• Sgt Pepper

Sgt Pepper at 50: Liverpool’s celebrations revealed

Liverpool will mark the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album with 13 specially commissioned events across the city.

Each work will be a reimagining of a different track on seminal 1967 record – covering the worlds of art, dance, music, poetry and theatre.

‘Sgt Pepper at 50: Heading for Home’ will run from 25 May until 16 June and has been designed by artistic directors Sean Doran and Liam Browne as a celebration of Liverpool’s most famous sons.

The list of artists involved includes some big names such as GroupeF (the organisation behind several Olympic and Paralympic closing ceremonies), author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Judy Chicago (American feminist artist), John Cage (one of the American greats of experimental music) and Jeremy Deller (Turner Prize winning conceptual artist).

The events will take place at locations across the city, including the Royal Court, Hope Street, Woolton Picture House, Camp Hill, Tate Liverpool, St George’s Hall and Aintree Racecourse.

The exclusive events will be a mixture of ticketed and free, and there will also be the opportunity for audiences to get involved and perform in a number of the works themselves.

Speaking at the unveiling of the festival, Sean Doran, co-curator of ‘Sgt Pepper at 50: Heading for Home’, says: “When my colleague Liam Browne and I arrived in Liverpool just under a year ago we were aspiring to give physical shape across a city to this kaleidoscopic album.

“When we first starting walking around Liverpool, Liam and I already felt at home – we both hail from Derry – and although smaller than Liverpool, the two cities share certain characteristics – a deep sense of civic pride and a belief that to make things happen you simply take the initiative and do it.

“The Beatles original artistic intention was that Sgt Pepper would be their Liverpool album. The first two songs recorded were ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’ – but this was blown off course when the two tracks were instead released as a double-A side in February 1967.

“The 50th anniversary offers us a chance for redress – to reaffirm and celebrate the relationship between the album and the city by utilising the geography of Liverpool as the turntable upon which to place different events and venues written out far beyond the focus of the city centre.”

Peter Hooton, chair of the Beatles Legacy Commission, adds: “It’s exactly what the album is about. When The Beatles set up Apple it was all about asking people to come in with ideas and artistic projects.

“It would have been easy to put a concert on with other bands doing covers of The Beatles but it would have been here today, gone tomorrow. This will hopefully have a lasting effect and influence.”

The commissions are presented to give a sense of the original album – events inspired by tracks from side one will be performed over the first weekend (1-5 June), and side two over the second weekend (8-11 June).

They will be bookended by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which will act as the overture (25-27 May), and A Day in the Life will be the finale (16 June).


Sgt Pepper

Sgt. Pepper’s is often referred to as the first concept record

Pepperland (inspired by the track Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)

25 May – 27 May

Royal Court

Mark Morris Dance Group present new work featuring an original score inspired by Beatles tracks performed live by a chamber music ensemble. The tracks include Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help From My Friends, A Day in the Life, When I’m Sixty-Four, Within You Without You, and Penny Lane. This captivating hour-long production is the only UK performance of the work in 2017.


With a Little Help From My Friends

25 May & 16 June


Presented by Metal,  Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller will unveil two public art commissions which examine the nature of friendship and self-sacrifice, not just with those we know but also between strangers.


Suspended Time (inspired by Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds)

1 June

Camp Hill

GroupeF – the French team led by Christophe Berthonneau which has been involved in several Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies since 1992 will bring a light festival to Camp Hill. Billed as ‘part performance, part storytelling and part pyro display, this will be unlike any event staged before’.


She’s Leaving Home…

31 May – 18 June

Private homes in Toxteth

Taking place in people’s living rooms, this poignant track will be brought to life by the award winning young people’s theatre company 20 Stories High in association with Phelim McDermott (co-artistic director of Improbable) exploring themes around housing, what home means and the moment when you eventually pack up and leave.

Fixing a Hole

1 June

The White Tomkins and Courage Grain Silo, Regent Road, Stanley Dock

Judy Chicago, an icon of American art, responds to the lyrics of Fixing a Hole with a spectacular mural on the walls of the monumental Grain Silo in Great Howard Street. The work is Chicago’s largest painting to date.


Mr Kite’s MUSICIRCUS! (inspired by Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!)

4 June

Aintree Racecourse

Taking over Aintree Racecourse and using The Beatles’ back catalogue as inspiration to play out a strikingly original musical score, this John Cage-inspired event will involve thousands of local people, performers, musicians and horses!


The Beatles

Getting Better? (inspired by Getting Better)

5 June 

4 June – 16 June (installation on display)

Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room and FACT. 

American composer, DJ and writer Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky takes a step back and questions whether the world is ‘Getting Better’ through a mixture of performance and an audio-visual installation.


When I’m Sixty-Four

8 June


64 choirs of all ages from across the city join together to perform the track which has inspired this project. Headed up by BBC Radio Merseyside, the results of this exciting project will be broadcast on air.


Good Morning Good Morning

9 June


Early birds will most certainly catch the cultural worm as organisations across the city throw open their doors so you can kick-start your day with a culture-fest music venues and many more will all be inviting people in to make the most of this unique cultural opportunity.


Let’s not be ourselves (inspired by Reprise)

9 June

Venue TBC

Playing on the idea of The Beatles ‘not being themselves’ this will be a one off music event performed by a leading artist performing incognito. A surprise venue and a surprise performance.

The Beatles Ragafest and Festival Village (inspired by Within You Without You)

11 June 

St George’s Hall

St George’s Hall will be filled with ragas throughout the day which will see the very best Indian musicians in the world head to the hall to perform, including the likes of Grammy Award winning musician Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Rakesh Chaurasia and Anil Srinivasan.


Rita Riot/Rita Requiem (inspired by Lovely Rita)

10 – 11 June

Metropolitan Cathedral, Anglican Cathedral, The Oratory, St James’s Burial Ground

International performer Meow Meow is heading to Liverpool to give her take on Lovely Rita which tells the story of a female traffic warden. Known for pushing boundaries, Meow Meow will work with her Sleepless Beauties – acclaimed musicians, composers, sound designers and producers Jherek Bischoff and Jethro Woodward, and award winning designer Andrea Lauer – to produce a unique procession down one of the most iconic streets in the city involving 300 members of a brass band.


A Day in the Life: 24 Zero Hours (inspired by A Day in the Life)

16 June

Woolton Picture House

Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and film director Carl Hunter of Liverpool based Hurricane Films, will capture the essence of Liverpool in a ‘day in the life’ documentary. Shot across twenty-four hours of one special day – the 1 June marks the actual Sgt Pepper 50th anniversary – it will be premiered at Woolton Picture House, in the area where The Beatles lived.

About Author: Lawrence Saunders

Lawrence is a journalist at Move Publishing. He can be contacted via email at lawrence@movepublishing.co.uk or by phone on 0151 709 3871.