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12 March 2009

Thinking ahead about Liverpool’s image and tourism “offer”

A “brand” is a set of associations with a product or an activity which suggests it is of high quality or interest and different from other products or activities. For example, the people who sell luxury watches, fashion wear and toys often don’t make them themselves but lend their respected names so that people will feel safe and satisfied in buying the products. A brand-holder has therefore to know very clearly what it wants its products or services to be well-known for - high quality, exclusivity, up-to-dateness, value for money or whatever.

Getting the name of a product or service recognised is the beginning of marketing. Once heard-of, the attributes for which one wishes the product or service to be known for can be honed. We are well positioned in terms of recognition. In honing Liverpool’s image to keep the tourists coming in, following the successes of the city’s year as European Capital of Culture, the City authorities have to be clear what they want the city to be well-known for. To say, as some do, “it’s got a bit of everything” is to completely misunderstand marketing. If you go to Florence or Brugge or Vienna, you don’t go for “a bit of everything”, you go for the particular attractions for which these cities are well known. “City of Culture” is weak, because it doesn’t explain itself and because it doesn’t meet the needs to those who are trying to attract businesses to invest here. Moreover, it leaves aside the argument about whether football and night life are culture. (We are adamant that they are, but not the types of culture with which this Newsletter is mostly concerned). The brand image Liverpool needs is one which makes the (perfectly true) point that Liverpool offers, to visitors and residents alike, an unusual mixture of splendid eighteenth and nineteenth architecture and works of art, of classical music and theatre of the highest quality and a wide range of dining, sporting and “pop” attractions, all in the one compact city.

Many people say that Liverpool’s main association in the public mind is with the Beatles. We have tried to show in these Newsletters that Liverpool was and is the most well-known British city, apart from the capital, for a whole range of reasons, not just the Beatles. For one thing, the drawing power of football is immense. In a hotel bar in Cambodia, with continuous Beatles music playing, a barman did not know who the Beatles were but knew the names of all Liverpool Football Club’s players. “Benitez” is well enough known in Vietnam to feature in a sports headline without any explanation of who he is. Hanoi has a Liverpool supporters’ club. . Is the attraction of the football clubs overtaking that of the Beatles?

While thinking ahead, is it time to give some thought to attracting tourists out of the city centre into the northern parts of the city? Vauxhall and Anfield have a number of things which visitors would enjoy seeing if promoted. The tobacco warehouse at Stanley Dock is of historic importance and the sugar silo would make a wonderful exhibition hall for larger objects which did not require a totally “indoor” atmosphere. We know that everything cannot be done at once, especially in these difficult times, but if there is a wish list some of the things on it may eventually come about. A wish list might at least deter the demolition of heritage buildings which has been so ruinous over the years. The hoped-for local list of properties to be saved from the demolishers fits into this category.

▓ It is of interest (but of no practical value!) to compare the sizes of Cathedrals. Liverpudlians are rightly proud of both of our Cathedrals and, not being known for modesty, are prone to say that the Anglican Cathedral is the largest Cathedral in Britain and the second largest Anglican Cathedral in the world. Size can be judged in several ways (internal or external length, width, seating capacity, volume etc). Both the Koekelberg Basilica in Brussels (built 1905 to the late 1960s) and St John’s Cathedral in New York City (building started in 1892 and not yet definitively completed, giving rise to the nickname “St John’s the Unfinished”) are both claimed in their literature to be the fourth largest Cathedral in the world.
Information about the lengths of Cathedrals is sometimes contradictory or based on different definitions of length. From the varied at our disposal, the following comparisons, in terms of length, emerge:

  • St Peter’s Basilica, Rome 220 metres/726 feet
  • Liverpool Anglican Cathedral 187 metres/619 feet
  • St John’s Cathedral, New York City 182 metres/601 feet
  • St Paul’s Cathedral, London 154 metres/510 feet
  • Santa Maria dei Fiori, Florence 149 metres/491 feet
  • Koekelberg Basilica, Brussels 141 metres/465 feet

When the Lutyens designs for a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool were being prepared around the beginning of the twentieth century, care was taken that its massive projected size should not exceed that of St Peter’s. Its projected length was to be 206 metres/680 feet).

A huge Basilica was built in the Ivory Coast in the 1980s, being 195 metres/643 feet long but as this is not a Cathedral, it falls outside our comparison table.

Those people, not just a few, who say that St Paul’s in London is the biggest Cathedral in England are perhaps confusing the present building designed by Christopher Wren with the medieval Cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666, which it replaced. This was 195 metres/644 feet long, some 40 metres/134 feet longer than Wren’s building.

What does all this add up to? Probably not much more than that our Cathedral is very big as well as being very beautiful.

