I’m sat here on the big curving staircase in George Henry Lee writing this. On the second floor, near Glassware and looking down towards Cards and Wrapping Paper on the ground floor.
Well those last bits are only in my mind, but I’m really sat on the staircase in George Henry Lee writing. One of the seventy venues that are home to the Independents Biennial 2018 from now until the end of October. I’m very happy to be here.
I walked down here earlier via Squash on Windsor Street. The welcome rain of the last couple of days having given way again to the hot blue summer we’re somehow having.
After lunch and a read I walked past the Cathedral and down the streets behind Bold Street to town. By the Cathedral I’d walked past streams of tourists and pilgrims. Me as a different kind of pilgrim on my way to a different kind of Cathedral.
I’d always known about George Henry Lee, of course I had, like everyone in Liverpool. But it had only become a sacred place for me while setting up home with Sarah Horton from the early 1990s. The answer to most shopping questions from Sarah was always “George Henry’s.” As she’s written elsewhere on this blog, she spent much of her childhood in here. And so grew up a devout believer in the place, its pricing, its policies and its people.
She’d speak of changes in its layout like major events in liturgical history. “When habi (haberdashery) moved to the basement” being one of the major schisms.
In time I came to appreciate her beliefs. You couldn’t love Sarah without loving George Henry Lee. So I was also sad, though nowhere near as sad as her, when they shut up shop in 2008 and moved over to Liverpool One. Leaving their name behind them as far as we were concerned. They might have already begun calling this place John Lewis, but we never did.
In the years since then, though Rapid Hardware have had a go in here, the part facing Church Street is TK Maxx, and there’s a Poundland in ‘Gents Outfitting’ on the ground floor, this building has remained ‘George Henry Lee’ to us.
And it’s George Henry Lee to me now. Sat here on this staircase with the local art of Independents Biennial 2018 all around me. I won’t review the art, others are much better at that than me. I’ll just show you some pictures, encourage you to come and have a look, and rejoice that it’s all here in the last months of this beautiful place. From next year the building will become a hotel, I’m told. But for now it’s our’s. To walk round, remember, dream and appreciate what’s here.
Feeling somehow right that the story of the place ends with new art from new people who probably mostly don’t remember George Henry Lee, the shop, in the kind of detail so many of us older ones still do. And probably didn’t walk around at the opening on Thursday evening, as I did, saying which department we were now in.
“Gifts, then up to towels and bedding. Down to lighting and hardware. Though to white goods, kitchenware, cleaning products, underwear, seasonal goods and haberdashery.”
I could name the whole shop, as Sarah no doubt will when she’s back from sea kayaking and comes for a visit.
Independents Biennial 2018 is open here from 11am to around 5:30pm on Mondays and from Wednesdays to Sundays until 28th October.
There’s also an Empty Spaces cinema in the basement as you might have noticed. Bound to be good.
And I’ll put links to special events here as I get them.
Like this in New Brighton, also part of the Independents Biennial. Going there today, Sunday.
In a few weeks time there’ll also be me here, in the department I still call ‘Gifts’ – inside the door by St John’s Tower. I’ll be helping out with several weeks of something some friends are organising. Tell you more soon.
Meanwhile I’ll sit here on these big stairs a while longer. Near to Glassware, just up from Cards and Stationery, perfectly happy.