THE MERSEYSIDER MAGAZINE
The print edition of The Merseysider magazine is published annually. Issue 2 is now sold out, but the remaining 5 back issues (including the most recent, Issue 6 [Spring 2015]) can be bought as a special offer pack for just £7.50 including postage, a saving of £5. Individual issues cost £2.50 including postage. Visit our BUY page by clicking HERE.
2016 WIRRAL FLOWER & VEGETABLE SHOW
The weather’s looking good for this year’s Wirral Flower & Vegetable Show, in the picturesque setting of Birkenhead Park. It’s taking place on Saturday 13/Sunday 14 August, 10am – 5pm. Admission is free. Attractions include exhibits from local gardeners and allotments, arts and crafts stalls, local produce for sale and more.
RORY STORM AND THE HURRICANES
Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were one of the very first Merseybeat groups. Ringo Starr was their drummer for three years, and they were bigger locally than the Beatles for a while, but national success eluded them and Rory tragically died aged just 34. His story is told in From A Storm To A Hurricane by Anthony Hogan (published by Amberley Publishing). Check out our review by clicking HERE.
100 YEARS OF THE CUNARD BUILDING
2016 marks the centenary of the opening of the Cunard Building, one of the Liverpool waterfront’s much celebrated Three Graces. The history of the building is charted in a new book, The Passenger’s Palace – 100 Years Of The Cunard Building Liverpool by Michael Gallagher and Tony Storey. Read Lee Ruddin’s review by clicking HERE.
SHINY NEW FESTIVAL
Liverpool’s Lantern Theatre on Blundell Street will sadly be closing soon following the sale of the converted warehouse in which it’s located by the building’s owners. The theatre’s been a distinctive presence on the city’s arts scene, with a unique, intimate atmosphere and an imaginatively varied programme of plays, comedy and music. For the last 5 years it’s had an annual Shiny New Festival, showcasing a huge amount of new writing and comedy, and this year’s biggest ever festival will be the venue’s final major event. It runs from 15 – 24 July, with many acts showcasing their work ahead of their performances at August’s Edinburgh Festival. For more information visit the Lantern Theatre’s website by clicking HERE.
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
One of Britain’s leading actors takes on one of Shakespeare’s most memorable roles at the Liverpool Playhouse next week, when Jonathan Pryce plays Shylock in The Merchant Of Venice. Pryce, whose long acting career began at the Everyman in the early 1970s, is accompanied on stage by his daughter Phoebe Pryce, who very appropriately appears as Shylock’s daughter Jessica. The production was originally staged to great acclaim at London’s Globe Theatre last year, and after its Liverpool run there will be performances in New York and Washington. The Merchant of Venice is at the Liverpool Playhouse from Saturday 9 July to Saturday 16 July. For more information, click HERE.
THE HILLSBOROUGH DISASTER: IN THEIR OWN WORDS
‘It is hard to imagine there will ever be a more definitive account than this.’ Click HERE to read our review of Mike Nicholson’s The Hillsborough Disaster: In Their Own Words (Amberley Publishing). The author interviewed for the book many survivors of the tragedy, and others who were affected by or involved in it. It has a foreword by Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, and Mike Nicholson will be donating his royalties to the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
LIVERPOOL WAR MUSEUM
The Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Battle of the Atlantic gallery, which tells the story of one of the most important aspects of World War Two, has deservedly been visited by thousands of locals and visitors to Liverpool. Lee Ruddin admires it as well, but he also strongly recommends a visit to the atmospheric Liverpool War Museum on Rumford Street, which acted as the Combined Headquarters for the North Atlantic operations of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Read Lee’s article on a fascinating gateway into Liverpool’s past by clicking HERE. (Photo: Lee Ruddin)
REVIEW: OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME
Frank McGuinness’s World War One play Observe The Sons Of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme was first performed in 1985 and is now recognised as a classic. Its revival this year at the Liverpool Playhouse is very timely as 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle Of The Somme, in which more than a million soldiers were killed or wounded. Observe The Sons Of Ulster is at the Playhouse until 25 June. YOU CAN READ OUR REVIEW BY CLICKING HERE.
‘A nostalgic treat.’ Click HERE to read our review of Heartbeat, which is at New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion from Friday 6 June to Saturday 11 June. One of the most successful TV series ever, it’s now been adapted for the stage.
GOING GOING GONE
There was an interesting programme on BBC4 recently about the disgraceful state of the Wellington Rooms, the fine Georgian building on Liverpool’s Mount Pleasant that for many years housed the Irish Centre. The programme also included archive footage of streets that once stood near the site. You can watch Going GoingGone: Nick Broomfield’s Disappearing Britain on BBC iPlayer by clicking HERE.
