Liverpool On Screen – Explore the city’s cinematic side

Guest article by Gary Lunt of Reel Tours.

Reel Tours - Gary Lunt
Gary Lunt of Reel Tours

You may not have realised it, but Liverpool is a cinematic hub. The city was captured on film for first time in 1897 and believe it or not, that actually pre-dates the first credited Hollywood movie by a staggering thirteen years.

It has been well over a century since the cameras first rolled in our Liverpool home, but it’s connection with the movie and TV world is stronger today than ever. In fact, Liverpool is the most filmed in city in Britain after London and one of Europe’s most popular filming destinations.

Of course, there are many reasons for this, but rather than making this a history lesson, let’s delve straight into some of the locations in the city, that you might pass on a daily basis and have no idea that you’re actually standing on a former film-set.

Letter to Brezhnev

Letter To Brezhnev

Letter to Brezhnev is a tremendous piece of scouse cinema that dates back to 1985. It was written by Frank Clarke and directed by Chris Bernard and it had a tremendous cast, featuring the likes of Alexandra Pigg, Peter Firth, Alfred Molina and Margi Clarke.

It tells the story of two Soviet sailors, Peter (Firth) and Sergei (Molina), who go ashore in Liverpool to spend one night in the city before departing the following morning.  Whilst out on the town, they bump into Elaine (Pigg) and Theresa (Clarke), and an instant romance is formed, so much so, that Elaine writes to the Soviet General Secretary, Leonid Brezhnev, asking for him to arrange a reunion.

The film acts as a postcard of 1980s Liverpool, with plenty of locations still familiar today, but those of you who may frequent the JD Gym on Dale Street, which was previously the State Ballroom nightclub, will be achieving your fitness goals in the very venue where Peter, Sergei, Elaine and Theresa all meet for the first time.

Yesterday

Yesterday

Since The Beatles called it a day back in 1970 there has been a great deal of Fab Four flicks, be it biopics, tales of ‘What if’ and of course jukebox musicals such as the massively underrated Across the Universe from 2007. 

Certainly the most popular of recent Beatles films was Danny Boyle’s Yesterday from 2019, which was written by Richard Curtis and stars Himesh Patel, Lilly James, Ed Sheeran and Joe Fry, just to name a few. 

An unexplained event occurs which plunges the world into a moment of darkness and when all resumes, it appears that nobody can remember who The Beatles are. That however, is nobody, except for struggling musician, Jack Malik (Patel). With this sudden realisation, he decides to pass off the music of John, Paul, George & Ringo as his own, so in order to make everything seem authentic regarding the countless locations that feature in the lyrics of the songs, Jack makes a pilgrimage to Liverpool.

You can take your pick of The Beatles hotspots in the city which all feature predominantly, however, one particularly important exchange isn’t a musical themed location, but merely the gateway into Liverpool. The next time that you pop into Upper Crust in Lime Street station, you can sit at the “Yesterday” table and pretend that you’re the protagonist in a Danny Boyle flick.

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire

It’s quite amazing to think that a film that won four Oscars, including Best Picture which is the most prestigious Academy Award of them all, was actually filmed right on our doorstep. But that’s what happened with Hugh Hudson’s sporting drama Chariots of Fire.

Two men, Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), race for the gold in the 1924 Olympics. While one runs for his faith, the other participates to leave prejudice behind. It’s a stirring tale of friendship, determination and religion all set to an incredible score by Vangelis. Few films have had the cultural impact of Chariots of Fire and with Rowan Atkinson comedically referencing it in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012, you come to realise just how important of a film it still is.

There are numerous locations in the local area that feature in the film, but the most famous of which has to be the Bebington Oval, which is located on the Wirral. When you’re watching the Olympic games set in Paris, 1924 in the film, you’re actually just on the other side of the river Mersey!

The Irregulars

The Irregulars Netflix Show

The Irregulars is an original Netflix series that went live on the streaming service in March this year and it focuses on the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’ who were a gang of children and young adults, that frequently popped-up in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries. They would act as the Great Detective’s eyes and ears on the ground and supply him with information or “the word on the street”.

Writer, Tom Bidwell, wrote an eight episode series for the streaming giant that focused on the adventures of the gang. It features a talented, young cast, who you can be sure will go on to have long and successful careers in film & TV in the years ahead. Thaddea Graham, McKell David, Jojo Macari, Harrison Osterfield and Darci Shaw make up the Victorian group of friends and they are all backed-up by an equally talented supporting cast.

Of course, the show is set in Victorian England, with much of the action taking place in central London, however, Liverpool once again stepped-up and was able to transform itself into the capital of yesteryear. Locations such as St George’s Plateau and William Brown Street feature in the series, but if you head up to Falkner Street, in the Georgian Quarter of the city, you’ll be able to track down the building that doubles for the famous 221B Baker Street, which of course is Sherlock HQ.

The 51st State

The 51st State

The 51st State is such an important film to Liverpool being used as a major location, as it truly brought the city into the 21st Century by showcasing a wide range of areas that are suitable for making major motion pictures. Not only that, but the cast in the film from outside of the city, all sang Liverpool’s praises afterwards, which surely helped the cause. 