▓ The St James project has now been running for 18 months and significant progress has been made. The Rev, Neill Short and his team :-

  • Have established Livserve Ltd as a company limited by guarantee and are seeking charitable status.
  • Have appointed a part time secretary and a part time fundraiser.
  • Have organised a Strategic Management Group comprised of individuals from across the city now meeting every month to steer the project.
  • Have had prolonged discussions with English Heritage, The Churches Conservation Trust, Heritage Lottery, and the Liverpool Conservation Department.
  • Have met many local groups and individuals to discuss the project.
  • Are planning two community engagement events for April 2009.
  • Have secured two significant start up grants.
  • Are to appoint a project manager and a lead architect.
  • Have drawn up the first draft of the paperwork to transfer the building back to the Diocese from The Churches Conservation Trust.
  • Have held discussions with Merseyside Archaeological Department and the Liverpool Conservation Department to establish how to minimise the disturbance of human remains during the rebuilding of the graveyard walls and the new build.
  • Have studied the possibility of providing a supported housing unit on the site and in particular to explore the possibility of providing respite care.

▓ The Liverpool Centre For Arts Development occupies a modest building in Franceys Street, effectively fronting on to Brownlow Hill. (Contact : 0151 707 1404 or There is a prospect that the building will shortly be demolished as part of an adjoining construction project. The site was part of the premises of one of Liverpool’s one-time seven porcelain manufacturers, William Reid, from 1756 to 1761 and later of another, James Pennington. The site backed on to the bowling green of the pub on Mount Pleasant owned by the father of William Roscoe, the anti-slave trade campaigner (born 1753). Steps are being taken to ensure that if the project goes ahead an opportunity is given for archaeological examination of the site. This was an important and well-known industry in the town, much of the output being exported across the Atlantic. If anyone has knowledge of ceramic finds in the city, we can pass information on to someone who is researching this subject. (Meanwhile, we hear that the display of Liverpool porcelain in the Maritime Museum is being moved to store.)

Part of the site of William Reid’s factory is now occupied by the recently built Mount Pleasant School, which replaced the old Pleasant Street Board School in 1999. Under William Gladstone’s Prime Ministership, Board Schools were set up for five to ten year olds under the 1870 Education Act in any area which voted to have one. A School Board was initiated in Liverpool in 1871 to set up such schools, incorporating some already existing establishments. The building of the school in Pleasant Street, which is now standing empty, is said to be one of the earliest in the country.

The Liverpool Centre for Arts Development provides specialist professional continuous development programmes to support the career of artists and creative practitioners, offer a range of support services (consultation, project management, fundraising and financial advice) to other voluntary sector arts and cultural organisations as well as individual practitioners and works with partner organisations to support their training and development needs and therefore increase the capacity of the sector.

▓ Liverpool Heritage Forum has campaigned, with many other organisations, for the site of Liverpool Castle in Derby Square, at the top of Lord Street, to be made visually obvious. We had hoped that this could be done for the Year of Heritage (2007), the castle having been the most important building in the town for centuries, but the joined-up government which would have made this possible was not in evidence and the project is only happening now. However, better late than never, the project is very welcome. Obviously the castle, which was completed in 1235, before the string of castles along the North Wales coast were started, cannot be rebuilt but different coloured granite will now be used to mark out where the walls of the castle once stood. The outer dimensions of the sandstone building were similar to those of Harlech Castle, which, like Liverpool Castle, stood on a plug of rock giving it a dominating position over the Pool on one side (where Paradise Street now is) and the Town Centre in Castle street and Dale Street. Harlech was at one time painted Liverpool Heritage Forum Newsletter No 55 3
or lime-washed white and very striking. We have of course no idea whether Liverpool Castle was similarly treated. The Castle was surrounded by a dry moat up to three metres deep. After the Castle was knocked down around 1714, to make way for a church to be built on the site, the moat was filled in. The basements of one or two of the buildings in Derby Square are situated in this moat, which was partially cleared out again in mid-Victorian times. If the work project is well carried out, it will do much to make Liverpool’s medieval origins evident to visitors and locals alike.

The Castle was not captured in medieval times but was taken by Royalist forces in 1644 in the Civil War, in which the battle to take Liverpool played a significant part by diverting Royalist forces from other areas of combat.

▓ Toxteth’s Princes Park has seen its historic status upgraded from Grade II to Grade II* , a significant increase in the importance accorded to it. It was the first major public park created by 19th century designer Joseph Paxton and has retained its original look. It inspired other designers with elements of Princes Park seen in parks across the country. Sefton Park and St James’ Gardens also have Grade II* status. The quality of Liverpool’s parks deserves more recognition for their innovative character, the quality of their statues and their portrayal of important parts of the nation’s history. They are almost like museums and merit being viewed as such.

▓ Cammell Laird & Co is familiar to us as the Birkenhead ship builder but less so as a manufacturer of artillery shells and railway vehicles. The company was asked to build and manage a Royal Ordnance Factory in Nottingham during the World War I for the manufacture of shells. Later railway vehicles were made there. A railway carriage propelled by electric motors beneath it (as on today’s Merseyrail) made there for use on Bombay suburban services in 1927 is on display at the Indian National Railway Museum in Delhi. ( The museum also displays a large steam locomotive made in 1931 by Vulcan Foundry of Newton-le-Willows for the Central Railway of India.

