It still seems second nature when saying ‘I like Liverpool’ to add in an involuntarily ‘actually’ or ‘to be honest’, but Liverpool is a city with real character and a lot to offer.
I‘d been to Liverpool a few times over the course of my time at university, mostly to visit friends and go to Krazyhouse, but it occurred to me I’d never really visited properly, so it seemed only right to do a day trip to give the city its due.
Our whole trip was based around Albert Docks – and not the Beatles (though we were reminded of them everywhere). It was an area I’d never really explored before, but there was such a buzz. We had a stroll and I saw the Three Graces up close for the first time. They really are an impressive trio of buildings. There’s a great contrast between them and the new, ultra-modern buildings which have sprung up around them, including the Museum of Liverpool.
Now, I wasn’t going to visit the Museum of Liverpool originally – it wasn’t until a colleague insisted that I thought about giving it a go – and I’m very glad I did. The first two floors are informative, if a little dry, and paint a really clear picture of just how significant the docks were in their heyday, but it’s the top floor ‘Wonderous Place’ which makes the visit worthwhile. I can only describe it as a huge celebration of everything and anything that has come out of Liverpool, including a model of the semi-detached house John Lennon grew up in. Obviously. It also has an excellent gift shop.
Outside the museum and in various locations, you’ll see the newest symbol of Liverpool. Forget the Beatles, forget the Liver birds and feast your eyes on a Lambanana, or Superlambanana. A cross between a lamb and a banana, these statues were commissioned for the Capital of Culture title in 2008 and become really popular. They are bizarre, but hard to dislike, and a sign of Liverpool’s individual character.
After a wander around the Tate Liverpool and lunch in O’Neills (the number of Irish people in Liverpool really is staggering), we headed to the International Slavery Museum, which is actually, confusingly, a part of the Liverpool Maritime Museum. My main motivation for going here was the fact that Lonely Planet’s Great Britain guide bills it as the best site in the North-West of England – quite a statement, I’m sure you’ll agree – so I wanted to size it up for myself. The museum is a series of exhibitions chronicling the growth of the slave trade, as well as traditional African culture, and its influence on European life. The museum also covers influential black personalities as well as the global fight against racism.
It really is an impressive museum, with a strong subject matter that it doesn’t shy away from. One of the more uncomfortable aspects of the museum is a film shown on the walls of a small, circular black room designed to show you what being shackled to a slave ship felt like. The museum also has some first-hand footage of key movements of the civil rights movement, including speeches by Martin Luther King which I’d never seen before. I would highly recommend a visit.
We finished off the day with a cider in the Shipping Forecast, just off Liverpool’s Concert Square.
Our scouse day out really did fill me with a renewed love of Liverpool. The place has a real air of pride after the huge success of the 2008 title of European Capital of Culture – there are new buildings everywhere, not least the mammoth Liverpool ONE.
While I don’t think Liverpool is any stranger to tourism thanks to the Fab Four, I hope that it gains more of a reputation in the UK as cultural day trip destination. The city has a painful history, but has developed a unique character and I think the rejuvenated Albert Docks are only the tip of the iceberg.