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27 July 2007

NEWSLETTER NO 32                    27 JULY 2007

28 August is the 800th anniversary of the granting of Letters Patent to Liverpool by  King John, in effect making the little settlement officially a borough. 23 August is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade.


The Maritime Museum tomorrow opens its Magical History Tour looking at the events which shaped the city’s history over the last eight hundred years. It runs till September 2009. Jon Murden, who has curated the exhibition says: “This is a memorable experience for all visitors, however well they know the city.  It is the story of the people of who have made Liverpool, not just the streets and buildings.” King John’s “Letters Patent” of 1207 are on display. The medieval seven street are showcased.  An introductory film covers the city’s 800 years in eight minutes  -  but there is plenty to occupy the visitor all day.

 Christoph Gruneberg, Director of Tate Liverpool, will be one of the judges of the Turner Prize, the exhibition for which will be at Liverpool Tate from 19 Oct 2007 to 13 Jan 2008. The gallery currently presents a major retrospective exhibition of paintings by Peter Blake, the largest since his Tate Gallery exhibition in 1983. A highly influential and original artist, Blake is often described as the godfather of British Pop art and Liverpool’s adopted son. It includes major icons of twentieth century art, such as On the Balcony 1955-57, The Toy Shop 1962 and The Beatles 1963-68.

 The Arena and Conference Centre (ACC) at Kings Dock is part of the heritage which Liverpool gives in 2007 and 2008 to future generations.  (The newly opened heritage centre in St George’s Hall and The Museum of Liverpool, for which work is under way, are others). The ACC (for which bookings are going well) will bring to the city a type of visitor which the city has not seen in sufficient numbers recent years  -  potential employers and investors. (The British Chambers of Commerce will meet in the ACC in 2008, the first time the meeting has been held outside London for some time.) It is important that such visitors receive a favourable impression of the city. We are constantly told that everything is being prepared but that feeling of confidence has not yet been transmitted to many people in the city. When we see new standards of street cleaning, flags, “welcome” signs and a festive air coming into view, we will know that all will be well.

 Jason Harborow, head of Liverpool Culture Company, was asked in a recent meeting of a  City Council Committee why there is no music in our city’s streets. In fact there are occasional buskers, mostly not very good, and I heard a pair of splendid African drums being played in Church Street the other day but more and better music will be needed. Yet when visiting Exeter recently, there was a country and western combo playing in the main street that was of sufficiently high standard to attract people to stand and listen to it. I suppose Exeter Council paid them to play. In Banbury I  saw a competent Irish tenor singing in the market place, selling CDs of his music (to pay for his visit, no doubt). There should be music in Liverpool’s streets. It’s part of our heritage.  On the same theme, some months ago, someone wanted to organize that in at least one pub in Liverpool there would be live 1960s music every night of the week next summer. What happened to this idea? Will many of the visitors to Liverpool really not have the chance to hear live music from the Beatles era?

 An answer to a question posed under the official question-and-answer system (which is open to everyone), the City Council says it is expected that two on-site plaques to mark each of Liverpool’s seven original streets will be in place by October this year. A “hub” panel in Castle Street will follow at a later date. (Note to officials: 2007, Liverpool’s 800th anniversary year, ends in five months time!).

In answer to another question, the authorities say that a comprehensive programme to “clean, green and dress” arterial routes and the city centre for 2008 is in hand.  Given the present almost complete lack of visible preparations, one has to wonder whether this is jam today, jam tomorrow or jam the week after next. (Note as in brackets in preceding item).

 Liverpool has so many wonderful Victorian buildings and it is a pity that that public has access to only a few of them.  One such building is Il Palazzo, a former bank built in 1895 in Water Street, now office accommodation. You can at least look through the door at the pillars and the ceiling. The Town Hall will be open to visitors as usual for the first two weeks in August.  Liverpool Heritage Forum is campaigning for this magnificent building to be open for several days every week next summer.  So far, this has been rebuffed. The message that 2008 is a special year launching a new era for tourism in Liverpool and so requires a new approach to many matters has evidently not fully penetrated the system. This is the sort of issue where clear and strong overall leadership would produce the sort of successful year which we all want to see.

Sixteen of Anthony Gormley’s iron men will be moved to new locations on Crosby beach.  This follows the U-turn by Sefton Council which decided in the end that the statues should remain, provided that certain were relocated, for safety reasons.

