Take a journey through our 2008 timeline of events during the European Capital of Culture year and relive the excitement of our events.

The People’s Opening!

More than 38,500 people turned up to witness the official start to the ’08 celebrations in the heart of Liverpool’s Cultural Quarter, featuring more than 800 musicians, acrobats, schoolchildren and stars from the city’s cultural scene including Ringo Starr.

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Liverpool The Musical

At 2008 GMT on Saturday 23 January 12, Liverpool The Musical was staged at the new Echo Arena Liverpool, Kings Dock.  Integrating live performance and film in a radical new way and vertically stacking performers seven stories into the air, with performances by a host of famous Liverpool personalities.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Liverpool held a series of events leading up to National Holocaust Day on 27 January. The Anne Frank Festival and RESPECtacles provided thought ­provoking and striking exhibitions that aimed to engage the local community and teach them about the dangers of hatred and persecution.

British Dance Edition

Hosted by a city with a thriving dance scene, BDE 08 was a huge success. 490 dance promoters attended from across the globe and 41 companies were included in the performance programme. A further 90 filled the BDE Trade Fair and a fringe event by the local independent dance community surrounded a busy and exhilarating 4 days.

Three Sisters on Hope Street

The first of seven World Premieres staged by the Everyman and Playhouse in 2008, this play relocated Chekov’s masterpiece to Liverpool’s Jewish community of the 1940’s. Rave reviews were earnt as well as high profile media appearances for its writer Tracey Ann Oberman.

Akram Khan – Bahok

This UK premiere of Akram Khan’s new work at Liverpool Playhouse, with the National Ballet of China, was co-produced by Liverpool Culture Company with Merseyside Dance Initiative and featured as part of the city’s annual dance festival LEAP.

One Step Forward

Commissioned by Liverpool Culture Company, this world premiere production wove a magical journey for small groups through Liverpool Cathedral, including areas never seen before by the public. Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy the show asked a city heralding a £1bn retail centre: What is Paradise?

Shankly Show (10 April)

A Liverpool Commission for 2008, this play by the newly formed Footballing Legends Ltd played to 1,300 at its opening gala night at the Olympia, where Sir Tom Finney and a host of ex-Liverpool players were special guests. It toured to Shankly’s birthplace in Scotland and attracted an audience of 8,500 for its second run at the Royal Court in October.

Viennese Balls (12 – 13 April)

An incredibly popular participation event referencing Liverpool’s waltz craze of the 1830s, the Viennese Balls redefined how an orchestra can engage with its community. More than 250 people took advantage of free dance classes to share the floor with TV dance stars Erin Boag and Anton Du Beke and dance to the music of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the resplendent St George’s Hall.

Art in the Age of Steam

Launched by Monty Python star and the train enthusiast Michael Palin this exhibition at the world-renowned Walker Art Gallery featured work by masters such as Monet, Van Gogh and Hopper.

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Into the Little Hill

Birkenhead’s Pacific Road Arts Centre saw the UK premiere of a lyric tale in two parts by George Benjamin and Martin Crimp. Into the Little Hill was a contemporary re-imagining of the Pied Piper fable, co-commissioned by Liverpool Culture Company and produced by the Festival d’Automne and the Ensemble Moderne.

Fragrant Liverpool

International visual artist Jyll Bradley was commissioned as artist in residence at the Liverpool Botanic Collection to create ‘Fragrant Liverpool’ – a project exploring the extraordinary history of this extraordinary plant collection, founded by William Roscoe in 1803.

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Streets Ahead

Over one Bank Holiday weekend Liverpool Streets Ahead transformed seven city streets and squares with music and performance by performers from across the globe.  The event included two spectacular evening performances on St George’s Plateau and was one of the main events of 2008’s street animation programme.

Ben Johnson’s Liverpool Cityscape

Ben Johnson was commissioned by National Museums Liverpool to paint a highly detailed portrait of the city.  The painting took three years to create and was completed during a high-profile residency and exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. More than 161,000 people saw the exhibition and the Liverpool Cityscape is due to go on permanent display in the new Museum of Liverpool.

