Time, tide and wine - Liverpool has a festival for every occasion

ALL the tall ships you could wish for, all the naughty French wine fit for glugging, a gift of song from Ireland and, very possibly, the newly crowned kings of European football driving a bus right through it.

Or as one commentator put it - Liverpool this weekend, is going to be “sheer hell”.

In a city where festivals land more frequently Ryanair flights, it’s easy to feel rather overwhelmed in the summertime. 

Bordeaux Fête Le Vin Wine Festival
Bordeaux Fete Le Vin Festival - we'll drink to that

Pirates, giants, lubbers, comics, vegans, Brazilians, gin, beer and psychedelia… nothing is immune to being turned into a festival. Then there’s the Biennial, Light Night, and countless music events: Sound City, LIMF, Africa Oye, Positive Vibration, Threshold. Fusion. Every year up pops another, adding to the noise.

Even CBeebies is in on the act this year, with a festival in Crocky Park in August. Good luck with that Mr Tumble.

Sometimes you think that if you hear the F-word one more time… and then you remember that you could be living in Corby.

There are no shortage of takers, mind. Liverpool loves a party and it gets one - nearly every weekend in peak periods. And, according to stats, they generate hundreds of millions of pounds. Well something’s got to.

This coming weekend looks to be quite special even by Liverpool’s standards. The Tall Ships are in for a fifth time, turbocharged by Bordeaux’s world renowned Fete de Vin making its British debut after organisers visiting the city were “blown away” by everything it had to offer. 

Up to that point we’d had virtually no high profile outdoor fun, save for the Toxteth riots

When the ships made their maiden voyage to Liverpool, in 1984, they were greeted like a wonder of the world - a turning point for the city’s image - with Spain’s King Juan Carlos even showing his face. 

Up to that point we’d had virtually no high profile outdoor fun, save for the Toxteth riots and three years - 1976-1978 - when the anarchic Jung Festivals were held in a rundown Mathew Street. In both cases no permissions were sought and no permissions were granted. In other parts of the city people relied on themselves for organised amusement, such as the Old Swan community which put together Super Swan, an extended, annual street party attended by thousands. That came to a halt with tragedy, on a hot summer night in 1976, when a drink driver ploughed into revellers and killed a mum of seven.

2018 - 10 years since Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture - and the world has changed again. Now our fun is mostly municipally programmed or at least sanctioned, with big money pouring in to add some gloss. 

20180523 Tall Ships
Tall ships are in for a fifth time

This weekend sees 17 ships from across the world berthed at the Liverpool Cruise Terminal, Canning Dock, Canning Half Tide Dock and Albert Dock with visitors being encouraged to go on board for a closer look.

The historic Lancashire Nobbies, or Morecambe Bay “prawners”, will take to the river on Saturday morning for their annual four-hour race on the Mersey.

The highlight of the event will be the Parade of Sail on Bank Holiday Monday when the fleet will make its way up and down the Mersey, accompanied by a flotilla of other craft, before sailing for Liverpool Bay at the start of their race.

Naturally there are cultural bells and whistles, namely the “Changing Tides” creative programme, of international and local art works, installations, music, dance and theatrical performances. 

Accompanying the lot will by a smattering of influence from Ireland (and funding) as the race links the ports of Dublin, Liverpool and Bordeaux, whose waterfront is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is even an official song - the Three Festival’s Theme - commissioned from Belfast artist Rory Moore of Strength N.I.A.

Moore says: “The brief was interesting: somehow I had to tie Bordeaux, Dublin and Liverpool together in a three minute song that could involve ships, wine, immigration, the ice age and the Moon. Brilliant I thought!”   

20180523 Strength N I A
Strength N I A

But let’s cut to the chase and the famous biennial wine feast, now on its eleventh outing and which sees chef Paul Askew, from the Art School restaurant take up the mantle of festival ambassador - a role once held by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Special pavilions on the waterfront will feature over 65 appellations from the Bordeaux region, while the Bordeaux Wine School will offer lessons in how to taste and experience the wines (reds, rosés, whites, sparkling and sweet), accompanied by jazz and food. Paying punters (tickets start at £18) will get a special wine glass and up to six tastings. £18 tickets here  

20180523 Chefaskew
Chef Paul Askew, the new Schwarzenegger

Gary Adlen, who runs The Chancery restaurant, said: “The North West region has had historic connections with Bordeaux for thousands of years. The Romans founded Bordeaux so when they came over to Chester, they brought the wine to the region with them.

“The trade eventually moved from Chester to Liverpool as the port developed with barrels of wine were imported from Bordeaux to Liverpool where it was bottled and labelled at the Liverpool docks before being transported to America and the rest of the UK.

“The trade only stopped in the 1960s so there may still be local people who worked in the industry or remember it.”

20180523 Bordeaux Fête Le Vin

Key events this weekend

Thursday May 24, 10am, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral: Unveiling of Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon – a 23ft replica of the moon which uses detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface and includes a sound composition created by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award-winning composer Dan Jones.

Thursday May 24, 6pm, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral: The Blessing of the Grape & Inauguration Ceremony for the Honorary Representatives of Bordeaux Wines.

Friday May 25, from 8.30am, River Mersey: Tall Ships begin to arrive in Liverpool.

Friday May 25, from 10am, Liverpool Pier Head: Public viewing of artist Lulu Quinn’s ‘Message In A Bottle’ – one of two 26ft, illuminated bottles created from recycled plastic bottles. The second bottle is in Wirral - available for public viewing from 2pm at Marine Point, New Brighton.

Friday May 25, from 10am, Albert Dock: Public viewing of artist Faith Bebbington’s Ship’s Cat and Super Rat, created from 1000 reclaimed milk containers.

Friday May 25, 12pm, various: The Tall Ships, berthed on the Cruise Liner Terminal and in the Canning and Albert Docks, will be open for visits.

Friday May 25, 12.30pm, Williamson Square: Families are invited to a story-telling session, inside a life size, inflatable sperm whale created by women’s theatre group, Circo Rum Ba Ba.

Saturday May 26, 1.30pm, Mann Island: Acrobatic artists, Wired Aerial Theatre, perform ‘To Me, To You’

Saturday May 26, 4pm, Liverpool Pier Head: Liverpool String Quartet playing Ravel at the Pier Head bandstand.

Saturday May 26, 6.30pm, Marine Lake, New Brighton (Wirral): Lighting ceremony for Lulu Quinn’s ‘Message in a Bottle’ – the 26ft bottle sculpture created from recycled plastic bottles will light up for the first time, accompanied by a performance from Merseyside Dance Initiative, developed in collaboration with award-winning choreographer Darren Suarez.

Saturday May 26, 9.45pm, Liverpool Pier Head: World premiere of The Sun, The Moon and The Stars from award-winning choreographer Darren Suarez - a piece that combines contemporary dance, stunning projections onto the Cunard Building and pyrotechnics.

Sunday May 27, 10pm, Birkenhead Town Hall: Spectacular 3D projection onto Birkenhead Town Hall, commissioned especially for Birkenhead with a story inspired by its people, places and history, created by award-winning Illuminos.

Monday May 28, 11am, Albert Dock & Wirral Waterfront: Local musicians and performers take part in the Parade of Song. The Parade of Song also takes place in New Brighton and at various locations along the Wirral waterfront, starting at approximately 12pm.

Monday May 28, 12.30pm, River Mersey: Parade of Sail as Tall Ships leave the River Mersey.