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A resident of Strawberry Field.

A lady contacted us to let us know that she had been a resident at Strawberry Field, when it was a care home. Her name is Melvis. Isn’t that great?!

Melvis lived there for many years as a child, from babyhood in fact. She has very kindly made an interview, which will be shown in the Visitor Experience, just like Michael Hill has…but this will be an entirely different story. This is the story of what it was like to have Strawberry Field as your real home. I will be very interested to hear it.

 

Melvis became a singer herself, when she grew up. Her best friend was the sister of Rory Storm..Rory of The Hurricanes, that is…another of the myriad successful Liverpool groups that mushroomed in the 60’s. She often met The Beatles at her friend’s house. All will be revealed in her story.

Personal Touch.

And now to individuals!

A childhood friend of John’s, who now lives in Australia, has written a book about John, called, ‘John Lennon; The Boy who became a Legend’. I met him a few years ago at the house of another friend of my brother’s, Tim Holmes. He wrote his book shortly after that..Michael has recorded an interview for Strawberry Field, which will be shown in the Visitor Experience, when it is open. Michael describes Strawberry Field in his book:

‘On Vale Road, behind John Lennon’s house, was the sandstone wall at the rear of an old strawberry-coloured Gothic house, the main entrance of which was on Beaconsfield Road, off Menlove Avenue. At the front of the house were large, iron gates. Called ‘Strawberry Field’, it was originally a ship owner’s mansion. At the time we played there, it was in use as a home for girls. The garden of the house was wild, overgrown and full of birds and rabbits. Once the wall had been climbed, it was an ideal place in which to play.’

John attributes Michael, in their teenage years, to introducing him to yet another world, by means of music:

‘Little Richard was one of the all time greats. The first time I heard him, a friend of mine,  (Michael Hill) had been to Holland and brought back a 78 with ‘Long Tall Sally’. That’s the music that brought me back from the provinces of England to the world. That’s what made me what I am…When I heard it, it was so great I could hardly speak.’

I think it is safe to cliche now….’…and the rest is history.’!!

A little aside. I met Little Richard about 4 years ago, in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t bump into him exactly..in fact, I ran after him in the hotel, when I recognised him. He was just about to get into the lift with his son and I was out of breath. I said,

‘Sir, I am John Lennon’s sister and please can I tell you that you changed my brother’s life. You brought The Beatles to life. Thank you.’

He gave me a beautiful smile, patted my arm and disappeared. That was a wonderful moment for me. I had actually seen his show twice in Liverpool as a teenager. I was as excited and silly as any fan to say hello to a legend.

Yes, indeed, the rest is history.

Visit Britain, Austin, Texas, 2018.

Well, the news is spreading..all the way to Austin, Texas, where this year’s International Trade Fair took place. The official notification is;

‘A three-day event offering British tourism suppliers the opportunity to nurture business relationships with the North American markets of Canada and the United States’

..and it has just happened. Many more organisations are now aware of the project. The Salvation Army had a stall there, in the Destination Britain section, explaining and promoting the Visitor Experience…its aims and objectives. We want to encourage  US visitors to Strawberry Field from its opening next July, along with friends and fans from everywhere else.

 

Construction Update

I last visited Strawberry Field two weeks ago, to find some big changes. First of all, getting in! It is now as secure as can be, with a turnstile entrance that I couldn’t find and keypad that I have no numbers for. A bit like getting into a football match.

The footings are in, for those who know what that means! Apparently, they could support a block of flats, according to an onsite engineer, who was very impressed. Of course, it still resembles a muddy building site to me..maybe to you too..but things are really moving along.

The frame of the building is on its way. The way it was being described to me reminded me of our childhood building sets..in particular Bayko. You had lots of rods to insert into a base, then you designed your own house, The windows and doors were interchangeable and the small parts got lost everywhere. I don’t think this is going to happen at Strawberry Field! I shall go back soon to take pictures of the next stage.

At the moment, all is on track for opening the visitor experience in July 2019.

