New Brighton – street art, coffee & a pirate ship

My friend had read about a new art gallery that had opened over in New Brighton, as well as a cool street art walk spread all around the Victoria Quarter, so one Saturday morning we headed through the tunnel and over to the ‘other side of the Mersey’.

There is a ton of free parking all around the area, and we easily found a space just off Victoria Parade, right in the heart of the action. There are guided art walks run by the Oakland Gallery, situated in the centre of the Victoria Quarter and they are currently running twice a month, check their instagram for more details. But we decided to do a self guided tour, so we could wander and window shop at our usual leisurely place.

The street art and the Oakland Gallery are part of the regeneration project of the area, and with both local and world wide street artists involved, this is just the beginning, more art and exhibits are being planned, it all sounded pretty exciting.

A7BFEDB3-1C43-4C0E-A937-D25F58E5C8AE_1_201_a

The actual gallery didn’t open till 12.00, but outside the front door they had some maps of the street art to take for free, so we grabbed one and headed off on our own self guided tour.

Some of my favourites were a couple by Dotmaster an artist from the other Brighton.

Fanakapan, a London based graffiti artist has done an incredible 3D helium balloon, that really has to be seen in real life to be appreciated, the shadows, the reflections, the creases, the shine, a photograph really doesn’t do it justice, it’s just insane!

36723F02-0423-4DF3-B0E3-19E517B49E06_1_201_a

As well as this, ‘Unsung Heroes’ a tribute to the local lifeguards by the Australian artist Smug One, we both just loved this one, and what a piece of art to have in your neighbourhood.

IMG_4186.jpg

We probably took just over an hour to explore all the art, and with still a little time to kill before the gallery opened at 12, we headed a couple of streets down to the beach for a sandy stroll and to find a place for lunch later.

There is a 3/4 mile stretch of beach at this part of the Wirral peninsula, along with the Perch Rock lighthouse, the Grade II listed Perch Rock Fort, and the entertainment centre Marine Point, which comes complete with cinema, shops, a theatre and restaurants. If you feel like you want to do more than just dip your toes in the water, then there are a whole bunch of various water-sports on offer, such as canoeing, jet skiing, snorkelling and a water park, complete with an inflatable assault course. So basically, what I am saying is, you could probably spend a full day here even without the art trail.

As we were just filling time till the gallery opened, I tip toed out into the water, then whilst shaking the sand from my sandals, we explored the fort (from the outside, as its currently closed, a Covid thing I think). My friend spotted a van floating in the water, I thought she was joking at first, but no, there it was, after a chat with locals, it appears somebody couldn’t be bothered to walk the extra 10 steps from the street parking to the beach and parked up on the sand. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise it was almost time for high tide, and by the time they were heading back, the van was already floating away.

After spending time staring at and gossiping with the locals about the sinking van, it was pretty much 12PM and time to head back to Victoria Road and to the Oakland Gallery. Opened only last year (2020) its a real highlight of the regeneration of the neighbourhood and will no doubt bring in a whole different set of visitors to the area, to those maybe heading to the beach or the water-park. The gallery is championing both local and international artists and whilst we visited, the main artist in residence was London based Insa who’s collection called Body Work, included prints, paintings, a rug, a surfboard, motorcycle and the star of the show, a 1968 Lincoln Continental MK3 car.

The gallery itself is really welcoming and although I enjoy art, and galleries, I often feel out of my depth and a novice really. But the staff were really helpful and friendly, talking us through some of the designs and intentions behind the work, and really made an effort to make it feel inclusive.

Next door is Rockport Records sitting above its connected diner and bar, its a great little find, full of records and posters, I had to remind myself that I no longer own a record player and resisted the temptation to buy anything, but did see a poster of the Nirvana tour I had tickets too, back in 1994.

Finally, with our stomachs rumbling, we headed back towards the beach, down Victoria Parade, to the Driftwood Cafe where they had delicious coffee and a vegan sandwich option. We sat outside, for some great people watching, saw some lifeguards possibly heading to the pier to start the rescue mission for the white van and made our plans to return to New Brighton for further adventures, its most certainly a place with a bright future, and I’ve been recommending it to friends ever since.

3779A20E-C6FD-4152-ADE2-605B1E786A0F

 

Peace Doves Yoga

In a change to the usual Monday evening programming, my friend Jane booked us onto a yoga class. Nothing too unusual about that you may think, but this was a yoga session on the floor of Liverpool Cathedral, underneath 15,000 suspended paper peace doves.