Stars such as Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Rhys Ifans, Meat Loaf and Sean Pertwee all had major roles in the film, as well as top local talent including Ricky Tomlinson, Michael Starke and Paul Barber. The narrative focuses on Elmo (Jackson), who is a master chemist that has created a new drug that provides the ultimate high. News of this new substance of course creates a bidding war between some of the most powerful drug dealers on either side of the Atlantic and things soon take a bizarre and violent turn…

Ronny Yu’s direction makes it a genre mash-up of crime, comedy and action all rolled into one and what is wonderful about it, is that it uses practically the whole city as a backdrop. You see pubs on the outskirts of the region, the docks, some of the iconic buildings of the city centre, but the most memorable scene has to be in the final moments, which takes place in a corporate box at Anfield stadium as Liverpool take on Manchester United. If you haven’t seen the film before, it’s a scene that you’re not likely to forget any time soon.  

The Crown

The Crown

You would be hard pushed to find a TV series that has caused as much of a stir as what The Crown has done in recent years. It just goes to show that there is a real thirst for dramatised Royal gossip and whether you’re a fan of the occupants of Buckingham Palace or not, this has truly become one of the shows most discussed around water coolers in workplaces across the globe.

Earlier this year, series 4 was added to Netlix, however, in the previous series Liverpool, ever a chameleon city when onscreen, was doubling for Washington D.C. in the 1960s. North John Street featured heavily in the scenes as restaurants and shop fronts on the busy Liverpool street were all decorated to make them appear as if you were stood in the American capital.

Street signs were changed, American phone booths were erected and the street was filled with yellow cabs, popular cars from across the pond and of course a series of extras who had all been dressed up to represent the fashions of the swinging 60s.

A House Through Time

A House Through Time Liverpool

A House Through Time is a tremendous documentary series that has aired annually on BBC 2, since its debut in 2018. The show focuses on one individual residential property in a British city and it gives the complete social history of the building and its occupants over the years.

Later this year, the fourth series will be screened, featuring a home in Leeds and previously, properties in Newcastle and Bristol have appeared in the show in the second and third series, respectively, however, in the inaugural series, it was Liverpool that took centre stage.

Renowned historian, David Olusoga helmed the four episodes that revealed the history of the owners of 62 Falkner Street, which is located in the Canning area of the city. The four-bedroom, Grade II listed property has a rich heritage, dating all the way back to the 1800s and catching up with the series on BBC iPlayer, is well worthy use of your time, it is truly excellent television.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool

Back in 2017, the wonderful drama, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, hit cinema screens worldwide. It’s a powerful tale that surprised audiences once they had discovered that it was a true tale. It was written by Matt Greenhalgh, who is certainly no stranger to scouse narratives, after he had previously written the screenplay for Nowhere Boy back in 2009.

The narrative focuses on the personal life Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening), who was an Oscar winning actor and at one time, seen as a screen rival to Marilyn Monroe. In the mid-1970’s, Grahame was predominantly working in theatre and whilst staying in London, she met a young actor from Liverpool called Pete Turner (Jamie Bell), whom she immediately struck-up an instant romance with. 

As their romance blossoms, Grahame falls ill and she decides to try and recuperate away from the limelight, so she retreats to Pete’s family home in Liverpool. It’s a heartwarming tale about a fading film star wanting to spend some time in a city that they love so dearly. 

Of course, there are many locations that feature throughout the films run time, but one prominent scene takes place in Ye Cracke, one of the finest watering holes in Britain. You can visit the pub on Rice Street, order yourself a beverage, pick a tune on their glorious juke box and enjoy the cinematic link that the venue has to offer. 

Boys from the Black Stuff

Boys From The Black Stuff

Boys from the Black Stuff is a gritty five-part drama series that originally aired on BBC Two back in 1982. It was written by Liverpool writer, Alan Bleasdale and it focuses on the social struggles of the British working class during Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister; in a time when just over one-eighth of the population was unemployed. 

The titular “Black Stuff” is due to the central characters in the show, being tarmac layers before they lost their jobs, and over the course of the five episodes, we see them trying to find their way in world, during a notoriously difficult time.

One of the major locations from the show was The Green Man pub, which was located on Vauxhall Road, just outside of the city centre. Unfortunately, that location has recently been demolished with new housing built on its site, however, one part of the city features in a particularly prominent scene and it is all the more noteworthy due to how it has changed in the years since the shows release.

Today, the Royal Albert Dock is one of the most beautiful parts of the city. It’s a vibrant hub, filled with museums, galleries, restaurants and cafes, and yet, in Boys from the Black Stuff it is shown as being a derelict, tired and dangerous area to visit. It wasn’t until the end of the 1980s, when the now booming area, was drastically redeveloped to make it more appealing to visitors.

If you would like to discover more of Liverpool’s cinematic secrets, then you can join Gary on a film location walking tour by booking online at reeltours.co.uk (new dates are on the site now).

Alternatively you can follow them on their social media channels, which are listed below.

Facebook: ReelToursUK
Twitter: @ReelTours
Instagram: reeltours
YouTube: Reel Tours

10 Fun Activities To Do This Spring

10 Fun Things To Do This Spring

Now that spring is upon us and lockdown is easing, we can start to look ahead to future activities, events and getting outdoors more often.

There is so much to love about the spring season with colourful flowers sprouting up from the ground, sunshine and Easter. It’s an ideal time to try something new and to prepare for the year ahead.

We’ve suggested a range of ideas for spring, including spring crafting, nature walks and also featured resources for mental health and exercise.

Here is a list of ways to enjoy and make the most of spring 2021.