▓ A new historical group has been set up – the Eastham Archive Group in the Wirral. Contact: Its first publication, “recording Eastham’s history”, was published at the beginning of this month. One article refers to the young men in the village of Eastham who joined the Liverpool Pals during World War I and fought at Ypres. The Liverpool Pals was set up as result of n advert in the local press for young men to sign up with the 5th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. Over 3,000 men volunteered immediately, making possible the formation of six battalions.

▓ A new documentary about Liverpool, “Of Time and the City,” is the story of Terence Davies, the film maker. It is “a love song and a eulogy” of the city, showing it in its different moods and lights over the years since he was born here in 1945. It opens in the vaulted, ornate dining room of one of the city’s swankiest restaurants. The camera swoops down and pans across a crowd of well-to-do middle-aged professionals dining stiffly in the gilded interior of deconsecrated two-centuries-old St. Peter’s Catholic Church. The film flashes back to the subdued black and white of late 1940s Little England, the image of a family huddled around their wireless set on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Over stock footage of a football match the narrator says, “Football, like life, was played in black and white.” The film bursts into colour footage of Elizabeth II’s 1953 fairytale coronation and fades to a wide-angle portrait depicting two of the new Queen’s poor and elderly subjects crouched in a grim bed-sit in Liverpool.

▓ Liverpool Chamber of Commerce is holding a Culture and Commerce Networking Event from 5.30 to 7.30 on Wednesday 25 March at Liverpool One’s brand new Zelig’s of Little Italy restaurant. Share artist’s expertise and do business with big commercial names. The BBC’s Roger Phillips will host. Free. Book: 0151 227 1234 or (Sue Platt or Melissa Bush).

▓ The Morriston Male Voice Choir sings at St George’s Hall at 7,30 on 18 April. Tickets: 0151 225 6909. There will be a Spring Ball at the Hall on 21 March. Tickets: 0151 709 3789. Members of the Friends of St George’s Hall have a Dinner in the Hall at 7 for 7.30 on 24 April.

▓ It is intended to hold a rededication ceremony for the headstone of American Irvine Stephens Bulloch in July. The headstone was restored late last year by the Liverpool City council and a replacement Southern Cross of Honour has been donated by people in Georgia, USA. Irvine served as a midshipman on a Confederate ship, the Nashville, and then aboard the Alabama, (firing the last two shots from it). After the loss of the Alabama, Irvine became master of the Shenandoah and sailed it back from San Francisco to Liverpool He later became a cotton broker and lived in Sydenham Avenue, Liverpool. Plans are now being made to arrange for re-enactment of some of the key events. The rededication of the headstone is expected to generate interest among those on both sides of the Atlantic interested in the American Civil War.

▓ A new Sensory Trail opens at Speke Hall from 18th March (weekends only from 28th February) Info: 0844 800 4799. The Access to Heritage’s Forum of 25 adults with learning disabilities worked in partnership with National Trust staff and volunteers and three professional artists specialising in sound, smell and touch, to create an exciting new sensory trail for the ground floor of Speke Hall. Five interactive art installations disguised as historic objects form the trail for everyone to enjoy. The Access to Heritage project is managed by Mencap Liverpool. The Sensory Trail was funded by Arts Council’s Awards for All, The National Trust and Access to Heritage project.

▓ There are long memories of “the old neighbourhood”, which became fondly known as, “Little Italy”. Amongst these stories one name became very familiar…Dom Volante. While Debra D’Annunzio was researching for a book on Liverpool’s Italian families it became clear the Italian people in Liverpool still hold this man’s memory close to their hearts. Dominic Volante, one of fourteen children born to Italian immigrant parents Maria Grazia D’Annunzio and Vincenzo Volante, quickly became a professional boxer and was lovingly known as ‘The people’s champion’. Dom will be immortalized in a plaque, the manufacture of which has been kindly donated by Paolo Grassi of Welsby Memorials and a boxing trophy donated by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Steve Rotheram and by Ronnie Volante. Both the plaque and trophy will be blessed at a special mass at St Francis Xavier’s Church, Langsdale Street on the 29th of March 2009 and unveiled at a later date within the Salisbury Boxing Club, Salisbury Street, Liverpool 3.

The trophy will become an annual award for the club’s competitive boxers. Info:
▓ The Daily Post quotes Peter Wood ( as seeking information about the 1961 sale at Outhwaite & Litherland of Bibby’s Art Collection or a catalogue of it. Another bit of history that sees to have gone AWOL is the archive of the Unilever shipping services, which were in a basement in the Albert Dock area before the Dock became a tourist site. Anyone know about this?

Editor: Andrew Pearce