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.

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Princes Dock

After the Christmas break I had a wander along the Liverpool waterfront around Princes Dock.  It’s an area still in transition: changing from the old industrial dock system to being part of a swanky modern new waterfront development.

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Princes Dock was named after the Prince Regent.  It opened on the day of the Prince Regent’s coronation as George IV in 1821.  The dock was built by John Foster between 1810 and 1821 to an outline design by John Rennie.

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Access to the southern half of the dock system was originally via George’s Basin, George’s Dock and Canning Dock.  But this changed in 1899, when George’s Basin and George’s Dock were both filled in to create what is now the Pier Head.

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Princes Dock was used as a ferry terminal until 1981 when P&O Ferries closed their Liverpool to Belfast service.  Princes Dock then closed to shipping and the dock was partly filled in.

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Ocean going ships don’t come into the dock anymore but they do berth on the riverfront as between the Pier Head and Princes Dock sits the Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal at Princes Parade.

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As I wandered around the site, the wharfs and warehouses that used to be here have long gone but some remnants of its industrial past remain: the perimeter wall, the cobbled streets, the old railway lines and a few signs of the previous century.  But a large proportion of the site has been redeveloped with the remainder roughly cleared as a car park.

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The dock has been divided into two sections spanned by a pedestrian bridge that was designed by the Liverpool John Moores University Centre for Architectural Research and Consultancy Unit.  In March 2009 a £22 million 1.4 mile extension to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was built with a new lock and bridge at the northern end of Princes Dock.  At the south end of the dock, a new canal tunnel leads to the Pier Head and then onto Canning Dock and access to open water.

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On the front of the dock along Princes Parade and the river front sit three modern office block developments.  At the southern end of the dock are two upmarket hotels: the Malmaison and Crowne Plaza and at the northern end are two high rise residential blocks.  The taller of the two blocks, Alexandra Tower, was completed in 2008 and became the sixth tallest building in Liverpool with 27 floors and 201 apartments, reaching a height of 88 metres or 290 feet.

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Alexandra Tower is dwarfed by the West Tower, which sits inland across The Strand next to the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo building, standing 140 metres (459 ft), 40 floors high and Liverpool’s tallest building (not including antennas).  The first five floors are offices and the remaining floors, apart from the 34th which is a luxury restaurant, are apartments and penthouses.

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The large derelict patch that I wandered across has an uncertain future.  Back in 2006 the site received planning permission for a £130 million ‘New World Square’ development which was to comprise a 25 storey 76m tower including a five-star hotel, 385 apartments and space for shops and restaurants.  But following the financial crash in 2008 the scheme has been placed on hold as far as I can ascertain.

Liverpool Santa Dash 2013

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Another belated post as I catch up in uploading my photos.  On 1st December the tenth Liverpool Santa Dash saw increased entries taking part in what is now the U.K’s biggest festive fun run.  The event is open to runners, joggers and walkers and everyone has to take part in the Santa suit provided.  As well as the main 5K Festive Fun Run, there is a 1K Mini Run for under 12s which takes place immediately afterwards.  There was a sea of Santas waiting by the start at Liverpool’s Pierhead.

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This year the event organisers were targeting 10,000 runners in a bid to reclaim the world title for the biggest number of Santas taking part from Las Vegas.  Last year, the US rivals beat Liverpool by just 714 runners despite a record turnout of 8,500.

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Olympic champion Beth Tweddle and Everton FC legend Joe Royle got this year’s event underway from the starting point outside the Cunard Building on Liverpool’s Pierhead.  Big Brother’s Craig Philips along with former X Factor star Chris Maloney started at the head of the crowd.

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The run raises money for charities.  The official event charity was Claire House children’s hospice, with supporting charities Walking with Giants and Liverpool Unites for Alder Hey children’s charity.  The Santas made quite a scene as they made their way up Water Street from the river.

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In keeping with the footballing traditions of the city around 500 participants are able to wear blue Santa outfits for those staunch Evertonians who just wouldn’t be seen in red.

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Everyone can take part and many got in to the spirit of the event which included dogs dressed up in outfits, some pushing prams with babies in and others taking part in wheelchairs.

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Some people were dressed in very different attire including one man in a kilt.

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The Santa Dash is not just for hardened athletes most people were just out for a good time supporting worthwhile charities and having time for a good chat with friends.

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Some couldn’t resist taking their own photographs of the event as they went round.

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There was a sizeable crowd viewing the event from all sorts of vantage points.

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The local Batala Liverpool Samba drumming band were on hand on the last corner before the finish to spur the participants on.

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With such a number of competitors taking part many of the city centre roads were closed to traffic.

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A key part of the route is the Churchill Way flyover that took the runners from Dale Street up to Islington on the other side of the city centre.  It was quite a sight to see so many Santas thronging the flyover.

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The runners were greeted by a very tall reindeer at the finish outside the Town Hall in Dale Street.

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After finishing and collecting their medals it was a long walk back to the car, train or bus to get home.

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Liverpool was hoping to reclaim the world record of the largest gathering of Santas from Las Vegas who hosted their own Santa dash on 7 December.  Liverpool last had the title in 2010.  A party from Las Vegas flew into Liverpool to witness the event.  The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Gary Millar was joined by Carolyn G. Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas, at both the start on the Pier Head and the finish line on the balcony of the Town Hall in Dale Street.

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Despite Liverpool’s bumper turnout of 10,299 runners, the city narrowly lost the title for staging the world’s largest Santa dash once again to rivals Las Vegas who kept the crown again this year with 11,201 participants in their fun run.  Representatives from both cities welcomed singer Shania Twain, who served as “grand marshall” at the Las Vegas dash when the numbers of entrants were revealed.