It’s going to be a great year for going out – and staying out
There's so much going on across the city in 2019, it can all be too much to take in. But here's a great place to start...
KNIFE ANGEL | Liverpool Cathedral | Until 31 January
Created by artist Alfie Bradley, this thought-provoking sculpture is intended to highlight the issue of knife crime nationwide. Constructed almost entirely from confiscated knives – around 100,000 of them – the divine visitation stands sentry outside the Anglican cathedral until the end of January, before flying off to Hull for the next stage of its poignant journey.
NOW FESTIVAL | Epstein Theatre | 6-8 February
This annual arts festival, run by Merseyside Youth Association, puts young people centre stage, giving them a platform from which to tell their stories through drama, dance, musical theatre and film. This year’s theme is ‘Rise Up’, with the festival promising real-life tales of ‘challenges faced and battles won’ by children and young people throughout the city region.
LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL | Capstone Theatre | 21-24 February
Now into its seventh year, the Liverpool International Jazz Festival puts the emphasis on contemporary instrumental jazz in all its forms, allowing genres to merge and cross-fertilise as they wish. Headliners this year include Dave Helbock’s Random Control, Strobes, the Darius Brubeck Quartet, and Vein featuring the great Andy Sheppard.
THRESHOLD FESTIVAL | Baltic Triangle | 29-30 March
As a grassroots Liverpool festival based across the Baltic Triangle, the annual Threshold Festival is a great way to keep in touch with musicians and performers operating beyond the mainstream. Early names on the line-up include Seafoam Green, Skaar, Science of the Lamps, and the ‘comedy pirate brothers’ of Jollyboat, but more acts are likely to be announced as the event looms closer.
LIVERPOOL SPRING FESTIVAL | Sefton Park | 27-28 April
From the same crew that brings us the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival each September, this event’s green shoots burst through just as we’re shrugging off winter. Street food and culinary adventures remain at the event’s core, but it’s also a chance to ‘brighten up your home, free your inner creativity and explore some interactive tipple talks’. And post-Brexit, we might all be in dire need of a tipple talk or three.
LOOK PHOTO BIENNIAL | Various venues | May-December
Led by Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, the LOOK Photo Biennial takes place across the city region during the second half of the year, with events exploring ‘how we see the world through lenses, screens, culture and contexts’. Having worked in collaboration with photographers from Hong Kong for the 2017 edition, the exchange country for this year’s event, lying just across the Sham Chun River, is China.
SMITHDOWN ROAD FESTIVAL | Various venues | 1-6 May
The Smithdown Road Festival is one of those events that occurs through sheer force of local will. While the studenty thoroughfare remains rough around the edges, there’s no denying the transformation that’s happened there over the last few years, and this bank holiday weekend shindig is one of the best ways to celebrate the return of Smithdown’s good times.
WOWFEST | Various venues | May
Other literary festivals may sip from china teacups while discussing the finer points of middle-class life, but Liverpool’s WoWFEST – or the Writing on the Wall festival as we used to call it – brews up a brick-red builders’ brew of bookish chat. Whoever joins this year’s line-up, expect discussions, workshops, performances and more celebrating diversity, social activism and bloody good stories.
SOUND CITY | Baltic Triangle | 3-5 May
Last year’s move from the vast expanse of the north docks to the tight streets of the Baltic Triangle was generally deemed to be a big success for Sound City, and it’s no surprise to see the three-day festival returning there for 2019. Determinedly dedicated to new music, headliners announced so far include Mabel, Loyle Carner, Louis Berry and The Magic Gang.
LIVERPOOL TATTOO CONVENTION | Adelphi Hotel | 3-5 May
Whether you want the word ‘harmony’ in Sanskrit or an entire sleeve of flesh-borne scribbles in preparation for your career as a professional chef, the Liverpool Tattoo Convention is back once again with all the inking action you could dream of. There’ll be ‘live tattooing, live music, live performances’ and much more live stuff, along with ‘non-stop entertainment and atmosphere’. And pain. So much pain.
