It’s December, which can only mean one thing, Knowsley’s year as Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture is nearly over. But what a year it’s been!
Since January 2022 there have been 60 events that have attracted more than 537,000 visits. Not only did people visit in their thousands, but most of them commented that the events they attended made them happier and proud of Knowsley.
Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council said: “We had big plans for Knowsley’s year as Borough of Culture and I am proud to say that we really did deliver on those plans – and so much more!
“We’ve had the most amazing year telling Knowsley’s story, from community activity to large scale events, there was something for everyone of every age to enjoy. And not just for Knowsley residents but for everyone in the Liverpool City Region and beyond. This year has been a really special one for Knowsley and something that people will be talking about for years to come.
“Not only has it had a hugely positive impact on our communities, but significantly, on our businesses who have benefited from the range of events we’ve delivered across the year. It really has been a year that’s put Knowsley on the map.”
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said: “2022 has been a special year for our Borough of Culture programme. Knowsley put on an incredible series of events – from the Owl and Pussycat trail, a mass-vow renewal and the 10-day musical and cultural spectacular that was the Knowsley Music Festival. To top it all off, there was the opening of the eagerly-awaited Shakespeare North Playhouse, which was made possible with £10.5m from the Combined Authority.
“Knowsley really did pull out all the stops, which is particularly impressive given we were still coming out of the pandemic at the start of this year. Well done to everyone who made this year possible and brought the party to Knowsley.”
What the year brought us…
Local poet Curtis Watt kicked off the year with his poem Twenty Two Voices which was brought to life by 22 people representing Knowsley’s rich and diverse local community.
This was shortly followed by the launch of New Dawn, a series of illuminated events that brought light to the darkness of January. These spectacular ‘moments of light’ set the tone for the rest of the year with events happening across the borough giving local residents and visitors from the wider region the chance to create memorable moments.
The Elizabethan Fayre in Prescot drew a crowd in its celebration of the town’s heritage, international artist James Brunt made Land Art with schools across Knowsley, giving children the chance to make beautiful work out of natural objects and the late Queen’s Jubilee was celebrated in Knowsley Village with a parade inspired by Edward Lear – a writer with a local connection. Young voices were key to the year and The Youth Summit hosted more than 1000 school children who discussed their views on key issues like business and climate change with TV’s Chris Packham and BBC journalist Ngunan Adamu.
We can’t talk about this magical year without highlighting the jewel in the crown that was the opening of the Shakespeare North Playhouse, a brand new theatre situated at the heart of Prescot. If Knowsley wasn’t on the map before this, it was now and following the hugely successful opening weekend, the events kept on coming.
Kirkby Gallery presented its most ambitious programme to date and by the summer had already shown a beautiful exhibition of work by world famous illustrator Quentin Blake. Next up was The Likeness of Things: Baum, Cockrill, Henri, Walsh – a unique exhibition that celebrated the work of four influential figures of the Merseyside art scene were John Baum, Maurice Cockrill, Adrian Henri, and Sam Walsh.
Key to Knowsley’s year was celebrating culture in all its forms, and you can’t mention Knowsley without thinking about sport. Knowsley was proud to welcome The Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay, a pre-curser to the Commonwealth Games and paved the way for the Knowsley Sporting Legends Relay. Starting at Everton FC’s training ground in Halewood, the relay travelled the length of the borough with support from local communities, sporting groups and local sportspeople, before reaching its dramatic climax at the Eddie McCardle Playing Fields – in the shadow of Liverpool FC’s AXA Training Centre. Significantly a whole host of Knowsley’s sporting legends joined in the action including boxing heroes John Conteh MBE and Tom Stalker, Liverpool FC’s Alan Kennedy and Steve McMahon, Everton FC’s Ian Snodin and Peter Reid and also former Tranmere Rovers player Steve Jennings.
During the year some of the borough’s most loved annual events were also part of the calendar , with the Knowsley Feelgood and Flower Show attracting record crowds at its home of Court Hey Park.
Shortly after, the Serious Nonsense Festival came into Prescot Town Centre. The massive three-day adventure celebrated Edward Lear, best known for his literary nonsense, and who has a significant connection to Knowsley. It featured sell out performances from renowned writers including Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Michael Rosen, Sarah Asuquo, John Dougherty and Lemm Sissay, as well as fantastical street performances. And from the sublime to the ridiculous there was something for the whole family to enjoy, from giant birdcages and a 50 ft sperm whale to an extraordinary ‘Hippochondriac Hippopotamus’ and the smallest Hotel in the world!
A major highlight of the summer was The Owl and the Pussy-Cat sculpture trail. 32 large-scale and elaborately decorated sculptures took centre stage at locations across Knowsley in parks, public spaces and town centres, with a further 47 smaller sculptures painted by local schools also displayed as part of the trail. There were more than 24, 500 visits to the sculptures logged on the accompanying app with almost 1, 500 photos uploaded showing visitors striking a pose with the beautiful artworks. The app also tracked the number of steps people did while taking part in the trail and a whopping 787 miles (more than 175, 000 steps) were recorded.
Taking us into the autumn and winter months, there was still plenty going on. Stadt Moers Park in Whiston was transformed for A Thousand Feet Deep by Periplum, an immersive outdoor performance spectacular exploring the history and spirit of Knowsley. Then Cronton Sun, Moon and Stars celebrated Cronton’s rich links to stargazing and astronomy with a series of free family events. And James Brunt’s ongoing Land Art project came to a dramatic finale when he produced a large-scale public art installation at Halewood Triangle, entitled the Knowsley Mandala and was the size of one and a half football pitches.
Knowsley’s Music Festival brought some of Knowsley (and Liverpool’s) most famous musical exports to the borough including China Crisis, Craig Charles, Space, John Power, Ian Prowse, The Real Thing, and DJ Les Spaine. Up-and coming performers also showcased their talents including ZuZu, Eleanor Nelly, La Lavande, and SILENT-K and a special event specifically for Knowsley’s young people took place with legendary DJ, Anton Powers teaming up with DJ 2Kind, DJ Lilsss, Pl3z and KOJ at Halewood Leisure Centre.
Also opening at the end of the year was The National Gallery Masterpiece Tour and Making an Impression: Prints by Manet, Pissarro and their Contemporaries at Kirkby Gallery. On until this Saturday 17 December, the free exhibition brings 35 artworks together by internationally renowned Impressionist artists including Cézanne, Degas, and Renoir.
It’s safe to say it’s been a fantastic year and no matter how you celebrate culture – whether through art, music, comedy or sport – there really has been something for everyone.
But culture doesn’t end here – carry on following @cultureknowsley on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and stay up to date with all things cultural happening in Knowsley!
Here we share just some of the feedback we’ve had from you about this year:
“The children loved hearing about the history of Knowsley”
“So many children across the borough have probably never seen a theatre play before this weekend and you will have opened up a whole world of imagination for them”
“I liked that it was in the heart of the community bringing people together”
“It was great to see the whole community out with a mixture of ages”
“Great atmosphere and everyone seemed to be smiling”
“Seeing the town so full of culture and diversity brought warmth to see. Families from all walks coming together, full of smiles and laughter”
“Wonderful event which brought the village together”