This week would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday. His home city of Liverpool is marking the anniversary with a series of events and exhibitions this week and beyond in memory of its favourite son.
Beatles tourism is hugely important to the city, generating £82m and created nearly 2,500 jobs, according to a 2016 report by the University of Liverpool.
The events starting this week include:
Sgt. Pepper Way, a new photographic exhibition of unseen Lennon images at the Beatles Story Museum by the New York-based photographer Bob Deutsch
a one-off Magical Mystery walking tour of places associated with the Beatles, starting from the Albert Dock and ending at The Cavern Club for live acoustic music
Strawberry Field, the former Salvation Army children’s home where the young Lennon played in the garden while living nearby, will be unveiled as the new home of the famous piano that John Lennon used to compose and record the song Imagine. The piano will be on loan to Strawberry Field courtesy of the estate of the late George Michael.
the retrospective of photography by Linda McCartney at the Walker Art Gallery, featuring candid images of the Fab Four, has been extended until January next year
National Museums Liverpool opened its new gallery Life on Board today, an opening delayed from March by Covid-19, as part of a wider re-opening of its museums, including the new Linda McCartney Retrospective exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. My preview ran today in Telegraph Travel and the below is my original copy filed before lockdown.
I’m standing in front of a little piece of maritime history.
With its miniature sun loungers, palm trees and umbrellas, plus mini-me figurines taking a dip in the pool, the 3.5m replica model of the Arandora Star, the ship torpedoed in 1940 while carrying prisoners of war to Canada, had been in storage for years after wartime bomb damage.
But the 1936 exhibition model of this Blue Star passenger liner has been lovingly conserved over 400 hours of restoration work and now takes centre stage in a new maritime gallery opening in Liverpool later this month.
Life on board, the new permanent gallery at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool’s Albert Dock [pictured above], explores the history of travel by sea from the 18th century, via the interwar heyday of the ocean liners as floating palaces, to the current day.
Liverpool was a hub for Transatlantic crossings at the turn of the 20th century with the numerous shipping companies operating out of port city, including White Star Line (later merged with Cunard Line).
The Museum also hosts galleries devoted to the stories of the Lusitania and Liverpool connections to the Titanic story.
The gallery has been over a year in the planning and takes a case-study-led approach to exploring Liverpool’s seafaring heritage, putting human stories at the forefront of the exhibits with text and audio testimonies to illustrate.
Of the 250-odd exhibits, some have been brought out of storage, while a small number are new acquisitions for the opening.
“Our cruise story as a city is rooted in heritage but it also remains an integral part of our living history,” explains Michelle Walsh, the museum’s curator of maritime history and technology.
“We look at the modern revival of interest in cruising by setting it in the heritage context of Liverpool as a cruise port.”
The exhibition is arranged thematically, as opposed to in chronological order, starting with stories of the Merchant Navy before moving onto the Lines and Leisure section, which shines a spotlight on the golden age of cruise of leisure travel.
It was during the 1920s that the introduction of Tourist Third Cabin Class opened up cruise travel to a wider audience, making the voyage on board an integral part of the overall journey.
The era also saw architects and artists employed by shipping companies to remodel the liners with fashionable Art Deco stylings.
Interspersed amongst the exhibits are some hands-on interpretation for families with younger children, such as learning how to tie a reef knot, and getting your own temporary tattoo as a means to explain the superstitions behind the artwork favoured by sailors.
The gallery also incorporates the museum’s Archives Centre, featuring National Museums Liverpool’s vast collection of maritime and slavery records.
“Liverpool has always been a very outward-looking city, gazing out to the horizon,” says Michelle, who spent her own honeymoon on an Alaska cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).
“I believe this outward mentality is a reflection of our rich maritime heritage as a city.”
Key exhibits in the gallery include a series of on-board outfits worn by passenger Gertrude Walker, left to the museum by surviving family on Merseyside, to reflect the experience of women travelling by sea in the early 20th century.
Gertrude’s diary recorded the daily routine of first-class travel on the transatlantic ships. Meanwhile, a set of decorative glass panels from the Cabin (first) Class Dining Room of the Mauretania II, marked with signs of the zodiac, highlight the Art Deco influence on design rom the era.
One of Michelle’s favourite exhibits, however, is an architectural design model of the lime-green mid-ship lobby, or the ‘rotunda’, aboard the QE2, which illustrates how ship design evolved with the swinging Sixties.
Built on the Clyde, the QE2 made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on May 2, 1969.
“With so many items in storage, including over 2,000 ship models, it has been very hard to make the final selection,” explains Michelle as we admire an 1917 events programme from the RMS Orduna, which lists on-board activities, such as a potato race for ladies and cock fighting for men.
“Once you start delving, there are so many important stories to tell.”
Today Liverpool’s cruise industry is again booming with plans for a new Liverpool Cruise Terminal scheduled to open in 2022/3, handling up to 3,600 passengers per ship visit.
With the gallery open, those passengers will be able to disembark near Liverpool’s Three Graces, incorporating the landmark Liver Building, and stroll along the waterfront to the museum to visit the new gallery.”
“As a teenager in Eighties Liverpool, the dock was all silted up and the cruise traffic had long since drifted away to Southampton,” says Michelle.
“But the return of the big ships has rekindled a huge sense of pride in our cruise history.”
Large numbers of people now flock to the quayside to welcome visiting ships in port.”
“As curators, we’re always there, too,” she laughs. “Basically, we’re all just massive ship geeks.”
Strawberry Field, the childhood refuge of John Lennon, re-opened to the public last weekend.
I attended a preview a few days before, writing an article for iTravel.
Here’s a preview of my feature:
The former Salvation Army children’s home, made famous in the 1967 Beatles song, has re-opened with a new permanent exhibition about Lennon’s early life [pictured above], a community garden and café.
The young Lennon would often play in the garden after he moved to live nearby with his aunt Mimi when his mother started a new relationship.
He would meet Paul McCartney at a local church fete in the late Fifties.
But Strawberry Field remained, as Lennon later expressed in the song’s lyrics, a place where, “Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about”.
“John always said Strawberry Field was his favourite song and he referred to it as his psychoanalytic poem,” says Julia Baird, Lennon’s younger, half-sister and the Honorary President of the Strawberry Field project.
It was 50 years ago today. Well, this year anyway.
I spent yesterday in Liverpool finding out about events to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the album Abbey Road, the recording sessions for which were the last in which all four members of the Beatles participated.
The front cover image of Abbey Road, taken in August 1969 on the zebra crossing near the entrance to the London recording studios, is one of the most copied images in popular culture.
A new mural by the street artist Paul Curtis on a wall in Liverpool’s modern-day Baltic Triangle is currently the city’s favourite photo opportunity.
I visited the new Magical Beatles Museum, The Cavern and caught the Double Fantasy exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool.
I also had a behind-the-scenes preview of the August re-opening of Strawberry Field, the former Salvation Army children’s home, which was made famous in 1967 Beatles song.
The famous red gates [pictured above] will be open again for a new generation of dreamers looking for a place where:
“Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.”
Look out for the full story in the June-July issue of Discover Britain magazine.