Lancaster City Council to clarify if the landmark will be placed on a preferred site opposite the Winter Gardens theatre.

He said he remained “confident” that the wall art of the comedy duo and a Hollywood-style ‘walk of fame’ would be ready by July 2016, the 75th anniversary of Morecambe and Wise first getting together and of Eric adopting the name of his home town.

Mr Cadman’s comments came in response to a letter from Mark Davies, chief officer (environment) for Lancaster City Council, printed in The Visitor this week.

Mr Davies wrote “there is still a long way to go before any final location on public land is agreed”.

Mr Cadman, the longtime business partner of Eric statue sculptor Graham Ibbeson and a friend of Eric Morecambe’s family, unveiled the concept for the wall art celebrating Morecambe and Wise soon after the statue was vandalised in October 2014.

The idea to reunite Eric and Ernie in a new tourist attraction for the town – dubbed ‘Morecambe Gets Wise’ by The Visitor – was backed by Eric’s son Gary Morecambe, who called the plans “really fantastic”.

The Eric statue was reinstalled in a joint project involving Mr Ibbeson and Lancaster City Council in December 2014.

The Visitor understands that the council then wrote to Mr Cadman saying they supported the new Eric and Ernie attraction in principle.

The council also said they would not enter an agreement at that stage and said fund raising would need to be completed before they could commission the sculpture.

Gardens near the Midland hotel and land opposite the Winter Gardens were both mooted as possible sites for the artwork and the ‘Sunshine Garden of Fame’ - with the land opposite the theatre settled on as the preferred location.

Talks have been held with celebrities and local businesses, including The Visitor, about having their names inscribed on plaques in the Garden of Fame.

After originally announcing a target of £50,000, at first Mr Cadman hoped the wall art could be ready in time for today (July 23 2015) – the anniversary of the unveiling of the Eric statue.

Then in March 2015, he announced a new fund raising target of £70,000 and said an extra 12 months’ fundraising would be required.

The new date, set to coincide with the 75th anniversary, was because Mr Ibbeson wanted to increase the size of the finished artwork to ensure public expectations were met and because of the huge interest in the project.

Mr Cadman then organised a series of fundraising events, including a celebrity darts night at the Trimpell starring darts personality Bobby George held in March 2015 and an Eric Morecambe Tribute Dinner held at the Globe Arena in April 2015.

Funds were also raised for the project at The Visitor’s Sunshine Ball at the Midland hotel in May.

The Visitor understands the council has also written to Mr Ibbeson with a map of the proposed location opposite the Winter Gardens.

Mr Ibbeson has begun preparatory work on the landmark and has created a smaller ‘prototype’ version.

In his letter this week in The Visitor, Mr Davies said: “Location on the land opposite the Winter Gardens has certainly been discussed with Graham Ibbeson and even been mocked up as part of the design process.

“At the same time, however, the council has made improvements in this area and it has recently been landscaped to provide an open aspect to the promenade.

“This work has attracted positive comments from the public and has improved the area.

“There are also further public realm works in the pipeline which we would not want to jeopardise.

“In view of this the council would need to give serious consideration to locating something there that might conflict with the works that have taken place so far and the wider plans that are being developed.”

Mr Davies also asked for opinions from Visitor readers on whether the Eric and Ernie frieze should be placed on public land.

He also said “this scheme is independent of the city council and no public funds will be spent on the frieze”.

After reading the letter, Mr Cadman said: “We have now written to Mark requesting clarification of the council’s position on the location for the Sunshine Garden of Fame and the bronze wall art of Eric and Ernie,

“We are making positive progress with our fundraising with over 20% of our target figure being reached with contributions and pledges.

“A number of major fundraising events are in the pipeline and we are confident that this tribute to Eric and Ernie will be completed by July 2016 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of their debut as a double cct in 1941 with Eric adopting the name of Morecambe in honour of his home town.

“We have established a special ‘Eric Morecambe Tribute Bank Account’ and all contributions are ring fenced for this project.

“In the coming weeks we will be announcing a series of high profile fundraising events starting with an Art of Comedy exhibition/sale in London when work from Graham Ibbeson’s private art collection will be sold to raise funds for the Sunshine Garden of Fame.

“This event is supported by Eric’s family and they will be attending along with friends and admirers of Morecambe and Wise from the world of entertainment and sport.

“Graham Ibbeson who was responsible for creating the statue of Eric Morecambe on the promenade and its resurrection after the vandalism in November last year is currently working on the maquette for the bronze wall art of Morecambe and Wise.

“Over 60% of the income required for this project will be generated outside of Morecambe but we have been pleased with the support of the local residents in the town and the wider business community in our fundraising efforts to date.”

Mr Cadman and Mr Ibbeson have previously delivered other sculpture projects of famous people throughout the country – including comedian Les Dawson in Lytham St Annes, cricketer Fred Trueman in Skipton and football manager Don Revie at Leeds United Football Club.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Contact The Visitor at greg.lambert@jpress.co.uk or write to us at Viewpoint, The Visitor, 41 Northgate, White Lund, Morecambe, Lancs, LA3 3PA.