THE WIRRAL BLITZ
The many events, articles and radio and television programmes commemorating the 75th anniversary of the World War Two Merseyside blitz have understandably focused on Liverpool, where most of the casualties occurred. This was true for instance of ‘Merseyside Blitz: An Unconquered People’, the memorial event staged at the Anglican Cathedral by BBC Radio Merseyside on Tuesday 3 May. But did this event also illustrate a tendency to overlook the bombs dropped on Wirral, where hundreds of people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged? Lee Ruddin considers this question in his informative and thought-provoking article Wirral Blitz: An Unnoticed People (click HERE to read it). We have previously published other excellent articles by Lee on the Merseyside blitz – for details see further down this page.
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOUR DREAMCOAT
[UPDATE: You can now read our review of this show by clicking HERE.]
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat, one of the most successful musicals of modern times, is revived at New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion from 24 to 28 May 2016. Bill Kenwright’s new production of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, with X-Factor winner Joe McElderry (above) donning the legendary coat, has been touring the country in recent weeks, receiving glowing reviews. For more details visit the Floral Pavilion’s website by clicking HERE.
We were very sorry to hear of the death of the former Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow. He coined the phrase ‘the Fab Four’ and was a key member of Brian Epstein’s management team. Tony and his wife Corinne were regular readers of The Merseysider and his support for the magazine was much appreciated. With characteristic generosity he described our feature on him as the most accurate account of his career he’d ever read. The article, based on a lengthy interview with Tony, tells a fascinating story. His involvement in the music industry began as a Crosby schoolboy, when he secured a part-time job reviewing records for the Liverpool Echo (on visits to the Echo’s offices he would hide his school cap in his pocket). You can read the article by clicking HERE. Our sincere condolences to Tony’s family. (Photo: The Tony Barrow Collection)
As we’ve previously noted (see below), 2016 is the 75th anniversary of the May Blitz, seven nights of dreadful bombing raids on Merseyside during World War Two. Many families in the region will have particular reasons for thinking of those events, recalling relatives who were killed, their own experiences during the raids or stories they have been told by older family members. Lee Ruddin’s article Best Blitz Books (click HERE) recommends three books about the bombing of Merseyside, including Merseyside Blitzed by Neil Holmes (shown above). And if you missed The May Blitz: Seven Days That Rocked Liverpool, a BBC1 programme (broadcast on 6 May) that included interviews with several survivors of the May 1941 bombing raids, it should be available soon on BBC i-Player (click HERE).
Before the Beatles there was rock’n’roll, and before rock’n’roll there was skiffle. A forthcoming live performance at St George’s Hall tells the story of the music that inspired the Fab Four and countless other 1950s teenagers. The Story of Skiffle: How It All Began (written by the well-known local journalist David Charters) features a cast of professional musicians and actors, who tell the story of a teenager who’s blown away by the music after hearing Lonnie Donegan’s classic Rock Island Line. It’s at St George’s Hall from July 28 to July 30, with three performances each night lasting one hour each. Tickets are £15.
2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the May Blitz, the seven nights at the beginning of May 1941 when the bombing of Merseyside reached its peak. It was the most intense series of air raids experienced by any British city region outside of London during the war, and more than 1,700 people were killed. Lee Ruddin’s absorbing article Blitz (Di)spirit investigates how Merseysiders reacted to the attacks and to previous bombing raids. Lee’s researches reveal that the standard account of cheerful defiance in the face of adversity doesn’t quite tell the whole story. You can read his article by clicking HERE. (You can also still read on our site David Subacchi’s poem ‘May Blitz’ – click HERE.)
HILLSBOROUGH MEMORIAL SERVICE
The 27th and final annual memorial service at Anfield for those who died at Hillsborough in 1989 was an emotional and impressively dignified occasion. There was an especially moving speech by Trevor Hicks, who lost two teenage daughters in the tragedy and was at the forefront of the long campaign for new inquests. The campaign of course finally achieved its goal, and it’s to be hoped the inquest verdict will prove a just one.
I AM THOMAS
[UPDATE: You can now read our review of I Am Thomas – click HERE.] 320 years ago the equivalent of ‘Je Suis Charlie’ - the slogan coined by supporters of free speech after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris – would have been I Am Thomas, the title of a new play at the Liverpool Playhouse. It tells the story of Thomas Aikenhead, the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy. Described as ‘a brutal comedy with songs’, it’s been put together by a team which includes poet Simon Armitage, who’s written the song lyrics. The play is at the Playhouse until Saturday 27 February. We’ll be reviewing it soon, but for information on tickets etc., click HERE.
Popular local writer Kevin Cowdall has just released his second e-book, Assorted Bric-a-brac, on Amazon Kindle. Kevin is known for his much praised World War Two novella Paper Gods and Iron Men, as well as for his poems, which have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and websites (including The Merseysider). His poems have also featured on BBC local radio stations. Assorted Bric-a-brac is an anthology of fifty poems, including some drawn from previous collections and some that are newly published. To find out more about Kevin and his work, visit his website: www.kevincowdall.com
THE MASSIVE TRAGEDY OF MADAME BOVARY!
