Years after Tony Wilson’s waterfront vision, Harvey Goldsmith presents…
Years after Mancunian Tony Wilson came up with the idea of a grand museum of rock and pop music on the banks of the Mersey, his vision is set to become reality.
The British Musical Experience, the country’s only museum of popular music, is to make Liverpool’s Cunard Building its permanent home, partly funded by a £2.6m Regional Growth Fund investment. Harvey Goldsmith, one of the world’s best known rock promoters, picked Liverpool as the base for the extensive the collection of memorabilia.
Housed for five years at London’s 02 Arena, the one-time Millennium Dome, the BME closed in 2014 with Goldsmith seeking “a more sustainable home” for the collection which received “about 125,000” visitors in it’s last year in Greenwich.
Now it is moving to the former ground floor departure lounge of the Cunard Building where it expects to do even better. The building, one of the Three Graces, is the HQ of Liverpool City Council which bought it two years ago and plans have already been revealed for a high end restaurant, run by Aiden Byrne, and a branch of Australasia to open there.
When British Musical Experience opens next spring, tourists will be able to view more than 600 items from the UK’s music heritage, likely to include dresses worn by Adele and The Spice Girls, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust costume and the original handwritten lyrics to Blue Monday, by New Order.
Visitors, as well as municipal staff and councillors, will have the opportunity to learn to Vogue in private dance booths. The museum will also focus on the impact British music has had on the culture, fashion, art and politics of the time. And of course there will be dozens of guitars pre-owned by leading axemen of rock.
The British Music Experience is a registered charity “set up to advance the education and appreciation of the art, history and science of music in Britain”. It is managed by an independent board of trustees, chaired by Harvey Goldsmith.
The Live Aid promoter who, over the last four decades, has presented concerts by every big name in rock and pop and now manages Jeff Beck, is said to have looked at other locations in Liverpool, including the arena. He also recce’d venues in other cities but was bowled over by the ornate ground floor of the Cunard Building.
He said: “The trustees of the British Music Experience are thrilled to have partnered with the city of Liverpool and to have found a permanent home for the UK’s collection of rock and pop memorabilia and artefacts“.
“The historic Cunard Building, on the shores of the Mersey, represents the perfect home. The transatlantic voyage and the back and forth shared between the UK and USA plays a significant role in the story the museum tells. Liverpool is the natural home for the BME and we hope to enrich the city’s current music heritage offering and further solidify the city as a worldwide music heritage destination.”
The council is now looking for an operator to manage the collection and the museum on a day-to-day basis. The BME is expected to create around 35 jobs and will house a cafe and a shop selling merchandise.
Tony Wilson’s POP: ‘What the Pompidou Centre was meant to be but never was’
Factory Records boss and music maverick Tony Wilson, who died in 2007 aged just 57, was, in his own words, ahead of his time when he identified Liverpool as the tourists’ go-to place for pop, given its links to the Beatles and the Merseybeat era.
But he wanted to go global. His idea was to build an international museum of popular culture on Mann Island, – a publicly funded affair called POP – “what the Pompidou Centre was meant to be but never was”, he said.
But in those pre-Capital of Culture days not many in Liverpool were prepared to give the bright Manchester upstart his day in the Mersey sun.
“For three years I have been working, unpaid, running around, trying to do something,” he told Liverpool Confidential’s editor, Angie Sammons, in an interview in 2002.
“If anywhere in the world should house the museum of popular culture, indeed it is Liverpool. For the simple reason that popular culture became globalised in the 21st century and the primal act of popular culture is the pop group and the fundamental pop group is the Beatles.”
Wilson had his theories and his criticisms of the way POP was received in Liverpool and while he praised the then city council leader Mike Storey and Chief Executive David Henshaw, there are those he accused of being “incredibly rude” and who, he said, stymied the progress of his scheme.
“Unfortunately I get carried away with ideas and the fact that they’re wonderful, ” he declared, “and so I do a lot of work on them, and run up and down motorways and I’ve done this for two and a half years and it didn’t happen.”
Thirteen years down the line, the Mann Island land earmarked for POP houses the Museum of Liverpool – highlight of which is Wondrous Place, an entire floor dedicated to the city’s musical roots and output. Meanwhile, just over the road, sits another major draw for nostalgia-loving international day trippers: The Beatles Story.
Source : [Liverpool Confidential]
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