King’s Day at Birkenhead Town Hall

I’ve taken photographs of Birkenhead Town Hall before in a few articles on this blog.  But as I walked past on Thursday 27th April I noticed that rather than the union jack flying overhead there was the national flag of the Netherlands flying.

Well the 27 April is the Netherland’s national day; it is the King’s official birthday and is known as King’s Day or ‘Koningsdag’.  In the Netherlands it is celebrated with parties, street markets, concerts and special events to celebrate the royal family.  Some people set up stalls to sell second-hand goods and King’s Day themed products in many city and town centres.  The day features official musical performances and many people spontaneously sing “Het Wilhelmus”.  This is a poem written in 1574 and describes the life of William of Orange (William the Silent) and his fight for the Dutch people.  Each year, the royal family visits some of the venues and they are entertained with displays and performances around local historic events. Royal family members generally join in with the games in a good natured way and greet the thousands of people who turn out to see them.

Well there was none of that in Birkenhead but a number of civic dignitaries and Dutch nationals currently residing in the Merseyside area held a civic reception along with the Mayor of Wirral Councillor Pat Hackett in Birkenhead Town Hall.

Interestingly in October 2016 the Council adopted a protocol for flying flags at Wirral Town Halls which will be overseen by the Council’s ‘Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee’.  Whilst the rules are in the main about flying the union jack or the Wirral Council flag it seems unclear to me as to when the flag of other nations can be flown at the town halls in Wirral.  It’s an interesting aside to the usual civic protocols.

Poppies on Islington, Liverpool

Driving through Liverpool recently on my way to the M62 I came across a surprising vista. Liverpool and Manchester made a joint bid last year to fund a project called a ‘Tale of Two Cities’; with the aim to have wildflowers planted in inner-city areas.  As part of the scheme for Liverpool, the project organisers have created a wildflower corridor along the Islington central reservation, leading up towards Everton Park.

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The two cities bid for the £120,000 funding available through the national ‘Grow Wild’ scheme.  ‘Grow Wild’ is a £10.5m campaign to bring people and communities together to sow, grow and support UK native wild flowers. It is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London.  ‘Grow Wild’ has been set up to inspire people to get together to transform unloved urban sites, gardens and windowsills into wildlife-friendly wild flower patches. Liverpool and Manchester wanted to deliver a distinctive cultural wild flower project to connect two historically divided cities, blending pathways into the two cities with environment and culture. Their proposals have been supported by the National Wild Flower Centre, the National Trust and the two city councils.  More details can be found at http://www.growwilduk.com

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The idea was that Everton Park in Liverpool and Hulme in Manchester will make bold statements by transforming large areas of neglected space and unloved verges into magical displays of wild flowers. The local communities in each area share many cultural and historic similarities.

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In Liverpool, derelict and paved areas of Everton Park have been planted with wild flower displays, some marking demolished streets and the central reservation on Islington.  In Manchester, wild flower landscapes have be created along Princess Road and its linked surroundings to be seen by 100,000 passers-by daily on their way in and out of the city centre each day.

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Planting events, cultural exchanges in each city and coming together at music and art festivals organised by the people of Everton and Hulme have all been planned to take place in the wildflower areas that they have sown and cared for.  Community leaders will continue to meet through events across the two cities.  The hope is that an imaginative working relationship between the two historic rivals will be a roadmap for others to follow.

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Richard Scott, senior project manager at conservation charity Landlife, who coordinated the Tale of Two Cities bid, said that the plan was to ensure maximum visibility for commuters and local communities by placing wildflowers in highly visible and unexpected urban spaces.  The Grow Wild competition was decided by a national online vote that was decided in November last year.  Liverpool and Manchester were chosen against strong competition from the London Borough of Newham, Bristol, Plymouth and Sheffield.

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As you drive up Islington from the city centre you can’t miss the planting and the colour of the wild flowers which as I came to see them were mostly poppies giving a bright red carpet set against the cityscape down the hill.  Like Princess Road in Manchester thousands of people commute up and down Islington each day and the show of wildflowers there is unexpected and quite spectacular as I found them.

Memories of August 1914

With ‘Memories of August 1914’ Liverpool saw the return of the giant marionettes created by French company Royal de Luxe.  They visited the city back in April 2012 (see my posting of the event on 22/4/12) to commemorate the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic which was part of the Liverpool based White Star Line fleet.  This year the giants’ spectacular was being held to commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.

