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Welcome Return

9 July 2009 by Laura

Three men hanging painting

John Lee’s Sweetheart and Wives (1860) makes way for paintings returning from Stockholm

Regular visitors to the Walker Art Gallery may have missed some familiar faces from the Pre-Raphaelite room in recent months. Such is the enduring popularity of the Pre-Raphaelites that from time to time our works go travelling around the world on loan to other galleries. This time it was to an exhibition at Nationalmuseum Stockholm, but I’m happy to tell you they are now back where they belong.

You may well be seeing even more of one the returning works, Lorenzo and Isabella, as it is featured in the new BBC drama Desperate Romantics. Read more…

Sewing up your emotions

2 July 2009 by Lisa

Piece of cloth with embroidered letters: 'I keep believing in you'

Tracey Emin, In You, 2009. Embroidered cotton. 13 9/16 x 16 1/8 in. (34.5 x 41 cm) © the artist. Photo: Stephen White. Courtesy White Cube.

She might ignite controversy wherever she goes, but Tracey Emin’s artwork – particularly her sewn work – has an amazing skill that often seems to be overlooked. I checked out her latest exhibition ‘Those who suffer Love’ at the White Cube in London , which showed a range of neons, drawings and several sewn pieces.

Even if you don’t ‘get’ what she is trying to say, I think you’d have to try pretty hard to not appreciate the skill involved in sewing what looks like a sketched drawing on a six-foot piece of cloth. You get up close and there are hundreds of small and precise stitches which create something that appears to be quite devil-may-care. One of the tiniest pieces of cloth seemed to hold the most emotion – a sewn ‘sketch’ of a kneeling figure, with the words ‘no, no, no, no’ stitched above it.  Read more…

The world of the Peaceful Dragon

30 April 2009 by Richard

photo of tree blossom overhanging the wall of a gravel garden

Ryoanji Zen garden


Well I am back at work after my break in Japan, as interesting and exciting a destination as I have ever visited. It really is a mix of the old and the new and this cannot be better personified than the city of Kyoto. I spent 5 days in Tokyo, truly a metropolis of bright lights, fashionistas and the latest gadgetry but Kyoto – what some call the cultural heart of Japan – is where the clash of worlds is most obvious. As soon as you step off the Bullet train you enter Kyoto’s futuristic looking plate glass and steel frame rail station building designed by Hiroshi Hara. The Bullet train really is as efficient as you are told and quite a shock for someone used to British trains when your reserved carriage actually stops in front of you and on time. I can only hope a contingent of British rail carriers executives have their next annual conference in Japan and invite the CEO of Japan Rail as the keynote! The area around the station has hotels, offices and shops aplenty like most major cities but scratch under the surface and there lies a hidden world of temples and Zen gardens of all shapes and descriptions. Read more…

Hooray Henry

2 April 2009 by Dawn

A large bearded man wearing fine Tudor garments standing with legs astride

King Henry in formidable form


I recently watched the film adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ – I can’t say I enjoyed the mixing of fact with fiction, but it made me think about how much speculation, debate and gossip Henry VIII has drummed up in the 500 years since he became King. I am sure he would absolutely thrilled that his reputation is still thriving in the 21st century due to his larger-than-life character, ill-fated marriages and the major decisions he made that have shaped the history of the country (not to mention a million documentaries and dramatisations). Any publicity is good publicity, right?


Henry was declared king in April 1509 and just about everywhere up and down the country with a Henry connection is marking the occasion. I am desperate to get to Hampton Court for the Henry VIII: Heads and Hearts exhibition, as well as the Dressed to Kill at The Tower of London and Man & Monarch at the British Library. Infuriatingly I’m missing out on the Great Recreation of Tudor Life at Kentwell Hall this summer which will be focused on the Henrican year of 1535. (Look out for Kentwell on Channel 5’s ‘I own Britain’s Best Home’). Read more…

Quiffs, Riffs and Tiffs

20 February 2009 by Dawn

We billed The Beat Goes on exhibition ‘from The Beatles to the Zutons’, but has anyone heard of ‘from The Hollies to the Happy Mondays’? That’s what you’ll find if you take a trip to the other end of the East Lancs Road, to Salford Museum & Art Gallery. They’re currently showing Quiffs, Riffs and Tiffs – a small but perfectly formed exhibition about the music scene in Salford.

I spent a happy hour there a few weeks ago and thought there were a few gems to be seen. Top of the list for me were notes by Morrissey and Johnny Marr – with Salford Lads Club getting its rightful mention. There’s also handwritten lyrics to Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Teach Your Children, signed by one of my all time idols,  Graham Nash. There are some childhood pictures of Graham at his home in Salford, before his success with The Hollies and later with CS&N stole him from these shores. Read more…

1911 census

13 January 2009 by Karen

The 1911 census records for England and Wales have been made public, two years earlier than the 100 year embargo. The returns contain more information than previous years including length of marriage, the number of children in the household, any guests on the night in question and more occupational information. For the first time you can see the actual form your ancestor filled in, complete with crossings out, mistakes and any additional notes not transfered to the official enumerator’s summary. You can search them on the 1911 census website. Read more…

Loo-ney Tunes

19 November 2008 by Dawn

It’s World Toilet Day.  There’s no polite way of introducing it – you’ve just got to say it. You have to wonder who thinks these things up, but then there is a serious and worthy message about the state of the world’s sanitation to be gleaned.

Actually, museums and art galleries have formed a healthy relationship with the toilet that goes back beyond Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ or urinal.  What self-respecting museum would be caught out without the humble (or in some cases the ridiculously ornate) chamber pot? You can see one that was designed for Napoleon, no less, in the Walker’s Craft & Design Gallery. Read more…

Campaign for the Titians

24 October 2008 by Sam

I’m a bit of a fan of Titian – an artist who I must admit I knew very little about before the fantastic Titian exhibition at the National Gallery in 2003. Since then I’ve enjoyed any opportunity to see his work, so was very excited when the painting ‘Supper at Emmaus’ came to the Walker on long term loan the following year (it’s still there – have a look next time you’re in and see if you can spot the cat under the table!) Read more…

Bats about boats in Norway

30 September 2008 by Sam

Here’s a special report from our curator of port history Ian Murphy, who has just got back from Norway:

“I was lucky enough to visit the Norwegian Maritime Museum (Norsk Sjøfartsmuseum) in Oslo last week to attend the opening of their Båtfolk (Boat People) exhibition, which explores the refugee experiences of Norway’s Vietnamese communities. I’d been invited as they had loaned a Vietnamese fishing boat from the Maritime History collection at Merseyside Maritime Museum, which was a centrepiece of the display. Read more…

Lowlands Film Secrets

17 January 2008 by Stephen

photo of four people standing around a old projector and a stack of old film

Representatives of West Derby Community Association at the Antiques Roadshow. They are (l to r) Stephanie Grogan, James Ashton and Stephen Guy, with specialist Jon Baddeley at the far right.

When I, Stephen Guy, discovered a cache of films stored away unseen for more than 40 years, I wondered what to do.

I am a trustee at Lowlands, the Grade II-listed home of the West Derby Community Association, Liverpool – a superb Italianate former merchant’s mansion dating from 1846. It was the home of the basement Pillar Club where many of the major bands of the 1960s played in their early days. The Quarrymen (early Beatles) famously failed an audition there and are thought to have played in the Pillar Club once or twice as the Silver Beetles. Later they became resident band at the Casbah Club, literally over the road, at the home of drummer Pete Best. Read more…

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