New Liverpool walking tour reveals fascinating American links to city
1 year ago
A new walking tour is launching in Liverpool which reveals some fascinating connections between the city and America.
The tour has been created by ArtsGroupie, which already runs a popular Liver Bird Safari and tours celebrating the lives of iconic Liverpool figures Kitty Wilkinson, who founded public wash houses, and leading anti-slavery campaigner William Roscoe.
Now there’s a new one, to coincide with American Independence Day, which will delve into the historical links between Liverpool and the USA, from the slave trade to music influences.
The two-hour American History Walking Tour starts outside Cunard Building and takes in the business district, the area around St George’s Hall, Duke Street and the Ropewalks before finishing at the Pier Head.
John Maguire, creative director at ArtsGroupie, says Liverpool has so many trans-Atlantic connections that the biggest challenge was fitting them all into the two hours.
“When you start researching these things, you think you know the city and then you get a whole new chapter of history and a new perspective which is really interesting,” he says.
“Liverpool was very much involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, so that’s one very dark historical connection everyone knows, but there also are lots of others which people might be less aware of.
“We talk about the Confederacy and we visit some of the Confederate buildings in the city, and we also explore Liverpool’s other links with America. So, for instance, we had an American consulate here and in World War 2 the soldiers who came over were deployed from Liverpool.
“When they arrived here they brought candy that hadn’t been seen before so you’d get kids going down to the docks to meet these American troops and saying ‘got any gum chum?!’
“Then at the time of the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century, thousands of people came through Liverpool and went on to start their new lives in the US and Canada so historically we’ve been a conduit for a lot of activity linked to America.”
John says culture and the arts has also played a major role in forging links between the two.
“I think there are so many parallels with the two cities. I visited New York for the first time when I was 15, and I thought it was just like a bigger version of Liverpool, even the way that people speak, the humour, the sarcasm, it’s all very Liverpudlian in spirit.
“So another area I’m really interested in is the actors and creatives who have connections here, people like Allen Ginsburg who wrote Howl in the Bluecoat, and also all the films which have used Liverpool to replicate America, especially New York.
“Films like Meryl Streep’s Florence Foster Jenkins, which shot a lot of scenes around Water Street using Liverpool as New York, Captain America and obviously recently The Batman where Liverpool was Gotham City, so we’ve doubled for real America and for fictitious America as well.
“Still in Water Street, you’ve also got Oriel Chambers, created by the architect Peter Ellis. His use of light and the architecture of that building went on to be copied in Chicago and other American cities, and architects come to Liverpool to look at this particular building which in its day was considered to be an abomination. It was critically panned but now it’s a beautiful, really well-respected building that people walk past without even realising.”
The new American History Walking Tour is happening on Sunday July 3, setting off from the river side of Cunard Building at 10am and 1pm.
John says this is the first, an early celebration of American Independence Day, and hopefully there’ll be another in autumn.
“With all our tours, we start them and then we develop and develop, they’re like a piece of theatre so we’re constantly changing and adding to them.
“We aim to bring out two new tours a year – what we like to do is have themed tours attached to specific holidays or dates in the year – and we’ve just agreed a partnership with the Atheneum to do a monthly William Roscoe walking tour with them every month, leading up to an event we’re going to do at Christmas.”