1. Nature walks

There are so many great local nature walks to take on Merseyside and springtime is perfect to see them at their best.

The Sefton and West Lancashire coastal path and Undiscovered Formby walks are lovely scenic routes to see the River Mersey and surroundings.

There’s also the beautiful Wirral Circular Trail, a longer walk with stunning views of the Dee Estuary.

2. Mental health

As we gradually emerge from lockdown, it’s good to still keep on top of our mental health this spring.

There are a host of meditation and yoga classes online, such as those at Mix Pose and Liverpool’s Planet Yoga. The Mind Map website also acts as a one-stop shop to deal with mental health matters. They offer a range of help, including counselling, training and advice.

3. Spring planting

Get planting this spring for a very colourful summer and a way to reconnect with nature. Summer bulbs are ideal for patio containers and add colour to mixed borders without taking up much space.

Bulbs such as Alliums, Agapanthus and Cannas can be planted in spring, when the soil is beginning to warm up. The National Trust and the BBC have some great planting tips to get you started.

4. Take a course/ Be a volunteer

Try something new this spring and start a new course or volunteer for a charity.

Signs4Life free 6 week BSL course is a new initiative to encourage more members of the public to take up sign language. You could also take up volunteer work with a charity such as Mind or a local food bank.

10 Fun Things to Do This Spring Bike Ride

5. Exercise

Take up a new form of exercise. Cycling is great for getting out and about in the warmer weather, have a look at Liverpool City Council’s cycling information for cycle maps, routes, CityBike hire and more. Outdoor exercise is relatively cheap and another great way to help with mental health.

The new lockdown changes will also allow more use of our parks, including tennis courts and outdoor gym facilities. If you’re in need of some inspiration, the BBC has some great resources and ideas.

6. Outdoor art activities

Outdoor drawing and painting are fantastic ways to enjoy the spring weather and take in the scenery. There are many online drawing classes if you need help to get started.

Make. Liverpool Digital Drink & Draw have regular classes on Zoom and dot-art also have a host of art classes to explore.

7. Spring exhibitions 

Take in some art this spring. The 2021 Liverpool Biennial opens in March with a host of events. The event commissions new art every two years, previous exhibitions have included Anthony Gormley’s Another Place.

The Independents Biennial is also well worth checking out to discover emerging artists, this year they feature Jay Hampton and Mark Simmonds, amongst many others.

Both festivals run 20 March-6 June.

10 Fun Things To Do This Spring Easter

8. Easter treats

With Easter just around the corner there’s plenty of opportunities to get creative in the kitchen with the family.

Homemade Easter eggs are great fun to make and you could also try making customised hot cross buns. These are perfect for allowing kids to make their own designs and get creative. BBC Good Food has a variety of fun Easter projects for kids, which should keep the whole family entertained for hours.

9. Spring crafts 

If you are looking for a fun way to celebrate the spring season, try some spring crafting. There are many fun and easy ways to create, such as flower crafts and butterfly rings for kids. These can be made with craft supplies you probably already have on hand.

You could also try making cards and gifts for Easter, another nice opportunity to get creative with the family.

10. Nature watching

As spring comes into life, it’s good to get outdoors with the family to discover birds and wildlife. The RSPB have a comprehensive set of online resources for identifying birds and signs of spring.

The BBC also have many resources for spring online, including archives and activities based around their Springwatch programme. The site includes tips on feeding and photographing wildlife.

Links and Resources 2021: Covid-19

Below is a list of links and resources for artists and organisations in 2021, designed to provide support with Covid-19 during the year. Let us know if you come across more!

Support for Artists and Organisations

Funding

HMRC Helpline for businesses / freelancers affected by COVID-19
Advice for those concerned about paying their tax and furlough enquiries.

Arts & Culture Impact Fund
Social impact investment fund for socially driven arts, culture and heritage organisations.

Art Collection
A new Liverpool community fund for artists and creatives in Liverpool.

LCVS Community Impact Fund
Helps voluntary sector organisations and registered charities build stronger communities across Liverpool and Merseyside.

PRS Emergency Relief Fund
Funding for songwriters and musicians.

Help Musicians Funding Wizard
Find out what funding you can apply for

Artists’ General Benevolent Institution
General benevolent funding for artists who can’t work due to age or serious illness

Musicians’ Union Hardship Fund
Support for MU members

Steve Morgan Foundation Fund
Apply for emergency hardship funding (charities and not-for-profits in Merseyside, North Wales and Cheshire west of M6)

Assura/Rugby League World Cup 2021 community grants programme
Helps charitable/voluntary sector organisations to deliver a range of wellbeing project activities.

Equity Charitable Trust
Financial support for performers who are struggling or wish to retrain

Music Venue Trust
Support for music venues affected by COVID-19 closures

Society of Authors Emergency Fund
Support for authors

Actors’ Children’s Trust
Support for actors who are also parents and their children

Dance Professionals Fund
Support for dance professionals of all ages

Acting for Others
Support for theatre profession

Mentoring/ Advice

The Mind Map mental health resource
A ‘one stop shop’ for mental health provision.

Mersey Counselling
Therapy and counselling regardless of ability to pay, gender, ethnicity, age or status.

Creative England’s Growth Programmes
Proactively plan your year with Creative England’s Growth Programmes.

Creative Fatigue: The dangers of the productivity warrior narrative – Tmesis Theatre
Liverpool artist Becky Dowling shares her thoughts on coping during the lockdown.

