HISTORIC RE-OPENING ENLIGHTENS LIVERPOOL
The grand re-opening of one of Europe’s finest civic buildings will be marked by the UK’s largest, outdoor sound and light show this year.
Liverpool will celebrate the £23m restoration of its neo-classical masterpiece – St George’s Hall – by hosting twice-nightly Son et Lumiere displays recounting the city’s past 800 years.
Devised by the Liverpool Culture Company and Ross Ashton, who lit up Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Jubilee and 80th birthday, the 30-minute showcase will project on to the rear of the Grade I-listed building. Audiences can see it from a special 500-seater, tiered grandstand in St John’s Gardens.
Tickets for the unique audio-visual spectacle, which runs from April 23-29 2007, go on sale today from 15.00, Thursday, April 5.
After a massive, five-year makeover to a leaking roof, crumbling walls and rotten fittings as well as the installation of several new features, the re-opening on St George’s Day – April 23 – is one of the highlights of Liverpool’s 800th birthday celebrations. It will be marked by a series of other spectacular events, including:
* The rarely seen, 30,000-piece hand-crafted Minton tiled floor in the Great Hall will be on display for the first time this century. Last unveiled in 1997, it will be on show from 10am to 8.30pm every day until Sunday, April 29.
* A series of concerts by Liverpool musicians, such as the 2006 BBC Young Musician and Composer of the Year Mark Simpson, in St George’s Concert Room.
* A new work of art interpreting the city’s coat of arms by the acclaimed Singh Twins.
* A new sculpture of St George slaying the dragon with a Liver Bird rising as a phoenix.
First opened in 1854, St George’s Hall was the result of two design competitions for a civic and court venue, both won by architect Harvey Lonsdale Elmes for his ‘Acropolis-like’ vision. Queen Victoria described it as ‘worthy of ancient Athens’. Fitted with the world’s first modern-air conditioning system and largest piped organ at the time, it hosted famous cultural events such as Charles Dickens’ world premiere reading of The Christmas Carol.
The courts closed in 1984 and only the Great Hall has been in use since. The building, however, has become a symbol for the city, as a focal point for everything from remembrance services to football cup parades and rallies to vigils – most notably the death of John Lennon in 1980.
From April 23 the building, which lies at the heart of Liverpool’s Cultural Quarter and World Heritage site, will feature:
* New Heritage Centre with innovative public tours called Truth and Justice; Power and Glory.
* New street level access at South Entrance from St John’s Lane.
* Upgraded courts, Judge’s robing room and prison cells – on show for the first time.
* New community exhibition centre – available for hire to societies and groups.
* St George’s Concert Room restored to original finishes and new 450-seat capacity.
The Heritage Centre tours will be self-guided, powered by hand-held digital devices, and tell the story of the building, its role as a cultural venue and as a Crown Court – having held famous trials such as the Cameo murder case, ‘the man the from the Pru’ and Florence Maybrick, wife of chief Jack the Ripper suspect James Maybrick.
Graham Boxer, Head of Heritage at the Liverpool Culture Company, said: ‘’Liverpool is very lucky to have a stunning concert venue, heritage centre and community exhibition centre all rolled into one magnificent building. St George’s Hall is a show-stopper, worthy of a Capital of Culture, and its re-opening deserves nothing less than a week of stunning celebrations. Events like the Son et Lumiere displays give new life to this unique visitor attraction.’’
The half-hour displays will take place at 8.30pm and 9.30pm from Monday to Sunday, 23 to 29. Tickets cost £3 for adults, £1.50 for OAPs and under-12s. A family ticket for two adults and two under-12s costs £7. Tickets go on sale from Thursday 5 April at the 08 Place in Whitechapel or by calling 0151 233 2008.
There will also be a box office on site from 6pm onwards each evening of the event but it is recommended that tickets are bought in advance to avoid disappointment
Liverpool celebrates the 800th anniversary of the granting of its first royal charter by King John on Tuesday, August 28. For details log on liverpool08.com/Events/ThemedYears/2007