Mathew Street Liverpool

The Rejuvenation of a City

Mathew Street is to Beatle fans what the Via Dolorosa is to Christians: walking down it is life changing and at the heart of the experience in the Holy Land.

Hundreds of thousands of people walk down Mathew Street every year. Most are tourists, but in the evening, Mathew Street draws hundreds of locals seeking a pint (or five) and some good music. The successful regeneration of Liverpool as a whole depends on the city’s ability to capitalize on Mathew Street’s popularity and foot traffic, the conversion of the unused, vacant spaces of the buildings on Mathew Street, and to connect Mathew Street to other parts of the city.

The Cavern Club Mathew Street Liverpool
Professor Richard Hill, his wife Tanis, and my classmates in front of The Cavern Club on Mathew Street, Liverpool. Photo ©Heather Shimmin

Putting Mathew Street in its Place

Mathew Street is at the heart of “The Cavern Quarter” and once was the home of Liverpool’s fruit and veg market.  Today it is best known for its association with The Beatles and the Cavern Club. In the 50s and early 60s, Mathew Street was the centre of the music scene.  Today, Mathew Street has gone through a musical revival and is once again a bustling concentration of pubs and clubs, supplying Liverpool with many nightlife options.

The Cavern Club

The Cavern Club is “the birthplace of the Beatles.”  The Fab Four performed here on many occasions. It was here that Brian Epstein,  owner of NEMS record shop and later their manager, discovered them during a lunchtime visit to the Cavern.

The Beatles weren’t the only distinguished band to play at the Cavern. The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, Elton John, Queen, The Who, Chuck Berry, The Temptations, Jimmy Page, and John Lee Hooker are some of the other big names that played there.

Today, the Cavern has live music every night of the week. Beatle cover bands play during the days for the tourists, and “regular” bands play in the evening.1

Eric’s Club

Across the street sits Eric’s Club, a once thriving venue open from 1979 to 1980. Despite its impressive oeuvre of performers,2 the club closed in March 1980. Eric’s reopened its doors in September 2011 in its original location and is already on the radar as the trendy new bar on Mathew Street.

Other Venues

Mathew Street is brimming with clubs and bars and is at the heart of Liverpool’s nightlife. Some of the other venues are:

• Quarry Corner3

• Boogie Nights4

• Flanagan’s Apple

• Hardy’s5

• Flares6

• Lennon’s Bar7

• Monique’s

• Old Skool 90s Bar

• Pink

• Revolution

• The Cavern Pub8

• The Grapes9

• Rubber Soul

Also on Mathew Street is a yoga studio, The Beatles Store, a jeweler, a solicitor’s office, a shopping mall, and a Vivian Westwood store.10

The Mathew Street Music FestivalMathew Street Music Festival

Hundreds of thousands of people come to Liverpool for the Mathew Street Music Festival, the largest free music festival in Europe. This year, 160,000 music enthusiasts visited Liverpool. Five main stages were set up around the city for bands from over 40 countries. If only half of these visitors actually walked down Mathew Street, 80,000 potential customers would pass Mathew Street businesses in one weekend.

Mathew Street is an ideal place to put out a shingle. Curiously, there are many vacant spaces on the street, mostly above the current businesses. Developing these vacant spaces would be a major step in the regeneration of Liverpool on the whole.

Developing the Vacant Spaces on Mathew Street

Most of the ground floor spaces are occupied on Mathew Street,11 however, nearly all of the north side and most of the south side of the street’s upper levels are empty and deteriorating. Surprisingly, this prime real estate is housing nothing but pigeons. By converting these spaces into viable businesses, jobs can be created, revenue generated, and the Mathew Street experience will be enhanced for both tourist and Liverpudlian alike. Possible business schemes which fit this bill are: a Beatle Instrument Museum, a Rock ‘n Roll Art Gallery, a theatre space, a small hotel, a Beatle-themed restaurant, and a record store in the old NEMS space around the corner. These businesses draw on Mathew Street’s past in a way that is  commercially beneficial and enhances the historical significance of the area.

Buildings on Mathew Street Liverpool
Vacant space on Mathew Street. Photo ©Heather Shimmin

Beatle Instrument Museum

A man in Utah12 has an amazing and unique collection – he has had a replica made of every single guitar, bass, drum kit, amplifier, microphone, harmonica, and recording device the Beatles ever used. Putting these replicas in a museum would not only appeal to music lovers and Beatle fans, but could also develop into relationships with companies that make replica instruments, both full size and miniatures, which can be sold in the museum gift shop.

Rock ‘n Roll Art Gallery

A small Rock ‘n Roll Art Gallery, dedicated to art work based on this genre, would draw in tourists and give local artists a place to display and sell their work. Students from the art school would also have access to the gallery space for shows.  The gallery could also include a coffee shop, bar, and live music.

