There are many undercurrents running beneath the surface of Liverpool, intermittently emerging to influence the course of the city’s culture before ebbing to allow the next to lead the way.
Certain areas of the city have proven pivotal in the development of these currents and there’s one particular place that’s served, more than any other, to incubate Liverpool’s modern culture, and more importantly its counterculture. To understand the place we have to look back…
As Georgian Liverpool grew in power and importance, establishing itself as a trading hub, the land around the port became a valuable commodity. This fact was not lost on a Mister Mathew Pluckington who secured a large plot not too distant from the lucrative waterfront. His purchase became known as Pluckington’s Alley; home to a horde of traders and residents. The 1766 inhabitants included…
John Fairfax, Merchant
James Foden, Tallow Chandler & Soap Boiler
Rauthmell Gildard & Co. Sugar Bakers
Captain Gill, Ship’s Carpenter
William Hambleton, Slater & Plaisterer
William Brundrett, Slater & Plaisterer
John Maine, Merchant
Captain George Mattews, Captain
John Milligan, Linen Draper & Milliner
Hugh Williams, Merchant
Mr. William Statham, Attorney-at-Law
Through the decades, the alley developed to even greater proportions, populated by multi-storey warehouses packed high with produce imported from all over the world. In time, it also shook off its vernacular moniker and was renamed in honour of the original landlord, the spelling included as ‘Mathew Street’.
Fast-forward to 1927 and a now well-renowned psychoanalyst awoke from a dream in Switzerland. In the dream he’d had a vision about a place he’d never actually visited but which he determined to be Liverpool.
This psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, found himself in a dirty, sooty city on a dark, rainy winter night. He was with around half-a-dozen fellow Swiss but only he saw the vision of a little island blazing with sunlight.
On it stood a single tree, a magnolia, in a shower of reddish blossoms. It was as though the tree stood in the sunlight and was at the same time the source of light.
His companions spoke of another Swiss living at Liverpool, expressing their surprise at why he’d chosen to live in a place with such ‘abominable weather’. Carried away by the beauty of the flowering tree and the sunlit island, Jung thought to himself, “I know very well why he has settled here.” Then he awoke.
Jung’s dream was to have a profound impact upon both his own life and that of Liverpool, but it wouldn’t be until the first day of 1974 that the city Jung described as ‘the pool of life’ fully realised this influence. Inspired by Jung’s dream, local poet and dreamer Peter Halligan searched out the described “broad square… into which many streets converged” and determined it to be where Mathew Street meets Temple Court and Rainford Square, quickly leasing an old apple warehouse.
The warehouse was just down the road from The Cavern – the Merseybeat hub from which The Beatles had launched themselves to global stardom in the previous decade. When the four lads left the city in the mid-sixties however, the buzz left Mathew Street with them.
The Cavern finally closed on March 1973 and was demolished by Merseyrail iconoclasts, with a false idol later placed further up the road. (The only true relic from that time, Arthur Dooley’s ‘The Four Lads Who Shook the World’ sculpture, stands above the street and too often gets overlooked by the wide-eyed tourists eager to eat up misleading narratives).
This blind destruction wasn’t until 1983 however, and between The Cavern closing and the fake representation being opened, Mathew Street became the centre of it all again, largely thanks to Peter Halligan, who transformed his leased warehouse into the Liverpool School Of Language, Music, Dream & Pun.
Within its confines were the Armadillo Tea Rooms, Aunt Twacky’s independent market, Deaf School’s rehearsal space and the Science Fiction Theatre Of Liverpool – which put on its first performance of Ken Campbell’s heroic RAW adaptation, ‘Illuminatus!’ exactly 41 years ago.
The Liverpool School housed all manner of dreamers and schemers, who plotted three annual Carl Jung Festivals on Mathew Street from 1976-78 and, alongside the nearby Eric’s Club and Probe Records, the Armadillo Tea Rooms made up the ‘holy trinity of Liverpool punk’ – consequently Mathew Street became the epicentre for Merseyside’s finest freaks and seekers.
All of this gradually faded however, and part-by-part Mathew Street diminished into a husk of its former self; now standing as a bleak caricature of soulless tourism, brashly cokey revelry and painfully cheesy music, alongside disrespectfully insipid Merseybeat covers from the days of the street’s former glory.
This is why it was decided that the bad spirits would be exorcised from the pool of life on the twenty third day of November 2017 – the first annual ‘Toxteth Day Of The Dead‘ and the date the JAMs ‘Burn The Shard‘. Once the pool of life has been cleansed of the corrupting influence, the undercurrents will flow beneath the manhole cover freely, allowing for ‘The Renaissance Of Mathew Street’ and ushering in a new cultural era for Liverpool…
It begins at 18:23 on the steps of the Bombed Out Church. Are you going to be one of those present?
[OFFICIAL L.A.L. DISPATCH]