Month: April 2019

Wendy Wright, Morecambe & Wise, and 25 years of the Southport meet and greet

This year sees the 25th anniversary of the introduction of Southport’s famous ‘Meet and Greet’ for groups, these days better known as the Southport Welcome.

In 1994 the tourist office brought together a team of ‘Coach Welcome Hosts’ to meet and greet coaches and groups arriving in the town centre on day trips.

Southport meet and greet
This spring, Wendy Wright will celebrate 25 years of welcoming groups to Southport

Located at the main coach drop-off point in Eastbank Street Square, close to the main shopping thoroughfare of Lord Street, and operating from April to October, the team hand out leaflets, maps and discount vouchers, helping to ensure that groups make the most of their visit.

Over the years the members of the team have become the ‘face’ of Southport, and have become well known by coach drivers, group travel organisers and regular visitors.

But one face stands out. Wendy Wright is the only member of the original team and this year will celebrate her 25th anniversary as a Coach Welcome Host.

But although Wendy is well known to visitors, she’s been a familiar face to the people of Southport since the 1960s when she first appeared as a Bunny Girl at the Kingsway Club, a major entertainment venue in the town.


Southport welcome
Wendy Wright as a ‘Bunny Girl’ at Southport’s Kingsway Club

As a dancer, Wendy shared the limelight with the A-listers of the day, including The Beatles, Cilla Black, Engelbert Humperdink, Tom Jones and Norman Wisdom.

Southport welcome
Wendy with Norman Wisdom
Southport welcome
“Norman Wisdom was my favourite”

“Norman Wisdom was my favourite,” says Wendy. “He was a lovely man, such a quiet, gentle man.”

The Kingsway Bunny Girls had a hectic schedule.

“We used to learn the routines on the Sunday for the rest of the week. A new routine every week. It was hard work, but fun, and we used to meet all the stars.”

In 1965, Wendy also appeared in panto with Morecambe and Wise at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre as the understudy to the female lead in a production of ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

Southport Welcome
Wendy, left, with Morecambe & Wise

“It was a lot of fun,” she says. “I did all the rehearsals with them. There was a lot of ad-libbing with them. I also appeared with Ken Dodd when he was at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool.”

Southport welcome
Wendy worked with Ken Dodd at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool

2019 not only sees Wendy’s 25th anniversary, but also sees another significant milestone in group travel to the town.

“Each year, Southport welcomes around 4,000 coaches that come to the town on day trips, short breaks and longer holidays,” says Steve Christian, Destination Development Manager with Visit Southport. “Our records don’t go back to 1994, but what we do know is that looking at the last 10 years, 2019 looks set to see our two millionth visitor arriving by coach. Wendy’s enthusiasm and commitment have played a significant role in making Southport an attractive destination for groups. Later in the year we will be celebrating her anniversary and our two millionth visitor.”

Southport welcome
Steve Christian celebrating 25 years of the Southport Welcome

For more information about group visits to Southport, and the ‘Southport Welcome’, go to


Skipton’s Rendezvous Hotel to launch new £300k electric-powered ‘Eco Swan’ restaurant boat

The Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton in North Yorkshire is to launch a new £300,000 electric-powered restaurant boat that will give groups the opportunity to experience the tranquillity and scenery of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Rendezvous Hotel
Restaurant boat ‘Eco Swan’ will be launched later this summer

The ‘Eco Swan’, which is due to enter service later in the summer, is 60 feet (18 metres) in length and can seat up to 60. It has been specially designed to be both a restaurant and a function space. The interior is flexible to accommodate different requirements, from executive dining for 36, to lunchtime and evening meals, and parties and other functions.


The steel-hulled boat has wheelchair access, is fully air-conditioned and has a bar and toilets. Large double-glazed windows and a headroom of nearly seven feet (two metres) offers a spacious interior. Floodlights are fitted to the roof to illuminate the canal banks on evening cruises. The boat is also fully heated for all-year-round use.


Food is freshly cooked in the hotel’s own kitchens and brought aboard to be prepared in a purpose-built galley area at the rear of the boat.


A 20kw motor is powered by a bank of sealed, rechargeable batteries weighing 4200 kg, giving a quieter, ecologically friendly, vibration-free cruise.


The launch of the new boat will be the culmination of a long-held wish by the owner of the Rendezvous Hotel, Malcolm Weaving.


Commenting on the boat, he says: “In 2018 we introduced a new dinner cruise option for our groups and other guests using a boat from a local trip boat owner. This proved extremely popular, giving groups and our other guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing cruise and good food along the tranquil Leeds and Liverpool Canal. However, I was keen to have a boat of my own that we could use both as a restaurant and for functions. However, because we’ve been developing the hotel’s eco-friendly credentials, including the introduction of a biomass heating system and electric car-charging points, I wanted the new boat to be fully electric, hence the name ‘Eco Swan’.


“It is the first 60-feet-long, 14-feet-wide electric dining barge on any canal in Great Britain. Not only will it offer a peaceful way to see more of the wonderful scenery in this part of Yorkshire but it will also provide an additional function space for the many groups who choose to stay with us during the year.”


‘Eco Swan’ has been built to strict Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) regulations and has been approved to operate on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal by the Canal & River Trust. The two-person crew will be accredited by the MCA. The cabin crew and bar staff will be members of the Rendezvous Hotel staff.


To aid movement the boat is fitted with bow thrusters. Steering is by a power-assisted electronic hydraulic joystick. The wheelhouse is located at the rear of the boat and extends above the roof of the passenger cabin to give excellent forward visibility. The wheelhouse can be lowered to enable the boat to pass under low bridges.


For more information about dinner cruises and group stays, go to www.rendezvous-skipton.co.uk