2017 marks the 50th anniversary of 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' by The Beatles. To celebrate this, the city of Liverpool has announced a festival of events which each celebrate the tracks from the album.
Sgt Pepper is hailed by many as the first-ever ‘art rock’ album, so with that in mind the city's unique festival brings together world renowned artists and Liverpool-based talent. We had the pleasure of hosting the announcement, this morning, of the programme of events that make up this celebration.
From Thursday 25 May until Friday 16 June 2017, there will be performances, installations, live spectacle and moments of surprise across the city, as the spotlight will fall on Liverpool to celebrate their most famous sons in a way befitting of a record which broke the mould and changed music forever.
Conceptually driven by notable Artistic Directors Sean Doran and Liam Browne, the festival will see the involvement of international names such as GroupeF (the organisation behind several Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies), Mark Morris Dance Group (one of the world’s leading dance companies), Judy Chicago (iconic American feminist artist), John Cage (one of the American greats of experimental music), Jeremy Deller (Turner Prize winning conceptual artist), author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, DJ Spooky (American composer) as well some of the very best Indian musicians in the world such as Grammy award winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
The events will take place at locations across the city, including Liverpool’s Royal Court, Hope Street, Woolton Picture House, Camp Hill, Tate Liverpool, St George’s Hall and Aintree Racecourse.
The artists will work in partnership with Liverpool-based cultural organisations to bring to life each incredible activity.
The exclusive events will be a mixture of ticketed and free, and there will also be the opportunity for audiences to get involved and perform in a number of the works themselves. Information on tickets and getting involved can be found at www.sgtpepperat50.com
The commissions are presented to give a sense of the original album – events inspired by tracks from Side One will be performed over the first weekend (1-5 June), and Side Two over the second weekend (8-11 June). They will be bookended by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which will act as the overture (25-27 May), and A Day in the Life will be the finale (16 June). A snapshot of what to expect from Liverpool Presents Sgt Pepper at 50 is as follows:
Pepperland (Inspired by the track Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Thursday 25 May – Saturday 27 May
Liverpool’s Royal Court. Ticketed event - £24.50-£28.50 standard, £15.50 concession
A world dance premiere is heading to Liverpool’s Royal Court as Mark Morris Dance Group present new work featuring an original score inspired by Beatles tracks, which will be performed live by a chamber music ensemble. The tracks include Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help From My Friends, A Day in the Life, When I’m Sixty-Four, Within You Without You, and Penny Lane This captivating hour-long production is ideal for dance and Beatles fans alike and is the only UK performance of the work in 2017.
With a Little Help From My Friends
Thursday 25 May and Friday 16 June
Presented by Metal, With A Little Help from My Friends is a song about friendship, loneliness and love. By 1967 The Beatles were the most famous people in the world - a totally alienating experience considering their youth, naturally they depended greatly on each other and on a few trusted friends for support. The relationship between the individual and society is a powerful theme in the work of Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller and in his response to this song, he has made two public art commissions that examine the nature of friendship and self-sacrifice, not just with those we know but also between strangers. Be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Suspended Time (inspired by Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds)
Thursday 1 June, event starts 8pm with the 30min finale performance at 10.30pm
Camp Hill. Ticketed event
GroupeF —the French team led by Christophe Berthonneau which has been involved in several Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies since 1992 and is recognised worldwide for its original pyro projects - are working with American-born Scott Gibbons, who is one of the most exciting electronic music composers around, to bring a light festival to the beautiful surroundings of Camp Hill. Part performance, part storytelling and part pyro display, this will be unlike any event staged before.
She’s Leaving Home…
Wednesday 31 May – Sunday 18 June
Private homes in Toxteth. Ticketed event – 13+ age recommendation
This poignant track will be brought to life by the award winning young people’s theatre company 20 Stories High in association with Phelim McDermott (Co-Artistic Director Improbable). Together they present a brand new play which has been researched and developed with young adults in Liverpool. The play will explore themes around housing, what home means and the moment when you eventually pack up and leave. With live music and puppetry, She’s Leaving Home will be a breath-taking but intimate performance taking place in people's living rooms in the L8 area.
