Saturday, 28 January 2017

Whenever I gaze on Waterloo Sunsets I am in paradise

Not many words in today's post. This is all about beautiful sunsets. So the pictures can do all the talking.

One major advantage of being on the North West coast of the UK is that Liverpool enjoys some magnificent sunsets. And we have had some particularly stunning performances in the last few months. The best are of course at the waterfront but I took these at Knowsley Safari Park in December - it isn't all about lions tigers and bears - oh my!

The world famous waterfront at the Pier Head and Albert Dock also produces some memorable moments to entertain the ever growing numbers of tourists..

But the sunsets at Crosby Beach - about 5 miles north of the city centre beat anything the rest of the world can offer. The sunsets themselves are almost overwhelming but when they are set against Anthony Gormley's Another Place they just take your breath away. 

So enough words from me - just sit back and enjoy the view!

Monday, 23 January 2017

We've got one to spare

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Liverpool had no Cathedral. Now that seems a long time ago to many of us. But when you compare it with say Winchester (1071), Salisbury (1258), Ely (1109)  and even Chester (1541) we are absolute beginners. The plans for an Anglican Cathedral began in about 1901 and the first part of the building was completed in 1910. It was designed by the fascinating Giles Gilbert Scott, a Roman Catholic who showed his versatility by also designing the classic red telephone box! 

For various reasons the magnificent building was not completed until 1978. Its external length makes it the longest in the world. Overall it is the fifth largest in the world. Because of its size and location on St James’ Mount, it dominates the Liverpool skyline. Putting it simply – it is huge!! It is built in gothic style and its huge arches and stained glass windows take your breath away however many times you see them.

It is worth the visit just to wander around and take in the sheer splendour of the building

To add spice to a visit you can take a lift (£5.50) to the top of the tower and, on a clear day, enjoy some of the most spectacular city views in the world –

By the 1960s moves were afoot to build a second cathedral for the city's Roman Catholic population. In 1962 work began. It was completed somewhat more promptly than its Anglican counterpart, opening just 5 years later. So this year it celebrates its 50th birthday
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is a masterpiece of modern architecture although back in the 60s locals did not know what to make of it. It was variously nicknamed Paddy’s Wigwam and the Mersey Funnel. Today it stands out as a magnificent feature of the city’s landscape.

But the external grandeur does not prepare you for the stunning beauty of the interior. With its modern windows, central altar and soft colours it literally shocks the senses. If you visit this cathedral you simply need to sit and take it all in. It is an experience not to be missed.

The two cathedrals are less than half a mile apart and are linked by the appropriately named Hope Street. Stand on the steps of the Metropolitan and you can see the Anglican at the far end of the street.

The Street is in fact named after a former dignitary William Hope but the name of the street has often come to symbolise the unity of the two communities particularly after the Toxteth riots and the Hillsborough disaster on 1989.

According to the classic folk song we’ve got one to spare. Some might even say we’ve got two to spare. But these two Cathedrals are now part of the fabric of Liverpool and we would not lose either for the world!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Music was my first love

My first post in the series about Liverpool mentioned the 60th birthday of the world famous Cavern.
Throughout my lifetime music has played a huge role in the life of the city. Entire articles can be written about venues where the Beatles played and also the Merseybeat invasion in general  - watch this space.  But for now let’s visit some of the city’s famous music venues; past and present.

My first live gig was at the Liverpool Empire (above) in 1970. It was a Motown show featuring the Four Tops and also the Flirtations. Later the same year I also saw Canned Heat at the same venue. The Empire has in the past hosted the Beatles with Roy Orbison. In 1971 the Rolling Stones came to town but I couldn’t get a ticket. 

Another popular venue back then was the Liverpool University Students Union in Mountford Hall. I remember seeing Tyrannosaurus Rex in the days before T.Rex and Glam Rock. Marc Bolan sat cross-legged with an acoustic guitar and Micky Finn played the bongos. I also remember seeing Fairport Convention and the brilliant but underrated Audience there and my favorite live band in the world ever - King Crimson. I once queued up for an hour to see Emerson Lake and Palmer but it was cancelled at the last minute because E L or P was unwell! I did eventually get to see them at St Georges Hall, where I also saw Deep Purple.

St Georges Hall

But the one venue that stands out above all other was the Liverpool Stadium. This was originally the home of Boxing and especially wrestling. I did actually go to the wrestling once. This was the time when Mick McManus and The Royal Brothers would dominate Saturday afternoon TV before the football scores came on. To be honest overweight men in speedos and boots didn't do much for me. It is the live music that holds the greatest memories. I first went in September 1970. The sweaty atmosphere and smell of joss sticks was almost overwhelming. I have no idea what odour the joss sticks were supposed to be masking! This first visit was an Island Records extravaganza with Bronco, Trees, Mott the Hoople and Free. By the end of the night I was exhausted, had ringing in my ears and mild whiplash. I later saw Kevin Ayers, Traffic and Edgar Broughton. But the highlight of the Stadium years was Led Zeppelin in November 1971. Me and a friend got in for 65p! (I love telling this story to friends who paid £100.00 to see the 02 reunion in 2007).

