A town in its own right, yet for some inexplicable reason, the people of Bootle will invariably say that they are from Liverpool when asked, not out of shame, or out misplaced thought, but perhaps out of association; after all for most of the younger townsfolk, Liverpool is a place to naturally gravitate too, it is where, after all, the centre of the Universe actually is, where noted psychoanalyst Carl Jung declared to be “The Pool of Life.”
Yet Bootle has much to offer, it just hasn’t had the backing of successive governments that towns of its size, of one with inherent social issues, deserves. Bootle has been forgotten, left in a kind of limbo, the ills arguably framed by the true lack of cultural experiences open to all, the lack of artistic endeavour on show, after all Liverpool is only up the road and even Southport, is only a bus ride or short train journey away.
Last year the door was opened and a magnificent day was had by those who made their way to The Hub on Linacre Road, organised as a Battle of the Bands and with the input and knowledge of Doug Fraughan of Round Sound Radio, Bootle had its fun and truly it was one of the most enjoyable days of the social calendar in the Merseyside area.
This year the door is widened further, a day of family fun, of music, of the true spirit of community for the town is once again on offer and backed by Sefton Councillors, by a host of great bands and with one of Bootle’s most admired, music conscious and civic minded residents, Billy Kelly, backing the day’s events at The Hub.
The day promises to be a day in which the local community can, in the words of John Lennon, come together, to remember what community spirit is, to sit with a picnic, to have children exposed to the delight of music in a great setting and for one day remember that Bootle is its own domain, that art can bring a town together.
Ahead of the show and festivities on August 5th, I was able to talk to Billy Kelly as he and a few fellow musicians who will be on the bill that day, the divine Maddie Stenberg and one of the great hosts of the 27 Club Ste Neildsy, performed acoustic sets to the shoppers making their way through Mons Square inside The Strand Shopping Centre on Saturday afternoon.
It’s Saturday morning, coming up to Saturday afternoon, The Strand in Bootle is not necessarily the first place you would think of for putting on some acoustic music?
BK: “As you know, as you’re appearing yourself, there’s a festival on Saturday 5th August at The Hub, this is just to kind of a preview for it and to give out a few leaflets and drum up some publicity for it, so that’s what we’re here for.”
What’s the idea of the Party in the Park?
BK: “It’s just really showcasing the talent that’s in and around Bootle, not all the artists who are appearing are from Bootle but there hasn’t been any really been any big events put on in Bootle for a long time. It more tends to be in Liverpool, so basically there was an event last year and this is the second one and we just want it to grow really.”
Bootle does seem to be ignored musically, and for anything cultural really.
BK: “Absolutely and this is one step to at least try and change it a little bit and hopefully make it bigger and though we are doing it at The Hub this year, we are already talking about doing it at a bigger park next year with bigger artists so hopefully it will grow and grow. Bootle has a bit of a strange reputation. I think people think that they are coming into the deep and dark, that it’s the walking dead! We all know that it’s a sound area and there’s lots of talent from Bootle.”
There is now and there always has been, it’s just been annoying that the area has been overlooked, you only have to look at the artistic talent that has come from the town or even having resided here, the man who should have been Poet Laureate Roger McGough, Carl Hunter from The Farm, a Bootle man, who’s been on the Liverpool scene for years. You yourself!
BK: “I go back years and years! There’s lots of really good bands and there was a really good scene as well, you had the Jawbone Tavern, The Dockers’ Hook and all those venues, it’s not as good now and I don’t really know why, but hopefully we just want to drag a few people back to watch music.”
There are a lot of up and coming bands who just don’t tend to see Bootle as the place to come and play. Whether that’s because there isn’t a facility for them to do so, I could not comment.
BK: “We used to play places like the Strand Club, even the Stanley Social Club which used to be at the back of the Strand Shopping Centre, they used to put various rock nights on. The Jawbone and Bootle Village, around there used to be good. There’ used to be lots of venues and consequently lots of bands; The Firehouse was one club venue – Afraid of Mice used to play there a lot. It’s strange but we’re trying to drag it back a bit.”
Last year, it has to be said, was great, it was a wonderful day out and a superb vibe but there were not many Bootle people there. The organisers had done really well getting the numbers they got in but most of them were from outside the area who had come to see specific acts.
BK: “This year, were absolutely blasting around Bootle with leaflets and posters around all the shops which is why we’re doing this, we might do another showcase next week just to give it another push. Definitely it fell down last year on getting the word out. I knew lots of people who didn’t know it was on and I live locally in Bootle and I bet you knew neighbours who didn’t know it was on as well. The publicity for this year though is getting hammered, there are loads of leaflets to give out – I don’t want to talk about it too much as I’m quite cautious about all of this but the weather – I’ve got everything crossed!”
Apart from music, there’s going to be some poetry and spoken word, that’s a bit different, having a poet amongst all the acoustic music and the other acts. You’ve got a lot of talent there on the day, including yourself and Maddie Stenberg, one of the best female musicians in Liverpool, you’ve got The JJohns who stormed the place last year, Hegarty who are a great band, Choc Électrique fronted by the sublime Greedy Jesus, they were brilliant last year!
BK: “He’s great, he’s a good friend of mine as well, he’s a Mad Hatter, and he’s a wonderful fellow. We’ve also got Daisy Gill, she’s really good, John Chatterton who’s going to be helping the poet along….. the great Neildsy as well
It’s on 11am to 7pm, so it’s not as if it’s encroaching into anyone’s night time habits or events as it stands, it’s purely a family event.
BK: “It’s a family day out and that was something that put a lot of people off last year, they didn’t let kids in there for some reason. What’s also good about it is that you can bring your own picnics and we’re going to have a bouncy castle and a bouncy slide, all sorts of things for the kids. So I’ve got a feeling, fingers crossed, that the day will be pretty special.”
With an event like this and I’m not disparaging the town I live in, that it feels sometimes that it’s been let go somehow.
BK: “I totally agree with you, to get the eyes of the world on this is a big thing and it is political as well. It’s wonderful how things now are supposed to be changing as people are starting to talk about doing up the front of the docks and other things like that. I lived in London for 25 years and come back to Bootle, I was talking to Nasher from Frankie Goes to Hollywood last week, now he still lives in London but he was talking about moving back in a few years and some people sort of better themselves and then I’ve got to move Maghull, read the Daily Mail and vote Tory – I don’t think so! No offence to people in Maghull of course! I wouldn’t live anywhere else, it’s fantastic.”
I grew up in the Midlands and near Oxford and I spent a lot of my life there but I love this area and I love Liverpool but I thank the Council and you and everyone who’s organising this is marvellous and congratulations on it.
BK: “Honestly, I am really honoured to have been asked to organise the music side of things and that’s great you know. What I noticed which was really great was that we had line up sorted out and I got in touch with everyone and we didn’t have any trouble at all, I think it’s going to be great, I really do! It’s great as always talking to you!
And to you!
The Party in the Park is on August 5th at The Hub on Linacre Road, tickets are £6 for adults and £2 for children.
Ian D. Hall