Fixing a Hole
From Thursday 1 June
The White Tomkins and Courage Grain Silo, Regent Road, Stanley Dock. Free event
Judy Chicago, an icon of American art, responds to the lyrics of Fixing a Hole with a spectacular mural on the walls of the monumental Grain Silo in Great Howard Street. The work is Chicago’s largest painting to date. Celebrating the Beatles’ album recorded 50 years ago, the artist, engages the local art community in her colourful celebration of the four famous lads from Liverpool. Meanwhile from Monday 29 May to Saturday 10 June 2017 visitors to Tate Liverpool are invited to participate in workshops where they can create their own image and text based art in response to the song Fixing a Hole to add to a collaborative wall work.
Mr Kite’s MUSICIRCUS! (inspired by Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!)
Sunday 4 June, 2 to 5.50pm
Aintree Racecourse. Free event
John Cage - one of the greats of experimental American music – who happened to be a neighbour of John Lennon in New York City and was responsible for helping the Beatle secure his green card, means he is forever entwined with the Beatles story. On the 50th Anniversary of Cage’s ground-breaking Musicircus, this commission is one of the biggest and most ambitious of the entire Sgt Pepper’s programme. Taking over Aintree Racecourse and using the Beatles' back catalogue as inspiration to play out a strikingly original musical score, it will involve thousands of local people, performers and musicians. Expect it to be immersive, inspiring, noisy, joyful and unmissable.
Getting Better? (Inspired by Getting Better)
Monday 5 June (ticketed performance)
Sunday 4 June – Friday 16 June (installation on display)
Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room and FACT. Performance tickets – £12.90
American composer, DJ and writer Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky takes a step back and questions whether the world is 'Getting Better' through a mixture of performance and an audio-visual installation. Working in collaboration with multimedia artists, The Holladay Brothers, and guest artists, Miller will infuse technology to create a dynamic response to the question.
When I’m Sixty-Four
Thursday 8 June
Citywide. Free event
Is age just a number? Are you only as old as you feel? This is all about an inter-generational look at how people approach modern life and will focus on 14 to 64 year olds, looking at what age really means to them. We’ll look at what it means to be 64 today. And we’ll celebrate one of the most joyous of the Beatles songs with a mass sing-along live on the radio. 64 choirs (of all ages) from across the city will join together to perform the track which has inspired this project. Headed up by BBC Radio Merseyside, the results of this exciting project will be broadcast on air.
Good Morning Good Morning
Friday 9 June, 7-9am
Citywide. Free and ticketed
Early birds will most certainly catch the cultural worm as organisations across the city throw open their doors so you can kick-start your day with a culture-fest. Theatre shows, clubs, galleries restaurants, cabaret, music venues and many more will all be inviting people in to make the most of this unique cultural opportunity. Programmed into BBC Music Day, and with the full support of BBC 6 Music, surprise performances will take place across the city for one ‘Good’ morning only.
Let’s not be ourselves (inspired by Reprise)
Friday 9 June
Venue TBC. Ticketed event.
Playing on the idea of the Beatles ‘not being themselves’ this will be a one off music event performed by leading artist performing incognito. A surprise venue and a surprise performance.
The Beatles Ragafest and Festival Village (inspired by Within You Without You)
Sunday 11 June – all day event
St George’s Hall. Ticketed event with Free elements. Tickets from £10-£20
It’s the sort of culture clash that this city embraces as it can only lead to great things - so expect nothing less when Neoclassical comes up close and personal to traditional and modern Asia. In a celebration of Indian culture which drew the Beatles to India, St George’s Hall will be filled with ragas throughout the day which will see the very best Indian musicians in the world head to the Hall to perform, including the likes of Grammy Award winning musician Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Rakesh Chaurasia and Anil Srinivasan. Produced by Milapfest – Britain’s leading Indian arts development trust – expect a feast for the senses with a day of dance, music, food and yoga.
