Arts editor Laura Davis looks back on an eventful 12 months of culture in Merseyside
Arts editor Laura Davis looks back on an eventful 12 months of culture in Merseyside
PAINTER John Kirby returned to his home city for a powerful exhibition of work that evoked a deep sense of the isolation he felt growing up as a gay young man in the 1950s and 60s.
The Walker exhibition included Virgin of Sorrows (1991), depicting a naked male figure whose face has been covered by a shroud, which it’s said Madonna bought for her apartment only to later return it as she found it too disconcerting to live with.
Obsessed celebrity spotter Richard Simpkin displayed a selection of his 2,000 photographs, taken over 23 years, at the Open Eye Gallery’s new Mann Island home.
There was more photography on display over the water at Port Sunlight’s Lady Lever Gallery, where images of Merseyside taken by architectural photographic agency Bedford Lemere formed the Age of Confidence exhibition.
Curated in collaboration with the National Trust, which owns the archive, and including images of the battleship HMS Audacious in dry dock at Cammell Laird shipyard in 1913 and the now closed Walter Aubrey Thomas-designed Italian gothic shopping arcade on Liverpool’s Lord Street, it gave a fascinating insight into days gone by.
Outside Merseyside, Wirral-based artist Leo Fitzmaurice was named winner of the £16,500 Northern Art Prize at Leeds Art Gallery.
THE suffocating heat of a New Orleans summer had temperatures rising at the Liverpool Playhouse, where artistic director Gemma Bodinetz’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire played for a three-week run.
Ex-Eastenders Amanda Drew gave a seductive portrayal of the fragile yet determined Blanche DuBois in the Tennessee Williams’ classic.
At Tate Liverpool, German artist Charline Von Heyl attempted to reinvent paintings in her first major UK solo exhibition, while at the Royal Standard Oliver Braid showed the spoils of his attempt to befriend the five most attractive young male undergraduates at Glasgow School of Art.
IN AN opera-packed month, flamboyant producer Ellen Kent stepped out of retirement to tour Madama Butterfly and La Traviata to the Empire, while the world premiere of ner Adam Gorb’s and Ben Kaye’s sex trafficking opera Anya 17, performed by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s contemporary group Ensemble 1/10, took place at the newly refurbished Epstein Theatre.
In other musical genres, US folk queen Joan Baez returned to the Philharmonic Hall for the second year running, legendary DJ Paul Oakenfold appeared at Nation for a special Cream night and John Osbourne shares his tales of winning a box of records from Heswall-born Radio 1 DJ John Peel in his one-man show at The Unity.
Also this month, Young Everyman Playhouse – the revamped Everyman Youth Theatre – launched with its first production, the site-specific piece Intimate at Camp and Furnace.
APRIL was a giant month for Liverpool culture – well, three giants actually. French marionettes company Royal de Luxe brought us Sea Odyssey, a moving story of love and loss based around the Titanic disaster.
Some 800,000 people gathered to watch the 30ft-tall Little Girl Giant and her adorable dog Xolo as they searched the city’s streets for her 50ft-tall uncle – a diver who had spent 100 years searching the ocean floor for the letter her father, a stowaway on the ill-fated liner, had promised to write.
Although their 23-mile, three-day journey took in remarkable stunts – the uncle leaping the Chinese Arch was one highlight – the most memorable moment came when the giants finally reunited with a hug at sunset in Kings Dock.
The same weekend, singer and actor Marianne Faithfull became Tate Liverpool’s latest celebrity curator with her exhibition Innocence and Experience.
Assisted by her ex-husband John Dunbar, the man who introduced John Lennon and Yoko Ono at his Indica Gallery, she put together a show based on her own tastes and experiences, largely made up of works from the Tate Collection.
The Globe Theatre brought its acclaimed version of Henry V to the Liverpool Playhouse, with The History Boys Jamie Parker in the title role having played Prince Hal in the company’s productions of both parts of Henry IV.
In an equally regal show, This Life’s Ramon Tikaram (yes he is Tanita’s brother) headed to the Empire Theatre as the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.
