Category Archives: Strawberry Field

Promoting Strawberry Field with The Mersey Beatles in America.

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

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

Julia xx

Beatle Week in Liverpool

Beatle Week is a phenomenon. For those people who visit, from all over the world, something happens. No-one can define it in words, but the first visit is just that. Pushing the door open. Once inside, there is so much to explore that it takes yearly trips to grasp it, if you ever do. I haven’t got a true hold on Beatle Week yet, but I wouldn’t miss it.

This year showcased the new launch of The Salvation Army’s Strawberry Field project, as its headline talk, on Sunday morning, in the main ballroom of The Adelphi. The 40-minute programme started with a different kind of band than we normally hear during Beatle Week…it was the 7 piece Noisy Band…a brass band…who played a medley of Beatles songs, including ‘All You Need is Love’ and of course, ‘Strawberry Field.’ The hall was packed out with people singing the songs. A great beginning to the excitement of the project itself.

The Mission Director, Kathy Versfeld, then gave a taste of what lies beyond the red gates and why fans should come and see for themselves. There is the Exhibition, the shop, the gallery, the cafe and the gardens. And the other red gates…the real ones! For many years now, fans have been able to stop and have their photos taken at those gates on Beaconsfield Road. Did you know that those gates are, in fact, fake news?! The original red gates have been on display in Beatles Story Museum for a long time, but they are being returned in early September, to be a part of the Meditation Garden. They will be cleaned, but not repainted. I am sure that the second set of gates at the entrance will be polished up!

Kathy then introduced me, so that I could talk about the Training Hub and the Steps-to-Work programme. The students, who will be between 18 and 24 years old, with mild-to-moderate Learning Disabilities. I gave a brief overview, followed by the class coach, Alan, who determined the whole programme which has been established for the students.

The presentation finished with a group of young people, who had completed the programme, coming up on stage. Each one had chosen one word, to exemplify their experience. They talked about how the programme had helped them, on their journey into the wider world, right into mainstream society. Into schools, hotels, museums, cafes. Places were they never thought they had any place are welcoming them in.

I hope they won’t mind my mentioning this bit! When I first went along to the temporary accommodation to meet the first group, we had planned a simple lunch together…sandwiches and fruit. Well, they all disappeared and went to feed themselves outside the building! The staff and I ate our sandwiches and waited. They came back and sat down coyly…well, reluctantly, really. I asked them about the work areas they were interested in and they gradually got to open up..a bit. I was thinking, at that time, that if I were in their shoes, my runaway lunch would have extended into a free afternoon somewhere else. Anywhere else.

I met them again soon afterwards…a much more open response…from me and from them….and now, with many hellos and cheerios under the belt, we greet each other warmly, with hugs and questions and answers….with interest and curiosity. The Dalai Lama says, ‘Be curious’. Wonderful advice.

This is a robust example of how this Steps-to-Work training programme is benefitting these youngsters. They are being imbued with a sense of self..a confidence, a knowledge that they do indeed have a place in society…they have choices…other people want and need them. It is thrilling to see the colossal progress in 9 months.

We have had a Patron’s Day, where some of us gave a speech. Mine is young person focussed and will be the nub of the next blog page.

Julia x

Summer Fayre 2019

We had a Strawberry Field Summer Fayre at the end of May…and we were very lucky with the weather! The stalls were set out in a Community Hall, with lots of food in the centre and interesting items for sale along the walls….along with Tombola, throwing ping-pong balls into cups (I was surprisingly good at this one!) and nail painting, which I also had done.

I bought a beautiful crocheted blanket square in bright colours, done by one of the students. She had watched her Mother crocheting difficult pieces and taken herself to teach herself this new skill. I am now the proud owner of that start-up blanket and will be looking out for more!

The best thing for me, though, was that almost all of the two groups of Strawberry Field Graduates were there. And what a difference in their whole demeanour. I was chatting to confident young people, who told me about their work placements with pride. There was lots of laughter and photo-taking. They all had something to say.

These were the same youngsters who had shied away from engagement just a few months before…now they were keen to share what they had been doing. It made the whole Strawberry Field project come to life.

This is what it is all about. Taking in young people who need strength and guidance and training….and turning out people who will grow in confidence and take a proper place in society.