Strawberry Field – Steps to Work

STEPS TO WORK

The Steps to Work programme is launching right now. It is the start of the journey which will give as much support as possible to the students, to gain skills and work experience, heading for part-time or full-time employment. This scheme includes classroom-based learning, specialised training in a chosen sector and work-based experience. Another quote:

‘The course offered to trainees will include; catering, travel and tourism, administration and customer service. Trainees will gain certified qualifications in their chosen subject. We consider the Memorandum of Understanding to be an important part of a new story for the community in Liverpool.’

The students who complete the educational stage of the programme will become Graduates of The City of Liverpool College and of the Strawberry Field Centre.

It goes without saying that a change of heart and direction is always on the cards. We don’t always hit the right button the first time and as paid employment is one great aim, the students have to enjoy a happy position.

The other great aim; a greater understanding of themselves and the seen and unseen world which nourishes us all.

 

Strawberry Field – The Story Now

LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN, ‘CAUSE I’M GOING TO STRAWBERRY FIELD

This blog aims to document the rise and rise of the new building, that is  Strawberry  Field, on the old site in Woolton, Liverpool.

NOW STORY

I am delighted to be invited to join the team that will help to promote this exciting new project, as Honorary President.

In this role, I had the pleasure of attending the Groundbreaking event on the Strawberry Field building site on 31st July, this year. Lady Judy Martin, the widow of Sir George Martin, The Beatles’ record producer,  also arrived, in her role as Patron of the project.  Together with Cliff Cooper, Founder and CEO of Orange Music Electronic, Major Roger Batt, representing the Salvation Army and some of the young adults, who will be amongst the first contingent to pass through the Steps to Work programme. We donned hard hats and dug our spades into the ground.

We buried a time capsule, at the heart of the new building’s footprint, 51 years after the song, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was released. It contains a prayer, an artist’s impression of the new Training Hub, a photo of the original Victorian mansion, a vinyl copy of ‘Strawberry Field’ and some childhood photographs of John.

We also shared a lovely cake, made by some of the students.

BEATLE WEEK

Many of you will know that this celebration of The Beatles and their musical heritage happens  every year, in the days leading up and down from the UK’s August Bank Holiday. Liverpool is alive…to the sound of  the music of The Beatles, also of the 60’s, 70’s 80’s, 90’s and beyond…to the present day in fact. The festival is centred around the most famous club in the world, The Cavern Club. From there, it fans out to include a multitude of music venues in the city. Come once, come again, seems to be the motto. Beatle fans are drawn to Liverpool by the musical magnet. In turn, we embrace them all, as we make ongoing relationships with them, loving their enthusiasm.

The Beatles’ world is never static. There is always something new to explore. Something big. Something small. A new publication. A  fab new band. Memorabilia, new and old. An new  promotion of an old idea made new.  Old friends, who were there, then, talking, answering questions, from almost the horses’ mouths.  Just occasionally, rarely nowadays in fact, there is a monumental something new. And Strawberry Field became that focus in this year’s talks.

STRAWBERRY FIELD AT BEATLE WEEK

Strawberry Field is old/new.  This incarnation is an entirely new project, based on old ideas of protecting and nurturing children and young people, who are outside societal norms, through no fault or choosing of their own. The old establishment aimed to give these children the basic ingredients for life such as food, beds, friendships, education, all in a safe environment. The feeding of the body and mind leading to the feeding of the spirit.

That place of security naturally created space for exploration of personality and potential and prospects ..  and also for spiritual growth and awareness.

Translate, if you will,  these aims to this latest project. The new. The Salvation Army is building a fantastic new Training Centre. In place of small, homeless children, this new venture will be a Training Hub for a different age group. These older incumbents will be young people with mild to moderate Learning Disabilities, aged 16 to 24. They will not be resident, but will embark on an individual programme, based initially at The Hub, for as long as they need. The programme aims to provide these youngsters with a positive sense of self and others, of their valued place in society and exploration of their place and space within it, as citizens and sharers of the world around them. A physical and spiritual growth. Just like you and me.

