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16 January 2009

NEWSLETTER                No 53 :16 January 2009

The Forum

·                     The Forum’s steering group has been considering how to continue its work now that both the Year of Heritage and the year as European Capital of Culture are over. Continuation of the Newsletter and (in altered form to avoid duplication with other websites) seem to be priorities. Better links with the City Council and possible membership of the Council of Voluntary Services are matters under consideration.



·                     A change in Government priorities has meant that the Heritage Protection Bill was dropped from the Queen's speech, to cross-party disappointment. The Bill was intended to consolidate and rationalise the disparate heritage legislation of the last century. It had been planned to require local authorities to hold Historic Environment Records (under one single schedule), to facilitate interim legal protection for buildings being considered for Listing, to provide better protection of archaeological sites which cannot be scheduled, to merge Conservation Area Consent with planning Permission and to set up Heritage Partnership Agreements to remove the need for multiple consents for complex sites.


·                     St John’s Gardens has a small budget for renovations.  It is again among the city’s fourteen existing Green Flag candidate sites seeking renewal of the status. (Two new candidates have been added). The accolade highlights parks as valuable open spaces for people’s relaxation and, in some cases, as being important in terms of history, architecture and statues. The national Green Flag awards ceremony was held in Liverpool in 2008 but did not receive the media attention it deserved., and  are relevant websites. “Places of Health and Amusement” (English Heritage, £7.99) is available on line and in local book shops and was launched at this summers’ Garden History Society conference. A leaflet focusing on St John’s Gardens is available.  Liverpool Parks Friends Forum meets periodically to bring supporters of all of the city’s parks together to discuss common problems.


·                     On 7th December, St Francis Xavier’s’ Church, (Everton), celebrated the 160th anniversary of its opening with a special service, during which  the North West Multi-Faith Tourism  Association’s ‘Marque of Excellence’ was presented to the church. During 2008, over 12,000 people visited the Grade II* listed building to see an exhibition of over 70 ancient religious objects such as Mary Queen of Scots’ prayer book, St Thomas More’s hat, a page from a 10th century Koran and many ancient church vestments. See:  (Sefton Church also qualifies for the Marque.)


·                     The end of Capital of Culture year was celebrated by a spectacular display at the Pier Head of fireworks and films on huge screens. The films brought together the different aspects of the city’s culture including classical and pop music, football and heritage of many kinds, with the three Graces as a spectacular floodlit backdrop. The press said that 40,000 people attended and the event was reported on national BBCTV News. (It is widely felt that Capital of Culture year has received extensive and positive media coverage as well as putting local people into good spirits). 


·                     A feature of Liverpool’s architecture which deserves attention as time goes on is the floodlighting of buildings.  Mersey Chambers by St Nicholas’ church is splendidly lit as are some of the buildings in Castle Street.  Could a co-operative effort be launched to illuminate those of the many fine buildings around the Town Hall and the waterfront which are not already lit? 


·                     Some people like the term  Merseyside and some don’t.  Some like Lancashire and Cheshire to be used for the appropriate parts of the area. Some like Liverpool  or even Greater Liverpool  to be used to denote the whole of what was for some years a  county, (and is now taken to contain Halton as well as Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral ). Some do not like these terms. The matter is coming further up the agenda because of plans to bring together certain governmental functions for Liverpool City Region under a Multi Area Agreement.  This, at the present stage, is rather far away from heritage but it is an indication that the government is pressing ahead with plans for joint operation of government services on a sub regional basis, plans which may before too long include culture.  Our area, call it what you will, is one such sub-region. The plan is not yet consistent with the role of Regional Development Agencies like that for the North West, to which more and more public powers and money are directed and with which Culture North West is associated.  For culture and heritage lovers, this means that we will have to think more widely that just about the particular city, borough or district in which we live. One campaigning group wants to see BBC Radio Merseyside renamed BBC Radio Liverpool. Already the BBC web page on which Radio Merseyside is covered is headed BBC Liverpool.  There can be little doubt that in obtaining media coverage to attract tourists to enjoy our heritage, Liverpool outweighs the names of all of the borough and counties by a large margin. This is probably what the sub-region will be called.