Theatre Space

Liverpool has had a long love affair with the theatre.  There are eight main theatre companies in this town. The theatre space would be set up in a “modular” manner, allowing for flexibility and mix usage, e.g. seats could be arranged for a theatre in the round, a proscenium, or anything in between. The theatre space could also be used as a rehearsal space or rented out for events or smaller music venues.

Affordable Hotel

Something in between a hostel and a Hard Day’s Night Hotel, a clean, affordable hotel would be amazing on this historic street. Beds can be placed against the wall opposite the street; soundproofing and double glazed windows will reduce noise from the busy street. Many a Beatle fan would delight in sleeping across the street from The Cavern.

Beatle-themed Restaurant

As an alternative to the upscale Hard Day’s Night Hotel restaurant, an affordable, first rate Beatle-themed restaurant would do very well. The only food options available on Mathew Street is mediocre pub food or the Hard Day’s Night Hotel restaurant.

Former NEMS Record Shop

Although technically not on Mathew Street, the former record shop run by Brian Epstein is an important part of the Beatles story. NEMS should be converted back into a local, independent music store, usurping Liverpool’s interest in music of all sorts. Currently, this space is vacant.

Connecting Mathew Street to the City

Liverpool is known for its nightlife, however, the evening options are not very diverse – the choices are what kind of music to listen to and how much to drink. Liverpool nightlife faces two problems: a lack of diversity and an absence of community. A Liverpool gallery stroll is an ideal solution.

Liverpool Gallery Stroll

On the first Friday of every month, Salt Lake City has a “gallery stroll.”  Art galleries around the city stay open late, until about 22:00, some serve wine and cheese, some have the artist come in and mingle with visitors. The gallery stroll is very popular and is held year round, even in the snow. Maps of the participating galleries for that month are posted online and are also available at the galleries themselves. Salt Lake Gallery Stroll is free and has inspired other cities around the state to follow suit.

A Liverpool Gallery Stroll would link Mathew Street to the rest of the city13 and strengthen the art community. The Gallery Stroll would be appealing to both locals and tourists, offering variety and culture. Liverpool has dozens of galleries, most of which are in a small area.

The Future of Liverpool

The future of Liverpool is bright. Being named Capital of Culture in 2008 is evidence of the city’s potential. Mathew Street is a key component in Liverpool achieving new heights in art, culture, music, and in making the city a fantastic place to live and work.

footnotes

1  Although the Cavern Club is very proud of its association with the Lads from Liverpool, The Cavern prides itself on being “the busiest promoter of original music from up and coming bands in the UK.”

Some of the distinguished performers at Eric’s Club include: Elvis Costello, Buzzcocks, The Clash, Joy Division, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits, The Stranglers, Ultravox, Wire, XTC, X-Ray Spex and U2, New Order and Mick Hucknall. Eric’s was forced to close its doors after a police raid found drugs on the premises. The Psychedelic Furs were part of the line up that night.

3  Some clubs on Mathew Street are defiantly better than others. Dave L. reviewed the Quarry Corner on Yelp! and said, “I’ll admit this isn’t the worst of the Mathew Street dungholes, but Christ on a bike it comes close.” The safety of Mathew Street, whether real or imaged, is a potential problem for visitors to Liverpool who want to spend a night out clubbing in the area.

Boogie Nights lists its assets as open until 4 a.m., dance floor area, and popular music.

Hardy’s gets great reviews. Complete with big screen TV, pop, funky, dance, R&B, and top 40 music.

6 Next to the original Cavern Club entrance, Flares is a 70s themed club. So popular on the weekends that there is usually a long queue to get in.

Lennon’s Bar claims to be one of the best live music venues in Liverpool.

Not to be confused with the Cavern Club, the Cavern Pub is directly across the street from the “real” Cavern. The Cavern Pub is a wannabe version of the Hard Rock Café, collecting authentic memorabilia from musicians and displaying them in the pub.

9  The Beatles would hang out at The Grapes before and after gigs at the Cavern, as it was a dry club. They sat in their “usual” booth at the back. A photograph of the Beatles sitting there in early 1960 hangs over the booth today.

10  The impressive Hard Day’s Night Hotel has a side entrance on Mathew Street that leads to the gift shop. The entrance to the hotel is around the corner on North John Street.

11 The open businesses on Mathew Street are the thirteen aforementioned pubs and clubs, as well as a the Cavern Walks Shopping Mall, 3B Yoga Studio, The Beatles Store, David M. Robinson Jewelry, Vivian Westwood, Gregory Abrams Davidson Solicitors, and the very posh Hard Day’s Night Hotel.

12  The man wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons: he doesn’t want someone to break into his house and steal his valuable collection. Currently, his collection is in an undisclosed storage unit.

13  Currently, Mathew Street has two art galleries, the View Two Gallery and a gallery space inside Cavern Walks Shopping Centre. The addition of the Rock ‘n Roll Gallery and the Beatle Instrument Museum would link Mathew Street with the city.

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