Gustav Klimt

One of the outstanding success stories of the year, the UK’s first exhibition of this celebrated artist in more than 30 years attracted a record breaking 199,068 people to Tate Liverpool. The Albert Dock venue also recorded a phenomenal 200% rise on visitors on the same time period in 2007 – June to August.

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Liverpool Sound Concert

Anfield football ground witnessed one of the greatest nights in its history with a stunning concert by Sir Paul McCartney, celebrating Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. Supported by The Kaiser Chiefs and The Zutons, the ex-Beatle gave a magical show with blockbuster hits from the Fab Four, Wings and his solo career that had the sold-out stadium on its feet for a full two hours.


30 bands performed at five heats in Liverpool’s neighbourhoods, with the winners touring in Bremen, Istanbul, Gdansk, Naples and Marseille. Bands from each of these cities performed at Mathew Street Music Festival and Creamfields and spent a day at Elevator Studios learning to record and cut discs.

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem

Performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at Liverpool Cathedral, Britten’s War Requiem combines the war poems of Wilfred Owen with the Latin Mass for the Dead. Originally commissioned in 1962 to mark the consecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during WWII, it is dedicated to the memory of four of Britten’s school friends, three of whom died in the 1939-1945 conflict.

Go Superlambananas (16 Jun – 21 Aug)

An outstanding arts showcase involving 125 commissioned pieces by professional artists and designers, 26 community groups and 5 schools, from one design – the Superlambanana by Taro Cheizo. The Go Superlambanas were created using various mediums and went on display across the city-region and even on the top of a Welsh mountain!

Pipilotti Rist

Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist’s ground­breaking show was the highest attended exhibition in FACT’S five year history. The exhibition features two UK Premieres of the artists work and generated extensive media coverage nationally.

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Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi

One of two new musicals commissioned by the Everyman and Playhouse for 2008, Adelphi the Musical was a romance set in the 1930’s heyday of the hotel and the glamour of the UK’s then capital of the cruise liner industry. Led by experienced West End names and backed by students from Liverpool’s performing arts college

Photo © Robin Day

Arab Cities (Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival 10 – 27 July)

This thrilling exhibition investigated intersections in art and architecture, featuring sculpture, photography, film and installations in the Middle East. All work
s responded to the cities of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Cairo, Mecca, Casablanca, Gulf cities and cities in the occupied territories. Presented by the Bluecoat in collaboration with Predrag Pajdic, Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery and Zenith Foundation in London.

137th Open Golf Championships

More than 220,000 people descended on Royal Birkdale to witness four days of world class sport ending in Ireland’s Padraig Harrington becoming the first European to win the Claret Jug in successive years. In his winner’s speech he praised the fans, declaring how much he enjoyed time in Liverpool and said he now felt like “an adopted Scouser”.

The Tall Ships Races (18 – 21 July)

Over 1 million people flocked to the city’s docks to see one of the largest fleets of Tall Ships ever assembled on British waters. A total of 60 vessels, from 18 countries with more than 3,000 crew were the basis for a four-day festival of music, street theatre and entertainment.

Carnival Weekend (1 – 3 Aug)

This dazzling weekend included the region’s largest multi­cultural parade and the single largest body of carnival arts work in the UK as Brouhaha International presented the final part of its four­year programme ‘Crossing Waters’, depicting the story of Liverpool’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade. Simultaneously Samba School brought its Rio­Style carnival parade to the streets of Liverpool.

Imagine (1 – 10 Aug)

A 10-day family festival designed for children of all ages, mixing ambitious, large scale events with interactive theatrical splendour. Highlights included promenade theatre at Newsham Park, plus miniature cinema and a performing fairground on St George’s Plateau. The festival attracted 63,950 people and generated £914,545 for the Liverpool economy.

