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   Inside Out - North West: Monday February 21, 2005

BEATLES HERITAGE UNDER THREAT

Ana Boulter stood next to a statue of John Lennon
Should Liverpool's legacy be sacrificed in the name of progress?
HAVE YOUR SAY IN OUR ONLINE VOTE

The Beatles are arguably Liverpool's biggest tourist attraction and are hugely important to its economy.

But with The Cavern levelled in 1973, Strawberry Field set to close in 2007 and Ringo Starr's birthplace now under threat of demolition, Inside Out asks if Liverpool's heritage is being wrongly sacrificed in the name of progress?

Number nine Madryn Street, Dingle, was the birth place of Ringo Starr, who replaced Pete Best as the Beatles drummer in 1962.

Since the fab four shot to fame in the '60s, their former homes have become a destination for thousands of Beatles fans from all over the world.

Now the birthplace of Ringo Starr is under threat.

New plans involving the regeneration of eight streets look set to involve the demolition of his childhood home.

Whilst some view it as progress, others argue that Liverpool's Beatles heritage should be treasured if an event such as the destruction of the Cavern, which fans dubbed 'cultural vandalism', is to be averted.

You can't stop progress

"These houses were built 125 years ago, they're damp and they're falling down," insists resident Mary Huxham.

With many of the houses in the Madryn Street area considered below standard, a significant government investment plans to renovate some, and re-build others.

Ana Boulter outside number nine Madryn Street
Number nine Madryn Street - birthplace of Ring Starr

"Substantial amounts of money are being brought in by the government to revitalise these areas," says John Glester, Chairman of the project called New Heartlands.

But with the prospect of a Beatles legacy being levelled in the process, not all are happy with the proposals.

"They say a lot of the houses are damp and past their sell-by-date - that's the official line," says resident Marilyn Williams.

"But I can't believe that all of them are in a bad state. Some people have got beautiful houses, they've spent a lot of money doing them up, they're elderly people and they are reluctant to leave."

Lucrative legacy

Marilyn's not the only one unhappy with the proposals; Beatles Story manager Mike Byrne insists that the Beatles are not only part of the city's heritage, but play a vital part in Liverpool's economy too.

Mike Byrne and Ana Boulter inside the Beatles Story musuem
"They're probably the most important tourist attraction we have."
Mike Byrne, manager of the Beatles Story

"Any of the Beatles' homes should be kept, for the fans, for the city - it is part of our heritage,

Mike continues; "they're probably the most important tourist attraction we have."

In defence of the redevelopment proposals, John Glester argues, "it wasn't the only place he lived, there's Admiral Street around the corner with the blue plaque, which is a key part of the Magical Mystery Tour."

The first of a kind

Already two of the groups former homes have been cemented as part of Liverpool's heritage by becoming National Trust properties.

Sir Paul McCartney was the first Beatle to have his boyhood home turned into a national treasure in 1998.

The Beatles - The Facts

The Beatles are the best-selling group of all time, estimated to have sold over one billion records worldwide.

The Beatles have had more number one singles and albums than any other musical group, and had the fastest selling single and of all time with, 'I Want To Hold Your Hand,' and '1' respectively.

They also spent the highest number of weeks at number one in the album charts - 174 weeks in the UK and 132 weeks in the US.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney are the most successful songwriters in history in terms of chart positions.

"Yesterday" is the most covered song in history, appearing in the Guinness Book of Records with over 3,000 versions recorded to date.

It is also the most-played song in the history of international radio.

Source: Wikipedia

Number 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton, was bought and restored to its former 1950s glory by the National Trust.

Historically, Forthlin Road was the first 20th Century building to be acquired by the National Trust because of its significance to popular culture.

Helped by a £47,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Trust spent thousands restoring the three-bedroom terraced house, which has become a must see for thousands of Beatles fans.

Following in Sir Paul's property footsteps, the childhood house of John Lennon is now also a National Trust property.

The semi-detached in Menlove Avenue, where Lennon lived with his Aunt Mimi from the age of five, was gifted to the National Trust by his widow Yoko Ono.

Past mistakes

But Ringo's childhood home is not the only Beatles site to have been threatened with the bulldozers.

In 1973, the legendary Cavern Club, where the Merseybeat scene burst into the fore and the Beatles held centre stage, was earmarked for demolition.

Roy Adams was the owner of the Cavern when it was closed its doors forever.

"It was taken over by British Rail who wanted to put a ventilation shaft in underneath so it was demolished," explains Roy.

Roy Adams and Ana Boulter outside the replica Cavern
The Cavern was re-built next to the original site

"It was a disaster at the time."

