Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Renewing the city

With the coming of spring, regenerated Liverpool is beginning to bloom. I’m getting into the mood for the publication of Waterloo Sunset by taking a look at some of the city’s most character-full landmarks, old and new. After being closed for three years, the Bluecoat Gallery in Liverpool has re-opened (see the picture) and I popped in for a quick lunchtime visit to see how much has changed.

The Bluecoat is a lovely old building, beautifully restored, refurbished and extended. I must admit, though, that I mourn the passing of the old garden at the back of the building. They featured in my second novel, Suspicious Minds, as a place where Harry Devlin liked to sit and reflect. The revamped gardens are light and airy, though, and the place as a whole is full of charm.

Yoko Ono is one of the contributors to the exhibitions on show at the Bluecoat at the moment. I like her wishing tree, which is currently in the garden. But let’s just say that her film of flies crawling over her naked body is probably an acquired taste. The other artworks are interesting and I’m aiming to go back soon to take a longer look at them.

Just across the way from the Bluecoat, incidentally, is the Liverpool Athenaeum, a club that is more than two hundred years old. I’m a proprietor there, and although I don’t get as many chances to spend time there as I’d like, the place is – like the Bluecoat – an utterly fascinating oasis right in the centre of the city. Its private library is quite outstanding. Before Easter, I had the pleasure of giving Tim Heald a tour of the place and he agreed that it’s terrific. If you ever get the chance of a visit, grab it.

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