Do You Even Lift, Sis?
Female community promoting sustainable healthy living for the mind and body.

Mind – mental health charity
Coronavirus and your mental wellbeing.

Creative Industries Foundation: Responses from the Sector
Consistently updated resource page for creative businesses and freelancers

Leapers Guide to Working From Home While Quarantined
Great advice from Leapers, an organisation supporting the workplace wellbeing of the self-employed

Stay Well, Supported and Creative
Arts Professional’s new microsite for COVID-19 updates

Theatre Support
Microsite with resources for theatre professionals

General Resources

Key Info and Contact Numbers from Liverpool City Council

Culturepool – Add an Offer
Add content to the Culturepool portal for sharing arts and cultural activity with teachers and education professionals

Charity FoodCycle
FoodCycle, the charity that fights food poverty and loneliness.

Kind
Helping disadvantaged families and children on Merseyside.

Samaritans
Help and support during difficult times for anyone who needs someone.

Happy Ears: Liverpool Music to Enjoy Online

Melodic Distraction Radio Liverpool

There’s a host of online music resources to explore during the current lockdown. They range from classical music at the Philharmonic Hall, Milapfest’s series of Indian music concerts and the archive of the British Music experience. 

Closer to home, Beneath the Merseybeat charts the history and influence of Black Liverpool music and Liverpool Cathedral has its own online music archive. There is also a full programme of streaming gigs from renowned indie venue Future Yard in Birkenhead.

There really is something for everyone to beat the lockdown boredom and add some music to your day.

1 Philharmonic Hall Concerts On Demand

Experience the very best concerts by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, filmed live at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, from the comfort of your home. 

The concerts include the much loved Vasily Petrenko conducting music by Beethoven and Shostakovich.

Online now, until 28 February.

2 Music For The Mind and Soul Digital Concerts

Milapfest’s mission is to ‘Unite Hearts Through Arts’ by producing memorable and inspirational experiences in Indian Arts for everyone through a dynamic programme of performances, education and artist development opportunities. 

Their Music for the Mind and Soul digital concerts include a special tribute to the renowned Indian classical musician Pandit Nikhil Banerjee by Dr. Pandit Ranajit Sengupta.

The concerts are held on the last Saturday of each month and past performances can be watched here.

3 Beneath the Merseybeat Podcast – Liverpool International Music Festival

The Beneath the Merseybeat podcast series explores how Black American music found its way to the city post-war. The series looks at the impact these sounds had on Liverpool and its music scene, and how they were absorbed by musicians in the city. 

These themes are explored and chart what was happening throughout the 1960s and 70s. Their aim is to raise awareness of and help preserve Liverpool’s black music heritage.

Listen online now.

 4 British Music Experience

The British Music Experience boasts an unrivalled collection of memorabilia, stage outfits, instruments, images and footage. It charts the beginnings, rise and influence of British pop from 1945 to the present day

You can explore past events, screenings and gigs online at their website. Their archive includes coverage of Liverpool’s The Real Thing and OMD plus BBC6 Music DJ Mark Radcliffe.

Explore BME’s event archive.

Future Yard Birkenhead
Future Yard, Birkenhead

5 Future Yard – Digital Concert Programme

There is a fantastic digital programme of live streamed headline performances at Birkenhead’s Future Yard venue. Performances from Sonic Boom, OMD and many local musicians will be broadcast on YouTube. The shows will be on a high-quality stream and completely free to access. 

This is a chance to sample a small amount of the thrill of a live show, and also take a look inside Future Yard, before you can head along and enjoy a full show when they’re fully open.

Watch Future Yard’s previous live stream gigs.

6 Melodic Distraction Radio

A community radio station, online archive and magazine. The Melodic Distraction archive includes video covering electronic music and DJ’s, in Drift and The Path. 

Their online magazine also features local artists and recommendations.  The magazine is an ideal way to catch up on the current Merseyside music scene.

Check out the Melodic Distraction archive or listen live.

7 The Popular Music Show with Roger Hill, Radio Merseyside

Radio Merseyside has hosted the longest running alternative music show on UK local radio. Legendary Liverpool DJ Roger Hill has kept his programme going through all sorts of changes, of name, broadcast time, station policy and musical style. 

The show is a fabulous mix of local music, exotic sounds and some unique discoveries, including poetry and guest interviews.

The show is archived online and broadcast 9pm every Friday, Radio Merseyside.

Listen now.

8 Liverpool Cathedral Archive

Liverpool Cathedral has an online music based archive, with articles on their own choirs and visiting choirs. The choir has worked with many famous musicians, including former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney. 

Their website also includes a history and video performance of the Cathedral organ. Completed in 1926, it is the longest running pipe organ in the UK.

Delve into the Liverpool Cathedral archive.

9 Liverpool Digital Music Festival

Liverpool Digital Music Festival: Rise, will take place on the 27 and 28 February 2021. The online ‘from home’ digital music festival will showcase the best rising talent from the Liverpool City Region aged 18 to 24.

You can watch the festival live on their website and social media channels.

Blitzed: Liverpool Lives review

Written by Terry Sweeney

This exhibition is for anyone with an interest in Liverpool social history, or history during the Second World War. It uses photographs taken across the city by Liverpool City Police between  1940 and 1941 and starkly captures the devastation of Nazi bombing over that period, and particularly that of the May 1941 Blitz.

