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Posts tagged ‘Music’

Liverpool and other city landscapes

This blog, as well as Historic Liverpool (and *ahem* the book!) is all about the historic landscape. It’s about the shape of the city, its growth, and what it’s like to live, work and play in it. So, this round-up of links starts with a bunch not directly linked to Liverpool, but takes a wider view of cities in general, and the people who look deeper into them. It might not be what you think of when you think of Liverpool history, but hopefully it’ll be interesting! Read more

Ringo’s Birthplace and the Welsh Streets

1960s map of Anfield, Liverpool, showing some Welsh Streets

Welsh Streets in Anfield, from a 1960s street map

A hoo-har is brewing over the proposals to demolish the small terraced housing on Madryn Street and streets nearby. The controversy arose because Madryn Street is, of course, the birthplace of Ringo Starr.

Whereas the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney are massively popular tourist attractions, George Harrison’s and Ringo’s homes don’t get so much as a blue plaque. But is Ringo’s birthplace really of any historical merit?

It depends on how you judge it, of course, but as Ringo only lived there for 5 months of his life (moving to Admiral Grove, and also spending time in the Children’s Hospital in Myrtle Street) it can hardly be claimed to have had any influence on his musical abilities.

The idea that a house should be preserved because of who was born there is a common one, and these links indeed form the basis for many of the blue plaque schemes which operate across Britain. It also becomes a consideration in the listing process too, but rarely tips the balance on its own.

For a building to be listed requires that it had architectural importance, or uniqueness. If other buildings like it are rare, under threat or not often found in that part of the country, then the building may be listed.

It looks like none of this applies to 9 Madryn Street.

And yet the streets around Madryn are of interest from a landscape history point of view. They are the ‘Welsh Streets’ and were built in the Victorian period. Liverpool is well known for its Irish immigrants, and to some extent its Scottish. But the Welsh also left a legacy on Merseyside (and of course still do!). The Welsh communities produced a high proportion of builders, both in the brick-layer sense as well as construction companies. Madryn Street and the houses of the area were built by Welsh hands.

Welsh communities established themselves in Anfield and Kensington too. Look closely at the map of streets from Oxten Street to Arnot Street near Goodison Park, and from Makin Street to Nixon Street just across County Road (see map above). The initials spell out ‘Owen and William Owen’, the father and son who built those streets.

So while it will be a shame to lose Ringo’s birthplace, it will take more than this to destroy all traces of Welsh builders and the traces they left on Liverpool’s history.

Further Reading

The Liverpool Welsh, BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northeast/sites/history/pages/liverpool.shtml

Liverpool, Musical Maps and Awards

Entrance to the Liverpool Club 2, by iirraa via Flickr

Entrance to the Liverpool Club 2, by iirraa via Flickr

Liverpool is looking to add to its huge box of musical awards (Birthplace of The Beatles, official World Capital of Pop – boasting 56 No1s – and the UK’s Most Musical City) by putting together a bid to become UNESCO City of Music.

The designation is enjoyed by only four cities at present (Bologna, Ghent, Glasgow, Seville), and as far as I can see, adds more of a pop flavour to this mix.

Part of the bid attempt will be to begin “a massive four month mapping exercise of the city’s music”. I hope they’ve seen Liverpool University’s work on music and landscape. (Also check out the associated music downloads available from the Liverpool University web site).

Delicious Tweeting

Don’t forget, you can keep up to date with all the links I post here on my Historic Liverpool Delicious page (no account needed – you can keep up to date with a feed reader).

You should also follow my tweeting about my blog posts and other headlines which might not make it into the main blog as @histliverpool.

Awards Awards Awards for Liverpool

As you might gather, it’s all about the awards this week – bidding and winning.

First up, it’s the brilliant International Slavery Museum, which gained an honourable mention at the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence, awarded every two years. The museum achieved this through its ongoing work to commemorate the lives and deaths of millions of enslaved Africans, and also the legacies of slavery (racism, injustice, exploitation). François Houtart (Belgium) and Abdul Sattar Edhi (Pakistan), from Belgium and Pakistan respectively, shared the $100,000 prize itself this time.

The Black-E (formerly the Blackie) arts centre in the Great George Street Congregational Church has been awarded £50,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding to preserve its archive. The archive consists of 57,000 photos and slides and 22 filing cabinets of documents, and the project will take three years to complete. Of most interest to me, and I should think to you, is that at least some of these images and documents will end up online. As Wendy Harpe, a founding member of the team, puts it: “we’re not preserving this stuff just for the sake of it”. In addition, parts of it will be put on CD or DVD, although the article doesn’t say whether these will be available outside the Black-E itself. The physical archive will remain at the Black-E or somewhere else in the city. What’s notable is that the current Black-E website has a holding page for a ‘Museum’ section, which would be the natural place for the archive. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of this!

