Hope Street, Liverpool: History And Festivals (1996 – 2006)
The Hope Street Festival in Liverpool, delayed from Midsummer, was on Sunday 17 September. This exciting milestone in Hope Street’s history, introducing of a start-of-season early Autumn ‘Feast’ to go in future alongside the Summer Festival, is however neither the beginning nor the end of the journey.
The 2006 Hope Street Festival (later by others renamed ‘Feast’), on Sunday 17 September, is a continuation of such an event on Hope Street in Liverpool sometime in the summer over many years. It included the Philharmonic Open Day, a Farmers’ Market, events in Hope Street’s cafes, guided walks, and a performance of Richard Gordon-Smith’s ‘Hotfoot on Hope Street’, commissioned by HOPES: The Hope Street Association in 1997, to launch their campaign for the renewal of the Hope Street public realm.
We have already noted [here] something of the history of how it all began. This posting therefore looks only at how things have developed over the past decade, following the near-loss in the late 1980s / early 1990s of both the Liverpool Everyman Theatre and the Philharmonic, and the intervention of the Campaign to Promote the Arts on Merseyside (CAMPAM), with its cry of Once lost we will not get them back!
A new era
Slowly, in the early 1990s, the threats of cultural annihilation subsided; but at the same time CAMPAM began to take on a wider and more involved role, recognising the strategic value of the Hope Street area (by then, acknowledged formally as the Hope Street Quarter). It was not enough to defend individual arts organisations, however significant. A more comprehensive approach was required; and this was what the newly emerging registered charity, HOPES: The Hope Street Association, a coalition of local institutions, traders, community organisations and individuals, was formed, with the encouragement of John Flamson and City Challenge, to bring about.
Plans were drawn up to address the enormous potential of Hope Street Quarter as a hub for the arts, for business, for the knowledge economy, and as a focus for community engagement and capacity building. Trustees were elected to take the work forward. A Council with wider membership was convened to enable regular consultation of important issues. And a decision was made that, right from the start, there would be celebratory activities – concerts, other performances, social events – which would ensure the involvement of people at every level.. and would also give everyone an opportunity to get to know each other in a relaxed and informal ambience.
Hope Street Festival resurrected
Thus do we arrive at the re-emergence of the Hope Street Festival, in its new, more modernly inclusive, guise as an event co-ordinated by HOPES., but still, as in 1977 and 1980, intended vigorously to celebrate this ‘unique street’…. and still supported by amongst others Adrian Henri, Graham Frood of the Unity Theatre and other leading members of CAMPAM and then HOPES, just as they had supported events two decades previously.
The very first ‘modern day’ event was in 1996, a weekend of activities centred around the Everyman and other venues, with poetry, small-scale music and other open-access offerings, over one of the wettest and coldest Midsummer Days on record – or so at least it seemed to the organisers! But from that we learned a lot, and in 1997 the Philharmonic Hall was hired for a special ‘community concert’ organised by HOPES on the basis of as much community inclusion as possible, and as a flagship event around which many other activities took place, with each event occurring on its own terms and HOPES acting as co-ordinator and promoter.
The HOTFOOT concerts
HOPES’ Midsummer Festival concert in Philharmonic Hall also embraced another objective – the launch of the campaign to renew the physical structure of Hope Street’s impressive but faded public realm. And so the piece of music entitled Hotfoot on Hope Street came about, written by HOPES’ Composer in Association, Richard Gordon-Smith, commissioned by the charity to portray the street in a twenty minute orchestral piece at a level performable by good amateur and student musicians (with a little help from some friendly professsionals).
The world premiere of Hotfoot on Hope Street was in Philharmonic Hall on 21 June 1997, twenty years to the day after the celebration on Hope Street of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Other performers appearing included Adrian Henri and Roger McGough.
There has been a HOTFOOT concert at the Phil every year since 1997, sometimes performing the actual piece again and always picking up themes which resonate for Hope Street: the 2002 KOOL STREET project, developed in conjunction with local schools, the music on several occasions of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (Britain’s foremost Black classical composer, whose friend from Liverpool, John Archer, later became the first Black mayor of a British town, Battersea in London), and Liverpool’s only celebration of the 1999 centenary of Duke Ellington.