LIGHT NIGHT | Various venues | Friday 17 May
With enough stuff going on to keep a month-long arts festival ticking over, this one-night event is brilliantly exciting – and deeply frustrating due to the fact that unless you’re Usain Bolt, there’s no way you’re going to catch all the events worth seeing. Venues all over the city open late, new art commissions take place all over town, and the city’s art-loving population races between them, their programme guides flapping like hyperactive birds on the breeze.
BALTIC WEEKENDER | Baltic Triangle | 31 May – 2 June
From head-nodding daytime sessions through to arms-in-the-air after-dark events, the Baltic Triangle throws up yet another locally flavoured mini-festival based in the burgeoning warehouse district. And hopefully by the time it comes round, the year’s most Baltic weather will be firmly in the past.
AFRICA OYÉ | Sefton Park | June, dates to be confirmed
The UK’s biggest celebration of African arts and culture returns to Sefton Park once again. It’s such a reliable weekend of open-air music and fun that for many, it’s the event that heralds the coming of summer to the city – not that there haven’t been one or two rain-soaked washouts over the years. So fingers crossed for blazing sunshine across south Liverpool at the very least.
LIVERPOOL CRAFT BEER EXPO | Invisible Wind Factory | 27-30 June
Always a highlight of the beer drinking year, Liverpool Craft Beer Expo returns to the dark industrial setting of the Invisible Wind Factory for 2019. The usual parade of cutting-edge breweries will no doubt be along for the ride, showcasing everything from lusciously light session-strength quaffers through to unfeasibly hefty imperial stouts that send you reeling after a single sip.
BOOTLE MUSIC FESTIVAL | Lock & Quay, Bootle | 5-7 July
Anything Smithdown Road can do, Bootle can do too. The first Bootle Music Festival was a grassroots hit last summer, so now they’re back promising to be ‘bigger and better’ than before. As a small-scale family affair, this is an event that puts smiles on the faces of the tiniest kids, the most elderly party-goers, and anyone else who likes the idea of putting a bit more beat into Bootle.
FEIS FESTIVAL | Pier Head | Saturday 6 July
This one-day waterfront celebration of Irish music and culture returns to the Pier Head, this time with acts including The Chieftans, The Undertones, Mary Black, Damien Dempsey, The Fureys and more. And as if that wasn’t enough, the great Shane McGowan joins a host of yet-to-be-announced guests for the event’s finale.
FOLK ON THE DOCK | Albert Dock | 12-14 July
The Folk on the Dock festival was launched in 2016 ‘to celebrate the role that Liverpool played in importing and exporting folk music around the world’. With a mix of ticketed events and free stages spread liberally around the Albert Dock, previous headliners have included the likes of Blair Dunlop, Henry Priestman, Benji Kirkpatrick and Chris Difford.
LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL | Sefton Park | 20-21 July
It was all change at this annual Sefton Park festival last year, with a relatively modest charge being introduced for what was previously a free party. In the run-up to the event, the festival fencing – a grim looking wall – threatened to get more press than the event itself, but in the end things went pretty well, pleasing most of the people most of the time. Same again this year then.
LIVERPOOL COMEDY FESTIVAL | Various venues | 13-29 September
In a manner guaranteed to provoke groans from every other city in Britain, this annual chortle fest declares that its two-week event ‘turns the funniest city in the UK into the funniest city on the planet’. Still, a little self-confidence never goes amiss when you’re standing in front of a baying crowd with just a microphone for company, so it’s an understandable boast. From homegrown talent to the biggest TV names, this is a festival that always goes the extra smile.
LIVERPOOL IRISH FESTIVAL | Various venues | 17-27 October
Almost every aspect of Irish culture seems to play a part in this annual festival, with everything from music and theatre to film, food, heritage and history. Venues right across the city host a huge range of events dedicated to bringing Liverpool and Ireland closer together.