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The event started on 23 July when Grandma Giant was discovered sleeping inside St George’s Hall.  Around 42,000 people flocked to see her there during her two day of slumbers which included snoring and her breaking wind!

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On Friday she woke up, and was joined by the Little Girl Giant and her pet dog Xolo and the three took to the city’s streets with the intention of telling the story about Liverpool and World War I.

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The giants covered some 30 miles in total on Liverpool’s streets over the weekend covering much of the city centre.

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During Friday’s route the Grandmother Giant was delayed by about an hour after her head came lose when she broke wind.  Once her head was secured she was moved in her wheelchair to meet the little girl and Xolo in Newsham Park for the night’s stopover.

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The very colourful director of Royal de Luxe Jean-Luc Courcoult had set out the story for the three day event.  As he outlined it: the Grandmother comes to Liverpool with one of her children to tell us the story of the happy people who went away in August 1914 with the King’s Regiment to save Britain and Europe.  In August 1914 it was well before the horrors of the war began to unfold.  Europe at this point in time was gripped by the war frenzy and the excitement of what lay ahead.

 

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Whilst on Friday and Saturday the three giants ‘walked’ across the city with their Lilliputian helpers; on Sunday walking along the Strand on the Liverpool waterfront for the grand finale they were joined by some of the ‘Liverpool Pals’.  I only saw them from a distance as I was the other side of Canning Dock.

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The ‘Pals’ are a key part of the story.  The Earl of Derby was Liverpool’s Lord Mayor in 1911, was a Conservative MP for the city, president of the city’s chamber of commerce and chancellor of the university.  When Lord Kitchener made an appeal for “the first 100,000” volunteers to fight in the war in August 1914, Lord Derby wanted to ensure that the city was at the forefront of the World War One recruitment drive.

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On 24 August, he met with Kitchener to ask if he could raise a battalion from the city’s commercial class. Three days later, he called for men to serve in “a battalion of comrades” in the Liverpool newspapers.  He felt that there were many men, such as clerks and others engaged in commercial business, who would be willing to enlist in a battalion of Lord Kitchener’s new army if they felt assured they would be able to serve with their friends and not be put in a battalion with men that they did not know.

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By the end of September 1914 there were more than fifty towns across the country where men enlisted together in local recruiting drives.  The Earl of Derby was the first to call such local battalions ‘Pals’ battalions.  Some of the larger towns and cities like Liverpool were able to form several battalions each.  As he put it, those signing up should form “a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool”.  The huge casualties from the war meant whole communities and workplaces were to change forever.  By the end of the war, some 2,800 Liverpool Pals had been killed.  Despite the huge death toll, Lord Derby’s popularity remained and he went on to become Secretary of State for War and later the Ambassador to France.

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I joined the crowds on Saturday evening to photograph the giants on the city centre streets before they stayed overnight at Clarence Dock.  On Sunday morning 27th July I joined the throngs of people around Canning Dock next to the Albert Dock complex to watch the Grandmother and Little Girl Giant depart Liverpool on a barge into the River Mersey.

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The Giants did a circuit around the Three Graces on the Pierhead.  It gave the opportunity for passengers on the Ruby Princess cruise ship who were berthed at the cruise liner terminal a chance to see some of the action.

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The procession along The Strand next to the Liverpool waterfront was accompanied by music and percussion blasting out from musicians in vehicles accompanying the procession.  The percussion section were stood on cars stacked on top of each other, quite a sight.

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Last time the Giants were in the city, they were estimated to have pulled in £32m for the economy with around 800,000 spectators and visitors staying in hotels, eating out at restaurants and spending money in shops. Every part of town there were spectators eager to see the parade.

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The Grandmother and Little Girl Giant were lifted onto two beds on a river going barge and they departed Canning Dock amid clouds of dry ice which the Lilliputians were furiously emptying over the sides of the barge being hauled by a small tugboat.

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It is estimated that one million people have attended the event this time and the Giants certainly made a big impression with the people of Merseyside and beyond.  The transport system particularly the Merseyrail service has never been under so much pressure with the number of travellers getting into and back out of the city centre with Lime Street station forced to close on Friday evening due to the sheer weight of travellers.  Authorities from Perth in Australia and Chicago in the USA were in the city to see how the giants’ spectacular was hosted as they hope to put on similar events in the next year.  But many many people are hoping the giants will return sometime soon back to Liverpool.