On the music front, Liverpool Post blog Getintothis held its inaugural award ceremony.
And singer-songwriter Emile Sande performed at the O2 Academy before seeming to put in an appearance at just about every major national event of 2012, including the London Olympics opening ceremony and Sports Personality of the Year.
BRITAIN’S hottest bird stuffer – as graffiti artist Banksy calls her – was one of the highlights of this year’s Light Night. Polly Morgan created a taxidermy work of art at the Victoria and Gallery Museum, while venues across Liverpool opens their doors late into the evening.
Queues snaked along William Brown Street every time TV presenter Rolf Harris attended his exhibition of Impressionist paintings Can You Tell What it is Yet?, which broke visitor figure records at The Walker. May also marked the first annual Liverpool Art Month, with Robyn Woolston named as the winner of the 2012 Liverpool Art Prize at Metal.
At the Philharmonic Hall, musicians including s Maddy Prior and Dave Swarbrick gathered to pay tribute to the late folk icon Sandy Denny
WHILE the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse was busy putting on all three of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests and the world premiere of Frank McGuinness’s The Match Box at its Williamson Square theatre, it was also active across the Pond.
After a two-continent tour taking in Adelaide, San Francisco and Ohio, its production of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, starring Jonathan Pryce, appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, winning it a rave reviewsfrom the New York Times.
Comedian Stan Boardman tried his hand at writing a musical with Wag!, about a Liverpool lass who wants to marry a footballer, premiering at The Unity.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy stars Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Susan Sheridan and Mark Wing-Davey grabbed their towels and headed for the Liverpool Empire for a new stage show based on the original radio recordings. They were joined by Mersey poet Roger McGough as Voice of the Book, and even the show’s writer Douglas Adams put in an appearance from beyond the grave.
The much anticipated Monet Turner Twombly, juxtaposing the work of two of the world’s most famous painters with that of US artist Cy Twombly, opened at Tate Liverpool. Meanwhile, the Lady Lever focussed on the female Pre-Raphaelite Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale and FACT asked visitors whether they are prepared for a more Brazilian world in its The Humble Market exhibition.
Also this month, Paul McCartney celebrated his 70th birthday.
LIVERPOOL’S streets were alive with the sound of music this summer with the return of Tickle The Ivories, the world’s only outdoor piano busking festival, and the introduction of the Liverpool Bandstand, playing host to a range of live acts in Williamson Square.
At the Pier Head, Broadway star Kim Chiswell joined the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for the first of two Music on the Waterfront concerts, while Paul Carrack and Russell Watson joined Smooth FM presenters on the outdoor stage for the second.
Wirral-based painter Anthony Brown, best known for his Capital of Culture series 100 Heads, opened a gallery-studio in an unrented unit at Mann Island to create a new piece of work based on people’s memories of the Pier Head.
Ex-Hollyoaks actor Ali Bastian returned to Liverpool to make her musical theatre debut – as the cunning Roxie Hart in Chicago, which toured to the Empire.
The Arabic Arts Festival and DaDaFest both returned with strong programmes for 2012.
And the Liverpool Everyman announced its £1m public fundraising campaign – Everyone for the Everyman – with the theatre’s staff signing up for sponsored activities including the Three Peaks Challenge and skydiving.
Nationally, Crosby author Frank Cottrell Boyce was lauded for writing the script of the Olympics opening ceremony.
ALTHOUGH bad weather meant some of Merseyside’s festivals were a wash out, Mathew Street struggled on – making as much money for the local economy in a single day as it did last year in two.
This year’s event celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles with the usual range of original and tribute acts, including the fancifully titled Amy Housewine.
Creamfields returned to Daresbury Park with a new Nation stage, showcasing UK talent including Radio 1’s Jordan Suckley. Big names included The Chemical Brothers, Groove Armada, David Guetta, Tiesto, deadmau5 and Calvin Harris.
Merseyside’s arts scene also made a splash outside the region when the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performed at the Proms.
