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.