 It is disappointing that the revival of the Festival Gardens on the way to Otterspool, laid out as part of the 1984 International Garden Festival, is not going to be finished by the time 2008 is over.  The plans were “called in” to London by the departing Secretary of State Local Government, Minister Ruth Kelly. It was she also who scrapped the projected tower at Brunswick, one of the few high class architectural schemes proposed for the city in recent times. Amazing how the folk down in London know what is best for us!

 Some artists is Wirral are planning a series of exhibitions in Wirral in 2008, to mark Liverpool’s centenary year. They plan to show their works in a number of locations. One issue is how to get the visitors which will pour into Liverpool to cross over the water to locations such as West Kirby and Wallasey.  Another issue is whether Wirral Council, with its varied track record on culture and heritage, will be effectively supportive. Contacts: Lydia Bates at the Art Finder’s Gallery in Queen Avenue (off Castle Street) on 0845 257 0357.
 It is nice to see businesses with premises in the city supporting the arts. Law firm DLA Piper is sponsoring display at the Tate of works by Andy Warhol, Degas and Picasso under the title “How it looked and how it felt” as part of a series of displays of international modern art.

 Leeds had its 800th anniversary in April (but it didn’t get a Royal charter until the 1600s so our honour is saved!) There is nothing to see around the city to indicate that this is an anniversary year except for an interesting exhibition in the Central Library. This consists of about a dozen display boards, each about a metre tall and two metres wide, bearing pictures, maps and texts showing how the city was at certain key dates in its history. The exhibition was arranged by the Thoresby Society, the local history society. Liverpool’s  Magical History Tour (see above) covers this ground on a much bigger scale but there might still be scope to copy the Thoresby Society’s work in a building elsewhere in town. Leeds is a clean and sophisticated city. Let’s hope that Liverpool can match it when the Big Dig is finished.

 Oxford City and Oxfordshire county are this year making much of their “Thousand years” of history as a theme in tourist literature, even though the city’s origins are hidden by the mists of time and do not precisely relate to 1007. Presumably this exercise will stretch the tourist appeal of the celebratory year into future years, something that Liverpool must also do.


 Liverpool Heritage Forum recently organized a talk in the Town Hall at which Graham Fisher described many of Liverpool’s greatest buildings.  Over 120 people attended.  There will be a further meeting on 18 October.

Liverpool Culture Company continues to hold stakeholder meetings around the city.  For a recent one in Norris Green, over forty people said they would come.  About 20 turned up.

A DVD of the history of Flaybrick cemetery in Birkenhead is on sale from the Williamson Art Gallery. £9.99.

 The Birkenhead News reported that Peter Crawford, Chair of Bidston Preservation Society has researched into memories of the deep air raid shelters built under Bidston Hill and under Tranmere in 1941. The tunnels were 7 ft wide and 6 ft high. 2,213 bunks and 793 seats were provided as well as a canteen and toilets. The tunnels were blocked up in the 1950s. 

Some years ago the sculpture in the pediment over the colonnade of St George’s Hall facing St John’s Lane was removed as it had deteriorated due to pollution. It was described as “one of the richest compositions in architectural sculpture ever executed in this country”. Most of it apparently ended up as hardcore for a road project. There are those who say that certain City Councillors of the time welcomed its destruction because some of what the figures displayed were not “politically correct”. There is now a proposal to reproduce this sculpture, at a price of £4m. This idea deserves encouragement following the successful opening of the heritage centre in St Georges’ Hall, which has attracted large numbers of visitors and much praise.

A Victorian Sewer Pipe, Grade 2 Listed, situated at the corner of Thomas Drive and Thomas Lane, Liverpool 14 is under threat from developers who want to remove it from its underground sewer as it is in the way of redesigning a road junction. Redrow have applied to Liverpool City Council, who have so far not determined the application. Liverpool 14 Community Action Group is opposing the plan. This group is looking for as much information as possible to send to John Hayes at the City Planning Dept to try to stop the integrity of this listed item being destroyed. It has forwarded the Listed Building details from English Heritage to LCC, but any extra information about it, or opposition to its removal and potential destruction would be greatly appreciated by this group. Contact: 0151 478 1862.

