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Wirral reveals incredible cultural highlights for 2019

An extraordinary line-up of cultural events has been unveiled for Wirral in 2019 as it prepares to become Borough of Culture for Liverpool City Region. Throughout the year, there will be major cultural events in unexpected locations with a programme based around the themes of discovery, exploration and great outdoors – designed to showcase Wirral to the world.

The programme was previewed at an event hosted by Wirral Council and National Museums Liverpool at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight last night (28 Nov). Exhilarating new commissions and exciting collaborations for 2019 were announced – including The Seeds of Change commission – a brand new outdoor performance spectacle to be presented in Birkenhead Park, Hull and Waltham Forest in 2019 providing a unique and shared experience for audiences across the country. Wirral-based acts provided the entertainment for the evening, with performances by the Wilfred Owen Choir, L’Orchestra dell’Arte and upcoming artist She Drew the Gun.

Wirral’s programme in 2019 will provide opportunities throughout the year for artists and creatives to shape the events calendar and offer a platform to shine a light on the existing assets including the borough’s galleries and museums, performance spaces and its regular line-up of festivals and community events including Wirral Festival of Firsts, the Spider Project, Wirral Change, Wirral Arts Festival, the Wirral Society of Arts, and the Hillbark Players.

The unprecedented line-up of events and activities builds on the success of this year’s Imagine Wirral initiative, which has seen over 250,000 people attend and be part of incredible cultural events. Highlights from 2018 have included the Tall Ships Three Festivals Regatta celebrations, New Brighton Revisited, Lost Castles, the Giant Spectacular and River of Light.

The Borough of Culture initiative was introduced by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and designed to encourage cultural activities across the region. St Helens has been the first recipient of the Borough of Culture title, which will be officially handed over to Wirral on Saturday 8 December.

The award will rotate around the six local authorities ( Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton,St Helens and Wirral) on an annual basis, enabling each borough to highlight the unique character and distinctiveness of its people and places, develop the skills and talents of its residents and create an exciting year of cultural events and activity for everyone.

Cllr Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council commented: “We are beyond thrilled to have been awarded the title of Borough of Culture for 2019. We’ve had an amazing year in 2018. More than a quarter of a million people made memories to last a lifetime at some fabulous events, which also brought a major impact on our local economy. Our events programme this year has shown Wirral is capable of hosting these large scale events and creating incredible moments for our residents and visitors.

“With the line-up of confirmed events so far, 2019 looks set to be even better. We will use our Borough of Culture year to tell the story of our magnificent peninsula through some truly memorable cultural experiences.”

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “This year, through Imagine Wirral, hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed a series of exciting and innovative events and if last night’s preview is anything to go by, 2019’s programme will be even bigger and better. 

“As a Combined Authority we take culture extremely seriously which is why we introduced the Borough of Culture award and committed to spend the equivalent of 1% of our devolution funding from central government to support cultural activities.  I’m sure Wirral will make a huge success of their year as the city region’s Borough of Culture building on the great work done throughout 2018 by St Helens.”

Highlights announced so far include:

  • Animated Square Revisited – In March, rediscover the breath-taking projection show by award-winning Illuminos onto Birkenhead Town Hall, as seen as part of Wirral’s Tall Ships celebrations earlier this year. This extraordinary show will be accompanied by a family festival for all to enjoy in Hamilton Square.
  • Made of Iron exhibition – From April, venues including the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum and Birkenhead Priory will host an interactive exhibition developed in partnership with National Museums Liverpool and Cammell Laird.  Made of Iron will chart Wirral’s unique contribution to the world of shipbuilding and maritime exploration.
  • Radio Local – Wirral and Heart of Glass come together to bring Hunt and Darton’s latest touring production to the borough in April. Live for a day, this radio show built by locals for locals will be exciting and fun entertainment for all.
  • Mersey River Festival – Wirral and Culture Liverpool come together for the return of the ever-popular Mersey River Festival in May, with spectacular performances, installations and fun-filled family entertainment. 
  • The Seeds of Change commission – Hull’s Absolutely Cultured, Wirral and Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019 join forces to create a brand new and spellbinding outdoor spectacle in three amazing locations. In May, Birkenhead Park will be the setting for an enchanting production. Designed to connect people and inspire imagination and curiosity, the performance will draw on the unique characteristics of each place, weaving a story between the three and working with local communities and artists to inspire the creative direction. The Seeds of Change commission will be produced by Absolutely Cultured, the company built on the foundations of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 in partnership with Wirral Council and Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.
  • Rembrandt in Print – From June to September, Lady Lever Art Gallery is to display 50 prints by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669) taken from the Ashmolean Museum’s collections. Widely hailed as the greatest painter of the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt was also one of the most innovative and experimental printmakers of the seventeenth century. This exhibition presents him as an unrivalled storyteller through a variety of subjects, including intense self-portraits, atmospheric landscapes, intimate family portraits, biblical stories and confronting nude studies.
  • Art outdoors – Enjoy a fantastic summer programme of art outdoors.  Collaborations with Finsa, Open Eye Gallery, Wirral Met College and local arts organisations will see exciting pop up and temporary exhibitions appear in some surprising locations and settings across the borough.
  • Future Yard – The first Future Yard Festival in August will be the opening edition of an annual, show-stopping, agenda-setting contemporary music festival. Developed by the team at Bido Lito! following this summer’s successful Wirral New Music Collective events, the festival will present exceptional national, international and local artists, in a collection of Birkenhead's iconic spaces.
  • Constellations – A series of awe-inspiring cultural events linked to the moon and stars will bring together communities across Wirral in autumn 2019. In partnership with hi-impact, National Museums Liverpool and others, an accompanying programme of activities will encourage children and young people to think big and go beyond.
  • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – Discussions are underway for the award-winning Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to perform a concert on the Wirral during 2019.
  • Walker Cup – Wirral will play host to some thrilling sporting moments in 2019 including the prestigious Walker Cup in September. The 47th biennial match between the amateurs of Great Britain and Ireland and the USA will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake as the Club celebrates the 150th anniversary of its foundation. 
  • Distinctly exhibition – Gathering work by eight documentary photographers shot over the last six decades, the Distinctly exhibition will come to the Williamson Art Gallery from October to November as part of the 2019 LOOK International Photo Biennial curated by Open Eye Gallery.
  • River of Light – Spectacular fireworks on the waterfront delivered in partnership with Culture Liverpool will captivate the crowds once again and herald the start of the festive season with colour and light.

For more information on Wirral’s 2019 programme visit www.imaginewirral.com and follow @ImagineWirral on Twitter. Any cultural organisations or artists interested in getting involved with Wirral’s 2019 programme should contact Wirral Council’s Culture & Visitor Economy team on cultureteam@wirral.gov.uk.