·                     The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum in Birkenhead remains  the home of Wirral’s museum collections. It has temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent displays. For the first three months of 2009 the gallery has a display about Arthur H Lee & Sons, drawn mostly from its own archive collection. The Lee’s Tapestry Works, as it was known (or affectionately as ‘The Tap’), opened in Birkenhead in 1908 and stood almost alone as a textile business in Merseyside. Lee’s produced high quality furnishing fabrics to decorate everything from domestic living rooms to Cunard liners, from country cottages to Royal palaces.  The firm closed in 1970 but the legacy lives on in the quantity of furniture that passes through antique shops and salerooms with Lee’s upholstery, sometimes mistaken for historic needlework.  Info: 0151 652 4177 or


·                     It is a pity that the Williamson is so inconveniently situated.  Meanwhile, Birkenhead’s splendid Town Hall, close to the ferry terminal, the Priory and the tram, is to be disposed of all by Wirral Council. There is surely scope for finding a use for it as part of a touristic quarter for Birkenhead, drawing more tourists to use the ferries (and perhaps spend some money on the Wirral side).


·                     People are asked to write to write to the Council of the West Midlands Borough of Sandwell, (PO Box 42, Development House, Lombard Street, West Bromwich, B70 8RU) about hopes of bringing back to Liverpool the gates of our city’s former Sailors’ Home. These have stood outside a foundry in Sandwell since being  moved when the Sailors’ Home was demolished in the 1970s. A formal application for Grade II listing has been prepared. The 15ft gates – which feature Liver birds, dolphins and other nautical themes – were cast in the Henry Pooley foundry in Dingle. The gates if re-sited in Liverpool would be an important visual reminder of the port’s prominent place in the history of Britain as a major trading nation. The move would cost £30-35,000. 

·                     CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, claims that Liverpool is the Real Ale Pubs Capital of Britain and is in touch with tourism promotion organisations to promote it as such.  There will be a Liverpool Beer Festival 19 - 21 February in the Crypt of Roman Catholic Cathedral when over 200 beers and ciders will be available. Info: The Lion Tavern in Tithebarn Street, a Grade II listed building with noteworthy glass, wood paneling and tiling, hosts the Bob Dylan Society on the first Thursday evening of the month.


·                     The Phil’s New Year’s Eve concert had a strong Liverpool flavour.  It was conducted by Carl Davis, whose wife is Jean Boht of the Bread television series. Mark Simpson, who studied at St Margaret’s primary school in Anfield, played a clarinet concerto. Liverpudlian mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, who won the Merseyside Youth Singer of the year award in 2004, also performed.  The orchestra played A Liverpool Day, a compilation by David Cullen of Lennon and McCartney tunes.


·                     Southerners getting the wrong idea about Liverpool is not new. According to the autobiography of Sir Oswald Mosley’s wife, Diana, Churchill visited a very poor part of the city, presumably in the inter-war years. He said “imagine how terrible it would be never to see anything beautiful, never to eat anything savoury, never to say anything clever”. As regards his first point, he must have missed St George’s Hall, the Anglican Cathedral (then under construction), the buildings at the Pier Head (completed or partly built), the Blue Coat, the Town Hall, the parks, the museum and the art gallery.  Of course, Liverpool did have many areas of great poverty  -  as did London and every other city. Hopefully European Capital of Culture year has done something to dispel false impressions about the city. 


·                     Controversy surrounds plans by Liverpool College to demolish Victorian villas, cut down 91 trees  and build seven 3- and 4-storey apartment blocks with 130 flats in their place, in what is a Conservation Area.  The importance of retaining an independent school in Liverpool was cited as a justification for the scheme. 