Liverpool was the most important port on the west coast of England for North American and Commonwealth supplies and was a key port in the Battle of the Atlantic. As such, Liverpool (and Birkenhead/Wallasey) was a key target for German Luftwaffe bombers during the Second World War (1939 to 1945).

During German air raids over that period more than 4,000 civilians were killed across Merseyside, 90,000 homes were destroyed and many thousands of people were made homeless.

Liverpool was hit multiple times during 1940 and well into 1941. The first major raid took place on 28 August 1940 when 160 bombers attacked the city. That raid carried on over the next three nights. There were 50 raids on the city over the next three month period. Some raids lasted over ten hours.

The air assault came to a peak in the Christmas Blitz of 20-22nd December. The Blitz continued into 1941 and the renewed bombing blitz peaked on 7 horrendous nights from 1st to 7th May 1941. The worst night of the bombing was Saturday 3 May 1941-Sunday 4 May. Fire brigade records show that on that night 298 enemy aircraft dropped around 363 tonnes of high explosives and 50,000 incendiary bombs.

The last German air raid on Liverpool took place on 10 January 1942, destroying several houses on Upper Stanhope Street.( Ironically, one of the houses destroyed was number 102, which had been the home of Alois Hitler Jr.-half brother to Adolf Hitler).

Liverpool suffered the second highest number of civilian deaths in air raids in the UK (after London). Due to press censorship, these deaths were often unreported or downplayed in the newspapers for propaganda purposes.

Many of the pictures in the exhibition are from the main roads in the City centre. But in addition to pictures from the docks and from the city centre, there are pictures from as far afield as Edge Lane, Lark Lane and Norris Green. German bombers often jettisoned their bombs as they left the target to save fuel and lighten the load to help them return home. Many fell on civilian’s houses rather than their intended target. 

Liverpool Overhead Railway, Strand Street and James Street, 2-3 May 1941, Merseyside Police

Many much loved buildings were destroyed, either during the Blitz, or were so badly damaged that they had to be pulled down afterwards. These include the Rotunda Theatre, shown here as it collapsed on fire; the Liverpool Overhead Railway (the ‘docker’s umbrella) which had to be completely demolished in the 1950’s.

The Customs Building was badly damaged and its beautiful dome destroyed, and it was eventually demolished. It is now the site of the Hilton Hotel and Chavasse Park. Many of you will be familiar with the fact that the rubble from the building was used as landfill to protect the beach as Crosby, and you can still find parts of the building today if you visit the front between Crosby and Hightown. 

St Luke’s Church, was destroyed by an incendiary bomb on 5 May 1941 and is now a monument to what Liverpool had to endure, and a garden of remembrance. It is of course, affectionately known as the ‘Bombed Out Church’.

There were major fires at St Sylvester’s School, and Great Georges Square, Lewis’s Department Store, the Bluecoat Chambers, India Buildings, Walton Prison, the former Mill Road Hospital ( where 85 people died including many mums and newborn babies), and buildings in Paradise Street, Hanover St, Lord St, South John St, South Castle St and Victoria Crescent were destroyed. Many are shown here by the Police photographers.

St Nicholas’s Church, opposite the Liver Building was gutted by a bomb and the picture of the aftermath of that raid lays bare the damage to the church. It’s worth visiting the repaired church after you have seen the exhibition to see how it has been lovingly restored.

The photographs are powerful enough but the personal testimonies putting the words of those people caught up in the events over still pictures of the action really bring home the effect on the local populace. Many of those who contributed to the testimonies were children at the time.

Louisa Street, Everton. 16 October 1940 Merseyside Police

Some of the stories they tell are devastating, others bring out some of the gallows humour of the situation. For example, one man tells of how he, as a child, scavenged cans of food found in the streets after explosions in the goods yards. With the labels blown off all you could hope was that they contained meat, but after taking them home often found that what they had in was spaghetti or peaches.

The direct hit on the large underground shelter on Durning Road, Edge Lane, was the worst single incident in the Liverpool Blitz regarding loss of life. It happened on 29 November 1940. About 300 people were packed into the basement of the Training Centre on Edge Lane.

A parachute mine hit the building which then collapsed into the shelter below, crushing many of the occupants. The deaths from the bomb were made worse by boiling water pouring in and gas igniting. In all 186 men, women and children were killed in that basement and many more badly injured.

As well as the photographs and taped testimonies, visitors to the exhibition have been able to leave responses to the exhibits. For example, detailing how parents or grandparents had lucky escapes. My own mother was buried alive when St Bridget’s Church Bevington Bush, was bombed in May.

Those people caught there were dug out by neighbours and firemen, some having to use their bare hands. She was 17 at the time; she was saved but many of her school friends were not. We haven’t been able to find out how many people died in St Bridget’s.

You can see how blast tape was applied to house windows to help stop flying glass injuring bystanders. Some of the windows were completely blown out. Other houses are almost demolished but you can see one interior wall left with wallpaper attached. There are pictures of young boys clambering over the rubble of some houses, or residents behind cordons looking on to what remains of their homes.

Visitors have left messages telling how they squeezed into Anderson shelters with their whole families. Photographs show Air Raid Precautions (ARP) personnel searching through the bombed ruins of houses for survivors. They were specially trained to understand how the houses may have collapsed and where survivors may still be buried.

