Dollman Disco | Daft Punks | Singing Ringing Tree | Chilli Night | Kazimier Arkade | Rawhide
Winter Arts Market | Anglican Cathedral | Saturday December 2
Even in the endless, never-closed shopping mall we call “the internet”, it can still prove tricky to find the perfect gift for anyone with a taste for something beyond the mainstream. Amazon’s algorithms may try and lead you through the labyrinth, but it remains frustrating when they send you into a consumerist cul-de-sac.
However, Liverpool’s annual Open Culture arts market has been taking stumbling shoppers by the hand since 2009 and guiding them towards festive salvation. With over 200 arts and crafts stalls along with a vintage market and food fair, the event is packed with handmade items manufactured with love.
Expect to find homewares, photography, prints, clothing, ceramics, jewellery, textiles and very much more, all in the spectacular surroundings of the city’s holiest shopping centre/nightclub/gig venue.
A Chilli Night in Liverpool | Drop the Dumbulls, Dublin Street | Wednesday December 6
During the 1990s, the artist and filmmaker Zev Robinson became “obsessed” with chillies. In his own words, he was “cooking with them, reading about them, and making paintings about them”.
His new documentary, The Great British Chilli, is a film about the spicy pepper’s influence on the nation’s eating habits, with contributions from chefs, seed producers and fans of food with a kick.
This screening of the film is a collaboration between Robinson, Reel Merseyside, and Joe Florek, of Howl at the Moon, who will be providing chilli sauces and spicy snacks for sampling. Plus, with a Q&A session on all things chilli too, there’s plenty of opportunity for some spectacular capsicum nerdery on the night.
If you think a Scoville heat unit is something to do with getting your boiler serviced, you may want to start your research now.
Christmas at Speke Hall | Speke Hall | Saturday-Sunday December 2-3, 9-10
“We haven’t lost any of the old Victorian traditions,” say the Speke Hall team as they prepare for their annual pre-Christmas festivities, including Dickensian favourites such as garlands of greenery, a mighty spruce tree and easyJet flights to Kraków taking off just beyond the back hedge.
Over two weekends in December, Speke Hall is adding a stocking full of extra treats to its usual offering, with carol singing, festive storytelling, sugar-mouse making and Christmas puzzle trails waiting to be solved.
Naturally, the one true Father Christmas will be there too, though tickets for an audience with the ho-ho-ho hero are highly sought after and it would be wise to pre-book online.
Rawhide Comedy Club | Royal Court | From Thursday December 7
Back in 1995, Rawhide comedy club launched in the foyer bar of the old Everyman Theatre, rapidly becoming one of Liverpool’s regular comedy fixtures. Flitting from one venue to another (long-in-the-tooth comedy lovers will remember stints at the Life Café on Bold Street and Baby Blue at Albert Dock), the club gave greats like Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas their early city exposure.
With the Rawhide team having long been behind the Royal Court’s steady resurgence, the club now returns to a brand new cabaret room in the theatre’s basement. Presenting a series of gigs each weekend throughout December, Rawhide will host three comedians plus a compere, with line-ups changing each week.
It’s been a big year for the Royal Court, having successfully won Arts Council funding and transformed the adjacent Penny Farthing pub into the Courtyard Bar and Kitchen. Adding a new venue for their Rawhide baby simply ties up 2017 in pleasing fashion.
Dollman’s Eh Fat Arse Get Yer Posh Frock On We’re Off Out Disco | District, Jordan Street | Saturday December 9
Think of the most crowd-pleasing mobile disco you can imagine, but instead of picturing it as the epilogue to a wedding or a works Christmas meal, filter the image through the mind of David Lynch.
The artist Gary “Dollman” Sollars has been throwing twisted disco parties in Liverpool for years, combining all the singalong dancefloor classics with a rich imaginative mix of games, giveaways, unsettling masks and inflatable wigs.
