St George’s Hall, Liverpool – what’s it for?

Well, what exactly is St George’s Hall for? Hardly an urgent issue but something I ask myself now and then.

As I walk along Lime Street.

As I walk towards it along Lime Street.

Liverpool's most respected building by Pevsner and the like.

Liverpool’s most respected building by Pevsner and the like.

Here standing between the brutal vulgarity of the St John's market car park and the elegant grace of Lime Street Station.

Here standing between the brutal vulgarity of the St John’s market car park wrap-around screen and the elegant grace of Lime Street Station.

Well it just is, isn't it? Just there.

Well it just is, isn’t it? Just there.

I can’t imagine Liverpool without it.

Undeniably gorgeous.

Undeniably gorgeous.

The sort of building that shouts out ‘This is a very important city with very big ideas about itself.’ Which it is and which we do have.

Even the pattern of the cobbles outside match the precious tiles inside.

Even the pattern of the cobbles outside matches the pattern of the precious tiles inside.

Don’t get your hopes up though. The precious tiles are so fragile that they’re more or less permanently covered up. So we won’t be seeing them today. I’ve only seen them once in my life.

On one of the very few times I've been inside here.

On one of the very few times I’ve been inside here.

Which is kind of my point. What’s this place for? The outside’s fine. That’s our formal gathering place, as it will be today for Remembrance and was that sacred day when we all gathered here with the 96 families the day the Hillsborough Independent Panel delivered their report.

But as for going inside the Hall? Hardly ever. I remeber seeing Michael Foot speak here just before the disastrous 1983 General election and, as I said, I’ve seen the floor once. But it’s always seemed like a magnificent municipal space without a very clear role in the life of its City.

Gorgeous though.

Gorgeous though.

Even on the plainest and greyest of days.

Even on the plainest and greyest of days.

A serious piece of architecture.

A serious piece of architecture.

And our formal gathering place.

And our formal gathering place this 11th November, like every other.

This year the poppies have arrived here from the Tower of London.

This year the poppies have arrived here from the Tower of London.

Be seeing more of them later.

Be seeing more of them later.

But now let's go inside.

But now let’s go inside.

Briefly in the 1980s I remember the entrance hall here being one of Liverpool's best cafés.

Briefly in the 1980s I remember the entrance hall here being one of Liverpool’s best cafés.

Run by Sue Flackett, previously of the Armadillo and later of Blackburne House and Hope Street Hotel.

Then going up the stairs here, another memory.

Then going up the stairs here, another memory.

This used to be the way into the Small Concert Hall. And on 26th July 1972 (I’ve checked) I came here to see the very great Roxy Music for the first time. Brian Eno and the others putting on their make up in the corridor outside. Then inside for the unhinged synthesized rock’n’roll of their first LP. Unforgettable.

Since then the small concert hall has been having a life as a court room. A place looking for its purpose.

Since then the small concert hall has been having a life as a court room. A place looking for its purpose.

Anyway, let’s go along to the main hall.

As grand as Victorian municipalism could make it.

As grand as Victorian municipalism could make it.

Watched over by a golden guardian angel.

Watched over by a golden guardian angel.

And St George.

And St George.

Exquisite in every detail.

Exquisite in every detail.

Like the town hall of a capital city.

Like the town hall of a capital city.

That isn't even the town hall of this one.

That isn’t even the town hall of this one.

Even the side rooms upstairs containing the city's art treasures displayed behind the water coolers.

Even the side rooms upstairs containing the city’s art treasures displayed behind the water coolers.

And yes, if you can read backwards you can deduce that the reason I’m spending the longest time I’ve ever spent in St George’s Hall is that I’m here at this year’s ‘Locality’ convention. With Granby 4 Streets, Homebaked, the Florrie and community organisations from all over the country.

Held here in the grandest of possible venues.

Held here in the grandest of possible venues.

Filled, to my delight, with life, conversations and possibilities.

Filled, to my delight, with life, conversations and possibilities.

I’m not going to write any kind of report on what was discussed, my subject here being the Hall itself.

Other than to particualrly recommend one speaker.

Other than to particualrly recommend one speaker.

Gloriously inspirational stuff about getting change done with and by the people of a place and without asking permission. Us lot from Granby looked at some of his examples of guerilla action and thought we might…Well, better not say, but you’ll know when we’ve done it!

We used one of the court rooms for a staged debate about austerity.

We used one of the court rooms for a staged debate about austerity.

‘Guilty’ I thought. Obviously.

Two days of the place welcoming its visitors warmly.

Two days of the place welcoming its visitors warmly.

And of taking them out into the city to see some of what we’re doing. Granby 4 Streets, Homebaked in Anfield and the Florrie in the Dingle naturally included.

On site at Granby 4 Streets this week.

On site at Granby 4 Streets this week.

Granby 12 November 2015 - 10Granby 12 November 2015 - 14

Big thanks to all our visitors for your interest during Locality 15.

Big thanks to all our visitors for your interest during Locality 15.

But back at St George’s Hall I want to particualrly single out one local social enterprise here for the splendid work they did inside the event. Can Cook from Liverpool were the event caterers. And supplied and delivered easily the best event food I have ever had in my life.

Feeding 500 people on time and so well several times over two days takes some organising. Basic and wholesome with options and friendship. And they campaign about food waste.

And did lunch boxes to take away as the event ended.

And did lunch boxes to take away as the event ended.

Brilliantly and creatively done and highly recommended, Can Cook.

Well done you Laura McCumiskey and the rest of the Can Cook team.

Well done you Laura McCumiskey and the rest of the Can Cook team.

‘We’re filling up the van now to take our food up to the Whitechapel Project next’ Laura told me as they drove off. ‘A fresh meal for somebody who’s hungry’ as they always say.

Songs for leaving as we go from

Songs for leaving from the Choir With No Name.

Then outside there are the poppies. So I’ll end today’s post in contemplative silence.St George's Hall - 35 St George's Hall - 36 St George's Hall - 37 St George's Hall - 38 St George's Hall - 39 St George's Hall - 40 St George's Hall - 41 St George's Hall - 42 St George's Hall - 43That’s what it’s  for. The great gathering place. St George’s Hall, Liverpool.

2 thoughts on “St George’s Hall, Liverpool – what’s it for?

  1. Phil Scraton

    Great piece, Ronnie. The day we launched the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Report at the Anglican Cathedral ended with a special moment with Margaret Aspinall in front of the thousands who came out to support the families and survivors … and then returning to the Hall a short while later to give the talk on Hillsborough to a capacity audience. It’s a place that I looked on with wonderment as a child, never in a million years did I think that one day I’d be standing up there in its fine theatre. With respect, Phil.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thank you Phil, it’s lovely to hear from you. I was there that day when Margaret told us all so emotionally that we’d done nothing wrong. Deep respect and thanks for everything that all of you on the Panel did.

      Reply

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