One photograph (from Lark Lane) shows some of the exhausted men resting their steel helmets on the remains of a fireplace, and ‘part of a piano, most probably someone’s treasured possession, lies on top of the rubble.’

Gwladys Street School, Walton. 18-19 September 1940, Merseyside Police

Obviously some children at the time didn’t appreciate how terrible an ordeal it was and look on it as an opportunity to get out of school and explore with their mates. One picture shows the aftermath of a raid from September 1940 which badly damaged Gwladys Street School. As one young boy (at the time) said,

schools closed at the time of the Blitz, so we had a great time. We were up in the morning, looking at the bomb damage in various places. It was quite an adventurous time…’

A World War 2 bomb was found in the City Centre as late as 2016, but over the years, Liverpool has been steadily repaired and there is little evidence now of the bomb sites and ‘hollers’ that we used to play on when I was a boy. This exhibition is a timely reminder of the spirit of the people of Liverpool and the horrors of war.

Blitzed:Liverpool Lives exhibition, Museum of Liverpool, until summer 2021. 

Don McCullin at Tate Liverpool Review

A review by Terry Sweeney

Don McCullin’s career spans more than sixty years. He is one of the UK’s greatest living photographers, and arguably our greatest ever war photographer.

But his subject matter is wide ranging. He has documented early 60’s street gangs in London, poverty in London’s East End, Liverpool and other Northern cities, still life, landscapes and the horrors of war in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The images on display here cover his whole career. The 250 plus images, often accompanied by his own captions to bring them to life, are vibrant and arresting, and show his wonderful compositional skills and his deep empathy for his subjects.

McCullin began his career in 1959 with a photograph of the London gang ‘The Guvnors’, which he took to the Observer. When he sold it, he was commissioned to take more of the same.

That £50 commission was a king’s ransom to the young McCullin and he used it as the springboard to a fulfilling career, particularly when photographing conflicts around the world

He spent almost twenty years at the Sunday Times. His photographs raised awareness of atrocities as they were happening, but at some personal cost to himself; both physically (he was wounded in Cambodia by a mortar bomb and one of the men he was with that day died), and emotionally, with feelings of guilt that he was profiting from other peoples misery. 

His empathy is obvious in his work, and was influenced by his own challenging childhood.  His early photographs of street culture in London, and the homelessness there and in Liverpool and across the north, are extremely powerful. They documented the social issues of the time and the impact of poverty and the death of many of the UK’s industries.

Unusually McCullin printed every image in this exhibition himself in his home darkroom. His printing expertise informs his compositional skills, and cements his memories of the events and people he has captured.

He also has a love of landscape photography. Some of the most haunting images here are from the Somerset levels, where he now lives. Even then, some of the landscapes are reminiscent of his war photography.

His captions of the photographs displayed here give a deeply personal perspective on what he observed at the time of the photograph. The captions give when and where they were taken, but also his interpretation of those events as a first hand witness or as someone involved in what was happening.

Don McCullin Local Boys in Bradford 1972 © Don McCullin

Liverpool and the North 

He first visited Liverpool when he was fifteen years old, working on a steam train that travelled up from London every week. Later, as a photojournalist, he came back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s to record the changes to the city.

These included the slum clearances that took place (images that uncannily remind viewers of a war zone). Liverpool reminded McCullin of his own background, and he became very fond of the city. He also spent time with artists and poets including Adrian Henri and Brian Patten for a 1967 Telegraph Magazine story written by Roger McGough, and documented the poets for the Sunday Times in 1980.

His photographs of Bradford display his deep affection for that city and its people, and those of Consett show a way of life that has now vanished.

London’s East End

McCullin photographed men and women living on the edges of society (and the edge of London’s Square Mile). The photographs in the exhibition span the 1960s to the 1980’s.

What is striking in the images from Aldgate, Spitalfields and Whitechapel are that the streets are unrecognisable following the massive influx of money into London, and resultant property boom and gentrification, but despite that boom we still have people living on the streets some 50 years later.

Some of these London images look like echoes of another time; with two youths bare knuckle boxing in one street, and a farmer herding a flock of sheep across a bridge to an abattoir in the City. 

Don McCullin Shell-shocked US Marine, The Battle of Hue 1968  © Don McCullin

War zones

McCullin first travelled overseas as a photographer to photograph Berlin, as the wall was being erected.

He then travelled back to Cyprus (having been posted there during National Service), when Turkey invaded the island and the civil war between Turkish and Greek Cypriots was intense.

His photographs here from both of those locations and from subsequent conflicts in the Belgian Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iraq and closer to home, Northern Ireland,  show his eye for an arresting image and his empathy for his subjects.

He won the World Press Photograph of the Year in 1964 but was not comfortable winning a prize for ‘depicting other peoples misery’.

Later career

McCullin took a memorable series of photographs from the southern borders of the Roman Empire. His images of locations like Palmyra captured a moment of time and recorded the far flung locations of Roman rule.

McCullin has now left behind war reporting. He spends time photographing landscapes. His images of the Somerset Levels, close to his home, show an elegiac view of the landscape, but also a brooding intensity, reminiscent of his war photography.

Don McCullin runs until 09 May 2021 at Tate Liverpool. Book tickets

All photographs © Don McCullin

Linda McCartney Retrospective Review

Self Portrait, Abbey Road Studios. London, 1975      © Paul McCartney

Linda McCartney Retrospective Review by Terry Sweeney

Those, whose knowledge of Linda McCartney is based on her days as the wife of a Beatle and a member of Wings, may be surprised that as Linda Eastman she was already a successful photographer by the mid 1960s, when she met Paul McCartney.

