STORIES – Arts & Entertainment


In the arts, Liverpool was home to the first lending library, the Athenaeum Society, arts centre and public art conservation centre. Liverpool is also home to the UK’s oldest surviving classical orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Liverpool also had its own Speakers’ Corner on the Pier Head. It was commissioned by the Transport & General Workers Union and designed in 1973 by the architect Jim Hunter and the sculptor Arthur Dooley. It won a RIBA design award in 1975 but disappeared when the City Council redeveloped the Pier Head in the 1990s.

Liverpool’s incredible musical heritage and its amazing claim to having had 56 number one hits – more than any other city. The factors contributing to this musical heritage are often cited as being Liverpool’s strong Irish connections, its influences from the Caribbean and the fact that the city is on the edge of the country, facing the Atlantic Ocean and through its Maritime heritage, strongly linked to America.

Little-known ‘fact’, which I was told recently, and probably needs verification: Freddie Mercury lived
for a while in Dovedale Towers on Penny Lane. I was surprised I’d never heard of this before…

Conductor Sir Thomas Beecham
The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham (1879 –1961), the grandson of the famous pills magnate, was born in St.Helens. He founded both the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, and from the early twentieth century until his death was a dominant influence on the musical life of Britain.

David Yates, the Director of the blockbuster movies Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix & Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was born in St.Helens.

Comedian, actor, celebrity, and fanatical Saints supporter Jonny Vegas
(a.k.a. Michael Joseph Pennington) is from St.Helens. His career took off when he won the 1997 Edinburgh Festival Critics’ Award , and was the first newcomer to be nominated for the Perrier Award. Since then he has become a national celebrity, appearing in various sitcoms, game shows, TV ads, as well as the award-winning Bleak House, and in The Libertine starring Johnny Depp.

Pioneering photographer John William Draper (1811- 1882 ), renowned for taking the world’s first human portrait by light and the first successful photograph of the moon, lived for a short time in Market Street….

My dad claimed to have once bought a cup of coffee for the Beatles- between the five of them! I believe this took place in the Blue Angel. He also claimed to have rudely told Ringo to “p*** off” when he asked if he could join in a poker game. My dad was a friend of Alan and Beryl Williams. He also knew Arthur Dooley who had many jobs but was also a park keeper at one time as well. My dad also claimed that the real reason Pete Best was sacked from the Beatles was because the refused the advances of Brian Epstein, who fancied him. Official legend has it that Epstein fancied Lennon, apparently it was Best? Who knows.

My uncle Alan Clarke was born in Seacombe, Wallasey, in 1935 and directed ‘Scum’, ‘Rita Sue and Bob Too’, and ‘The Firm’. He is still hailed as a pioneering force in British TV drama. He died in 1990 but his family still live in Wallasey. He remains largely unrecognised outside of the media, despite the fact that his protégés Ray Winstone and Gary Oldman (among others) went on to become leading lights in British drama.

Just as Eccles has its Cake. Chelsea has its Bun and Bakewell has its Pudding, Liverpool has its Tart - the edible variety. Except that not many people know about it, and until 2005 nobody in Liverpool knew about it – except me. I discovered that it had existed, in a private family cook-book, since 1897. It is a pastry shell, filled with a mixture based on dark muscovado sugar and whole lemon, and it is delicious, it is unique – and it is ours!
For full details please visit , then BUY some from Dafna’s or Satterthwaites. And bake some yourself! I did not invent this, I am not selling it; I am the discoverer, and I am doing my best to get it as widely known and available as all the other “town-name” confections.

Celebrated screenwriter and actor Colin Welland was born in Newton-le-Willows. He appeared in the 1970s BBC series Z Cars, and in films, including Kes (1969), before concentrating more on writing. He won the 1982 Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Chariots of Fire, and his other scriptwriting credits include the 1979 film Yanks, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Gere.

In March 1958 American Cowboy actor Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger visited Liverpool. Rogers stayed at the Adelphi Hotel but had flu so Trigger took a bow from the admiring audiences in Lime Street from the first floor balcony of the Hotel.

Sarah Biffin, (1748 – 1840)was an artist who despite having no arms and legs, had work hung in the Royal Academy and was under the patronage of four monarchs. She chose to live the latter part of her life in Liverpool, where she was supported by Rathbones and other Liverpool families.

Felicia Dorothy Hemens was born in Duke Street, and is best remembered for her poem containing the line “The boy stood on the burning deck…” and ‘The landing of the Pilgrim Fathers’ – a poem traditionally recited in America at Thanksgiving.

In the early 1850s, The Pre Raphaelites – in particular William Holman Hunt – were at the point of giving up and getting regular day jobs, when the Liverpool Academy kicked in and awarded Hunt their annual £50 prize, just as he was on the verge of destitution. It saved his career. Support for Pre Raphaelite painting over the following years eventually split the academy, and ultimately lead to its breakup. But Hunt never forgot his debt to Liverpool – and many years later, allowed the Walker Art Gallery to buy his painting: ‘The Triumph of the Innocents’ for a knockdown price, as a token of his gratitude.