Nor must we forget the hugely popular Saurang concerts which HOPES presented alongside members of the RLPO. Then, in 2005 (Liverpool’s Year of the Sea), we presented the world premiere of Richard Gordon-Smith’s large-scale work for orchestra and four choirs, Trade Winds, set to the words of (another) Poet Laureate, John Masefield, whose Liverpool maritime experience aptly led him to prophesise great things for his city’s future.
In some years since 1996/7 the HOTFOOT concert has been scheduled alongside a wide range of other festival activities, the most wide-ranging of which was during Midsummer 2000. This Festival involved some twenty events, from plays and food tastings to art exhibitions and debates, all under the umbrella of the Millennium Commission‘s celebrations – and then, to HOPES’ delight, selected as their national exemplar of community festivals, to make a presentation to the media and leading national figures (including, once more, then Secretary of State Chris Smith MP). The Millennium Hope Street Festival was led by an enthusiastic team of Trustees, volunteers, graduates gaining work experience and members of the business, faith and other communities along Hope Street.
A fallow period and a beautiful public realm
Sadly, despite the enormous success of the Millennium Year, HOPES has found it difficult to sustain the Hope Street Festival at the level of activity many consider it deserves, and there is currently almost nothing in the HOPES kitty to keep the Festival going. Over the years it is estimated that HOPES has raised about a quarter of a millions pounds in cash and in-kind investment in developmental activities for Hope Street Quarter, and that has been matched by some ten thousand hours of volunteer work; but this massive contribution to the development of Hope Street remains very largely unrecognised, and certainly unmatched, in terms of encouragement of HOPES by the civic authorities. Nonetheless, there has been another very significant success for HOPES in that, ten years after the ‘launch’ of the campaign to achieve it, Hope Street finally has its brand new public realm.
The three million pounds to undertake this public realm programme was promised by Steven Broomhead, CEO of the NorthWest Development Agency (NWDA) to HOPES some four years ago, and finally the physical work has just this summer been completed under the supervision of Liverpool Vision, with Liverpool City Council. And, as the last stones are laid and the final street lights installed, Liverpool Vision has generously given HOPES financial support to enable a street celebration and another performance of HOTFOOT, the music which launched the whole idea. This is what is happening on Sunday 17 September 2006 as part of the one-day Hope Street Festival devised and led by a number of partners, including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival and, of course as always, HOPES.
The new enthusiasm for the Hope Street Festival reflects the confidence and sense of place which is emerging in Hope Street Quarter. We have always known at some level that this is a unique street, combining as it does the best of almost every sort of enterprise and community. Now, visitors and stakeholders in the area are beginning to develop this sense of something special in their own ways.
It is too early to make substantive predictions for the future, but my guess, as one who has been closely involved for the duration (I am founder-chair of HOPES and as such have organised all the Festivals from 1996 to 2005 as a volunteer), is that a number of themes are emerging.
Firstly, the city is beginning to understand why Hope Street’s future is also the future of the whole Mersey sub-region. Strategically, there can be few such compact areas with such a lot to offer in terms of the knowledge economy, culture and much else.
Secondly, Hope Street is beginning to find its feet as a place to celebrate. The ‘street festival’ has been resurrected and is much in evidence this year. Now we have to find a way also to develop our International Festival. (If Aldburgh, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Cheltenham and others can do it, why not us? We’re bigger than any of them, and we have, as they do not, our own long-established resident international symphony orchestra.) And along with that, as perhaps the other side of the same coin, we need to extend our grasp of how to engage our local communities and neighbours, capacity building where there are currently aspirations rather than existing expertise; some work on this is now underway.
And thirdly we have to nurture the direct commercial and business needs of partners in the Quarter, be it via a business association or some other means. The door is open and the opportunity must now be taken, whilst the enthusiasm to collaborate is there!
The Hope Street jigsaw pieces are in place
The mechanisms to achieve all these objectives now exist. HOPES is an established charity with the remit to take any and all of these activities forward where partners wish it. Liverpool Vision has helped and led a number of initiatives, including the establishment of clear connection with the City Council. The way forward is becoming both clear and promising.
Posted on September 17, 2006, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Events And Notable Dates, HOPES: The Hope Street Association, Liverpool And Merseyside, People And Places, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: The Man And His Legacy, The Music, Travel and tagged 1996-2006, Festivals, History, Hope Street, Liverpool, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.