You can spend all you like on lavish Afternoon Teas with special three-tiered cake stands, but a trip to The Midland Hotel in Morecambe cannot be rivalled. Its iconic 1930s Art Deco design by Oliver Hill makes it one of the architectural highlights of the North West, while its well preserved and expertly restored interior brings the original glamour and grandeur of such buildings truly back to life.
It’s also the setting of a new exhibition of site specific artworks and interventions by Manchester-based artist Jenny Steele, whose longstanding fascination with Seaside Moderne architecture has recently led her on a transatlantic journey from Miami to Morecambe. Seaside Moderne is a style of modernist architecture that emerged during the 1930s mid-war leisure boom, offering stylish costal destinations for everyday workers in the UK, who had been given annual holidays for the first time. The Midland Hotel is one of the best examples of the form (at one point becoming known as Britain’s most modern and progressive resort), while Miami South Beach has the largest concentrated area of preserved mid-war modernist seafront architecture internationally.
The exhibition, entitled This Building for Hope, explores the optimistic intention behind these buildings – places that heralded a new age of freedom – through Steele’s research into their decorative motifs and historical narratives. It will stretch to include both the hotel’s interior and exterior, and the Morecambe promenade; featuring sculpture, architectural interventions and site specific printed textiles. An afternoon symposium entitled ‘Miami to Morecambe: Transatlantic Seaside Moderne’ will also take place on 8 October, preceded by a walking tour of The Midland Hotel, and followed by Afternoon Tea in the Sun Terrace.
Morecambe’s fortunes declined following the Second World War – when The Midland became a makeshift hospital for the Royal Air Force – and then the later rise in affordable holidays abroad. Yet it remains a place of remarkable natural beauty, while the town itself is undergoing something of a revival. This Building for Hope looks likely to provide an interesting perspective on this seemingly optimistic new chapter in Morecambe’s history, whilst highlighting its place within the wider story of 20th-century international modernism.