Her images of mid-1960s Rock stars were iconic photographs and some of them graced their album covers. Many of those photographs are collected here, and are a window into a time in music when new directions were being forged on a weekly basis. 

Eastman famously got her ‘break’ In New York, when Town and Country magazine received an invitation to photograph the Rolling Stones for a record promotion party on a yacht on the Hudson. She volunteered to represent the magazine as its photographer, and became the only photographer allowed on the yacht.

Linda enjoyed it, showed a knack for putting rock stars at their ease and realised that she could make a living at it. A few months later she was backstage as a photographer at the Shea Stadium where the Beatles were performing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Eastman then became an unofficial house photographer at the Fillmore East in San Francisco. Among the artists she shot there were Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendix,  B.B.King, Eric Clapton, The Who, and the San Francisco bands; Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Janis Joplin,  and Neil Young.

Brian Jones and Mick Jagger, Hudson River. New York, 1966      © Paul McCartney

Shots from the Stones on the Hudson, and many of the Filmore East photographs are shown here. Some of her most powerful photographs are of those artists performing, and the shoots of B B King and Janis Joplin capture the raw power of their performances.

Some of the more surprising shots here were actually taken by the stars themselves, including one of Linda by Clapton, and one by Jim Morrison. Her photograph of Young, taken in 1967, was used on the cover of his album Sugar Mountain-Live at Canterbury House 1968.

Linda also shot photographs that became album covers for a number of McCartney and Wings albums, and the cover shot for the single ‘The Girl is mine’, by McCartney and Michael Jackson.

She photographed Clapton for Rolling Stone magazine and became the first woman to have a photograph featured on the front cover (May 11, 1968). 

We were already familiar with many of these images, having seen an exhibition of Linda and Mary McCartney’s photographs; Mother Daughter, in Fotografiska, Stockholm in 2017. Seeing them again here reinforces the freshness and power of the shots, and what a fertile period this was for music, and for Linda.

The Walker Art Gallery major retrospective of Linda McCartney’s photography ranges from these iconic depictions of the music scene of the 1960s, to family life with Paul. It features over 250 images that reveal what a prolific photographer Linda was, and how her love for the natural world, her surreal sense of humour, and an exceptional eye for capturing the spontaneous, gave her work an inimitable style.

Paul, Stella and James. Scotland, 1982      © Paul McCartney

The exhibition also includes a selection of images taken in Liverpool and Wirral which have never been on public display before. 

The family photographs are perhaps the most poignant images here. One of Paul and one of the children peering out from a bath full of bubbles showcases her surreal sense of humour, and ability to see exactly the right composition and framing.

Other images from their home in Kintyre and Surrey with the children and family pets demonstrate how the couple managed to carve out a stable home life away from the world of music and celebrity that they inhabited as Paul and Linda McCartney.

Linda McCartney Retrospective runs until 10 Jan 2021 at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.  Book tickets

All photographs © Paul McCartney / Photographer: Linda McCartney

 

Looking up after lockdown, a day out in Liverpool by Elizabeth Longwill

We have entered a new and odd phase of lockdown in our house. Childcare is open and we are still furloughed, so our three year old  daughter is now the only one ‘going to work’.

This means child free days, together, at a time when things are opening up. 

Without wanting to sound flippant about the awfulness of the global pandemic, anyone with small children will appreciate that this is an exciting situation to be in.

So, we decided it was time to go on a jaunt. We would have a jam-packed day, one that still meant we would be back in time for nursery pick up.

We moved to Wallasey in December, we had barely unpacked before lockdown happened, so we have plenty to explore.

First stop had to be to ‘Ferry across the Mersey’ on the iconic Snowdrop dazzle boat. We set off on our bikes to Seacombe. We didn’t bring our bikes on board, but it is an option if you want to continue your cycle around Liverpool.

Being able to sail into the city is in my opinion the best form of public transport and it is also pandemic friendly, there was plenty of space and fresh air. Face coverings must be worn on board. We took a seat and enjoyed the view as the Liverpool waterfront came into to view.

Buildings, people, shops, traffic, I felt giddy with excitement. We ambled around the city centre and Liverpool One. The streets were quiet, but the atmosphere was friendly, the shops are well organised with reminders to mask up and hand sanitiser stations on entry.

Liverpool One has a one-way system and arrows on the ground to follow, for someone like me who finds shopping centres quite overwhelming and has a terrible sense of direction this is actually pretty useful. 

It was lovely just to walk around and go into shops and have those little social interactions with strangers that we haven’t had in the last few months, I hadn’t realised how much I had missed that. 

Anyone who knows us will know we cannot go too long without being fed. I had booked a table for second breakfast at Lunyalita in Albert Dock. It is a Spanish style tapas restaurant. It was well organised and laid out for social distance and the staff were welcoming and friendly.

We enjoyed a Spanish version of a full breakfast and a strong coffee, then refreshed we headed to our next stop the Walker Art Gallery.

The Gallery is open, but you need to book a visiting slot online. We were welcomed at the door and given a quick run through. Most of the gallery is open apart from some of the interactive exhibits and they are operating a one-way system.

We started off in Sculpture through to stern Victorians and pouty Pre-Raphaelites, then around the John Moores prize winners exhibition which features winners since 1957.