The next group of students will start shortly and I hear that we will soon have the keys to the new building!

Watch this space.


Strawberry Field in America

Hello everyone,

This is my second trip to America this year, where I have had a platform to talk about the Strawberry Field project back in Liverpool.

The first trip was in and around Florida in February. I was touring with the Mersey Beatles, where previously, I had been promoting the city of Liverpool. For this tour, however, I have memory sticks, with a short video which encapsulates the Strawberry Field project, explaining briefly its history and plans for the future. At each show, I spoke on stage after screening the video, before the band performed…sometimes even forgetting to mention them at all!

During this tour, I was able to link up with people who will be important to showcasing SF. The first promoter was Joe Johnson, of Beatle Brunch. His programme is transmitted all over the USA and Canada, making his reach invaluable. Joe and I recorded an interview, which, along with the video, he is using to tell the SF story to his far and wide radio and podcast audience.

As a result of this and with the help of another wonderful lady, Gia Tutelo of Forever Family, we were put in touch with NBC. They are interested in making a documentary for MSNBC about the Strawberry Field Project before it opens..and they will be there again to record the official opening later this year.

The opening is set for early November at the moment, although the SF students will have decamped to the new site well before then.

The second trip was a bit different in nature and circumstance! A cruise ship! Norwegian Cruise Liners have franchised a Cavern Club on three of their ships, with a fourth in the offing. The resident Beatle band of the Cavern Club in Liverpool has been invited to perform their fabulous Beatles show in each of NCL’s Cavern Clubs.  This was their third sailing and my second. I have left the ship’s entertainment team with a memory stick with the video, as they would like to see how it can be incorporated into the shipboard Cavern Club media promotions.

Also, on this trip, I was invited to join a panel of three for a public event with subsequent Q&A. This gave me a platform to discuss SF. There were much interest and many questions. The other two panel members were the iconic authors and choreographers of the venerable Broadway dance musicals, ‘Fame” and “Footloose’, Dean Pitchford and Lynne Taylor-Corbett respectively. It was wonderful hearing their own stories about the origins of shows that we all love. Lynne writes for an online magazine, ‘Art and Politics’ and has suggested we do an interview about Strawberry Field.

Thank you The Cavern Club Beatles and NCL.

Thank you, Mark and the Mersey Beatles.

Thank you to the American Beatles tribute band, ‘The Fab Four’ who have taken an SF video, to be shown during each of their many shows across the States.

Thank you Joe Johnson and Gia Tutelo for responding so positively and willingly.

Thank you MSNBC…..

We are thanking all of you for inviting Strawberry Field right into your own fields.

Strawberry Field and Julia


The rise and rise of Strawberry Field.

The last time I visited Strawberry Field, it was at the footings and foundation stage. We always have to done hard hats and building site shoes (the hats slip off my head, no matter how tightly I draw in the strap. I have to hold it on with one hand!)

Well, the progress has been phenomenal. I met one of the Salvation Army staff last week and she had been on site and had taken lots of photographs. …and I received them today…here they are. I can hardly comprehend the rate and state of the work. The staff member I mentioned is called Sue…and she told me that she has been making bacon butties for the builders every Friday. The result is there for all to see!

I am off to America to promote the Strawberry Field project and will go hotfoot to see the magic for myself as soon as I get back in early March.

Off to Work we go!

In early January, I went to have lunch with the first group of students, at their temporary home base in Liverpool. They were 8 in number and this was their final day in the Steps to Work programme. The next day, they were about to start on their new work placements, which varied from gallery and cafe work to child care in nurseries.

We had sandwiches and fruit and some of the students had a KFC!…it was a very jovial atmosphere, full of excited chatter about the new challenges.

We shared some group photographs, then the group went back into the education room, for last-minute pep talks with their tutors. We hope to get some feedback from their placements soon….and of course, from the group members themselves.

The next group is nearly ready to start!

A Strawberry Little Christmas

A huge ‘well done’ to our Steps to Work trainees who put on a fantastic afternoon of entertainment & achievement with their Christmas show ‘A Strawberry Little Christmas’? In January these amazing young adults go on to start their work placements across Liverpool.

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 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 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


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


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


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.


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 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


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


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.


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.


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.