There always seems to have been a variety in the buildings of the Waterfront. Old and new, whenever the new appeared, sat side by side like relatives with just enough family likeness to bear scrutiny. The Liver building and its neighbours are a case in point. So too are the Grade 1 listed dock buildings and their outrageous contemporary partners such as the Museum of Liverpool and Open Eye buildings.
We stayed close enough to Albert Dock to have a view of the Wheel, the Echo Arena and the Mersey, all three sparkling at sunset. There was even a flock of geese flying south, too quickly for a photograph.
The Museum tells the story we were to be reminded of later in the day, when visiting the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the World Museum, that Liverpool had the earliest and for many years largest population of Chinese in the UK. That tie was a bargaining factor in the city being granted the Warriors exhibition.
Not only Chinese, of course, Liverpool hosted many nationalities while it was the foremost seaport in England: part of the museum is devoted to the ocean trade, exports as well as imports, with the Meccano company and its Hornby toys prominent.
There is also a section devoted, as everywhere currently, to the Great War centenary, including the industrial workers as well as military personnel who carried the burden. Recordings of those who lived through not only that war but the second and throughout the last century are powerful. The exhibition is rightly called “People’s Republic” and in some ways complements the exhibition curated by Yoko Ono of her and John Lennon’s attempts to persuade people to give peace a chance. Videos of their performances, press conferences and protests combine with newsreels of Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Kennedy and Johnson to great effect. Of course there are the still photos of the pair sleeping for peace as well as two of John’s guitars. A sculptural installation has two apples, one decaying, and some pips on pillars, recalling the Beatles’ Apple Corps label. It is both fun and provocative.
The Open Eye gallery was closed for a new exhibition to be installed. Appropriately this will be Chinese. I hope it wasn’t prophetic of Chinese financial power that the initial item is Stonehenge, as if to go with all the real estate they have already purchased. A small scale model was being danced on in Chinese style for a press photo shoot. Very dramatic it was too.
With so much to see and do the Waterfront is a challenge to any Silver Traveller’s stamina, and this one fared no better than he should. Tate Liverpool was beyond this visit, apart from a welcome glass of iced tea. Egon Schiele will be exhibited at the Royal Academy so nothing was missed there that can’t be regained later. There was also the delightful Bluecoat gallery in one of the architectural gems of any city or century, this year approached beneath an avenue of parasols installed by the Attention Deficit Disorder charity.
With so much on there was no more I could tell two polite students doing a survey for their GCSE about what attracted me to Liverpool than “everything”. They seemed as delighted as I was.