I have previously sought succour in your shady shelters, as unrelenting sheets of steel grey rain peppered the wind whipped Irish sea.
A concrete cornucopia of Californian screen block, glass, pebbledash, mosaic and crazy paving.
Municipal modernism under threat as the unstoppable force of coastal improvement lumbers on, a pantechnicon of shiny surfaces, sensitive planting, contemporary seating and laser-cut, contextually appropriate historical panels.
As Hardscape introduces a wholesome dose of CGI style medicine to the promenade
I for one will miss you all when you’re gone.
Next time I pass all this will seem as a dream, a tale told by a fool full of sand and fury signifying nothing.
This in so many senses is where it all began – my first encounter with the visual arts was through my Aunty Alice’s postcard album. Predating visits to Manchester City Art Gallery in my mid-teens, I was lost in a world of post WW1 printed ephemera, rendered less ephemeral by careful collection and collation. Sitting entranced for hours and hours absorbing the photography, text and illustration of hundreds of unseen hands.
This is North Shore Blackpool – behind the Metropole in the early 60s.
The colour is muted by the then state of the art colour reproduction, the holiday dress is constrained by the codes of the day. Light cotton frocks and wide brimmed sun hats, shirts tucked in belted slacks, sandals and shorts – purely for the pre-teens.
The focus and locus of fun is located on the prom and what better way to squander a moment or eighteen, than with a pleasurable round of crazy golf. Municipal Modernist frivolity rendered corporeal in corporation concrete, repainted annually ahead of the coming vacationers.
Domesticated Brutalism to soften the soul.
And there can be no better away to inform the awaiting world of your capricious coastal antics than a picture postcard, so playfully displayed on the corner shop carousel – 10p a pop.
Stopping to chuckle at the Bamforth’s mild mannered filth, yet finally purer of heart, opting for the purely pictorial.
Man and boy and beyond I have visited Blackpool – a day, week or fortnight here and there, the worker’s working week temporarily suspended with a week away.
Times have now changed and the new nexus is cash, all too incautiously squandered – Pleasure Beach and pub replacing the beach as the giddy stags and hens collide in an intoxicating miasma of flaming Sambuca, Carling, Carlsberg and cheap cocktails – for those too cash strapped for Ibiza.
The numbers are up – 18 times nothing is nothing – each year as I revisit, the primarily primary colour paint wears a little thinner in the thin salt air and the whining westerly wind, of the all too adjacent Irish Sea.
Overgrown and underused awaiting the kids and grown ups that forever fail to show. On one visit the sunken course had become the home of the daytime hard drinkers, they suggested we refurbish and run the course as a going concern. I declined lacking the time, will and capital for such a crazy enterprise.
Antonio Fusciardi emigrated in the 1960s in search of a better life. He opened a number of businesses in Ireland. In 1965 he met Anna Morelli at an Italian wedding and romance blossomed. The couple married and set up home in Marine Parade, Eastbourne. They worked very hard in establishing the business and attributed their success to ambition, dedication and the family.
The town of Llandudno developed from Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements over many hundreds of years on the slopes of the limestone headland, known to seafarers as the Great Orme and to landsmen as the Creuddyn Peninsula.
Some years later.
In 1848, Owen Williams, an architect and surveyor from Liverpool, presented landowner Lord Mostyn with plans to develop the marshlands behind Llandudno Bay as a holiday resort. These were enthusiastically pursued by Lord Mostyn. The influence of the Mostyn Estate and its agents over the years was paramount in the development of Llandudno, especially after the appointment of George Felton as surveyor and architect in 1857.
The edge of the bay is marked by concrete steps and a broad promenade, edging a pebbled beach which arcs from Orme to Orme.
Walk with me now and mark the remarkable shelters, paddling pools and bandstand screens, along with the smattering of people that people the promenade.
Robert Andrew Bullivant 1910-2001 Harry William Weedon 1887-1970
Robert Bullivant joined the Harry Weedon practice in 1935 and was responsible for the design of the Odeons at Chester, York, Burnley, Exeter and Rhyl. Taken over by Hutchinson in 1969, this cinema was renamed Astra. It was made into a triple screen in 1972 and the stalls were later converted for bingo. It was designated Grade II listed status in 1989. The cinemas closed in 1995 and the building reverted to a single auditorium for bingo.
So much of our picture house heritage no longer exists, where once a town or city could support several cinemas of varying scale, architectural merit or style, few now remain intact. Happily the Rhyl Odeon has survived from Astra, Apollo to Gala to the stars and beyond.
Playing to perennially packed houses, the people’s palaces accommodated old and young.
Saturday morning matinees for the boys and girls – making this Great Country of ours a better place to live in.
If memory serves, in the Odeon auditorium to the left of the screen there was a suitably stylish, numberless clock of six-sided shape. In 1972 the Odeon, by then taken over and renamed Astra Cinema, underwent alterations to become the first three-screen complex in Wales: Astra 1, 2 and 3. By the mid 1980s the Odeon/Astra had been taken over by Apollo and was running as two cinemas plus bingo at first – and bingo only since the present Apollo Cinema Complex opened on the prom.
An original Odeon Theatre, built for the Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, opened on 30th October 1937 with Flora Robson in “Farewell Again”.
The corner entrance rotunda was lower than the rest of the building and was faced with cream faiance tiles, broken with windows. Behind this was a tower-like feature which contained the main foyer. Seating in the auditorium was provided for 862 in the stalls and 546 in the circle. On each side of the proscenium opening there were large panelled decorative grilles on the splay walls. Lighting in the auditorium was provided by concealed lighting in troughs across the ceiling.
From the 13th October 1969 it was taken over by the Hutchinson Leisure Group and re-named Astra Cinema. They triplexed the cinema from 24th April 1972 with seating for 750 in the former stalls and two mini screens seating 250 and 225 in the former circle. Later, the stalls screen was converted into a bingo club, whilst the two mini cinemas continued on film.
In the late-1980’s the building was taken over by Apollo Leisure UK Ltd. and it was re-named Apollo Cinema. The two mini cinemas were closed in October 1995 and the building was de-tripled into one space again, becoming the Apollo Bingo Club, which remains open today.
From 4th January 1989, the former Odeon Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building.
Betwixt and between the two world wars, the shortage of housing for the homeless, hopeless and dispossessed lead to an acceleration in the building of an informal architecture – the so-called Plotlands.
One such area and precious survivor from the last century is the Humberston Fitties – situated to south of Cleethorpes, preserved in time by the happy homesteaders.
Though under threat from Local Authority negligence or intervention, three hundred and twenty chalets prevail – against the incursion of planning regulations, building specs and a lack of respect.
I feel a real affinity for all Plotlands, having spent many summers in the converted Pagham railway carriage, belonging to my Aunty Alice and Uncle Arthur. They relocated to the south coast seeking cleaner air for Arthur’s ailing, industrialised northern lungs, thus prolonging his life.
Tamarisk – Pagham
So here are the photographs I took on a visit to The Fitties in July 2008, I walked the home made roads, amazed by the vigour and variety of shape, size, personal affectation and practical pragmatism, of this all too human architecture.
This is a particular form of independent minded Modernism – hand-forged from the vernacular.
It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are, than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.
On my most recent visit the most distant shelter was receiving a wash and brush up, a brand new coat of paint or two, restored to bright red and white shipshape order, this land locked delight looked ready to set sail across the adjacent Channel to who knows where.
Offering a somewhat occluded view of blue skies and faraway shores, the bus stops here and goes on forever and forever.