From the Blues to Bowie and Britpop, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald looks ahead to the forthcoming arrival at Liverpool’s Cunard Building of the British Music Experience exhibition.
There has been a surge in demand, and a wealth of interest in popular music exhibitions in recent years.
Opportunities for fans to get closer to the stories of the artists who inspired them, to see up close the artefacts and memorabilia of the artists lives and careers, and to celebrate influence of these artists on their own lives. The David Bowie IS exhibition, About The Young Idea, and The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism have all proved to be big hitters, drawing huge crowds.
From February 2017, and following a successful five year run at the O2 Arena in London, the British Music Experience will find a permanent home in the iconic Cunard Building, here in Liverpool, UNESCO City Of Music.
Spread over 16,000 square feet of the former passenger hall, and featuring over 600 items of archive memorabilia, the exhibition tells the story of British popular music from 1945 and the birth of rock and roll through to Bowie to punk and mod era to Spice Girls to the present days of Adele and Coldplay, charting its influence on, and reflection of the times. The reach of British music across the globe, and its influence on popular culture has been well documented over the years, but maybe not in such an immersive and interactive way.
It is an incredible story to tell. As well as the comprehensive archive, featuring items such as original Ziggy Stardust costumes from the Bowie archive, and handwritten lyrics to New Order‘s Blue Monday, Noel Gallagher‘s Epiphone Union Jack Sheraton guitar, Spice Girls’ costume etc. The exhibition also uses technology to help tell the story, both as part of the installation, and via apps which help unlock the secrets and stories inside the glass cases.
Other display items also include memorabilia of icons who influenced the proto UK scene like Buddy Holly and the Crickets. The display will include Buddy‘s famous ‘London fog’ jacket, his Grammy Lifetime Achievement award and original programmes and ticket stubs. Alongside representation of Beatles’ fanmania, the modern pop era will be represented with handwritten lyrics from Adele and Coldplay and guitars and instruments from Arctic Monkeys, Robbie Williams etc.
There can be few better homes for the exhibition in which to be housed than Liverpool, with its massive popular culture draw, and a welcome addition to that offer it will doubtlessly prove.
The positioning of the exhibition within the grand art deco surroundings of the former Cunard Passenger Hall, surely bears that out, given the huge musical link between Liverpool, the US, and the Cunard shipping line. Tales of seamen bringing early rock n roll, blues and jazz records home from their travels, which, coupled with the US air base at Burtonwood, fed into the city’s culture and consciousness. A culture which was then re-imagined, reshaped, and sent off into the world with well known historical consequence. The circle completes itself with this new attraction and its location here.
The exhibition’s move to Liverpool is partially funded by a £2.6 million investment from the Regional Growth Fund, and additional support from Gibson, it will be run by Titanic Belfast on behalf of the BME trust, another hugely successful attraction, will create 35 new full time jobs, and will be open in February 2017, in time for the beginning of the main tourist season. The BME Trust expect to welcome 200,000 visitors per year.
Clare McColgan, Director of Culture For Liverpool commented “We are delighted that the iconic Cunard Building will be the new home for this fantastic attraction. Liverpool is the perfect location for an exhibition of this calibre which celebrates the influence British music has had on society.
“It’s a welcome addition to our world heritage waterfront, and is yet another must-visit cultural offer in the city which creates jobs and boosts the local economy.”
The British Music Experience will include:
- More than 600 iconic artefacts.
- More than 90 hours of audio-visual digital content, of which approximately 10% focuses on Liverpool bands and musicians including The Beatles and Cilla Black.
- Eight interactive spaces exploring different British music genres, starting in 1945 with skiffle and rock and roll and progressing to Swinging London and Psychedelia of the 1960s, Glam rock, Punk and New Romanticism of the 70s and 80s, before heading to the 1990s, with the UK house music scene and the global phenomenon of Cool Britannia.
- Interactive installations where visitors can learn popular dance crazes down the decades, play a range of Gibson guitars and attempt to put together their own mix in a state of the art studio simulation.
- Its own stage with some pop-up live shows in the near future.
BME chairman Harvey Goldsmith, said: “The trustees of the British Music Experience are thrilled to have partnered with the city of Liverpool and to have found a permanent home for the UK’s collection of rock and pop memorabilia and artefacts.
“The historic Cunard Building on the shores of the Mersey represents the perfect home. The transatlantic voyage and the back and forth shared between the UK and USA plays a significant role in the story the museum tells.
“Liverpool is the natural home for the BME and we hope to enrich the city’s current music heritage offering and further solidify the city as a worldwide music heritage destination.”
- The British Music Experience opens officially on March 9 2017, at the Cunard Building.