Thirteen of Liverpool’s parks have received Green Flag awards from the Civic Trust. For the first time, Croxteth Park and Anfield crematorium Memorial Garden have been included.  This national exercise is run from the Trust’s Liverpool office.

Lorraine Rogers, Chairman of Tranmere Rovers, has been made Chief Executive Officer of the Mersey Partnership (TMP), which is responsible for attracting tourism as well as attracting investment to the area. The interface between TMP and Liverpool Culture Company as regards tourism is not totally clear. Heritage is of course a main aspect of tourism in Liverpool.

The Charity Commission with which voluntary organizations are registered is undertaking a public consultation about the principles of public benefit. To qualify for charitable status and the benefits which this gives, the public at large has to benefit from the activities undertaken.

The Northwest Culture Observatory Online provides information about the region’s cultural activities. It is sponsored by various public authorities such as DEMOS, Lime, Creative Partnerships, Impacts08, Arts Council England, ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), Sport England, 50:50 Vision, Northwest Regional Development Agency, North West Museums Hub, Museums Libraries and Archives, North West, North West Regional Intelligence Unit, Invest to Save: Arts in Health, English Heritage, RENEW Northwest, National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool Biennial and Merseyside ACME….(Phew! What a list!) Loyd Grossman, Chair, Culture Northwest (and Deputy Chairman of Liverpool Culture Company as well as Chairman of the Trustees of National Museums Liverpool) said: “For the first time in the Northwest partners can access and showcase groundbreaking culture sector research and intelligence”. Contact: Aoife Flanagan, Culture Northwest, on 0161-8177413 or see


Cornish Cream, Bakewell Tarts, Cumberland Sausage…. What foods have places around Liverpool given their names to? I heard a new one the other day while trying to understand why one of my gooseberry bushes, which has performed perfectly normally until now, has decided to produce red instead of green fruit.  I was told by he who knows (the secretary of the allotments where I have my gooseberry bushes) that this planth has been cross pollinated and has become a “Lancashire Lad” gooseberry. No doubt some bumble bee was not concentrating on what it was doing.  How does the county of my birth get blamed (or credited) with red gooseberries? What did this Lad do?

Now I see that the Mid Cheshire Gooseberry Society has re-published “The Gooseberry Song” of 1875. This lists both “Lord Liverpool” and “Lord Derby” as types of gooseberry. Was one of these two the Lancashire Lad concerned?

Another mystery is the Liverpool Tart. (No, I’m not talking about that kind of tart  -  this is a respectable publication). Now on sale somewhere in the city I hear, it is apparently a delicacy of pastry and custard. Anyone knows any more local attributions of food or drink?

The other day, at a social gathering of important people in London, I told a worthy lady that I was from the Liverpool area.  “Oh, Liverpool”, said the lady, “I’ve never been there.  It’s in Cheshire, isn’t it, or is that Manchester?”  I should refer her to the words of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, who said in 1846 “I have heard of greatness of Liverpool but the reality far surpassed the expectation”. Or to the words of the psychiatrist Carl Jung in 1927 “Liverpool is the pool of life”.

 Andrew Pearce, Editor.

 Professor Drummond  Bone, Chairman of Liverpool Culture Company will speak to the Forum on the evening of 26 November. Details later.

Tuesday 21 August  5.30 p.m at Liverpool Town Hall.  Memorial Lecture Lecture by Dr. Molfi Asante on the Ideological Origins of Chattel Slavery. 

Thursday 23 August, Slavery Rememberance Day.  10.45 a.m. St Nicholas Church. Mulit Faith Act of Reflection. The from 12 noon tp 3 p.m. various festivities AT Otterspool. From 10.00 a.m to 7 p.m. Opnenig of the International Slavery Musuem. Everyone welcome.  All events free. Info 0151 478 4543.

 Merseyside Maritime Museum is hosting La Bouche du Roi, an immersive multi-media installation by Bénin-born artist Romuald Hazoumé. The contemporary work will be on show from 4 August until 2 September 2007 as part of the year-long events programme marking the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the British Slave Trade.

 Peter Blake: a retrospective at the Tate 29 June  –  23 September 2007. Info from Art Finders gallery in Queen Avenue, off Castle Street.

 The National association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) has a Day of Special Interests on Tuesday 23 October at the Liverpool Tate: “Liverpool & the Arts”.  10.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.  £37 . Contact