From the Spanish bullfighter-turned-tapas-bar owner, the Australian soprano seeking stardom and the Italian family that has become an enduring cornerstone of holiday indulgence on the promenade, Destination Morecambe, an exhibition of 14 subjects captured by renowned photographer, David Stewart, opens at the famous Brucciani’s Café on Morecambe Promenade today, Thursday (July 21).
From Uzbekistan to France, from Russia to Somaliland, plus the true ‘sandgrown’uns’, who, as Morecambe natives, left only to return as the tides called them home, the project, commissioned and curated by Morecambe arts producers, Deco Publique in partnership with White Elephant Contemporary, paints pictures of happenstance, love and curiosity as each life landed and blossomed in the coastal community.
Represented by an evocative portrait and the personal story of Paolo Brucciani overlooking the largely unchanged interior of the ice-cream café, established in the 1930’s by his grandparents, the setting for the exhibition is purposely selected to immerse visitors in the rich history of Morecambe’s people.
Having begun his contribution to the town’s broadened food scene by establishing the enduring Spanish Bar, José Luís Calvo is surely Morecambe’s only ex-star bullfighter.
A prodigious feature in the ring in his youth, and finding a taste for travel as a result, his wanderlust was finally satisfied by Morecambe Bay, which the 83-year-old still passionately calls home.
On to the Australian singer, 89-year-old Maureen Elliot, originally travelling to Morecambe for love after moving to the UK to pick up a part in the company of the legendary music hall star, Tommy Trinder. Calvo, Elliot and the Bruccianis each represent an age of adventure, of open doors and possibilities.
Even if, in the case of the young singer, the door to her future came via a four-week journey in 1955 by sea on a Royal Mail ship.
Elliot graced Britain’s most prestigious stages, including the London Palladium, before finding love with her husband and heading north with his job.
Showbusiness also runs in the veins of Madrileño, Inma Elliot, whose performing life on skates, touring with the worldwide success that is Holiday On Ice, took her far from the
Meeting her husband, having a daughter and concluding their global adventures in the green and blue of Morecambe’s stunning landscape - it’s the one place
that they have been able to, together, consistently call home.
As is the case for many, including Russian, Nelli Watmough, who is featured in the exhibition with her daughter, Karina Velichko, the route to the UK and the establishment of
deep roots in Morecambe is a story of romance.
Having met her English husband working in Tsemenskaya Bay in the South of Russia, the next stop was Iskenderun Bay, Turkey on a work posting and now, finally, they are settled for good in arguably Britain’s most famous and beautiful bay.
On completing the project and selecting the final 24 images to display, the photographer, David Stewart, said: “For this project I chose to shoot the portraits on 120 roll film which is the way it would have been done 40 years ago when I first started my career.
"Working with the camera on a tripod the portraits become more constructed. Creating work in this more traditional way is fast being overlooked, and ultimately lost, in favour of using digital methods.
"These portraits can be considered as a reaction against the ubiquity of photography heralded by the rise of social media and the notion of the universal photographer”.
Director of Deco Publique and Destination Morecambe curator, Lauren Zawadzki said: “I have called this area home all my life and have always been aware, being of Polish
descent, of the presence of people who have come into and enriched our communities.
"Not least the Brucciani family and the café that has been a feature of families’ lives here for generations. It’s not easy to leave the place you have grown up and each of the stories told in and beside these photographs show as much risk and sacrifice as they do joy and the happy-ever-afters.
"It’s been a pleasure and an honour to meet and work with the participants who have shared their journeys with us.”
Paul Kondras of White Elephant Contemporary said: “David Stewart is to Morecambe what David Hockney is to Yorkshire, an artist rooted in the area, though internationally
"The White Elephant Gallery hosted two of David’s exhibitions, “Fogeys” and “Paid content” both hugely successful, and so it was a no-brainer when David proposed a
project with a narrative based on his early days in Morecambe, taking pictures on the promenade.
"Using the iconic Brucciani’s cafe as a studio film set, carefully art directed as is his style, the results are not just portraits but capture the incredible emotional journey people
made to make Morecambe their home.”
Hung on the walls of Brucciani’s Café for the summer, the full list of Morecambe residents featured in the exhibition are as follows:
Inma Elliot, 59, Translator from Madrid
Pete Moser, 65, Musician from London
Michel Gueyrard, Writer from Toulouse
José Luís Calvo, 83, Tapas Bar Owner from Spain
Olesya Krijenovskaya, 41, Clinical Support Worker from Uzbekistan
Maureen Elliot, 89, Retired Soprano Singer from Sydney
Neil Pickup, 62, Retired Energy Professional from Somaliland
Gina Thistlethwaite, from Morecambe
Paolo Brucciani, Café Owner from Morecambe
Nelli Watmough and her daughter Karina Velichko, Café Owner from South Russia
Wren and Stanley Rawcliffe Kemp, from London
Nicola Garrett, 53, Massage Therapist from Liverpool
The exhibition runs until September 8.