City celebrates centenary of Robert Tressell


Looking forward to seeing this banner by David Jacques (Liverpool Art Prize 2010 winner) wrapped around a derelict building in Dale Street from next Wednesday. On the same day David’s ‘The Irlam House Bequest‘ opens at The Walker.

David explains
“‘The Great Money Trick – 2011′ is a large – scale banner work sited on Dale Street as part of the Robert Tressell commemorative programme. The piece derives from an on-going body of work entitled ‘The Irlam House Bequest’ which concerns a fictitious experimental arts workshop operating out of a Bootle tower block in the late 80’s.

The group investigate the iconography and design motifs associated with traditional British Trade Union banners. In doing so, they create a large composite work which serves as an inventory of typefaces from the ‘Serif’ family – the favoured type used in Trade Union banners.

Each letter is rendered on a leaflet / broadsheet which relates to instances of ‘direct action’ – taking in the rise of the Levellers (mid 1600’s) through to present day ‘resistance’ events and activities…

LIVERPOOL will pay tribute to one of the defining socialist heroes of the 20th century.

  • Series of events planned to mark 100 years since death of Tressell
  • Huge David Jacques artwork erected on side of building
  • Wreath Laying and funeral recreation taking place
  • Ricky Tomlinson and Johnny Vegas involved in Town Hall debates

Thursday 3 February 2011 marks 100 years since the death of Robert Tressell (born Robert Noonan) who died in the city when he was en-route to Canada, and was buried in Walton Cemetery – where Rice Lane City Farm can be found today.

To celebrate the life of the revered author who wrote the seminal The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, a series of events are being held which will highlight the impact Tressell still has on society today – including the recreation of his funeral.

Renowned artist David Jacques will kick-start the celebrations on Wednesday 2 February when he unveils a huge piece of art which reflects Tressell’s importance.  Specially commissioned by the city council, the banner says ‘The Great Money Trick’, in reference to a chapter in the book which reinforces Tressell’s belief that the working class were exploited by the capitalist system.  The 23 metre by 6.5 metre artwork will be wrapped around a listed building on Dale Street, and not only will it be a prominent reminder of the importance of Tressell but will help protect the external façade of the terrace and improve its appearance.

Tributes on the 3rd February begin at 11.30am when Trade Union members attend a wreath laying ceremony at the site of the old Royal Infirmary (7- Pembroke Place) where Tressell died.

At lunchtime the attention moves to Tressell’s grave.  Leader of Liverpool City Council, Councillor Joe Anderson, will join more than 100 people for a service around the graveside.  However, there will be a surprise performance by six actors will take on the roll of pallbearers and recreate the funeral.  Each member of the congregation will end the service by placing a red rose on the grave.

In the evening Ricky Tomlinson and Johnny Vegas, who are huge fans of the iconic book, will take part in a special Town Hall event which will see a performance of One of the Damned written by local playwright Tom Mclennan.  The play looks at the final years of Tressell’s life and his struggle to get his great novel published.

Following the performance, audience members will be encouraged to get involved in a debate to discuss how relevant the author is today.

Councillor Anderson, said: “Robert Tressell’s social commentary should not be underestimated and it’s a shame that he only received recognition for his talents posthumously.

“I’m delighted we are having so many events dedicated to his memory, but it doesn’t just end after the 3rd.

“We will also be holding a series of readings of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at libraries across the city and sending copies of the book to all Liverpool secondary schools so hopefully we’ll create a whole new generation of Tressell fans.

“And of course, our celebrations signal the start of Liverpool’s City of Radicals 2011 which will be an exciting year dedicated to celebrating the more contentious side of Liverpool’s history.”

Fans of the book will give public readings at:

  • 5 Feb, 10.30am – Walton Library with Cllr Steve Rotheram MP and Cllr Clein
  • 8 Feb, 7pm – Sefton Park Library with George McKane and Yellow House
  • 11 Feb, 10am – Dovecot Library with Ricky Tomlinson
  • 15 Feb, 7pm –  Toxteth Library with Dave Evans

LCoR2ColRev-200The City of Radicals marks one hundred years since Liverpool was at the height of its power and influence.  During 1911 three radical events took place:

  • The Liverpool Transport Strike – some historians believe this is the nearest the UK has come to a revolution and was so alarming the government sent a warship to the Mersey.
  • The controversial Liver Building opened and was the first to use reinforced concrete in its construction.
  • The Bluecoat held a ground-breaking exhibition of paintings by Post-Impressionists, including Picasso and Matisse, showing the work alongside that of local artists.

Some of this year’s highlights include:

  • ‘One of the Damned’ A short play by Tom Mclennan, focusing on the last days of Tressell  which will be performed at The Silvestrian Club (Sylvester Street) on 27 January and at The Casa (Hope Street) on 1 February and at Liverpool Town Hall on 3 February (the latter is invite only)
  • David Jacques: The Irlam House Bequest New artwork by the 2010 Liverpool Art Prize winner, produced especially for the Walker Art Gallery, referencing working class struggles and the events of 1911 (2 Feb-3 April)
  • Liverpool Working Class Life & Music Festival at various venues (22-30 April)
  • Look 11 – Liverpool International Photography Festival (various venues) with its central theme of photography as a ‘call to action’, opens in May to coincide with the re-opening of the Open Eye Gallery
  • Writing on the Wall festival in May will mark the centenary with a series of literature events, as ever with a radical focus
  • University of Liverpool’s City of Radicals ‘provocations’, a series of public debates starting in May
  • Liverpool, City of Radicals, a book edited by Professor John Belchem and Bryan Biggs, looking at some radical themes across the century, published by Liverpool University Press (June)
  • Art in Revolution: Liverpool 1911, an exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery recreating the 1911 Post-Impressionist exhibition when Picasso and Matisse showed alongside Liverpool artists at the Bluecoat (24 June – 25 Sept )
  • On the Waterfront A massive weekend celebrating the opening of one of the city’s most enduring symbols – the Liver Building.  Plans include a breathtaking aerial performance set against the beautiful backdrop of the three graces,  (22 – 24 July)
  • Exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead by Polish émigré Albert Lipczinski, a radical painter in Liverpool in 1911
  • Democratic Promenade, an exhibition at the Bluecoat drawing on the city’s radical heritage seen through the lens of contemporary artists (30 September – 27 November)
  • Chapter & Verse literature festival at the Bluecoat, with a radical theme (12-16 October)

The Bluecoat, on behalf of LARC (Liverpool Arts and Regeneration Consortium), are heavily involved in organising the year and are working with other arts and cultural organisations to bring together a full programme of events and activities which will be available at

Chief Executive of the Bluecoat, Alastair Upton, said: “Robert Tressell was an important writer who is still very influential today. This building banner celebrating his work will start the year of radicals and we hope get people thinking about their city, its past and future.

“The year of radicals was established by LARC, the seven of the major arts organisations in Liverpool, to both celebrate the city’s radical past and to look forward to the challenges that will need radical solutions in the future. Anyone can get involved in the year if they think they have an event that is around the radical character of Liverpool.”

The Tressell celebrations and Year of Radicals is supported by Liverpool Trade Union Council and the Public Commercial Services Trade Union.