The exhibition is a great showcase of modern British contemporary art,  it’s a really diverse exhibition featuring realism, abstraction, pop art and figuration, there are some big names like Hockney and Warhol and also some artists I wasn’t familiar with, but was inspired to find out more about! 

We couldn’t dilly dally too long as the clock was ticking. The staff greeted us again on our way out and asked if we had enjoyed our visit. We dashed back for the 2pm ferry crossing, then hopped on our bikes home. A successful jaunt. Later our daughter Clara informed us that she had spent the day at nursery dancing and being a dinosaur, and what had me and Daddy been doing today? 

Oh nothing much.

Written by Elizabeth Longwill 

Links

Mersey Ferries https://www.merseyferries.co.uk/

Lunyalita https://lunya.co.uk/lunyalita/

Walker Art Gallery https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker-art-gallery

Cultural spaces reopening on Merseyside

As the lockdown eases, many of our fantastic arts and cultural venues are reopening. It’s amazing to see but can be difficult to navigate all the different times, dates and venue requirements.

We’ve compiled a handy list of all the current information, so you can head out and enjoy the region’s unique cultural spaces again.

Atkinson Gallery – Open for the library, box office, museum, gallery, shop and takeaway café. Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm. Visitor numbers are limited.

Bluecoat – Open, Thursday – Saturday, 11am – 4.30pm. Limited number of visitors, three at one time.

The Beatles Story – Open, 10am – 6pm, pre-booked only.

British Music Experience – Open, pre-booked only.

Calderstones Park – Open, the exhibition and shop are open Saturday – Sunday, 12pm – 5pm.

FACT – Cinema and galleries both open. Galleries open Wednesday – Saturday, 12pm – 7pm, Sunday, 12pm – 5pm.

Plaza Cinema, Waterloo – Open, pre-selling tickets from their box office.

Strawberry Field Visitor Centre – Open, pre-booked only.

Tate Liverpool – Open, pre-booked only. Café and shop only open to pre-booked visitors

Liver Tours – Open, operating City Walks from Albert Dock to Mathew Street.

Liverpool Cathedral – Open for Private Prayer only, daily 11-3pm in the Lady Chapel. Pre-booked only.

Ness Botanic Gardens – Open for members and volunteers. Pre-booked only.

Mersey Ferries – Open weekdays and weekends, with a maximum number of 90 people per journey. Special cruises are cancelled until August.

Merseyside Maritime Museum – Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm. Booking is essential. 

Metropolitan Cathedral – Open for Private Prayer only, daily 12pm-4pm. Sunday Mass is held online via their Facebook and YouTube pages.

Museum of Liverpool – Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm. Booking is essential.

Speke Hall – Grounds only open. Pre-booked only.

Unity Theatre – Opens 31 August. Phased reopening for artist support, community engagement and business hire.

World Museum – Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm only. Pre-booked only.

Walker Art Gallery – Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm only. Pre-booked only.  

 

Keith Haring at The Tate: The UK’s First Major Exhibition

Keith Haring’s vibrant and iconic creations are currently being showcased at Tate Liverpool, 14 June – 10 November 2019, as the UK’s first major exhibition of his artwork.

Coming from the New York art scene, Haring drew on graffiti, pop art and underground club culture for inspiration. He has been highly influential since his rise to fame in the 1980’s, shining light on pressing social issues including politics, racism, drug addiction, the environment, homophobia and AIDS awareness.

The artist devoted his time to creating truly public art, making a name for himself by drawing on unused advertising panels in local subway stations. Covered in matte black paper, they made the perfect canvas, and soon his white chalk drawings became familiar to commuters of all kinds. He was often arrested for vandalism, while a number of policemen considered themselves to be his fans.

Throughout his career, Haring worked alongside world renowned music artists and fashion designers – including the likes of David Bowie and Vivienne Westwood – once again expanding his audience as he introduced his work through a large variation of mediums. Andy Warhol was by far his most admired fellow artist, who quickly became his mentor and dear friend following Haring’s second exhibition at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1984, where they met.

Having achieved international recognition, Haring opened the Pop Shop in 1986, which he considered to be an extension of his work. He painted the interior as an abstract mural, covering the ceiling, walls and floor in black and white paint. Despite criticisms from his peers in the art world, he went ahead. Selling posters, magnets, tees and more, his artwork became even more accessible to the public, allowing anyone to walk in and buy something to cherish at a low cost.

Digitized by Backstage Library Works

Using his fame for the good of the people, Haring’s legendary ‘Crack is Wack’ mural was made during the crack cocaine epidemic in 1986, big, bright and close enough for passing cars on the nearby road to see. Although he initially painted it without any permission, the piece was immediately put under the protection of the City Department of Parks.

If that isn’t Haring’s most famous and impactful piece, then it has to be ‘Ignorance = Fear’, his interpretation of the ancient Japanese proverb, three wise monkeys. The artist used the same hand gestures – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – to convey the struggles faced by those living with AIDS, after being diagnosed himself in 1988. Soon after, he set up the Keith Haring Foundation, providing funding and imagery to AIDS organisations and children’s programmes, and sadly died in 1990 due to health complications.

The exhibition itself will include over 85 bold pieces and related events will be available for Tate Members to attend on Thursday 13th June, such as the private viewing, curator talk and guided tour. An official after party will also take place at Constellations, hosted by Liverpool’s own Sonic Yootha.