Rita Riot/Rita Requiem (inspired by Lovely Rita)
Saturday 10 June (early) to Sunday 11 June (late)
Metropolitan Cathedral, Anglican Cathedral, The Oratory, St James’s Burial Ground
Procession, performance, installation, requiem
International performer Meow Meow is heading to Liverpool to give her take on Lovely Rita which tells the story of a female traffic warden. Known for pushing boundaries, Meow Meow will work with her Sleepless Beauties - acclaimed musicians, composers, sound designers and producers Jherek Bischoff and Jethro Woodward, and award winning designer Andrea Lauer - to produce a unique procession down one of the most iconic streets in the city. It will involve 300 members of a brass band, with a little help from the Kazimier. A thought-provoking installation in The Oratory will follow, with the event weekend culminating with both an "awakening" and a requiem. This will undoubtedly a first for Hope Street, the city, for traffic wardens and the world!
A Day in the Life: 24 Zero Hours (inspired by A Day in the Life)
Friday 16 June
Woolton Picture House. Ticketed
Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and film director Carl Hunter of Liverpool based Hurricane Films, will capture the essence of Liverpool in a ‘day in the life’ documentary. Shot across twenty-four hours of one special day – the 1 June marks the actual Sgt Pepper 50th anniversary – it will be premiered at Woolton Picture House, in the area where The Beatles lived.
Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “This is a landmark anniversary for a seminal album and we wanted to stage a fitting celebration which brings about a whole new interpretation of this classic piece of music.
“Sgt Pepper pushed creative boundaries and we want to do exactly the same – this is a festival which brings high-end art in to the mainstream and gives it a Liverpool twist which is thought-provoking, sometimes cheeky and always entertaining.
“It’s a huge coup to have these critically acclaimed, international artists work in partnership with the incredible creative talent we have here in Liverpool and it will be fascinating to see their creative interpretations of each track brought to life.
“I would like to thank Arts Council England for supporting this ambitious programme and allowing the city to reach its creative potential which maintains our reputation as a European cultural leader.”
Sean Doran, Co-Curator, Doran Browne, said: "These 13 commissions invite artists not only to respond to the genius of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album but crucially to work with and take inspiration from the city of Liverpool as a world stage and an unrivalled creative community. We were delighted to receive Sir Paul McCartney's blessing for our thinking and style of approach to Sgt. Pepper at 50 and honoured to have been asked to work with the city in this way”.
Alison Clark, National Director, Combined Arts and Director, North, Arts Council England, said: “Our Ambition for Excellence fund uses National Lottery investment to support the creation of work for major national moments.
“The events to celebrate Sgt Pepper at 50 on the scale and of the quality that this festival promises are very exciting.
“It will have huge appeal to many people, far beyond Beatles fans, and the 13 commissions are a unique opportunity for artists to make incredible new work connected to this iconic album, and for audiences to enjoy great art and culture.”
For all the up to date details, to buy tickets and to find out how to get involved, please visit www.sgtpepperat50.com, or follow itsliverpool on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Sgt Pepper at 50: Heading for Home forms part of the city’s 50 Summers of Love programme which consists of more than 60 events which celebrate the landmark period that was the Summer of 1967. Liverpool played a central role in the outpouring of creativity in 1967, in the year saw not only the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but also the publication of one of the world’s most popular poetry anthologies The Mersey Sound and the opening of the Metropolitan Cathedral – all of which will form part of some of the activities taking place.
50 Summers of Love runs from Wednesday 12 April until early Sunday 3 September and will showcase the incredible creativity which can be found in the city.
To see the latest information about 50 Summers of Love visit www.50summersoflove.co.uk, follow CultureLpool on Twitter or Culture Liverpool on Facebook.