The warm up venue the stadium was the Cross Keys pub over the road. The pub is still there although the stadium closed in the 1980s and the whole area is now part of the up market business quarter.

By the time the stadium closed the bigger bands were drawn towards arenas and huge sports venues. It is fair to say that, as with life in general, the city then spent a few years in the doldrums.

In fact there has always been a lively club scene across the city which has also continued to turn out a staggering array of acts – another topic for another day!

But there were a few years when we had nowhere to host the biggest and best. I even recall going to Manchester to see the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac! But again this has turned around in recent years. First there were the wonderful Summer Pops – one of my favourite all time gigs was James Taylor in 2004. Then we had the wonderful year of culture in 2008. Out of this came the Echo Arena. In 2017 we can look forward to visits from Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, Iron Maiden, The Who and not forgetting Donny Osmong!!!

We now boast a world class venue to host the world’s best acts. Live Music in Liverpool has blossomed, then foundered, then blossomed again. But it has never gone away...

Monday, 16 January 2017

Welcome to Welcome to Liverpool

I have lived in Liverpool all my life. I was born here, went to school and University here and have never lived or worked anywhere else. The furthest I have ever moved home is from Old Swan to Crosby in 1985 – about 6 miles. Although I have travelled a lot over the years, I never had any inclination to live or work anywhere else. Liverpool is in my psyche, my bones my DNA and anything else you might think of!

I have also been fortunate to live here during some momentous times. I was 7 years old when everyone was talking about this local band that was taking the city by storm. Within a year they had taken over the world. It is hard to overstate the influence that the Beatles had on anyone growing in the 1960s. It was as if their greatness was ours. Most people of my age have a Beatles related story. I lived in the same street as Paul McCartney. I never actually lived in Sunbury Road, Anfield at the same time as him but I have lived off that piece of trivia for years.

One of my friends, who is a few years older than me proudly talks of the day he spoke to John Lennon at the Cavern. In fact he was standing in the doorway blocking the entrance. Lennon told him to f**k off out of the way!

It was as if we all had a stake in them and the Merseybeat scene. The first time the Searchers appeared on Top of the Pops my dad immediately recognised Tony Jackson as someone he knew from work. A less well known band called the Mojos parked their van a couple of roads from ours.

Then there was 1966 and all that. Everton FC had just won the FA Cup in one of the greatest finals of all time. Liverpool FC were champions. Goodison Park hosted more World Cup games than any outside Wembley. We welcomed Pele and Eusebio at the same time. A few weeks after this my lifetime hero Alan Ball arrived at Everton.

As kids we were oblivious to the less glamorous decline of Liverpool as a city.

By the time I began working as a lawyer, that decline was clear for all to see. Liverpool had some of the worst housing the country. Unemployment was worsening by the day. Riots destroyed large parts of Toxteth.

Local politics were a shambles, culminating in the Militant years and the expulsion of 47 Labour councillors. All of this was brilliantly illustrated in Alan Bleasedale’s unforgettable Boys from the Blackstuff which is still remarkably powerful even today. In one scene George Malone looks out across a derelict and empty Albert Dock and says that he cannot believe that there is no hope. How right he was.

If those days in the 80s were the low point then the transformation since then has been nothing but remarkable. The catalyst was in fact a Conservative Minister Michael Heseltine who became known as the Minister for Merseyside. He galvanised local politicians and businesses. I was at Liverpool Town Hall in 2012 when he was awarded the Freedom of the City. Derelict docklands were brought to life. A garden festival was created. The entire Liverpool Waterfront was transformed and is now a World Heritage Site.

Where we are today is the point of this blog.

It is a shameless celebration of the greatest city in the world. We will look at places of interest, cultural events, famous liverpudlians and history. In fact we will cover anything although I will try to avoid football as I am too much of a bigoted Evertonian to give fair coverage to another local team. And we won’t cover regular news stories for which Good News Liverpool is always good value!

I hope that it will become a useful resource for anyone planning a visit or just a chance for locals to bask in the glory. I will, as far as possible only use my own photographs more of which can be seen on Instagram.

Today is the 60th birthday of the Cavern Club which is probably the world's most celebrated music venue. The day was celebrated by the unveiling of a statue to former cloakroom girl - Cilla Black!