From Liverpool Sound City to New Town Utopia - here's ten things to get stuck into this month

Writing on the Wall - Various venues - Wednesday May 2 to Thursday May 31

Liverpool’s annual month-long celebration of writing returns with its customary kick in the teeth to other airier, fairier literature festivals. This year’s theme is Crossing Borders, with events discussing “race, gender, sexuality, Europe, politics, satire, collaboration, grime music and technology”. Big name guests include Benjamin Zephaniah, Shami Chakrabati and Phil Scraton, but as always at WowFest, the grassroots get plenty of room to grow too.

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Benjamin Zephaniah

Smithdown Road Festival - Various venues - Friday May 4 to Monday May 7

The steady resurgence of Smithdown Road is a pleasing chapter in south Liverpool’s current story, and the growth of its own community festival is especially gratifying. With outdoor stages on the grassy slopes of The Mystery (or Wavertree Playground if you’re trying to find it on Google Maps) and a bunch of indoor venues stretching from Penny Lane down to the Asda, over 180 acts will to help to usher in your May bank holiday hangover.

Smithdown Sign
Smithdown sign

Caroline Coon: The Great Offender - The Gallery, Stanhope Street - Friday May 4 to Sunday May 27 

Given that Caroline Coon has been creating provocative, radical work for over 50 years, the fact that this Liverpool show is her first solo painting exhibition speaks volumes about power and influence in the art world. It’s not as if she’s been operating in the shadows. In the late 1960s she co-founded the drugs welfare charity Release, in the 1980s she was manager of The Clash, and in 1995 the Tate Gallery banned one of her paintings because it featured a penis in a state of some excitement. So don’t miss this chance to see what the fuss is about. Exciting times to, er, come.

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Caroline Coon

Liverpool Sound City - Baltic Triangle - Saturday May 5 to Sunday May 6 

Following three years based in the north docks, Liverpool Sound City isn’t quite returning to its original city centre roots but by taking over a host of Baltic Triangle venues, it will be hoping to recapture some of its old magic. Sydney-based indie trio DMA’s headline Saturday, with the straight-outta-Birmingham Peace headlining on Sunday, but with over 250 bands across 20 locations, the thrill of stumbling across tomorrow’s stars today is what really gives Sound City its unique sense of magic.

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Sydney-based indie trio DMA’s headline Saturday

Count Arthur Strong - Floral Pavilion, New Brighton - Saturday May 12 

Following a sell-out appearance at the Empire last year (a show that also featured Liverpool’s much-loved Terry Kilkelly in multiple roles), Count Arthur Strong returns to the region for a rare solo performance packed with malapropisms and misfiring music hall memories. Having made his name on Radio Four, the Count’s BBC TV sitcom attracted fulsome praise and apoplectic abuse in almost equal measure, but for all those who have fallen under his shambolic spell, this show should be a non-stop comedic tour de france.

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Count Arthur Strong

Light Night - Various venues - Friday May 18 

When it comes to overwhelming choice paralysis, you can’t beat Liverpool’s annual Light Night festivities. With hundreds of free events taking place in over 40 locations across the city, including street performance, concerts, workshops, exhibitions and tours, deciding where to go next is one of the most complex conundrums you will ever face. But whether you plan your adventure like a military operation or you just take it easy and go with the flow, it remains one of the most exhilarating cultural evenings of the year.

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Light Night - 100s of free events in over 40 locations

New Town Utopia - FACT, Wood Street - Friday May 18 and Monday May 21 

The modernist utopian dreams of the 1960s and 1970s are currently enjoying a moment in the sun (or, more appropriately, a moment in the drizzle), with a steady stream of books and documentaries considering their concrete charms. New Town Utopia is the latest manifestation of this backward-looking yet forward-thinking phenomenon, being “the challenging, funny and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon”. If you come over all funny at the sight of a rain-dappled precinct, this is the film for you. 

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New Town Utopia

Red and Black - LIPA, Mount Street - Monday May 21 to Saturday May 26 

Devised by second-year LIPA students in collaboration with the acclaimed theatre company Slung Low, Red and Black is an ambitious production focusing on Liverpool’s response to the Spanish Civil War – an event seen by many as the prologue to the Second World War. Leaving conventional performance spaces behind, the show will spill out onto city streets where over 100 dancers, actors, musicians and members of the local community will bring those tumultuous times to life.

Lipa Exterior 2017

Life in Motion: Egon Schiele and Francesca Woodman - Tate Liverpool - Thursday May 24 to Sunday September 23 

Back in 2008, Tate Liverpool celebrated our Capital of Culture year with a blockbusting exhibition devoted to the great Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt. Ten years on, attention turns to Klimt’s protégé, Egon Schiele, an artist known for intimate portraits, often displaying a frank and raw sexuality. On this occasion, Schiele’s art is paired with the work of American photographer, Francesca Woodman, whose black and white images from the late 1970s and early 1980s are delicate, fragile and honest – and poignant too, as she died in 1981 aged just 22.

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Egon Schiele

Asian Dub Foundation x La Haine - Invisible Wind Factory - Friday May 25 

It’s over 20 years since the gritty French film La Haine painted an uncompromising picture of life in the Parisian banlieues on the day after a riot. The movie’s original music was by a French rap group called Assassin, but now Asian Dub Foundation are taking over audio duties by performing their own live soundtrack accompanied by a screening of the film. The band first worked with this film back in 2001, and revived the project in the slipstream of Britain’s 2012 riots. This latest iteration promises to be an exhilarating, incendiary occasion.

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Asian Dub Foundation

While you're here... Richard Dawkins joins Bluedot line-up