A new Beatles-inspired mega attraction on Liverpool’s waterfront, secretly in its planning stages since 2017, is to get a government cash injection of £2m.
The money was announced in a budget which included a blizzard of northern England “levelling up” projects, although some eyebrows were raised that a significant chunk was going to leafier suburbs rather than places with more pressing claims.
The wider museum and cultural sector broadly welcomed measures which included one for tax relief. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said he was doubling tax relief for theatres, orchestras, museums and galleries and it will be extended to March 2024, in order to help them rally after the worst of times.
Money from the government’s much-vaunted levelling up fund included £232m to 12 projects in north-west England; £187m to 10 projects in Yorkshire and the Humber; and £100m to 5 projects in the north-east England.
In the north-east the projects include reopening the Whorlton Bridge over the River Tees, the UK’s oldest suspension bridge, which is four miles from Barnard Castle.
There was also regeneration money for the arguably prosperous, leafy towns of Yarm and Eaglescliffe. Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton North, said: “I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t have the money but there are places like Billingham which are in far greater need and they should have had money as well.”
The Beatles attraction cash is essentially scoping money for a new immersive experience which the city authorities have been in unpublicised talks about for at least three years.
Claire McColgan, the director of culture for Liverpool city council, said it would be much more than a new Beatles attraction. It would be an enormous and celebratory music hub which may have a new secondary school in it, rehearsal space for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and other music education facilities.
She said: “It will be huge and it will be much more than the Beatles.” The Fab Four will be the hook but “what we are really excited about is how this gets kids from the some of the poorest areas of Liverpool to create and explore their passion for music”.
The council is looking at two sites on Liverpool’s waterfront for the development, which has a working title of The Pool. How much it costs and how long it takes to create – if the plans go ahead – remain to be seen. McColgan predicted five to 10 years and was optimistic it would be closer to five.
Liverpool’s metro mayor, Steve Rotheram, said it would not be a stuffy museum. “It’s an immersive experience … we want something other than just looking at old artefacts, John Lennon’s underpants in a glass case,” he said. “We want something really that people will be attracted to.”
The project is getting Treasury money because of the support given to it by the new culture secretary, Liverpool-born Nadine Dorries. “If anything personifies levelling up, it’s the story of the Beatles,” she said.
“This funding will help unlock opportunities so that any child, no matter what corner of Liverpool they come from, or beyond, can become the next Lennon or McCartney.”
McColgan said the £2m would allow those involved to build the case for The Pool and work out how much it would cost.