An animated music walk is being created in Birkenhead, featuring newly commissioned compositions from some of the town’s iconic musical talent, including Andy McCluskey from OMD, Louisa Roach of She Drew the Gun, Matthew Barnes of Forest Swords, musician and composer Andrew PM Hunt, musician and producer Nigel Blackwell from Half Man Half Biscuit and singer and songwriter Bill Ryder-Jones.
Produced by Future Yard, The Leftbank Soundtrack is designed as a sonic walking tour through the streets of Birkenhead, uncovering its tales of past glories, future stories and the culture that has created the town.
The animated music walk is the result of a collaboration between music and place. Each of the artists has been twinned with a location in the town’s centre. The piece of music they have created is inspired by that place’s sounds, history, people and heritage.
From the banks of the River Mersey to the imposing Ventilation Tower, the historic Priory or Argyle Street, visitors will be able to walk the route and access the new compositions at each site via their smartphone. Each composition is only available on the walk.
The project will launch on Friday 27 August, as part of the Future Now Festival, with previews on Thursday 26 August.
The Leftbank Soundtrack is the brainchild of Future Yard and commissioned and supported by Wirral Council as part of the Town Deal programme.
Craig Pennington, founder of Future Yard, says,
Birkenhead, like the whole of Wirral, has music in its DNA. We have a unique story to tell. The Leftbank Soundtrack will tell the stories of our town through the musical perspectives of some of our finest noise makers.
This will be a journey of musical discovery and urban exploration, an opportunity to reimagine spaces you pass by each day and discover a whole new perspective. Grab a smartphone and, pair of headphones and let the journey begin.
Andy McCluskey of OMD says,
It’s a fascinating and interesting concept for Birkenhead and as a Wirral boy born and bred I am delighted to be a part of the Leftbank Soundtrack. My first bass guitar was bought from Park Selling services over 45 years ago. Perhaps this is me coming full circle?
The Ventilation Tower is an iconic building hard against the Mersey and it’s a really exciting challenge to create a musical piece for it. I stood next to the Tower doors in early July and recorded the sound of the wind whistling through them. These recordings became my inspiration and bed track for the music. For those who are curious. The Tower whistles in the key of A.
The Leftbank Soundtrack Locations Hamilton Square | Artist Nigel Blackwell
The historic, Georgian Grade I listed Hamilton Square is the civic heart of Birkenhead. The gardens at its centre hold a statue of John Laird and a series of memorials, including the Borough’s war memorial. From the edge of the gardens you can look across the river and see Liverpool along the shore. Behind you is the town’s retail core and the road to the shipyard. Hamilton Square is a place of hope, designed to showcase the grandeur and growth of Birkenhead. It is also a place of reflection, the way in and the way out of Birkenhead.
Ventilation Tower | Artist Andy McCluskey
The striking art deco Ventilation Tower dominated the skyline of the Leftbank. It ties together Birkenhead’s built environment and transport infrastructure. As well as having a technical function it is a significant landmark and echoes a period of town planning and design filled with ambition. The 1920s is an important chapter in Birkenhead’s identity, when even the most functional space is infused with design credentials.
Woodside Ferry Terminal | Artist Bill Ryder-Jones
Attracting commuters, tourists and visitors alike, the famous ferry is always a reminder music and the landscape are closely entwined on Merseyside. On the banks of the River Mersey, the ferry terminal is being transformed into a destination, a place to eat and visit instead of merely a stop on a journey. The River is tied to the history and heritage of Birkenhead, just as it is to Liverpool’s, and the shift towards a visitor economy, bringing visitors along the waves of the river instead of cargo and business, is another step in the town’s story.
Bill Ryder-Jones says:
I’m always made up to be asked to write about my home. I took a trip over to Woodside Ferry Terminal and got a clear sense of what I wanted to write. It’s one of those places where nature meets industry in a very pleasing way. Hopefully that reflects in the music I’ve written.
Birkenhead Priory and Cammell Laird | Artist Forest Swords
Few places illustrate the history of Birkenhead more comprehensively than this spot opposite Birkenhead Priory. From here you look at one of the oldest buildings on Merseyside and its social and ecclesiastical heritage, while to the right you see Cammell Laird, a site so vital in the region’s industry over the past two centuries. In tying these two locations together in one spot, it does much to articulate the history and heritage of Birkenhead, its medieval role and history alongside its industrial socio economic role andcharacter. Birkenhead is not just one thing, one identity, one place, its different roles coexist and this location emphasises that.
Future Yard and Argyle Street | Artist Louisa Roach, She Drew The Gun
Birkenhead’s musical culture and heritage is richly felt along Argyle Street. New music and cultural venues like Futureyard operate in the shadow of long gone music venues, like Stairways. The next chapter in the walking tour emphasises this history of Birkenhead and its cultural contribution to Merseyside. It is often thought that bands just travelled to Liverpool, and that the musical heritage of the city region is dominated by the Beatles. Birkenhead has hosted a range of bands from Carcass to Faith No More, Little Richard and the Buzzcocks. This space, opposite one of Wirral’s newest venues, allows the visitor to place it into the context of music venues in Birkenhead. The space on this wall, above the loopline, allows the Leftbank Soundtrack to tie itself into the past, present and future of Birkenhead. It can reflect on musical heritage, new venues but also plans for the loopline and cultural infrastructure.
Louisa Roach is from She Drew the Gun and says
I’m really happy to be adding a song to the Leftbank Soundtrack. Birkenhead is a big part of me, all my family are from here, it’s one of the places I spent a lot of time growing up,and I’m getting married here in September.
It’s good to see some new creative things happening in the area, we’ve got a connection to Future Yard as well, being the first band that played here so it’s nice to be doing a song based around the venue.
Birkenhead Central | Artist Andrew PM Hunt
At Birkenhead Central, there is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of investing in cultural heritage. Mr Digby’s and Central Hotel are two venues which are either demolished or in a state of disrepair. The importance of cultural heritage, of regeneration and rebuilding can be emphasised here. How do we preserve the two together? The Pyramids, across the road, is the site of investment, while behind the station, at the old gasworks, new houses are to be built. Birkenhead is about to embark on another period of change, and reflecting on the balance between the past, the present and the future is a vital one in towns. How do we keep what has gone and preserve the past, while making space for growth and the future?
Cllr Tony Jones, chair of Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee, says,
This is part of the £25 million Town Deal programme and is part of a £1 million in initial funding being invested in Birkenhead as part of a major bid to transform its town centre. This project is just one example which shows how we as a council are supporting growth of the creative sector in the Argyle Street area.
It is incredibly exciting to see so many talented Wirral artists using their skills, localknowledge and insight, and their affection for Birkenhead to put together this ‘audio adventure’ celebrating the town.
I can’t wait to hear the ‘animated music walk’ and hope many people will be able to enjoy what will be a truly unique experience.
FUTURE YARD, a brand-new, 350-capacity space, is now open at 75 Argyle Street. This new community venue will bring some of today’s most exciting new national and international artists to Wirral, while at the same time providing key early performance opportunities for emerging local musicians.
Birkenhead is now the home of one of the most exciting new music venues in the UK, a building that re-imagines the role of a live music venue, providing live industry training and a regional hub for artist development. https://futureyard.org
Andy McCluskey from OMD in front of the of the Birkenhead tunnel ventilation tower: Photo by Robin Clewley