Now That’s What We Call Culture (6 – 8 Aug)

Open to all Merseysiders, Now that’s What We Call Culture took place at the Liverpool Echo Arena. More than 450 acts competed for 12 places in the final. On Friday 8 Aug, Wirral based dance troupe Anamal was selected as winners by the audience – winning a cash prize, a guest appearance on Hollyoaks and a place in the Closing Ceremony on Jan 10 2009.

World Firefighter Games (24 Aug – 2 Sept)

More than 3,200 fire­fighters from 43 nations from around the world competed in more than 72 events in 42 venues. The events attracted more than 20,000 people over the 10-day spectacle – the world’s biggest international amateur sporting event. The Games generated more than 600 news items internationally and £1,660,858 for the Liverpool economy.

Mathew Street Music Festival & Fringe (24 – 25 Aug)

Liverpool was the UK capital of live music during August Bank Holiday, as more than 250,000 people enjoyed music on six outdoor stages across two days for the first time in the events history, plus a new Fringe Festival. Over 80 hours of live outdoor music was belted out by 95 bands performing from as far as USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, France, Italy, Finland, Poland, Turkey and Scotland.

Around the City in 80 Pubs

Liverpool raised a glass to pub culture with a month-long toast to comedy, music, magic, talks, walks and food & drink festivals to promote the city’s unique pub heritage. More than 40 (mostly free) events were held in pubs and bars from Anfield to Woolton to emphasis their important role as social and cultural centres in the city.

Sir Simon Rattle & Berliner Philharmoniker

Liverpool-born super-conductor returned to his home town for a one night performance with arguably the world’s greatest orchestra to a sell-out audience at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.

Photo by Mark McNulty © Liverpool Philharmonic

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DaDaFest International

The annual festival for deaf and disabled artists, musicians and dancers had a particularly strong collection of visual art exhibitions in 2008 and was also the first time DadaFest went International. The festival explored themes as varied as medical profession’s definitions of normality, the notion of portraiture, audio-interpretations of work including erotic drawings by Gustav Klimt at Tate Liverpool.

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La Machine

La Princesse – a 50 foot mechanical spider created in France and assembled at Camell Laird’s shipyard – stopped Liverpool in its tracks for four magical days. Up to 4,000,000 people poured into the city to watch the creature explore the streets before escaping through the Mersey tunnel. The event achieved media coverage as far away as Russia, California China and New Zealand.

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Liverpool Everyman Theatre’s poignant tribute to Liverpool’s underground punk club of the 1970’s which inspired a generation of celebrated musicians and bands from ECHO and the Bunnymen, OMD, Mighty WAH! And Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Praised for its set which vividly recreated the unique atmosphere, theatre goers were treated to a faultless score and entertaining task of spotting the legendary characters.

John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the UK’s largest contemporary art competition attracted entries from a record breaking 3,222 artists; 40 of which were shortlisted. First prize, which in previous years has been won by David Hockney, went to Peter McDonald for ‘Fontana’ (pictured). By the end of November, The John Moores 25 at the Walker Art Gallery had attracted over 30,000 visitors.

Liverpool Biennial

The 5th Liverpool Biennial launched with a plethora of groundbreaking visual, public art from Tracey Enim’s neon love message at Liverpool Cathedral and Yoko Ono’s sky-ladders installation, to a 100ft wide spider’s web across Exchange Flags by Ai Weiweie – consultant artist on the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium.

Photo © Liverpool Biennial

Digital Departures

Liverpool hosted three world premieres as part of Digital Departures – ‘Of Time and the City’, ‘Salvage’ and ‘Kicks’ – funded by Northwest Vision & Media, Liverpool Culture Company, BBC Films and the UK Film Council. ‘Of Time And The City’ by Terence Davies received rave reviews at Cannes Film Festival, was screened at 81 festivals around the world and went on national release through the British Film Institute.

Photograph: Bernard Fallon.

