On the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Cavern Club on Liverpool’s Matthew Street – the club at which The Beatles played hundreds of times in the early 1960s – a new bronze statue was unveiled of Cilla Black outside the club. Cilla once worked as a cloakroom attendant at the club and knew the Beatles personally. It was from the stage of the Cavern that Cilla launched her own successful singing career before she branched out to become a leading television personality in the UK with programmes such as Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise. Cilla Black died in 2015 aged 72 and this new statue was commissioned by her three sons, Robert, Ben and Jack Willis – who described their decision to commission the statue as a means to “donate it as a small gesture of gratitude to this great city for their wonderful outpouring of love and affection for our mother”. The statue was unveiled this morning and I popped down to Matthew Street a couple of hours later to get some photos and videos.
The statue by Emma Rodgers Andy Edwards was constructed at the Castle Fine Arts Foundry in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant, Powys, Wales. Andy Edwards is also the man behind The Beatles statue at Liverpool’s Pier Head, which was unveiled in December 2015. There were still plenty of people congregating around the Cilla Black statue when I arrived at Matthew Street, including a couple of film crews – one of them from ITV News. The statue, which is one-fifth above life size, stands outside the original entrance to the Cavern Club, through which Cilla would have walked hundreds of times in her youth. Arms outstretched above her head, the statue depicts the singer as she was in the early 1960s wearing her characteristic bob hairstyle and mini skirt. The skirt, creases and all, depicts some of her song lyrics as well as some iconic phrases she used in her career..
The statue joins one of John Lennon which stands opposite the Cavern Club, a sculpture of The Beatles which is also located on the wall across from the Cavern and a statue of The Beatles performing which can be found inside the Cavern Walks Shopping Centre on Matthew Street. The Cavern Walks was built in the 1980s on the site of the original Cavern which, incredibly, was demolished in 1973. The club was rebuilt ten years later, partly on the same site and using many bricks recycled from the original Cavern Club. it has remained open since and is now an established presence once more on Liverpool’s “Beatle Street.” Perhaps aware of its cultural significance, the club’s owner Dave Jones said today: “This venue has to be protected for ever… it has to remain here.” It seems crazy today with The Beatles industry in Liverpool bigger and more important to the city than it’s ever been that the Cavern was demolished just ten years after The Beatles last played there. The importance of The Beatles as a tourist draw for the city took some time to be realised. Once the fame of the sixties died down for Liverpool, and with the hard years of the 1970s and early 1980s, the city had much more to be concerned about. It was only really in the 1980s that the city began to build on The Beatles with things such as the rebuilding of the Cavern and the start of The Beatles Magical Mystery Tours in the city.
- My videos from today (also at the top of this post)
- BBC article
- The Mirror article
- Liverpool ECHO article
- Cilla Black obituary
- Cilla Black Wikipedia 2 page
There has been some opposition to the statue, in particular it seems from the fact that Cilla Black was a Tory (with Liverpool being a strong Labour area) and that like many stars of her generation, she left Liverpool as soon as she was able to. This latter point has long been a talking point in the city with stars in the 1960s and beyond quickly leaving the city once success came their way. Many, however, did so out of a simple fact that the work and the music industry in particular was based in London and not in Liverpool. In the same way that brickies and other workers would leave the city looking for work, musicians and singers found themselves having to do the same. Some kept links to the city more than others but it has long been a sore point with many that the stars that were born, raised and created in Liverpool seemed to be just waiting for the opportunity to leave.