With the possible exception of Glasgow, Faraway Fairways can’t think of any UK city that is more enigmatic than Liverpool. With a deep-water Atlantic facing dock on the River Mersey and the industrialised mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire behind it, the city boomed as a trading port. For periods of the 19th century the Liverpool’s wealth rivalled that of London. Other manufacturing industries followed, notably ship building. The city was the first to benefit from a direct railway link to another city (Manchester). The Liverpool waterfront became one of the most distinct in the UK with the opening of three landmark buildings; “The Three Graces”: The Royal Liver Building (1911) the Cunard Building (1916) and Port of Liverpool building (1907). The Royal Liver building has the mythical Liver Bird (pronounced Lie-ver) on top of it, the city’s emblem and instantly recognisable to any football fan as the crest of one of their hugely successful teams, Liverpool FC.
Like any port city, Liverpool has attracted visitors from all around the world and significant Chinese and Irish communities settled the city. Indeed, the influence of the Irish is particularly pronounced in the way that the unmistakable local accent developed (known as ‘scouse’). You only need to travel just 30 miles east to Manchester and you’ll notice that local speak with a completely different accent. In fact, you don’t even need to go 30 miles, the transition takes place at about Warrington (15 miles away). It’s a weird!
By the 1970’s and into the 1980’s however Liverpool was becoming a by-word for urban decay. Changes to the shipping industry and the introduction of container ports were crippling the docks. The epicentre of the shipbuilding industry was shifting to the far east. Attempts to get a motor industry going were partially successful, but they weren’t replacing the lost capacity. Much of the water front fell into dereliction and it’s taken decades to regenerate with a mixture of small offices, retail, and residential uses
Liverpool is a vibrant city however with seriously strong personality. It has a lot to offer the visitor, and perhaps we have to start with the Beatles trail. Any fan doesn’t really need us to say much more. A typical ‘magical mystery tour’ The Magical Mystery Tour lasts about two hours passengers will see where John, Paul, George and Ringo grew up, met, and formed the band that took the world by storm and also some of the places that inspired some of their most well-known songs. Yes Penny Lane and Strawberry Field exist. A tour ends at the world famous Cavern Club on Mathew Street, where you’ll receive free entry into the Club.
Liverpool’s association with popular music is by no means restricted to the Beatles though. The list is frankly phenomenal, that a provincial city without the natural industry advantages that London enjoys, can produce so much, with so much variety is staggering, and has to be testimony to a rich seam of creativity. Liverpool had two particular bursts of creativity, the mid 60’s and the mid 80’s. The ‘Ferry Across the Mersey’, immortalised by Gerry and the Pacemakers does exist of course, and is another legitimate visitor attraction, particularly for viewing the Pierhead. We aren’t sure Faraway Fairways would like to nominate who Liverpool’s second most successful/ popular band would be though (we have our favourite – but then few people will have heard of ‘The Icicle Works’
In the field of popular culture, no precis of the city of Liverpool would be complete either without attention to the role played the city’s two football teams, Liverpool (the reds) and Everton (the blues). Both have enjoyed huge success, most notably Liverpool. During the 70’s and 80’s Liverpool not only dominated the English game, they also established themselves as the leading team in Europe. Few clubs anywhere have enjoyed the mixture or success and tragedy that Liverpool has. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps in what is often a tribal game, the two clubs enjoy one of the most-friendly local rivalries (well about as friendly as any two teams from the same city can be). Liverpool’s greater rivals would be the bigger, and better resourced, Manchester United. The two clubs are broadly equal in terms of achievement as United have succeeded in pegging Liverpool back a bit on the historic scoreboard, but it’s testimony to Liverpool that they’ve achieved more, with less. Liverpool’s home ground, ‘Anfield’, is a popular visitor attraction and tells the clubs story well.
There is also a less appreciated high-brow element to Liverpool too which many people overlook due in no small part to the overwhelming success and profile that it’s more popular culture has generated
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is the UK’s oldest. The Walker Art Gallery houses one of the largest art collections in England, outside London, including works by including works by Giambattista Pittoni, Rembrandt, Poussin and Degas. The Tate Modern opened in 1988 in the refurbished Albert Dock and features works including L.S. Lowry, Cindy Sherman, Louise Bourgeois Mamelles and Glenn Ligon. Visiting collections have also included Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Claude Monet. Liverpool also has a history of performing arts, reflected in several annual theatre festivals such as the Liverpool Shakespeare Festival which takes place inside Liverpool Cathedral and in the adjacent historic St James’ Gardens every summer. The Liverpool theatre scene is also surprisingly strong, with the These include the Empire, Everyman, Liverpool Playhouse, Neptune, Royal Court and Unity. Willy Russell’s successful musical ‘Blood Brothers’ is another Liverpool, creation
Liverpool has a thriving and varied nightlife, with the majority of the city’s late-night bars, pubs, nightclubs, live music venues and comedy clubs being located in a number of distinct districts. A 2011 TripAdvisor poll voted Liverpool as having the best nightlife of any UK city.
Liverpool’s historic position as one of the most important trading ports in the world meant that over time many grand buildings were constructed in the city as headquarters for shipping firms, insurance companies, banks and other large firms. Where as Liverpool’s status might have waned, the buildings remained and left an impressive architectural legacy. The rebranded ‘cultural quarter’ is dominated by neo-classical architecture, of which the most prominent, St George’s Hall, is widely regarded as the best example of a neo-classical building anywhere in Europe
Liverpool is noted for having two Cathedrals, each of which imposes over the landscape around it. The Anglican Cathedral, which was constructed between 1904 and 1978, is the largest Cathedral in Britain. and the fifth largest in the world. Designed and built in Gothic style, it is was described by former British Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, as ‘one of the great buildings of the world’. The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral was constructed between 1962 and 1967 and is noted as one of the first Cathedrals to break the traditional longitudinal design. In many respects it could even be the more architecturally challenging and provocative.
Liverpool really is a city of contrasts and personality, and yet it remains largely misunderstood by many of those from outside of it. If you’re able to engage with it, you should find it incredibly rewarding. At Faraway Fairways we’ve had a bit of time to reflect on this, and we confess, we too have been guilty of perhaps only seeing the Beatles and football at times. It really could be England’s great under-discovered gem.