July 06th 2023

Celebrating and supporting music from all six boroughs…

In the words of Kevin McManus, (Bootle boy) and Head of UNESCO City of Music at Culture Liverpool…

The Liverpool City Region Music Board, as the name suggests, focuses on the music sector across the whole of the City Region and not just Liverpool.

The Board is currently midway through a roadshow of local consultations hosted in each of the six boroughs – Halton, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley, St Helens and Liverpool – with the aptly named ‘Let the Music Play’ events. The purpose of these informal events is to raise awareness around what the board is doing, but more importantly to have conversations with the music community in each borough to ensure that the priorities we have set out are relevant to them, and to identify any other issues we should be focusing on.

Each event is held at a local live music venue, and they’re generally followed by a gig, to celebrate some local artists and encourage attendees to hang around and continue networking with other local music professionals.

Already we’ve had two really positive events at The Studio in Halton, and Lock and Quay in Bootle/Sefton. The next events we’ve announced are at Future Yard (Wirral) on 11th July and at 24 Kitchen Street (Liverpool) on 26th July.

Liverpool rightly has a reputation as a city that continues to generate wave after wave of music talent, but the phrase ‘Liverpool music’ is often used as a catch all for any music created elsewhere in the city region. It would be ridiculous to think that talent just ceased to exist once you step over the city council boundary and indeed some of ‘Liverpool’s’ best known artists aren’t actually from the city at all.

The Wirral has a rich tradition in incubating some of our better-known musical artists including the likes of OMD, Half Man Half Biscuit (with one of their albums brilliantly titled Four Lads That Shook The Wirral), The Coral, Bill Ryder Jones and Forest Swords. She Drew the Gun, The Mysterines. Michael Aldag and many, many more. Birkenhead is now fortunate to have Future Yard based there – a great venue which also plays an important role in the wider city region music ecology through its skills and talent development.

Knowsley held its first Knowsley Music Festival last year and it is encouraging to note that this is now planned to be an annual event. Again, loads of amazing artists have emerged from the borough including China Crisis, Dave McCabe from the Zutons, and the maverick La’s singer/songwriter Lee Mavers. And then I’ve always had a soft spot for The Hoovers, a band/gang from Cantril Farm who made one decent album and whose gigs across the country were particularly memorable as they always seemed to have most of the residents of Cantril Farm with them. Knowsley is also home to one of the UKs most renowned music production service companies, Ad Lib.

I was born and brought up in Bootle and I’m really excited by some recent developments there. We recently held our Board event there at the Lock and Quay, which, for some time, has been playing a key role in the development of music in Sefton. Brian Dawe (a musician himself) and the team there are also behind the fantastic Bootle festival which has taken place on the site at the back of the pub for five years now. Bad weather interfered this year, but not before the legend that is Michael Head did a memorable headlining spot on the Friday night. The Wimin Festival is taking place on the same festival site on Saturday 29th July, and massive credit goes to the inspiring Bootle-based Scrapyard Studios for pulling this ‘festival celebrating women in music’ together.

Sefton Council are also investing in the local entertainment sector, with their new Salt and Tar site next to the canal. It will be much more than a music venue, and its beginning with a bang this month, with three great gigs this weekend including one from popular Crosby lads, Red Rum Club, who are headlining one of the shows.

I love Bootle and I’m always going to exaggerate its claim for musical greatness, so I’m afraid you will just have to indulge me here. I can trace this bias back to the fact that I made my one and only public musical performance in Bootle Town Hall. It was I’m sad to say a very long time ago, but I still have the photo from The Bootle Times as incontrovertible evidence that I was once a musician. I was 6 years old and as part of Miss McNamara’s class from St Robert Bellarmines school we played a unique interpretation of the Match of the Day theme tune. My memory is pretty vague, but our performance of this beloved tune must have been so good that the powers that be heard about it and demanded that we perform it in front of the great and the good of Sefton at Bootle Town Hall.  My role in all this was to shake a sleigh bell once or twice during the tune; a small but very significant role I still believe.

But I don’t want to take all the credit for musical greatness in Bootle. One or two others have played a role too. Carl Hunter and Peter Hooton from The Farm have strong Bootle connections; Peter and I actually attended the same senior school in Bootle (Salesian High School, now Savio). John Murphy, another Bootle lad, also went to the same school. I first met him when he was in a Beatles cover band playing at a school event, and John went on to play in a few well-known Liverpool bands before trying his hand at film music composition. He now lives in LA and is one of the most renowned film composers of recent years, with credits on huge movies by directors such as Danny Boyle and James Gunn. I interviewed him a year or so ago for a podcast and he is still the same lovely lad he always was, with fascinating stories from throughout his career.

Paul Du Noyer, also an ex-Salesian/Savio boy, is an esteemed music journalist, and he helped me a lot when I was a very young writer contributing to the NME. His book Wondrous Place is a must read for anyone interested in the history of Liverpool music.

For a few years, around the late 80s/early 90s bizarrely, Bootle became a focal point for the growing house music scene. Quadrant Park, a club night in an old warehouse near the docks in Bootle, was the biggest night there was and attracted the attention of the national media. The DJs/promoters behind the night included James Barton and Andy Carroll who a few years later went on to develop Cream. By this time I was living in a flat ten minutes from the club/warehouse and it was amazing to see the masses of young ravers descending on the area for some Saturday night excesses. Many people still remember those nights with great affection.

At the same time The Real People we’re building their career. Song writing brothers Tony and Chris Griffiths lived five minutes from my Mum’s house and were always going to make some sort of musical mark. They were signed to a major label when they were still kids, as JoJo and The Real People. They had no great success, although many years later one of their songs from that era was covered by Cher. They rebuilt and came back as The Real People, who were a great live band. I first saw them playing at a residency in Marsh Lane Community Centre and pubs like The Chaucer in Marsh Lane (On one occasion the landlord of The Chaucer refused to serve me because he didn’t like my very short haircut. I thought he was messing but he wasn’t. It was that sort of pub!). The Real People never quite had the major breakthrough their songs deserved, but they are still making records and playing live for a loyal fan base. They are now probably best known for their undoubted influence on the early career and success of Oasis. I spent some time with both bands during that period and I can say that though they are geographically a Manchester band, Oasis were definitely made in Bootle.