GHOST stories captured in glass, a mounted messenger riding to towns across the North West and boardgames designed to be played with a stranger were just a few of the weird and wonderful art works of this year’s Liverpool Biennial.
Under the helm of new director Sally Tallant, the 10-week contemporary art festival opened up some of the cities well-known but usually closed to the public buildings – including Copperas Hill sorting office (now owned by Liverpool John Moores University) and the Cunard Building – as well as creating new structures such as David Adjaye’s pavilion housing US artist Doug Aitken’s The Source installation at the Albert Dock.
The Walker Art Gallery announced Sarah Pickstone as the winner of its prestigious John Moores Painting Prize, while the outside of art gallery received some unusual visitors – a flock of colourful pigeons for Patrick Murphy’s art work Belonging.
At Liverpool One, bouncers guarded a VIP door to nowhere in Elmgreen and Dragset’s I’m on The Guest List too, while Oded Hirsch’s clanking, shuddering The Mad Lift appeared to have emerged from underground.
Away from the visual arts, it was all floating daggers and asses’ heads at the Royal Court in October when the Liverpool Shakespeare Festival upped sticks from St George’s Hall’s concert room to a more traditional theatre venue.
Meanwhile, the Royal Court’s Liverpool Comedy Festival spread out across the city, even becoming part of other smaller events such as the Bold Street Festival, where Simon Munnery ran a restaurant serving up concepts instead of food.
Southport Soft Cell singer Marc Almond played an (almost) home date at the Philharmonic Hall, while the Epstein Theatre welcomed Merseyside actor Mike Livesley’s tribute to Vivian Stanshall in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.
Rising star director Robert Icke continued the fun over at the Playhouse, where The Alchemist proved its power to entertain 500 years after it was written.
THEATRE producer Jen Hayes took over Liverpool Cathedral for Treasured, a multimedia telling of the Titanic story, with an original score by Ailís Ní Ríain.
George Michael performed his long awaited Echo Arena concert, postponed from a year earlier due to illness.
Les Dennis shone in Tony Staveacre’s Jigsy at the Royal Court – in a role that showed off all his skills as a performer, actor and comedian.
October also saw the return of the Liverpool Irisih Festival, with highlights including the formidable Irish Sea Sessions, and LGBT festival Homotopia. The organisation also announced a special research project based around the remarkable life of Liverpool-born April Ashley, who underwent one of the world’s first transgender operations.
TECHNICAL problems caused the team behind Merseyside’s £500,000 Cultural Olympiad legacy project, Column by New York-based artist Anthony McCall, to be put off until next year – making it at least a year behind schedule.
Tate Liverpool launched its Tracing the Century Exhibition, looking at how drawing has acted as a catalyst for change through works by Sir Henry Moore, Tracey Emin, William Orpen and many more.
Boardwalk Empire star Stephen Graham took time out of his busy filming schedule to revisit his Kirkby upbringing in the latest of Little Atom’s In Conversation events at St George’s Hall.
US landscape photographer Thomas Joshua Cooper took a trip to the Mersey to make pictures with his 114-year-old 5x7in view field camera.
And the Epstein Theatre paid tribute to its namesake with Epstein the Play, starring ex-Coronation Street star Andrew Lancel as Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
BAD news for the Royal Court as its celebrity star of A Nightmare in Lime Street – music producer David Gest – pulled out after being diagnosed with a tumour in his neck. However, understudy Antony Watson stepped into the brink.
Elsewhere in the theatrical world, December means full on pantomime season with the famous Everyman rock ’n’ roll panto staged at the Playhouse for the second year running, Liz McClarnon putting on her glass slippers at the Empire and 90s pop starlet Sonia over at the Epstein.
A new side of the late Liverpool-born novelist Beryl Bainbridge was revealed at the Walker Art Gallery, where an exhibition of her paintings continues.
FACT opened its Winter Sparks show, which takes visitors on a journey through large-scale electricl installations, while landscapes by the legendary Rodney Street-based photographer E Chambré Hardman feature in the Open Eye Gallery’s latest archive exhibition.