Wirral Farm Feast 2014

On Sunday we visited Claremont Farm near Bebington in mid-Wirral for the ‘Farm Feast 2014’, the new name for the Wirral Food and Drink Festival. The festival is held on a working farm and as it had rained hard over the preceding days the fields were a little muddy.  The rain stayed away until late afternoon but you still needed wellies to get around.

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There were hundreds of stalls selling all kinds of locally produced and artisan made foods from across the North West.

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There were also demonstrations by celebrity chefs.  I caught Brendan Lynch a baker and finalist in last year’s BBC TV ‘Great British Bake Off’.  He’d finished his demonstration and was judging a cake making competition.

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This year there were three sound stages featuring a number of artists from around the region.  Whilst I was there Liverpool band City Walls performed on the on the main stage.

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Liverpool folk artist Mikey Kenney was on the Courtyard stage as we sampled the delights of the food and drink stalls in the light drizzle.

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Light Night Liverpool 2014

The annual ‘Museums at Night’ festival gives visitors free access to museums from sunset onwards along with special one-off events around the UK.  It ran from Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th May.  On Friday night the annual ‘Light Night Liverpool’ took place as part of this national event.

As well as access to museums, art galleries, exhibitions and special performances there were a range of events out on the streets.  I tried to get around as many as I could with my camera.  I decided to leave my tripod in the car and walked around the city taking some handheld shots which meant I have had to really push the ISO film speed settings on my camera.

The one-night event celebrates the city’s arts and culture scene in over 50 venues across the city with many of the events adopting a World War I theme as 2014 marks the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.  There are further events planned in the city to mark the start of the ‘Great War’.

There were thousands of people in the city along with the usual night time revelers who were packing the bars and clubs.  There was a tremendous atmosphere around the city as people made their way around the venues, taking in the sights and sounds of Light Night.

Light Night projections

There were two ‘Light Night projections’ one shone on the Bluecoat building, an arts centre in one of the city’s oldest buildings in the centre of town and the second on the Bell Tower of Liverpool’s Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral. The two projections paid tribute to the centenary commemorations of World War One showing how the war was reported back on the ‘Home Front’.

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The Catholic Cathedral is in the university quarter and university buildings and the Everyman Theatre were all lit up adding to the atmosphere as the light started to fade and the projections switched on.

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The First World War was the first total war, with the whole nation mobilised behind the campaign.  Men enlisted to the army while women took on jobs in industry to keep the country running and to help the ‘war effort’.  The projections convey the sense of optimism for the war through archive photographs, postcards, newspapers and other memorabilia.

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At the Bluecoat the voice of David Charters, a former Liverpool Daily Post journalist known as the ‘Bard of Birkenhead’ was played reading his play ‘A Dream of Wilfred Owen’ alongside the slide show.  Wilfred Owen lived in Birkenhead and as well as a soldier he was one of the leading poets of the First World War.

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Candle lit Labyrinth at Blackburne House

Blackburne House is a Grade II listed building, situated in Liverpool’s Hope Street quarter.  It is a centre of education for women as well as hosting range of social enterprises.

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The labyrinth is a design by Gareth Price from Reddoscar, who has designed and built labyrinths for the LightNight Festival over the last four years.  It is supported by LIPA, Blackburne House and Liverpool LightNight 2014.

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The public were encouraged to take a walk under the stars, through the candle-lit labyrinth, in the setting of Blackburne House.  The labyrinth is an ancient symbol of creativity and mindfulness and as the organizers say ‘testament to the creative spirit of Liverpool and its community’.

It was still light at 8.30pm when I captured some images of the event here.

Friends of the Flyover and BEGA ‘Lighting the Way’ exhibition

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The Churchill Way flyover runs from Islington, past Central Library, Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum through to Dale Street.  It was built in the early 1970s and won a Concrete Society Award in 1971.  It is the only surviving part of a wider plan to give Liverpool an urban motorway network in the 1970s which would have seen the M62 brought through the city centre right down to the docks on the banks of the River Mersey.

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Liverpool City Council has proposed demolishing the flyover in its future planning strategy however the ‘Friends of the Flyover’ has raised £40,000 through a crowd funding website.  The group was set up after the city’s 2012 Strategic Investment Framework proposed the removal of the Churchill Way flyover.

