On display at Brucciani’s Café in Morecambe from July 21, the diverse artwork highlights the remarkable stories of those who have found ‘home’ in the charming coastal community. Whether it’s a Spanish bullfighter turned tapas bar owner, an Australian soprano on a quest for fame, or an Italian family who have become the cornerstone of holiday indulgence on the boardwalk , each of David’s 14 topics has something fascinating to share. The group comes from all over the place, including Uzbekistan, France, Russia and Somaliland, as well as the real “sandgrown’uns”, who, as natives of Morecambe, only left to return to the thanks to the tides.
Among those featured, we are first introduced to Paolo Brucciani who overlooks the largely unchanged interior of the ice cream parlor, created in the 1930s by his grandparents and which also forms the setting for the series. We then meet José Luís Calvo, who created the local Spanish bar and who is surely the only ex-star bullfighter in Morecambe. A prodigious trait of the ring in his youth and thus finding a taste for travel, his wanderlust was finally quenched by Morecambe Bay, which the 83-year-old still inhabits with a passion.
Then there’s Maureen Elliot, 89, an Australian singer who endured a four-week boat trip to land a role with legendary music hall star Tommy Trinder. She found love and settled into family life with her husband Byll and five children, 10,000 miles from where she grew up.
Show business also runs through the veins of Madrileño, Inma Elliot, whose life as a performer on skates and on tour with the worldwide success of Holiday On Ice has taken her far from the Spanish capital. Meeting her husband, having a daughter and concluding their global adventures in the green and blue of Morecambe’s beautiful landscape – it’s the one place they’ve ever been able to call home together.
As with many others in the exhibition, Russian Nelli Watmough – featured with her daughter, Karina Velichko – establishing deep roots in Morecambe is a love story. After meeting her English husband working in Tsemenskaya Bay in southern Russia, the next stop was Iskenderun Bay, Turkey, on a post, before settling in Morecambe.
There’s even a pandemic angle with a London family swapping the city for the sea in search of a better life. Wren and Stanley Rawcliffe Kemp are pictured sipping milkshakes. Brother and sister’s parents, Helen and Nick, found that an undersized flat and life in the capital was no longer the preferred option during Covid and gave in to their desire for a quieter and more greener with more space. With family ties to Chorley, Lancashire, dials have been set up to take the family from London to Heysham, leaving the children to spend their weekdays at beach school and weekends at the beach with mom and dad.
“For this project, I chose to shoot the portraits on 120 film, as it would have been 40 years ago when I started my career,” David told Creative Boom. “By working with the camera on a tripod, the portraits become more constructed. The creation of works in this more traditional way is quickly overlooked and eventually lost to digital methods. These portraits can be seen as a reaction against the omnipresence of photography heralded by the rise of social media and the notion of the universal photographer.”
Curator Lauren Zawadzki adds: “I have lived in this region all my life and I have always been aware, being of Polish origin, of the presence of people who have come and enriched our communities. Notably the Brucciani family and coffee that has been a feature of family life here for generations. It is not easy to leave the place where you grew up, and each of the stories told in and alongside these photographs show as many risks and sacrifices than joy and happiness forever after.”
Hanging on the walls of Brucciani’s Café for the summer, the full list of Morecambe residents includes Inma Elliot, a translator from Madrid; Pete Moser, a musician from London; Michel Gueyrard, writer from Toulouse; Olesya Krijenovskaya, a clinical assistant from Uzbekistan; Neil Pickup, retired energy professional from Somaliland; Gina Thistlethwaite, born and raised in Morecambe, and Nicola Garrett, massage therapist from Liverpool.
Destination Morecambe opens at the famous Brucciani’s Café living museum on Morecambe promenade on Thursday 21 July and runs through the summer. David Stewart’s project presents a remarkable document on immigration and the lure of the British coast.