Rex Harrison, the famous actor, grew up in Hartington Rd, Toxteth, Liverpool.

No.54 Oxford Street (now demolished) was home to J. Herbert McNair
and his wife Frances MacDonald for ten years from 1899. With Frances’ sister, Margaret MacDonald and her husband, Charles Rennie Mackintosh they formed the legendary Glasgow Four. Mackintosh stayed with his in-laws at Oxford Street on at least one occasion.

Radio Merseyside has more listeners than any other local Radio Station in the country

Jacob Epstein’s bronze figure on the prow of a ship above the main entrance of Lewis’s is the origin of the phrase ‘standing there like one of Lewis’s’ applied by scousers to anyone who has been ‘stood up’.

I know that the Blenheim Lakeside Hotel used to be the family home of Stuart Sutcliffe, one of the founding members of the Beatles. They are my favourite band. The hotel is beside Sefton Park Lake where there used to be a boat house. Maybe the Beatles used to go on boats around the lake. I would like to do this too one day!

I don’t know a lot about Liverpool but my dad once told me that under Knotty Ash there are ‘Diddy Men’ mining in tunnels for Jam Butties! But believe it or not it’s true! The Diddy Men are little people who wear hats and are quite plump around the middle. The men wear waistcoats and the girls wear pretty dresses. Also they have enormous shoes. I’m running out of space now and I haven’t told you about the broken biscuits factory or the treacle wells. They will have to wait for another time.

Liverpool has one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe. The 1958 film ‘Inn of the Sixth Happiness’, staring Ingrid Bergman, was actually partly filmed in Wales with Snowdonia doubling for China. Most of the children in the film were from Liverpool’s Chinese community. In the movie the voices of the children are dubbed to hide their Scouse accents.

First scout troupe in the world formed in Birkenhead

Littlewoods nowadays provides a number of gaming and betting services, but is perhaps most famous for launching a football pools service in Liverpool in 1923.

George Stubbs (25 August 1724 – 10 July 1806) was an English painter, best known for his paintings of horses.
Stubbs was born in Liverpool
, the son of a currier and leather merchant. Information on his life up to age thirty-five is sparse, relying almost entirely on notes made by fellow artist Ozias Humphry towards the end of Stubbs’s life. Stubbs worked at his father’s trade until he was 15 or 16, and after his father’s death in 1741 was briefly apprenticed to a Lancashire painter and engraver named Hamlet Winstanley. He soon left as he objected to the work of copying to which he was set. Thereafter as an artist he was self-taught. In the 1740s he worked as a portrait painter in the
North of England and from about 1745 to 1751 he studied human anatomy at York County Hospital. He had had a passion for anatomy from his childhood, and one of his earliest surviving works is a set of illustrations for a textbook on midwifery which was published in 1751.
His most famous work is probably Whistlejacket, a painting of a prancing horse commissioned by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, which is now in the National Gallery in London. This and two other paintings carried out for Rockingham break with convention in having plain backgrounds.
Throughout the 1760s he produced a wide range of individual and group portraits of horses, sometimes accompanied by hounds. He often painted horses with their grooms, whom he always painted as individuals. Meanwhile he also continued to accept commissions for portraits of people, including some group portraits. From 1761 to 1776 he exhibited at the Society of Artists, but in 1775 he switched his allegiance to the recently founded but already more prestigious Royal Academy.
Stubbs also painted more exotic animals including lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, and rhinoceroses, which he was able to observe in private menageries. He became preoccupied with the theme of a wild horse threatened by a lion and produced several variations on this theme.
These and other works became well known at the time through engravings of Stubbs’s work, which appeared in increasing numbers in the 1770s and 1780s.
Mares and Foals in a Landscape. 1763-68.
Stubbs also painted historical pictures, but these are much less well regarded. From the late 1760s he produced some work on enamel. In the 1770s Josiah Wedgwood developed a new and larger type of enamel panel at Stubbs’s request. Stubbs hoped to achieve commercial success with his paintings in enamel, but the venture left him in debt.[3] Also in the 1770s he painted single portraits of dogs for the first time, while also receiving an increasing number of commissions to paint hunts with their packs of hounds. He remained active into his old age. In the 1780s he produced a pastoral series called Haymakers and Reapers, and in the early 1790s he enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales, whom he painted on horseback in 1791. His last project, begun in 1795, was a comparative anatomical exposition of the structure of the human body with that of a tiger and a common fowl, fifteen engravings from which appeared between 1804 and 1806. The project was left unfinished upon Stubbs’s death at the age of 81 on 10 July
1806, in London.
Stubbs’s son George Townly Stubbs was an engraver and printmaker.


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