‘Should be one massive hit’ Click HERE to read our review of The Massive Tragedy Of Madame Bovary!, which is at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre until 27 February.
On The Waterfront is an exhibition (running until 19 June 2016) at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. It marks the 300th anniversary of Liverpool’s Old Dock and aims to show how the waterfront has changed and developed in the years since, including the impact it has had on the city and the lives of local people. Lee Ruddin has visited the exhibition and you can read his interesting and informative review by clicking HERE. (Photo: Liverpool Landing Stage, 1937. Stewart Bale Collection, ©National Museums Liverpool)
LIFE ON HOPE STREET
Think of Hope Street and you probably think of public buildings such as the cathedrals at either end, the Philharmonic Hall (and the Philharmonic pub of course), the Everyman Theatre and so on. But Hope Street has always also been a place to live, and in his fascinating article Life On Hope Street, Niall McChesney looks at the history of one of Liverpool’s most famous roads from a residential perspective, focusing on who lived there during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The article includes detailed information about the individuals and families who have lived at particular addresses, providing a revealing insight into Liverpool’s past. To read Life On Hope Street, click HERE.
LORD OF THE FLIES
‘A spellbinding adaptation of a classic story.’ Click HERE to read our review of Lord Of The Flies, an acclaimed stage version of William Golding’s famous novel, which is at the Liverpool Playhouse from Tuesday 2 to Saturday 6 February.
OPERA STAR’S LIVERPOOL DEBUT
[UPDATE: Read our review of Yunpeng Wang’s concert by clicking HERE.]
One of world opera’s rising stars makes his British debut at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall Concert Room on Sunday 24 January (7.30pm). Yunpeng Wang, a Chinese born baritone now with New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, has been hailed for breathing new life into the genre since winning Placido Domingo’s prestigious Operalia (an international opera competition). He has regularly shared the stage with Domingo himself and critics worldwide have praised his extraordinary talent. For his concert at St George’s Hall, titled Evergreen Melodies, he will be accompanied by the pianist David Walters and the celebrated soprano Ingrid Kertesi. The programme includes pieces from Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro, Rossini’s The Barber Of Seville and other popular operas. For more information, click HERE.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
The Haunting Of Hill House has ‘quite possibly the most remarkable special effects ever seen on a Liverpool stage’. Click HERE to read our review of Liverpool Playhouse’s stunning new supernatural drama.
The Christmas pantomime at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton is always a popular event in the Wirral calendar. This year it’s Sleeping Beauty and you can read our review by clicking HERE.
MIKE BADGER: THE RHYTHM & THE TIDE
Mike Badger founded The La’s but his fascinating new book The Rhythm & The Tide: Liverpool, The La’s And Ever After is about much more than that, with reflections on Liverpool and its cultural scene, and memories of meeting everyone from Adrian Henri to Captain Beefheart. You can read our review by clicking HERE.
An ‘endlessly wacky and inventive’ version of the Brothers Grimm fairytale Rapunzel is this year’s pantomime at the Liverpool Everyman. You can read our review of Rapunzel: Hairway To Heaven by clicking HERE.
LAUGHTERHOUSE COMEDY CLUB
Laughterhouse Comedy have opened a new club on Liverpool’s Mathew Street. Laughterhouse have organized shows in the city for many years, notably at the Slaughter House on Fenwick Street and at the Philharmonic Hall. Laughterhouse Mathew Street was launched with a special show featuring Neil Fitzmaurice, Mick Miller and others. Click HERE to read our review.
Laughterhouse are also organizing a special Christmas show, Laughterhouse Live, at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on Sunday 13 December 2015. The show features seven well-known acts, with Ireland’s Tommy Tiernan topping a bill that also includes Canadian comic Katherine Ryan, Paul Sinha, Gary Delaney, Jason Cook and Alun Cochrane. Neil Fitzmaurice hosts. For more information, click HERE.
Mike Badger’s been a key figure on the Liverpool music scene for around thirty years. In the 80s he founded the La’s (of ‘There She Goes’ fame). Since then he’s been in other bands, made solo albums and set up the Viper record label, which recently released its 100th album. And throughout this time he’s had a successful parallel career as an artist and sculptor. He’s also been a close observer of Liverpool and its cultural scene, and now he’s written about all of these experiences in a fascinating memoir published by Liverpool University Press: The Rhythm & The Tide: Liverpool, The La’s And Ever After. We’ll be reviewing the book soon, but you can hear Mike Badger talk about it at a Q & A and book signing at Waterstones Liverpool One on Thursday 19 November (6.30pm). It’s followed by an after party at the Pen Factory (Hope Street), to which everyone’s invited!