The incredible art installation, has been on display since May 2021, and has run all summer. Ending on the 30th of August, this was the last week the yoga classes were running, so we were lucky to bag our spot on a mat.

I got down early to the cathedral, after the tourists had left but before the yogi’s arrived, meaning I had time to meander and explore the exterior of the cathedral in a way I hadn’t really done before.

E3FFFE30-D94B-415F-AF7A-22A5B4762E6F_1_201_a

According to Wikipedia, Liverpool Cathedral is the 8th largest church in the world, and the largest religious building in Britain, which surprised me, but its position standing on top of St James Mount, does give it an advantage and adds to its impressiveness.

Work started on the building in 1904, with the Lady Chapel being the first part to be completed in 1910. Building work was delayed somewhat due to both the first and second world wars, with it finally being finished 74 years later in 1978, with Queen Elizabeth attending the opening ceremony.

Once I’d done a 360 on the cathedral, I headed down below, for a walk through St James Gardens, a tranquil, sunken cemetery, garden and spring. Hidden below Upper Duke Street, it can easily be missed, but it’s well worth a wander if you’re in the area.

Then it was back up to the cathedral, with yoga mat in hand to meet my friend and head inside. The yoga session was run by a lovely chilled teacher called Roisin, who is based at Yoga Therapy Liverpool. After a slightly shaky start due to issues with the sound, the class started and for the next hour, we breathed slowly, stretched deeply and completely unwound from the working day.  I haven’t attended an actual in person class for a number of years, not just because of Covid restrictions, but I haven’t found a class that suits since leaving Liverpool, prior to that I attended a hot yoga school weekly. Instead I try and do at least a couple of Yoga with Adriene classes a month, so I was a little worried what level the yoga would be pitched at, I needn’t have been concerned though, it was a good all round, all levels class, no head stands or fast paced astanga poses at all.

After the class, we were free to wander around the interior and get our selfie’s with the peace doves, so of course we obliged.

By the time we stepped back outside, feeling throughly chilled, the sun was just setting across the city, and I pretty much floated back home.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Once lockdown restrictions began to loosen up over the summer in the UK, I started to make plans to meet up with friends. Living in the North West, we still had limitations on who we could see and where we could go, so after a bit of research, a friend and I decided the massive outdoor grounds that house the Sculpture Park would be ideal.

Situated close to Wakefield, the open air gallery is situated within the 500-acre, 18th-century Bretton Hall estate, currently showcasing sculptures from artists even I had heard of, such as Damien Hirst and Ai WeiWei. In particular I wanted to see Damien’s ‘Virgin Mother’ statue and a gigantic Portugese cockeral by Joana Vassconcelos, which greets you as you arrive at the park.

40D64151-3080-4FA4-AF51-52523D8570BE

Covid has meant the park is run a little differently than before, you can only buy your ticket online, and a lot of the indoor spaces are closed, but with over 80 outdoor sculptures and installations to see, you can easily spend your day visiting just those. But, there are still indoor toilets and a gift shop that you can visit (masks mandatory) and they have converted their cafe to an outdoor take away space.

Tonnes of Covid friendly measures are in place, with one way arrows, hand sanitiser on gates dotted all over the place and the one indoor exhibition space, limits the number of visitors inside at a time.

We had a glorious day, I think my friend and I were just excited to be able to socialise again after lockdown, but there was some truely amazing, unique sculptures that really made you stop and think. My favourites were indeed the Virgin Mother, but I also really liked the Buddha by Saint Phalle, the Rabbit Madonna by Usagi Kannon II and Network by Thomas J Price.

We were super lucky with the weather too, and although it rained later in our visit, we were still able to enjoy a sunny picnic with some sheep in a field, overlooking the lake and it was almost like the virus had just been a bad dream.

I hadn’t paid too much to the indoor exhibit on offer, as I initially presumed it would be closed, but I’m glad we ventured over, as it was truely inspiring. It was curated by the Portugese Artist Joana Vassconcelos, who designed the giant cockeral at the entrance, but other works on display indoors, included the iconic oversized silver stilettos of Marilyn, made out of saucepans, which represented the division between women’s traditional domestic and contemporary public roles and I also loved the ‘Red Independant Heart #3’ made entirely of red plastic cutlery.

 

As far as my first post lockdown adventure went, it was a total success!