Described by himself as a “fun, daft, kids party for adults”, this is a disco that won’t be complete until the Dollman toast bar is wheeled out, enabling party-goers to gorge on white sliced toast smeared with Nutella. After all, who needs to share a party with chin-stroking musos and 20 kinds of craft gin when you can have the best laugh ever accompanied by a slice of Mother’s Pride?
Kazimier Winter Arkade | Invisible Wind Factory | Sunday December 10
Like the Kazimier before it, the Invisible Wind Factory is the creative star around which orbits a solar system of artists, makers, musicians, brewers and other independent practitioners who make it their business to imagine interesting stuff into existence.
This should make for a healthy line-up of tabletop sellers as this seasonal event takes over the venue’s vast spaces, including the basement Substation. The team are promising live music, hot food and drink, local beers and much more alongside the vendors, so even if there are chill winds blowing through those north docks streets, the Invisible Wind Factory should be an inviting, inspiring place to be. In an industrial sort of way.
Spirit of Christmas | Philharmonic Hall | Saturday-Saturday December 16-23
No one does Christmas quite like the Philharmonic Hall. There’s something about its art deco design and ever-present intimations of glamour that fit perfectly with mulled wine, rosy cheeks and good cheer – even if you turn up in nothing more glitzy than your best festive jumper and bobble-hat combination.
The Spirit of Christmas event, presented by Classic FM’s John Suchet, is one of the Phil’s best-selling seasonal traditions, serving up a big fat musical feast stuffed with much-loved Christmas carols. The full Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is joined for the occasion by not one but two Philharmonic choirs, conductor Ian Tracey, and, back for the first time since 2012, the Mexican tenor Jesús Léon.
Now there’s a man with exactly the right name for this time of year.
Fuck Xmas: Liverpool Punks Xmas Bash | Maguire’s Pizza Bar, Renshaw Street | Saturday December 16
While parents of small children may wish to usher their little darlings away from these sweary goings on at Maguire’s Pizza Bar, Liverpool’s Antipop Records will be ensuring their annual anti-seasonal bash is a good night out for those with less delicate ears.
This year there will be live music from Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Flatbackfour and Paper Wings, along with a “magical time-travelling iPod of retro punk classics”.
Billed as a night of “beer and dancing, pizza and tramps”, there will apparently be “no requests” and “no fucks given”.
Looks like it’s lumps of coal all round for this lot on Christmas Eve.
The Singing Ringing Tree | FACT | Sunday December 17
If you fancy immersing yourself in a cinematic world of feel-good visual cuddles and warm-hearted nostalgia, Liverpool’s cinemas are more than ready to keep you satisfied this Christmas. From the 71-year-old It’s a Wonderful Life to newcomer The Man Who Invented Christmas, there’s plenty to choose from across a range of venues.
However, for those who like their seasonal pleasures to come with a side order of 1950s East German accidental psychedelia – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – The Singing Ringing Tree at FACT should deliver by the sackful.
Originally released as a full-length feature film in 1957, the BBC screened this mangled fairy-tale as a three-part TV series throughout the 60s and 70s. With its other-worldly atmosphere, dubbed narration, and array of freaky characters, it was more of a psychological terror than a cheery teatime treat.
This rare showing at FACT brings the full colour original back to British screens, giving a new generation the chance to discover the Cold War’s spookiest contribution to children’s entertainment.
Circus Christmas Special | Camp & Furnace | Wednesday December 27
While New Year’s Eve is obviously the big seasonal party night, Circus does things differently. This year, the club night’s Christmas special is an afternoon and evening affair on the 27th, and while the 11pm curfew may lead some to believe that this is a truncated kind of party, the presence of Joseph Capriati, Seth Troxler and Danny Tenaglia on the bill would suggest it’s actually one of the biggest events of the year.
Having celebrated its 15th birthday at the end of September, Circus has evolved from being a one-room house event designed round local DJ Yousef into a club culture giant with a global reputation. With every inch of Camp & Furnace open for the occasion, this Christmas party should power-up that weird post-Boxing Day week while leaving plenty of time to rev up again for new year.