Tuesday, 21 April 2009

St Luke's Church - If you're ever in Liverpool, go here

One of the most striking sights on Liverpool's skyline is the shell of St Luke's Church at the top of Bold Street, where Berry Street and Leece Street meet. It's also one of Liverpool's most interesting art spaces, hosting the group Urban Strawberry Lunch and holding open air film screenings (including a 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame), theatre and gigs.

I first visited during the Liverpool Biennial, when Yoko Ono transformed St Luke's into a growing forest of stepladders, donated by the public as part of her installation Skyladders (when I mentioned this to the woman on the door last week, she said "Don't talk to me about stepladders!") . These added to its derelict building site feel.

St Luke's is a well known local landmark, referred to as the 'bombed out church' or, on Urban Strawberry Lunch's website, rather sweetly, as Bombdie.

The church was bombed in 1941, leaving only the clock tower in tact, with its heavy wooden door. It's still imposing and ornate, even with Liverpool's solid Anglican Cathedral looming in the background. Peer into the corners of its windows and you can still make out stained glass figures, tiny lights adding unexpected colours to the church's bleak frame, muted brickwork and blackened beams. Defiant stone faces still stare sternly from its walls. Weeds grow round its Gothic window frames like something from a fairytale, the church's solemnity muffled by a carpet of grass. It's open to the elements, but also to the residents of the city as a community space.Just behind the main shopping hub, and the dereliction of Duke Street, it's a quiet refuge from which to look out over the city, a walled garden in the middle of a metropolis, a water feature in the centre, like an enclosed park with its own pond. It's a place of reflection, housing a memorial to the victims of the Irish Famine.

On the pleasant Friday afternoon I spent wandering around Liverpool in the sunshine last week, St Luke's was inviting people to take part in Urban Gardening, which takes place every Friday. Inside, last year's bulbs are now blazing with colour, something growing alive out of the ruins.

The church is also delicately decorated with red wool, hanging from twigs and wrapped around doors and stonework. The lady in charge said this was the work of the Chinese community during Chinese New Year celebrations - Chinatown is just across the road, and St Luke's aims to be a space for local communities.

She rolled up her coat sleeve and showed me red wool tied around her wrist like a fragile friendship bracelet, saying they decorated her too and she couldn't take it off as it signifies good luck.

St Luke's definitely needs some good luck - I was also told that, although it's Grade II listed, the group pay rent to the council, who want to knock it down to build flats. Like so many things, it's difficult to secure funding.

So, if you're ever in Liverpool, visit, donate, to keep St Luke's open.


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LostinManc said...

Great post - I love this place. And the Philharmonic pub 2 minutes up the road - perfect!

savitri d said...

St. Lukes is such a lovely haunting place. Please keep the local money-grubbers and Tesco's and what not at arms length - and protect the small shops, the bookstores and the like, on Bold Street. We will always strive to come by and sing when we are in England, as we have twice now. If we have a place that bears some similarity in New York City, it wouldn't be the 9/11 remains so much as Union Square Park, our speaker's corner, where we gravitate when the institutions cannot control us, to grieve or celebrate or just gather on a weekend. It is also in danger of being privatized. It seems that community spaces become more valuable and then endanger their independence. So we must guard their "Public-ness." Amen! --- Reverend Billy