In 1984 a replica Cavern was built next door to the site of the original.

The Cavern Club, Ringo's Childhood home, now another Beatles heritage site looks set to follow suit.

Strawberry Fields forever?

The Strawberry Field children's home immortalised by The Beatles is set to close its famous gates forever in May 2007.

The site in Woolton, was made famous when John Lennon wrote the song Strawberry Fields Forever after playing there as a child.

Owned by The Salvation Army, they insist that by closing Strawberry Field the Salvation Army is "responding to change in the approach to looking after children in local authority care".

The Beatles performing in 1963
John Lennon wrote Strawberry Fields Forever after playing there as a child

As yet, there are no plans for the site.

With job cuts recently announced by The National Trust, the organisation are not considering purchasing Ringo's house, and neither is the star himself.

It is uncertain what fate awaits number nine Madryn Street and Strawberry Field - the could simply disappear into the annuls of history along with the original Cavern.

So is this a sign that the European Capital of Culture 2008 is opting to let go of the past in favour of progress, or is this an oversight Liverpool will live to regret?

Have your say by talking part in our online vote.

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See also ...

On the rest of Inside Out
Northern soul

On bbc.co.uk
Music - The Beatles profile
Yoko buys Lennon's childhood home
New keper for Lennon home
Beatles' Strawberry Field to close

On the rest of the web
The Beatles
The National Trust
Liverpool 08
Liverpool City Council
New Heartlands

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Joe
Come on everyone... Ringo lived in this house for only 3 years... his childhood home is in Admiral grove, which is across the road and is due to stay and be refurbished as part of this scheme ! Madryn Street is part of an area which is well past its sell by date, Ringos had the chance to comment and isnt interested in keeping slums so why are we... lets listen to the 72% majority in favour of clearance from the real people who live there now !!!

jason chaston
it's a tricky balance. liverpool does look to the past far too much, and face it, the beatles weren't that good anyway, but they did have a massive impact on popular culture that is unlikely to be bettered, so some sites should be preserved

Joel Bettison
I have moved to the UK for 6 months from New York City, where John Lennon and all the Beatles are worhipped like Gods! We even have our own Strawberry Fields in Central Park! What are you guys in Liverpool on? Taking out Ringo's birthplace? Closing the gates to the Fields forever? Maybe you 'scousers' just don't like our tourists anymore! Coz man are they gonna be upset when they see what you're doing!

Mary Huxham
I have lived in the same street all my life (66 years) and have seen the area deteriorate. It used to be very pleasant and I wouldn't live anywhere else. I have been a single mother since 1976,when I was widowed and left to bring up 4 children alone and worked continuously until a year ago mostly in the NHS locally. I would also like to point out that this proposal for Housing Renewal comes from the Government, as they want all housing to be up to standard by 2010 and they consider pre-1919 houses obsolete. By the way, we e-mailed Ringo for his comments and as we had no response.

María Flórez-Estrada
i´m writing from Costa Rica. My son has flown all over from central america to Nine Madryn street, where he currently lives, as he studies y LIPA, and simultaneolusly works in whatever he cans to pay for his studies, and is so happy an proud of living in Ringo´s old home: ¿how como you are going to end this?

Ste Dickson
If Mary Huxham wants a new house then why can’t she have one? But the fact is it shouldn’t have to mean pulling down the one that she already has – maybe I would like to buy it off her, and then, as Nina points out, she could buy another one – a nice new one, which could be built on any one of the vacant sites still left undeveloped from the last load of clearance. If I want a new house I don’t expect that I should have one built for me, or that others should have to lose their home as a consequence.

Lisa
It is a national tradegy that communities are being tore apart in the name of 'progress'. Many families who own properties across teh country or who are tenants face eviction and demolition whilst no viable/valuable options are being proffered. This is not only unjust but inhumane.

Andreas Schulze Bäing
I always thought we were beyond the age when you visited a blacksmith to pull out an aching tooth! I thought that would have been one of the lessons from the 70s clearances - seems Liverpool has learned nothing from its planning mistakes. Knocking down Ringo's birthplace is just a symbol of the authorities' ignorance of the whole city.

Lily O'Connor
As a resident of a Victorian terraced house located just off Lark Lane which has recently been put on the market by my landlord at the value of £145,000, I find it strange that similar houses in other parts of the City are being earmarked for demolition on the basis of 'low value'. The style and location of the homes due for demolition in the Welsh Streets is very similar to those around Lark Lane. Ringo's house is just a minute from Princes Park, and is even closer to town than mine. Does that not suggest that it is not the houses themselves but the tatty environment and the activities of Housing Association and Council landlords that have emptied the place out? Perhaps 'New Heartlands', the council and government need to re-think their plans in order to tackle those problems, before they repeat the mistakes of the past and pull down houses of a quality which we are incapable of building today. I am at a loss to see how demolishing houses will help to overcome low demand in these areas, as the community and heritage value there is one of the only things the neighbourhoods still have. So much of their dignity has already been destroyed by previous 'regeneration' efforts – are we going to perform the coup de grace?

