Wayne plays the regeneration game

Share this article

FASHION designer and TV personality Wayne Hemingway has said he would love to help transform the fortunes of his hometown.

Speaking exclusively to The Visitor, Wayne said: "If the opportunity came up, I would enjoy getting involved in the regeneration of Morecambe."

The design guru, owner of award-winning fashion label Red Or Dead, is extremely passionate about the resort and has strong ideas about its future direction.

"It's fairly clear to me what Morecambe can be and should be, the complete antithesis of Blackpool and instead a place to come for quiet reflection.

"It should not be about shopping, not be about fairground rides and not be about slot machines, but a place to take you away from all that.

"Things like The Flock of Words have been a good start and the town has plenty of nice housing, but it needs a clear vision and a planning team who understand how to get people, and particularly a different kind of person, to come to Morecambe."

Wayne lived in the town until the age of seven, growing up on Thirlmere Drive next door to Eric Morecambe's mum, and went to Lancaster Road Primary School.

"It was a fantastic place to grow up and I had a very happy childhood," he said.

He has vivid memories of enjoying the simple pleasures of growing up in the resort, either fishing on the Stone Jetty, eating pasties in Heysham Village or watching his grandparents do old-time dancing on the Central Pier.

Holidays

Although he later moved to Blackburn and now lives near affluent Chichester, West Sussex, he says: "I never really left Morecambe".

He has returned to the district many times over the years, spending school holidays in Morecambe with his grandparents as a teenager.

Even today he frequently returns to the resort while visiting his mum Maureen, who lives in Garstang.

So he has first-hand knowledge of recent changes in the town, many of which he believes have not been for the better.

"It saddens me when I hear what people say about Morecambe and also what happened to it," he says.

"How they ever gave planning permission to allow some of the shops to be built on the front which they have, I don't know. The town has quite enough pound shops as it is.

"Planners have made many mistakes through the decades, such as knocking the Super Swimming Stadium down and eventually replacing it with Bubbles.

"If the Super Swimming Stadium and the Midland were there, as they were when I was a child, it would put the place back on the map and be something tourists would flock to see."

Wayne says the people of Morecambe should give Urban Splash their "full backing" in their plans to re-open the Midland as a stylish hotel.

"Tom Bloxham and Urban Splash have done great things across the north of England and people should not be cynical.

"It would be a very brave move to re-open it as a hotel but it needs to be that, and not flats, as long as the people of Morecambe get behind it and help it make money.

"The Midland should be the centrepiece of Morecambe regeneration."

Last week The Visitor reported how Wayne had pledged his support to the Friends of the Winter Gardens, who are trying to re-open the old theatre.

"I have very fond memories of the Winter Gardens," he says.

"I was in loads of plays there because my nan was in amateur dramatics and my whole family has a history with it because my dad (wrestler Billy Two Rivers) performed there."

As Wayne lives down south and has his business to run, he admits it would be difficult for him to have a real 'hands-on' approach in Morecambe.

Even so, he remains enthusiastic about helping the resort.

"I'll do what I can," he says.

"My company has done some amazing things in Gateshead and it's now not just a poor relation of Newcastle, but has the National Music Centre, an art gallery and the award-winning Millennium Bridge.

"I would love to work in Morecambe on things like that."