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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Roving reporter Lizzie Johnson meets Festival of Firsts founder John Gorman:

John Gorman is best known as a member of comedic musical trio, The Scaffold, and for his appearances on seventies Saturday morning TV show, Tiswas. Did you know, however, that he is the driving force behind the Hoylake Festival of Firsts?

2013-06-25 16.03.15
"We can’t compete with the culture of Liverpool or the history of Chester, but the Wirral is the largest peninsula in the country – it’s very green, very geographic and has lots of sea, but from a cultural point of view it’s very low key and so I wanted to improve this."

An array of local talents will be showcased at the community based arts event, which will take place between the 6-14 July 2013. The festival will be spread across Hoylake, in numerous locations, although some events will take place in West Kirby and New Brighton.

‘Being firsts I wanted it to be innovative - new plays, new poems, new songs, otherwise it’s just repeating what had been done before’, John explained.

Not only can visitors expect world premier performances and over seventy musical acts, but for one week, Hoylake promenade will be transformed into the world’s largest art exhibition.

‘I walked all the way from King's Gap to Dove Point and I counted exactly one hundred sections of railings, which were six foot each, and all of them will be covered in art work.’

Initially, the festival, which is in its third year, was to be held in Oxton, but after masses of interest in the event from people and businesses in Hoylake, it was decided that the seaside town would be a better venue. But why did John decide to hold the festival on the Wirral in the first place, and not better-known Liverpool or Chester?

‘We can’t compete with the culture of Liverpool or the history of Chester, but the Wirral is the largest peninsula in the country – it’s very green, very geographic and has lots of sea, but from a cultural point of view it’s very low key and so I wanted to improve this.'

John is originally from the Wirral, although it has not always been his home, and at one point he even moved to France. However, after visiting former band mate, Mike McGear, on the peninsula, his partner Sue fell in love with it, and the couple moved to Oxton and then Hoylake.

‘Sue likes the seaside, likes the greenery and likes that it’s handy for Liverpool and Chester. I’d come to Hoylake for meetings, and Sue would come down and she’d walk around and she loved it. She couldn’t believe the wide expanse of space.

‘She probably walks up and down the prom every day. She walks along no matter what the weather is, just looking out to sea. We did some house-hunting in Hoylake to see what’s about but Sue basically said “It doesn’t matter what it is as long as we can move here.”’

John doesn’t want the message of the festival to just last for a week, but instead would like it to leave a lasting impression on the peninsula which he once again calls home.

‘I want to create a legacy. I don’t want to put something on for a few weeks and then we all go home and laugh a lot. I want us to say, “Well that’s just the beginning”.

‘For example, we’d put on a poetry workshop, and then if people like it they could go away and have a go, and maybe even create their own poetry club, and then they could perform at next year’s festival.’

This is not the first event of this kind that John has been involved with, previously arranging the 1962 Merseyside Arts Festival. ‘I must be mad’, he laughed. ‘I find it weird that fifty years later I’m doing another festival, but part of my problem is that I have too many ideas.’

Don’t worry if you run out of time to see all of the acts this year, there will be a second showing of some of them this autumn, before they go on tour to generate income for next year’s festival.

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