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The group plan to transform the unloved concrete structures into a cycle and pedestrian-friendly parkway with arts spaces, landscape gardens and coffee shops.  The project has been compared to New York’s High Line a linear park built on the site of an old railway, which has revitalised part of Manhattan’s West Side.

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For Light Night the Friends of the Flyover invited members of the public to join design professionals and students to create a temporary lighting installation on the walkways of Churchill Way Flyover to see how light can transform spaces.  The event was hosted with Zumbtobel and BEGA lighting companies.  There were some rudimentary lighting units and ‘art installations’ along the walkways.

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Bring the Fire Project: Japanese Fire

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Bring the Fire Project is a Liverpool based collective of fire performers, circus skills teachers and flow arts promoters and they are first fire dancing group based in the city.

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Their performance comprised of live drumming, fire costumes and dancing with a mixture of elements taken from Japanese traditions.

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The troop use a variety of costumes and fire apparatus to turn their performances into a symmetry of patterns combining with the human body in motion.

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Fire dancing is a stunningly beautiful art form, which is gradually growing in popularity, and they believe that now is a good moment to provide people with the chance to discover, practice and perform in Liverpool.

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Bring the Fire Project were accompanied with live drumming from TaikoDragons, a Wirral based organisation who teach, share and showcase the ancient art of Japanese Taiko across Wirral and Merseyside

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TaikoDragons is supported by Merseyside Police as an activity designed originally to provide an outlet for young people.  TaikoDragons now work with many sectors of the community including people with special educational needs, those with sight and hearing limitations, the elderly and many more sectors within the community.

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I did not get a great vantage point but managed to capture some elements of the event which took place at Wellington’s Column outside the Walker Art Gallery where many spectators headed after the performance.

As well as the special Light Night exhibitions there were some old friends lit up in the Liverpool night sky, including the Radio City Tower photographed from Mount Pleasant.

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Liverpool Halloween Lantern Carnival 2013

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The annual Liverpool Halloween Lantern Carnival took place in Sefton Park on Friday November 1st.  Hundreds of people from across the region came together with their handmade lanterns to join the procession through the park organised by the Liverpool Lantern Company with their spectacular array of illuminated giant puppets representing various creatures of the night and other troupes of weird and wonderful characters, musicians and dancers.

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The parade started at the obelisk monument at the Croxteth Drive entrance and wended its way deep into the park.  Despite storm warnings and heavy daily downpours it was perfect weather on the night.

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The parade has something of a carnival atmosphere and there was fun for all the family with lots of young children accompanied by their parents both in the procession and in the crowd of a few thousand spectators.

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The Lantern Company, based in nearby Lark Lane, have been in existence for 10 years specialising in the production of arts festivals, one-off site specific events, carnival parades and visual theatre including the creation of processional floats, costumes and large-scale puppets.

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At the heart of the company is a commitment to developing sustainable projects, which build skills and raise aspirations in people from the local community celebrating creativity and promoting social cohesion among both the participants and audiences.

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The company aims to make its events accessible to those who may not normally access visual or performing arts.

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The Halloween Lantern Carnival is a reflection of the work that the company undertakes with the city’s communities involving a wide range of local people to help make and repair lanterns every year.  Open Lantern making workshops took place at venues across the city throughout October for those who wanted to take part in the parade.

Birkenhead Festival of Transport 2013

I’ve not had a great deal of spare time of late and I have not uploaded some of my more recent photographs.  Going back a month; on Sunday 15 September I went along to Birkenhead Park to see the annual Birkenhead Festival of Transport.

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The Festival always features a popular traditional funfair.

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The weather was wet and windy and the planned Battle of Britain Memorial flight, which was to have performed a ‘fly past’ featuring a Lancaster bomber, had to be cancelled.

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But there were a number of other attractions to photograph.

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There were a range of road going steam engines as well as a Ffestiniog railway engine and carriage operating on a short piece of narrow gauge track.

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There were three steam powered street organs.

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The historic vehicle rally included a range of cars, vans, military vehicles and motor bikes from yesteryear.

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Whilst I missed the dog show I did manage to catch the American Civil War re-enactment group who, as well as marching, presented their bayonets and loaded their muskets and fired a few deafening rounds into the air.

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There was a stage which featured a number of performers.  Unfortunately for the Chester Brass Band the weather did not attract many spectators for their performance.

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