·                     The Palm House in Sefton Park and the RSPB join together on Sunday 25 January for Garden Birdwatch Day, 12noon – 4pm. Experts from the RSPB will be there to share their knowledge and set up a variety of feeders to attract the birds.  Garden Birdwatch Day is a national census of the birds to be found in our gardens, parks and countryside. Other events at the Palm House include a Folk Evening with Martin Carthy on Sunday 8 February (bookings 0151 726 9304), and a Valentine’s Concert on 15 February at 2 p.m. St Helen’s concert band will play.


·                     Liverpool History Society has a talk on the history of Tate & Lyle’s Liverpool Refinery Workers on 22 February at Hope at Everton, Shaw Street  at 2 p.m.

·                     Birkenhead Choral Society have a concert at St Saviours’, Oxton on 21 March (Haydn, Kodály, Vaughan Williams, Stainer).  (Info: 0151 677 1129)

·                     Liverpool Welsh Choral’s Opera Gala is on 1 March at the Phil. Info: 0151 652 6374.


·                     There is a Roscoe Lecture (LJMU) by Anne Applebaum on “Hitler & Stalin” at the Phil on 29 January.


·                     The Northwest Multi Faith Tourism Association has a seminar all day on 21 January at St Francis Xavier’s in Salisbury Street. (£10). Info: 017687 77671.


·                     An exhibition will run from 16 February to 6 March at the RIBA Gallery, 82 Wood Street, Liverpool (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 21 February 11am-5pm). Entitled “Triumph, Disaster and Decay: the SAVE survey of Liverpool’s heritage”, it takes a sobering look at the state of the city’s architectural heritage.

·                     After World War II and a period of economic decline  the city’s built heritage was to come under terrible assault. In 1958 the bombed-out shell of the monumental Custom House, was torn down to ‘relieve unemployment’. Demolition of countless Georgian and Victorian terraces was to follow including that of Grade II-listed Clayton Square in 1986. Info:


Taking in the full breadth of culture

 This newsletter may sometimes be accused of not accepting that sport and pop music are part of Liverpool’s culture. In fact, we do accept that they are but we usually leave others who are better qualified to speak of achievements in these realms.  However, when we saw a recent newspaper headline which said “Liverpool stumble to the top” (of football’s Premiership), we thought it was worth commenting that this is just one example of how we have so often been treated in the national media. What do these journalists want? How much higher can Liverpool FC go at that stage of the season than top of the Premiership? 


As regards pop, this Newsletter cannot claim to have kept entirely up to date with the Liverpool pop scene since the days of the Beatles, the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy Fury, Billy J. Kramer, George Melly, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Elvis Costello, the Merseybeats, Frankie Vaughan, the Scaffold, the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Wombats etc etc etc. (The Wikepedia internet encyclopedia lists some eighty pop Liverpool pop performers, a formidable  achievement for one city.) So when a stranger in a shop in Bold Street said “Look!  There’s a Zuton”, we looked for a creature from Mars, perhaps with two heads and radio aerials on arms and legs but saw no such thing. All we could see was an attractive red-headed girl – in fact Abi Harding. Our face presumably said “You wa’?” so the helpful stranger explained: “It’s the saxophonist of the Zutons – the Liverpool’s top pop group just now”.  “Of course!” we replied, untruthfully.  The Zutons reached No 2 in the album charts in 2006 and have a string of hits. We are sorry to learn that Sony, the record company, has recently parted company with them, due to disappointing sales of their latest number. We wish them better luck.  


On Wikepedia’s list of Liverpool pop groups is “The La’s”, whose best number in the 1980s was “There she goes”.  The term “La’s” was mentioned at the special Maritime Carol Service held at St Nicholas’. This included (somewhat unusually!)  a rendering of the tango La Paloma. The lead singer of The Traveling People who were leading this part of the service,  explained that paloma is Spanish for dove and “you all know what la means”.  Obviously in French and Spanish it means the, but what does it mean in Liverpool, in scouse?  A brief conference a little while later of regulars in our favourite city centre pub agreed immediately that it means lad but took several minutes to agree that it is a term of friendship used to someone that one knows.  One of the regulars said he had used it to a Glaswegian, with unfortunate consequences.


Andrew Pearce, Editor.