Le Corbusier (2 Oct – 18 Jan)

The RIBA Trust chose Liverpool to present the first major exhibition of the work by Swiss born architect Le Corbusier, generally acknowledged as the godfather of modern architecture. The exhibition, in the Crypt at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, contained hundreds of examples of Corbusier’s work including original architectural models, drawings, paintings, films, sketches, furniture, sculpture and vintage prints.

Power Plant

One of the run­away successes of 2008, Power Plant saw the Victorian leisure gardens of Calderstones Park transformed into a bewitching nocturnal world with one of the largest audio visual installations ever to come to Liverpool.

Photo © M McNulty

The Stirling Prize

The £20,000 Stirling Prize was presented at the BT Convention Centre -outside of London for the first time – and broadcast live on Channel 4. The Liverpool School of Architecture, RIBA, in collaboration with the University of Liverpool, also staged an exhibition exploring Stirling’s life and work.

When We Dead Awaken

The Unity Theatre collaborated with Riksteatern and Vasterbottensteatern from Sweden to present Henrik Ibsen’s final dramatic work When We Dead Awaken, under the direction of unity patron Josette Bushell­Mingo. Translated by Michael Meyer, When We Dead Awaken ran from Thursday 23 October to Saturday 1 November, with a cast and production team of English and Swedish artists.

Following its UK premier at the Unity, When We Dead Awaken toured Sweden.

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51 years after the Liverpool Overhead Railway was demolished, local artist Ben Parry created a technologically audacious film made up of a single, real time tracking shot at an elevation of 8m (the height of LOR), taking the viewer along the length of the docks from Wapping Dock into Seaforth container port at the mouth of the River Mersey.

Photo © Minako Jackson

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King Lear

Often described as the greatest play in the English language, Shakespeare’s King Lear provide an emotional homecoming for Peter Postlethwaite, who began his acting career at the Liverpool Playhouse. His haunting portrayal of power play at family and state level was one of the most hotly anticipated productions of 2008 and sold out months before its run.


Liverpool’s annual gay cultural festival celebrated 08 with its biggest and best ever programme. Now in its 5th year, Homotopia delivered over 50 events including several new commissions, a new strand of international art, a dedicated TV station and the region’s first Grand Vogue Ball.

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MTV Europe Music Awards

Superstars including Kanye West, Pink, Take That, Beyonce and The Killers took the city by storm with a stunning live show which climaxed when U2’s Bono presented the MTV Ultimate Legend award to Sir Paul McCartney. Around 10,000 music fans attended the ceremony and 30 million viewers tuned in to watch including (for the first time) the Middle East via MTV Arabia.

Double Sextet

Commissioned during Steve Reich’s 70th birthday celebrations in 2006, in partnership with Grammy award­ winning ensemble eighth blackbird, Double Sextet received its non­USA premier in St George’s Concert Room Liverpool as part of the Cornerstone Festival.

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The Rightful Owners of the Song

A Liverpool Commission for 2008, Jonathan Raisin’s The Rightful Owners of the Song brought together the best of Liverpool’s pub singers to perform a one­off concert of karaoke classics with the RLPO providing the backing music. This potent mix of popular and classical musical forces generated huge public and media interest, guaranteeing a full house at the Philharmonic Hall.

Portrait of a Nation Finale

Portrait of a Nation was an inspiring two ­year journey culminating in a national conversation about what it’s like to be a teenager in modern day Britain. Hundreds of youngsters from 17 UK cities converged on St George’s Hall in December 2008 to learn more about where they come from, what makes their home town so special, what culture, heritage and identity means to them and what their hopes are for the future.

Cities on the Edge

Cities on the Edge was a unique partnership of six European cities – Liverpool, Bremen, Gdansk, Istanbul, Marseilles and Naples – that came together to explore their roles as historic ports and their sense of identity.

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Transition Light Night

As a special thank you for everyone’s support throughout Liverpool’s year as the UK’s European Capital of Culture 2008, cultural venues across the city centre opened their doors late into the evening as part of a special Transition Light Night exactly one year (to the day) the city launched its culture year.

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