I have been talking about the new Strawberry Field project for so long now, that I have actually dreamed about it! Much of it has taken place in Liverpool…meeting people, giving talks, interviews, the media. But I have also had the privilege of talking to wide audiences in America.
I was invited to join the Mersey Beatles when they first launched into America, about 5 years ago. We travelled far and wide in that most wonderful country, playing theatres in small towns, that got bigger as time went on and return visits were expected and well attended. Before I introduced the band, I had the stage to talk about Liverpool…encouraging people to visit, with a video background. Eventually, we were returning to the same places and I was repeating myself, so I stopped joining the band in the U.S.
Then I became involved with Strawberry Field. How to promote this exciting new venture?
In Liverpool, it was all organised on my behalf…would I speak to this person, that group, this newspaper and of course, as you would expect with an organisation such as The Salvation Army, the whole publicity machine was well-oiled, well thought out, well implemented. I am happy and honoured to be a small part of it all.
Then I had an idea.
I contacted the U.S. tour manager, Mark Minnick. The first thing I did was to ask him could I come back on tour with the boys. The first thing he said back was, ‘yes’. Then he asked, ‘why?’
So, I outlined what I would like to do. Essentially, I wanted to hi-jack the whole American tour. I already have a USB of the whole project, the ideas behind it, interviews with Salvation Army officers, including one of the ladies who was in active service when John was there, hiding in a tree to watch the girls! Mark took that USB and chopped it about, leaving the bones and giving me the stage to flesh it out. Behind me, in place of Liverpool, the USB stopped and the Strawberry Field logo and website stayed red and large. I know how successful that was by the new contacts I had. I talked about the Steps-to-Work programme, its aims and objectives and even some evaluation, as the first group had already experienced the programme and were out and about on work experience in the city! If you have been following the blog, you will know all about Steps-to-Work..otherwise, either scroll back or go to strawberryfieldliverpool.com
Mark and the Mersey Beatles joined me on 2 American tours in 2019 (or rather, I joined them!!!!)I reckon that I was able to address 20.000 people in the theatres alone. On the back of those appearances, we were able to speak to the media, have telephone interviews and press releases and even we made an article in Rolling Stone magazine!
I know many U. S. media people from the previous ‘Liverpool’ tours. I was able to contact most of them as we were travelling around the country. They were all happy to take their part in promoting Strawberry Field’s project. A principle media contact was able to engage MSNBC. They came to Liverpool and spent a day walking around the site and talking to all there..lots of my American friends, from all over the country, have contacted me to say they have seen the programmes at home.
Whilst I was telling anyone and everyone about the amazing Steps-to-Work programme, on stage and off, I might have even mentioned the State-of-the-Art Battlestar Galactica 25th century building that houses the programme on the original Salvation Army site in Woolton, Liverpool.
The building is iconic, raised in that self-same space where John sought sanctuary all those years ago. But it is the STW programme that shines so brightly. I would love to see it rolled out in every city in the UK…and then in every city in the U.S. Since it started operating last January, it has been honed and refined to suit all the individuals, with outstanding success. It can be run from a Scout Hut, a school hall, a garden shed.
At every theatre venue in America, parents, siblings and grandparents talked to me afterwards, saying how a family member had similar mild-to-moderate learning difficulties, just like our SF students on the STW programme..and that there is nothing for them. This is a travesty, as everyone has the right to be accepted and feel welcomed and useful in society..and to be happy,
So, Mr Minnick…Mark… You have taken your part and run with it, so willingly. Thank you for the travel, the theatre venues, the USB management, the giving up of precious stage space and the good company. I expected nothing less of you.
Thank you, Steven, Mark, Brian, Craig and last but never least, Tony…The Mersey Beatles. You are now all woven into the fabric of this fabulous programme.
I salute you.
with love and thank yous