Adam Wilkinson
The previous post are all correct: Ringo's house is part of a much wider heritage, both in terms of great music and historic buildings. It is but one of up to 400,000 pre-1919 houses that are to be destroyed (along with the communities they contain) over the next 15 year across the north of England. Demolition should be the last resort, not the first.

Chris Preston
DON'T KNOCK DOWN RINGO STARR'S HOUSE & DON'T KNOCK DOWN MY HOUSE EITHER!!!! Liverpool City is not only planning to destroy more of its own precious "Culture" but is also planning to knock down my home and hundreds of others to make a quick profit. As usual the council finds it easier to demolish solid beautiful old houses and start afresh with flimsy ugly Brookside bungalows rather than take responsibility for its heritage and clean up long-neglected areas. Not to mention destroying a vibrant community!!!! But for once there seems to be healthy opposition to these plans led by a working mum (of Kelvin Grove), without whom, I believe, none of these issues would have ever been discussed. But should it really be left up to a single mother to fight the council alone? Its strikes me as a shame that the only way to get attention for this problem is by playing the Fame Game, but if that's the way it is then thanks to the BBC for helping us out. Cheers guys! Maybe you could follow up with a program that outlines the plight of Liverpool folk (including musicians like myself) who actually still live in those houses!?

Shona Robson-Glyde
This important thing is not to identify the proposed loss of these buildings with Ringo Starr (great that he is). The destruction of the buildings, even if they are in need of restoration, would be the destruction of part of Liverpool's vernacular tradition of housing. This local style of architecture is not something that can be seen anywhere else. Vernacular architecture is exclusive to its local area. Buildings being constrcuted in local styles, with local materials, by local people. If houses 125 years old were proposed to be demolished anywhere then the arguments against the demolition would be the same. These historic buildings are currently housing a community. The loss of the buildings would be a loss of the heritage of the area and of the community. The fact that the area was the birthplace of Ringo Starr is an added bonus to its already important heritage.

Rob Burns
This is ludicrous. The beatles of which Ringo was a part were and still are one of our biggest money spinners. How many American tourists would like to view where this man was born. I wonder if they would do the same with Paul Mcartney's or better still the cavern club. I wasn't old enough to remember the group in their heyday but through my parents I fell in love with their music. At times when councils should be encouraging money into their towns and cities to aid the local populous why do they consider ill informed and daft ideas such as this?

Mr Chris Preston
I went to LIPA (Paul McCartney's Music College - built from the wreck of his derelict old school)) and graduated with First Class Honours, I was sponsored by the Beatles Museum and I have been a musician in Liverpool for ten years. Many people, artists and musicians from Liverpool are dependant on the Beatles legacy for their living. It is one of the main reasons for people to visit Liverpool. Save Ringo's house, save strawberry fields, remeber the cavern - there's hardly anything left to visit!!

Nina Edge
Fascinating report from the Welsh Streets. Councillor Radford is right to look at the bigger picture. These workers cottages feature in The Pevsner Archtectural Guide to Liverpool and are enjoyed by many visitors to the city as well as by many of their inhabitants. Clearly much of the most expensive and desirable housing in the country used to be workers cottages, from timber framed buildings to stone crofts. At some point in time much of it will have suffered from damp or ill repair. Housing of this age and type has succesfully been rennovated from Chelsea to Cheltenham so why not here ? There is ample vacant land in the area so Mary Huxham and others could have a new house with a garden too.

Cllr Steve Radford
It would be wrong to single out the Beatles former home The fact is thousands of Liverpool families face eviction and communities are being put under the bulldozer, It as if the council have not taken into account the rising house pricing and relative costs of renovation A policy of selective demolition is being superceded by excessive demolition.

Jonathan Brown
I really enjoyed your report tonight on the loss of Liverpool's heritage - it was fun but had a serious message, in that we all too easily take for granted buildings and communities that, once lost, can never be 'unbulldozed' again. Keep up the good work - it would be terrible for everyone in the North West and indeed in England if 'Ringo's Graceland' were to be lost for a short term developer profit.

geogre
hi im george from warrington and i wish of the building to be saved as a memorial as the beetles were a top class band like people remember elvis still they should remember beetles just like the LIPA building.



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