July 16th till 19th 2014
The general at the radar screen
he should have got the sack
But that wouldn’t bring
Three thousand million, seven hundred, and sixty-eight people back,
Icarus Allsorts, from The Mersey Sound (1967)
So from the quiet green of The Lakes we entered the hip urban city of Liverpool. The sixth most visited city in the United Kingdom. Our host Steven kindly picked us up from the Lime Street station and soon we were stationed in his apartment with his five cats and co-surfing with Janice from Hong Kong. Janice was on her own epic ten month adventure and had just returned for the second time to Liverpool.
Steven’s place is conveniently located near to the historical Toxteth Park Cemetery, which is on one of the famous arteries of Liverpool, Smithdown Road.
The area was previously known as Smithdown (Esmedune or Smeedon in Olde English) and dates back to 1086 when it was listed in the Doomsday Book. The causeway that actually became what is now Smithdown Road emerges in documentation around 1775. Smithdown Road, a long established student quarter is home to a large percentage of Liverpool’s 55,000 plus university student population (alongside the city centre and Kensington). The street separates Toxteth and Wavertree, two of Liverpool’s most ethnically diverse districts, Smithdown Road itself is the hub of Merseyside’s Afro-Caribbean community, which is evident from the large number of shops and businesses situated along it. The area surrounding Smithdown Road is also home to a sizeable South Asian population, with a number of mosques and gurdwaras being located in the area. – Wiki.
Liverpool is such a heady mix of people, industry and culture. We were in love with the multicultural nature of the place. (Echoing one of our favourite things about our home in Perth). Much of this is due to it’s status as a port city and the migrants from all the nations that passed through or stayed as a result. Liverpool can be rough and ready and yet surprises you with it’s many hidden jewels. These discoveries create the melting pot which launched many musical and creative individuals.
Liverpool is home to Britain’s oldest Black community, dating to at least the 1730s, and some Black Liverpudlians are able to trace their ancestors in the city back ten generations. Early Black settlers in the city included seamen, the children of traders sent to be educated, and freed slaves, since slaves entering the country after 1722 were deemed free men. The city is also home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe; the first residents of the city’s Chinatown arrived as seamen in the 19th century. The city is also known for its large Irish population and its historical Welsh population. In 1813, 10 per cent of Liverpool’s population was Welsh, leading to the city becoming known as “the capital of North Wales”. Natives of Liverpool are referred to as Liverpudlians and colloquially as “Scousers”.
In the 1960s Liverpool was the centre of the “Merseybeat” sound which became synonymous with The Beatles and fellow Liverpudlian rock bands. Capitalising on the popularity of 1960s rock groups, such as The Beatles, as well as the city’s world-class art galleries, museums and landmarks, tourism has also become a significant factor in Liverpool’s economy. For periods during the 19th century the wealth of Liverpool exceeded that of London itself, and Liverpool’s Custom House was the single largest contributor to the British Exchequer. As early as 1851 the city was described as “the New York of Europe” and its buildings, constructed on a heroic, even megalomaniacal scale, stand witness to the supreme confidence and ambition of the city at the turn of the 20th century.
Liverpool was also the site of the UK’s first provincial airport, operating from 1930, and was the first UK airport to be renamed after an individual – John Lennon. In 1897, the Lumière brothers filmed Liverpool, including what is believed to be the world’s first tracking shot, taken from the Liverpool Overhead Railway – the world’s first elevated electrified railway.
Liverpool inventor Frank Hornby was a visionary in toy development and manufacture and produced three of the most popular lines of toys in the 20th century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys. – Wiki
On our first day in the home of “The Reds” we simply walked. Our little band stopped at a deli for some water and gained valuable advise to take the shortcut through Crown Street Park. In 1830 this was the site of the Crown Street Station, the terminus of the worlds first passenger rail line. It was open for a short six years, when it was replaced by the more central Lime Street station.
After enjoying the playground here we walked straight through to “The Bombed Out Church” Saint Luke’s. It was destroyed by an incendiary bomb on 5 May 1941. This occurred during the Liverpool Blitz, when Liverpool was the second most bombed city, other than London.
St Luke’s now stands as a memorial for all those lost in WW2.We were fascinated by the contrast of the lush green gardens, the rich architecture and the view of the blue skies through it’s damaged shell.
Our early start and long walk had made us hungry. It wasn’t long before we were directed to an affordable pub of the Weatherspoons chain. Here at the “Lime Kiln” we shared a 3 pound traditional breakfast and Prunella treated herself to a 75p refillable cup of coffee. Thank goodness for small pleasures.
We wandered the streets finding ourselves at BBC Merseyside. There the boys were delighted to meet Doris the Dalek and peek into the working sound studio’s. The friendly staff took a shine to the boys and we asked directions to a good barber. Soon we were walking through a bookshop, up some stairs and inside a small shop. The staff greeted us with warm Liverpudlian accents and soon had our three shawn for a reasonable 20 pound.
Onwards to the famous Albert Docks. Reuben was delighted to pass a cafe here with his name. We enjoyed the sight of the boats, the famous Pump House pub, the statue of rock legend Bill Fury, listened to the gulls, before stopping for a casual picnic lunch.
Then onwards to tour the War House and go to the Merseyside Maritime Museums, Titanic exhibition. the displays of this exhibition focus on the personal stories of Titanic passengers and staff. Many were very moving and as I listened with the boys to audio accounts of the ship sinking, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears for this preventable tragedy.
During the remainder of our time here in Liverpool we visited, more exhibits of the Maritime Museum (inc a free play and craft activities), The Slavery Museum, The aquarium at the World Museum, the splendid newly renovated Library, the Beetles Hidden Gallery and the Liverpool Museum.
At the Liverpool Museum our boys enjoyed the “Superlambananas” sculptures. These were designed by Manhattan-based Japanese artist Taro Chiezo. They reflect the Liverpool’s history in that common cargo included sheep and bananas. They are also a statement on GM bananas and Dolly the sheep. The boys went to a free session of “Little Liverpool”. They enjoyed the transport display including the famous train “The Lion”, listening to the story of Tate and Lyle in Liverpool ie the trade of sugar and slaves and especially liked the exhibition “The Wondrous Place”. This exhibition showcases Liverpool’s talented writers, performers, musicians, artists, comedians and sports people. We met one senior who had been surprised to find herself in a photo of the Cavern. She was so thrilled she was showing everyone her younger self. The boys enjoyed the Karaoke booth and belted out a few Beetles classics.
A highlight was catching the commuter ferry across the Mersey for a waterside lunch of roast chicken and great views of the Liverpool skyline.
With our host we enjoyed eating in Chinatown’s Wongs – a great noodle place, slunked in one of it’s many Speakeasies and had ribs at an all American Rib restaurant. We met up with a few friends to watch the throbbing performers at a Brazilian Parade and the boys even went to a Free Running workshop! Fabulous.
Fantastic adventures in a fantastic city. As we waved Steven goodbye we were sure we knew that we would be back to this magical city – next time for the famous Liverpool Giant puppets.