The final award goes to the PR campaign which kept the phrase ‘Capital of Culture‘ ringing in your ears all last year. The campaign, a co-operation between Liverpool City Council and the Liverpool Culture Company, was awarded the Best Public Sector Communications Campaign at the How Do awards this week. I think it’s clear to everybody just how much coverage the event got, locally and nationally, and it’s even been hailed the most successful Capital of Culture programme ever by the European Commission! More facts and figures about how great it was on the ArtInLiverpool blog linked to above.

Liverpool is now bidding to become the first English UNESCO City of Music. Only four other cities can lay claim to the title, including Glasgow, Bologna and Seville. Councillor Warren Bradley pinned down the importance of music to Liverpool: “Music is in Liverpool’s blood… from the days of sea shanties and Merseybeat to classical and dance.” Not sure when the ‘days of sea shanties and Merseybeat’ were, but you get his point. The most exciting thing for me is that a four month long mapping exercise will show where music is being made and played, and submitted in support of the bid. To be honest, they could do worse than to have a look at the Popular Musicscapes project funded by the AHRC and mentioned in one of my own posts a couple of years ago. Hopefully they visited the excellent Beat Goes On exhibition at World Museum Liverpool.

Well, that’s quite a long post! Any other awards we should go for? 🙂

Liverpool sites get £3.3m funding, listed building to be auctioned, and history going missing

Update: The BBC has reported that the Main Bridewell was sold at auction for £450,000 to a developer. Though the article mentions that ‘In 2004 developers discussed turning the building into a luxury hotel’, I will be waiting with bated breath to see what they actually do.

One of those days when several interesting stories come along at once!

Lowlands, the Grade II listed merchants villa in Hayman’s Green, West Derby has just reopened following  a £1.2m restoration project. The villa was designed and constructed by Thomas Haigh (architect also of  Marks & Spencer’s building in Church Street) and was owned and occupied by a succession of wealthy merchants and  financiers. Vast areas of West Derby were occupied by similar men in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The Inland Revenue occupied the buildings following war damage to the India Buildings on Dale Street in Liverpool city centre. Since 1957 it has been owned by  the West Derby Community Association, and in the 1960s was a centre for the emerging Merseybeat scene, witnessing performances by the Quarrymen, Herman’s Hermits and Billy J. Kramer in the basement Pillar  Club or the main hall upstairs. This history places it on similar ground to the Cashbar, the more  famous club and coffee house just along the road at number 8.

The Garden Festival site is a place filled with memories for generations of families who all descended on it over the space of five months in 1984 (I distinctly remember the Postman Pat exhibit being centre of my attention). After lying derelict for many years (with the exception of Pleasure Island which occupied the site in the 1990s) £2.1m has been released to allow the redevelopment of the site to  commence. The North West Development Agency have put up the cash which will see a project to restore  the Japanese and Chinese gardens and pagodas, as well as the streams, lakes and woodland which cover  the site, which will become another green area for the people of Liverpool. Owners Langtree maintain  their ambitions to build 1300 homes on the site, a plan which was approved after a public enquiry last  year. A further £1.6m is being sought from the North West European Regional Development Fund. No real  mention of Pleasure Island on the news sites though…

The Main Bridewell on Cheapside, just of Dale Street is going for auction and is expected to fetch up  to £500,000. It’s proximity to the magistrates court on Dale Street means it was used to house  defendants before trial, and was originally built in 1866 to hold petty criminals. The building closed  in 1999.

for more information on why the Bridewell was so named, see the Encyclopedia.com question on the Bridewell.

Finally, in a mysterious and disturbing story, original Victorian features are going missing from the  area of Kensington in west Liverpool. Cobbles, cast-iron railings and original street signs are  disappearing from the streets around Edinburgh and Leopold Roads, but no one (residents or the Council)  seem to know who is pulling up these features. Rumour has it that the items (including stone setts  taken from ships which used them as ballast on voyages from Turkey) are being sold on the black market.  Areas removed are being replaced with tarmac. Anyone with information is being asked to contact the  council.