UPDATE: ‘Mesmerising…unforgettable’ You can now read our REVIEW of Farewell My Concubine by clicking HERE.
The performances by the China National Peking Opera Company at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on 13 and 14 November have been justifiably billed as a once in a lifetime opportunity to see one of the world’s great opera companies. They haven’t visited the UK since 2005 and Liverpool is the only location outside London where you’ll be able to see them. They’ll be performing two classical masterpieces: Warrior Women Of Yang (13 November) and Farewell My Concubine (14 November). With spectacular costumes and acrobatic choreography to accompany the singing, the shows promise to be an unforgettable experience. For more information, click HERE.
MY ROMANTIC HISTORY
There’s only one day left to see My Romantic History, which ends its short run at Liverpool’s Lantern Theatre on Tuesday 3 November. Read our review of this ‘very funny’ play by clicking HERE.
Here’s something to get you in the mood for Halloween: The Day Of The Pumpkins, a new poem by PVC. Click HERE to read it.
A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED!
[UPDATE: YOU CAN NOW READ OUR REVIEW OF A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED BY CLICKING HERE.] A classic murder mystery from the golden age of crime fiction comes to New Brighton when the Floral Pavilion presents a stage version of Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced. Judy Cornwell (whose many other past roles include Daisy – Patricia Routledge’s sister – in Keeping Up Appearances) plays the legendary amateur sleuth Miss Marple in the production, which is at the theatre from Monday 26 to Saturday 31 October. For more information, click HERE.
THE NEMESIS: BIRKENHEAD’S ‘DEVIL SHIP’
The UK’s trade relationship with China is much in the news just now. It actually erupted into war a century and a half ago, and a Birkenhead-built ship was integral to Britain’s success, though the sorry saga of the Opium Wars is hardly to our country’s credit. Find out more by reading our fascinating article on Birkenhead’s ‘Devil Ship’ – click HERE.
AMERICANS IN LIVERPOOL DURING WORLD WAR II - PART 3
The third and final part of Lee Ruddin’s excellent investigative series Americans In Liverpool During The Second World War is now on our website. It’s sub-titled The Ugly, and like the rest of the series is an honest appraisal, avoiding the usual romanticised assumptions and questioning how GIs have been portrayed in films such as Saving Private Ryan and the Elvis vehicle GI Blues. But he also recognises that there was much that was good (and enduring) about America’s ‘friendly invasion’ of Liverpool. It’s another informative, surprising read – click HERE to see it.
AMERICANS IN LIVERPOOL DURING WORLD WAR II – PART 2
Part 2 of Lee Ruddin’s absorbing series on Americans In Liverpool During The Second World War, sub-titled ‘The Bar’, looks at the experiences of the black American GIs who spent time in the city. Sadly, the discrimination they faced in the United States was to a considerable extent replicated here, though there were some honourable exceptions among local residents and businesses. It’s a riveting, eye-opening read and you can access it by clicking HERE.
THE GLASS MENAGERIE
‘It’s easy to see why the play is regarded as a modern classic.’ To read our review of The Glass Menagerie at the Liverpool Playhouse (a new production of the Tennessee Williams play starring Greta Scacchi, seen above), click HERE.
THE PLASTIC TREE IN PRENTON
Let’s hope the new law requiring stores to charge customers for bags means sights such as that above become less common. A few years ago PVC, whose poems have occasionally appeared in The Merseysider, wrote The Plastic Tree In Prenton – a poem that now seems very timely. You can read it by clicking HERE.
THE ODYSSEY: MISSING PRESUMED DEAD
Simon Armitage’s entertaining and thought-provoking modern take on Homer’s The Odyssey stars Colin Tierney (above) as a politician who finds himself in a spot of bother (to put it mildly) following a diplomatic incident in Turkey. The Odyssey: Missing Presumed Dead is at the Everyman, Liverpool until 17 October. Click HERE to read our review.
AMERICANS IN LIVERPOOL DURING WORLD WAR II
As Britain’s most important transatlantic port, Liverpool has had a unique, longstanding relationship with the United States. The link was especially strong during the Second World War, when Liverpool’s crucial role in the war effort was reflected in the many Americans (politicians, GIs, military top brass) who came to the city. Lee Ruddin has now chronicled this period in his study Americans In Liverpool During The Second World War, which we’ll be publishing on The Merseysider website. Relationships between GIs and the local community, visits by American VIPs (including Eleanor Roosevelt), how friendships made during the war continued long after it was over – all this and more is covered in Lee’s fascinating account. He explains that the so-called ‘friendly invasion’ was not all sweetness and light, offering a refreshingly balanced, objective view of an important aspect of Liverpool’s history. You can read ‘The Good’, Part 1 of Americans In Liverpool During The Second World War, by clicking HERE. Parts 2 and 3 will follow soon.