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INTERVIEW: Dad and son's plan for UK tour hoping to raise £1m to reopen Morecambe building

The Queens Market in Morecambe and right, owner Nick Smith

A Morecambe man is planning a dad-and-son trip around the UK hoping to raise £1m towards his dream of reopening the former cinema and nightclub he's singlehandedly restored.

Nick Smith and his son Christopher will tour the country, sleeping overnight in their Land Rover, hoping to convince kind strangers to donate just one pound each towards the Queen's Market project.

Mr Smith has been trying for several years to raise funds to reopen the 19th century former market hall, Palladium Cinema, Crystal T's nightclub and Concorde Squash Club as a community building.

His vision is for the Queen's Market to have a wide range of areas for offices, training centres, bars, live venues, recording studios, youth areas, art galleries, food hall, live venues and exhibition spaces. 

But his bid to raise £1m has raised only a fraction of its target.

He set up a fundraising 'Sponsor a Petal' plan, where he wanted one million people to pay £1 each to have their names on hand-painted dandelion petals on the ceiling. He was also hoping for a half-million pound social enterprise loan to kickstart the project.

But he says he keeps "getting knocked back" for funding.

Mr Smith said he could sell the building, but doesn't want to give up, so he has come up with the idea to go on a dad-and-son fundraising adventure around the UK, filming their journey for a vlog.

LISTEN to Nick Smith speaking about plans for his UK tour

"The Queens Market building has been mothballed for a considerable number of months now while we were trying to get the funding," he told Beyond Radio.

"Unfortunately we keep getting knocked back with funding.

"I'm at breaking point, financially and emotionally. But I still totally believe in the community aspect of what I'm trying to achieve.

"I've come to this stalemate and I have to break this stalemate. I can't afford to finish the building.

"I could just quit altogether, sell the building, take the money and run. But I'm not going to do that to Morecambe. Morecambe deserves better.

"I'm going to start a new campaign, I'm going out on a campaign to raise a million pounds over the next few months. It will be my own personal campaign.

"I'm going to travel around the country with my son, asking two simple questions with the idea of getting everybody to invest £1.

"My son, who is 17, bought a Series 3 Land Rover. He has agreed to come and be my cameraman. He's going to drive it around the country, and we're going to sleep in the back of it, and it's going to be an adventure."

Inside the Queen's Market in Morecambe, October 2023.

Mr Smith said the around £10,000 raised so far towards the project, will remain in the Queen's Market Community Interest Company (CIC) bank account.

He said this campaign will be his alone, and once the money is raised, he will "get the building up and running" then hand it over to the CIC.

Mr Smith said he will be asking people he meets two questions - "In life, what do you dream to be?" and "How can society help build, enable and empower that dream?"

Anyone who donates £1 will be recognised on some artwork on the ceiling if the building reopens.

The Victoria Street premises had been closed for years until former Morecambe High School pupil Nick bought it at auction for £50,000 in 2015.

He then began the painstaking process of clearing the derelict building of 200 tonnes of rubbish, restoring original features, and transforming the look of the interior and exterior - all by himself.

Mr Smith's vision for Queens Market is a community hub where local people can go to develop skills in art, performance, science, technology and much more.

The Queens Market building, pictured in July 2024.

Since then, he has been trying to raise funds so the community interest company can run the project, but has found it hard to get the support he needs.

In 2022, he told Beyond Radio he was ready to scrap the project if funding couldn't be found by the end of the year, but then decided to continue.

Read more: Morecambe Queen's Market project may be scrapped unless funding found by end of year - Beyond Radio

INTERVIEW: "I don't want to sell out" says man who singlehandedly restored iconic Morecambe venue - Beyond Radio

Read more: INTERVIEW: New Yorkers raise £3,300 to help breathe life into former Morecambe cinema and nightclub - Beyond Radio

 

Earlier this month, Nick spoke to us about 'The Veranda' row of shops on West Street in Morecambe, which he also owns.

He hoped his recent revamp of the shops will inspire other property owners in the West End to do the same, and said he has kept the rent low to give start-ups the chance to get a foot on the small business ladder.

Read more: INTERVIEW: 'Secret' row of shops in Morecambe gets makeover and new name - Beyond Radio

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