Liverpool’s comic past – defying the cynics

I just watched A Comics Tale, narrated by Alan Bleasdale. It’s part of the BBC’s Liverpool season, and concentrated on Liverpool’s comic past, and was filmed in 1981. Throughout, it trumpeted Scousers’ humour, how it brought them through the bread strikes (“aweful tha’, everyone down the Pier Head in pigeon suits”).  Even though it maintained that tone throughout, always highlighting the problems (Toxteth, unemployment), right at the end, Bleasdale’s narrative suggested ‘we’re dying, but at least we think we’re going out in style’. So it seems that whatever other people think, we thought it first! What’s more, it shows that whatever people say, they’ll always be proved wrong by Liverpool’s determination and stubbornness.

Now on BB4 is a programme about the men who run the Magical Mystery Tour, which is the psychedelic rainbow bus I used to see driving past my school a decade ago.

Plans for Port Merseyside, and Ringo’s house not to be listed

Great plans are afoot to turn Liverpool into a port to rival New York, Dubai and Singapore. The plans take the form of a document stating that – if several current projects are pulled together in the right way – Liverpool could once again enter the “Top League” of international ports. From the Liverpool Echo site:

“The massive plan would see links between:

The huge Post-Panamax container terminal at Seaforth.

A bigger John Lennon airport, with a runway extension and world cargo centre.

An improved Weston Docks with better road and rail links.

A new and improved Port Wirral at the entrance of the Manchester Ship Canal.

The 3MG road and rail depot at Ditton.

The proposed new rail freight terminal at the former Parkside Colliery, St Helens.

A new Port Salford to allow container ships further down the Mersey.

The massive Liverpool and Wirral Waters developments.

The second Mersey crossing.”

The North West Development Agency, Mersey Maritime, Peel Holdings, Merseytravel and Sefton Council have all put their weight behind the plans. However, at this stage such an ambition is very much hypothetical, and it remains to be seen whether Merseyside can overcome the infighting it seems to suffer from when working together, to achieve these grand designs. Of course, Liverpool’s Victorian greatness was built on it’s maritime foundations, and it would be a fitting future to recover that status. Let’s just hope they don’t trash the old stuff in their rush for the new.

In other news, Ringo Starr’s birthplace,  9 Madryn Street, will not be listed, after English Heritage judged the building not worthy of the protection. The house, mentioned in Ringo’s awful song to celebrate the Capital of Culture, is one of a row of Victorian terraced houses. 10 Admiral Grove, the house he grew up in (between the ages of four and 22) is open to the public, who are shown round by the current owner, Margarent Grose. The homes of the other Beatles (inlcuding first drummer Pete Best) are listed or protected in some way.

Developments along the Mersey, move for the Phil, and origins of Scouse

Having recently taken ownership of the Beatles Story in the Albert Dock, Merseytravel have added a new Fab Four attraction to their collection: a set of bushes in the shape of the band.

A new Mersey Observatory will replace the radar tower at the mouth of the Mersey, near Crosby. The winning design, by Duggan Morris Architects, was chosen from a shortlist of five from 92 entrants, and will include a viewing tower, cafe, and exhibition centre.

Vasily Petrenko, the conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, has backed plans to move to a new, purpose-built home on the waterfront. The long term ‘dream’ would be “amazing… It could be part of a real cultural hub for the city.” The move would solve increasing problems over lack of space.

Liverpool University has invited researchers from Liverpool, Edinburgh and Lancaster to explore the origins of Liverpool’s unique accent. Dr Andrew Harmer, from the School of English, said “The Merseyside accent was first identified in the late 19th Century, and it has been argued that it came about from a blending of Lancashire and Irish speech varieties. If this theory is correct, we might expect Scouse to have been at its most distinctive at the time when having an Irish background was at its height among the people of Merseyside. This has not been the case, however: instead of becoming less distinctive as our kinship with Ireland decreased, the accent has become stronger.” For more information about the event go to AlphaGallileo.org.

Part 2 of the celebrations

After last night’s successful People’s Opening on St. George’s Hall Plateau, tonight sees the second part of the festivities for the start of the Capital of Culture year. Again starting at 20:08 GMT, Liverpool: the Musical is billed as a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ experience. Ringo Starr will be taking to the stage again, along with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Pete Wylie, the Wombats, alongside an ‘audio-visual spectacular’ and 90 minutes of film footage shown throughout the programme. Tonight’s event marks the inauguration of the 10,500 seat Echo Arena. More details here.

Urban Music – a Liverpool Case Study

Liverpool has been chosen as a case study as part of research by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, in partnership with Dr. John Schofield of English Heritage and National Museums Liverpool. The research will examine the influence of the urban environment on popular culture. The long term goal is to publish the results of the research for a wide range of audiences to read. Go to landscape.ac.uk for more details.