And there you have the nub of the talk.

 

Strawberry Field – The Story in a nutshell

LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN, ‘CAUSE I’M GOING TO STRAWBERRY FIELD

This blog aims to document the rise and rise of the new building, that is  Strawberry  Field, on the old site in Woolton, Liverpool.

NUTSHELL STORY

The original, rather forbidding, Victorian House on the site was acquired by the Salvation Army in 1934, opening as a children’s home two years later. Initially, only girls were taken in, but boys joined them in the 1950’s.

In the mid-seventies, the crumbling house was demolished, to be replaced by a modern housing complex, providing 3 family units, each comprising 12 children. The entrance was moved further along Beaconsfield Road, making redundant the gateposts, bearing the name, ‘Strawberry Field’ . Many of you will have been to Liverpool and thence to Strawberry Field, to gaze at the gates and take a photograph. They are painted bright red, along with the signs on either side of the gateposts.

In May, 2011, the original red gates were removed to be displayed at the Beatles Story Museum on the Albert Dock. They will be installed in the Gardens of the new Strawberry Visitor Centre.  Replicas are in place on Beaconsfield Road.

The children’s home closed its doors in 2005, for the last time, in its existing form, in line with more up-to-date thinking about the care of children with residential needs. The site has been empty since then, ready for re-invention. The Salvation Army have activated a wonderful plan to put the Forever back into Strawberry Field. It is going to be transformed into a Training Hub for young people with learning disabilities and an amazing new Visitor Centre with Exhibition, Cafe, Shop and Gardens. Indeed, it will be a prototype for more similar projects across the UK.

JOHN IN NUTSHELL  BOY CAVE.

There was a to-be-famous visitor to the Strawberry Field gardens, albeit as an uninvited guest…the young John Lennon. John and his friends used to climb over the walls to sit in the trees, to pick the fruit, to play and to watch the resident children at play.

I think that the space available to John, within those grounds, developed into a very special sanctuary. In the light of today’s expression of ‘man cave’, I have called it John’s ‘boy cave’. It was a place where he could reflect and deflect. John certainly had a synergy with the resident children, being displaced himself from ‘normal’ family life. He confessed to being, ‘shy and self-doubting’. He knew that he was different, that the way he was living his life was different, certainly from that of his friends. He ruminated on his situation in that space and came to the conclusion that he was either crazy or a genius…and replayed this feeling in the lyrics to ‘Strawberry Fields’ as,  ‘It must be high or low’. The original song, penned in Almeria, following the breakup of the touring Beatles to the Abbey Road recording Beatles, was a one verse, no refrain poem. There was no mention of Strawberry Field. It was a refection on his childhood and the life that had led him to that point. I see the song as John’s acceptance of all that made him different from his friends. He stated that it was his personal favourite, as he looked back into a raw mirror. ‘I mean it’s not too bad. It’s alright’.

‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was completed back in the UK.

NEW BLOG

Dear All,

It is now 3 years since I last posted anything here…after we had been to see Paul perform one of his spectacular shows in Detroit, USA. I met him briefly backstage before the show and wrote to let you know what I saw then. He looked and sounded like the absolutely fabulous global star that he is. I have since seen his recent Cavern show…what a momentous occasion that was! We got the same presence, the same rock ‘n roll energy as the mega arena shows. He wrapped the old favourites in with the new ventures, finishing with his inimitable version of ‘Helter Skelter’—the one that says, ‘You’re done, I’m done…let’s go home’!!!!

I feel privileged now, to be involved as the Honorary President of the new project undertaken by The Salvation Army at Strawberry Field, in Liverpool. This position has prompted me to return to the blog as a way of documenting the progress for those of you who may be interested in walking this path with us.

There is a very large team working on the regeneration of Strawberry Field, as a Training Hub for young people with mild to moderate  disabilities and as a new and exciting Visitor Attraction. This is one small corner.

If you would like to join us here as we record the highlights of this transformational journey, then be our guests! Strawberry Field invites your support, in your own way.