HOPE STREET: Right place. Right time.
Ah, Hope Street. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Of course, when we say clowns we mean the Everyman panto, and when we say jokers we mean the trainee comics at LIPA’s school of performing arts. And when we say...oh, look, it was just a smart way to introduce our second Hope Street Guide. I’m sorry I mentioned it now.
Anyway, here we are. Stuck in the middle. With you. So, hello! Welcome to the ‘turning right’ part of our Hope Street tour.
The pair of bronze doors on the pavement outside our London Carriage Works restaurant is the Sheppard-Worlock statue, commemorating the two giants of religious inclusion and unity, Bishop David Sheppard and Archbishop Derek Worlock. They’d probably be etched on bi-folds these days.
The ‘doors’ open to both the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral to your left and the Anglican Cathedral to your right (just for clarity, we’ve left those references to clowns and jokers way behind).
The piece symbolises the incredible work the two wise men did in bringing our once sadly somewhat sectarian city together again. Hurrah for them.
Every Pentecost (50 days after Easter Sunday - but you knew that) a pilgrimage from Cathedral to Cathedral, along Hope Street, celebrates that enduring spirit of unity.
And talking of unity...
Just on your right tucked down Hope Place, Unity Theatre is the city’s home to radical, experimental and fringe-y theatre. But ‘radical’, for this city, started way back. The theatre grew out of the Merseyside Left Theatre - which staged left wing work back in the 30s. There's not much that shocks us around here. In Hope Street, we’ve seen it all.
Down the next turning to your right, Rice Street, lies one of the city’s most celebrated old boozers, Ye Crack. The cosy 19th century pub was once the haunt of John Lennon and girlfriend Cynthia when they attended the art school, further up the road (now LIPA, more of which later). Lennon favoured a black velvet - a Guinness and fizzy wine combo that you should think twice about, in your condition.
Back on Hope Street, the weather-scoured set of suitcases ahead is ‘A Case History’ - a sculpture by John King. It speaks to the transitory nature of our port city. The question that lingers with me with is a rather glum one: are the suitcases’ owners (Hope Street’s glitterati) newly arrived, or about to leave us for good?
The cases cluster on the pavements outside LIPA - from whose grand Doric portals the city’s next generation of performers may depart on their glittering careers. Like the Wombats and Stealing Sheep before them.
In the early 90s, Paul McCartney and George Harrison’s old school, the Liverpool Institute, was destined for the wrecking ball. Macca heard the news - oh boy - brought in George Martin and the director of London’s BRIT performing arts school and LIPA, the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, was born.
There’s a photo, inside of a young McCartney in ‘Knights of the Round Table’ garb for a school performance, circa 1956. A Camelot courtier fated to return one day, to save this particular castle from crumbling.
You’ve reached the end of the street, and what a final flourish. Ahead of you rises the world’s fourth largest Cathedral - the mighty mountain of south Liverpool sandstone that is the Cathedral Church of Christ or, simply, Liverpool Cathedral.
Superlatives abound - the world’s highest Gothic arches, the highest and heaviest peel of bells, the best apple pie in the city (trust me on that one), and the largest Anglican Cathedral in the world. New Yorkers might argue. But they would (the title is in dispute between us and the unfinished Cathedral of St John the Divine in Manhattan).
Ours is the work of Giles Gilbert Scott - who didn’t just do ‘big’. He designed the iconic red telephone box: an example of which is neatly nested within this huge and spiritual space.
Don’t leave without checking out the gorgeous Greek temple-inspired Oratory at the Cathedral’s entrance, and the still and sublime sunken gardens, from which the Cathedral erupts like a gnarled sea stack, seagulls wheeling overhead.
After your visit, hop over to the opposite side of Hope Street to return via the wonderful Blackburne House. There’s always something life-affirming and lovely going on here. The grand 18th century pile was once a private home, but now houses a vibrant social enterprise for women. Great vegetarian cafe, too.
Talking of which, the corner of Falkner Street is foodie-central, with the easy-going brunches of the Quarter giving way to the fab new Papillon restaurant and bar. But don’t dive into your small plates and sauvignon just yet. Wander down what, for me, is the most harmonious example of Georgian Liverpool pomp: Falkner Street. If you were gripped by A House Through Time on the BBC you’ll recognise its cobbles and contours: the series focused on the stories of the Grade One listed number 62.
Before you hop back over the road to the hotel, take a look at the LMA building - the jaunty concrete frieze is the work of sculptor William Michell. His modernist public work has fallen out of favour somewhat, but I love it. But then again, I also love reruns of Most Haunted on Really TV, so you can take my opinion as you find it.
Stories, suitcases, soaring arches and superfood salads. How’s that for half a street?
Hope Street. It’s all right.