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Celebrating Sgt. Pepper at 50

Posted on 23 March 2017

Fifty years ago The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

It was praised at the time for having created a revolution by spawning a new fusion of music and art, and is still widely regarded as the best rock and roll album concept of all time.

Many people over a certain age will be familiar with not only its tracks but also its iconic album cover, designed by pop artists Sir Peter Blake and Jann Haworth

The iconic album cover designed by Jann Haworth and Sir Peter Blake

The album has created an enduring legacy which reaches a half century landmark this year. Fittingly, there is to be a huge cultural celebration in the city of Liverpool, called Sgt. Pepper at 50: Heading for Home.

Liverpool City Council is hosting this special festival from Thursday 25 May until Friday 16 June. We have invested £750,000 of National Lottery funding through our Ambition for Excellence scheme to make it possible.

Sgt. Pepper at 50 artwork provided by Liverpool City Council

Sgt. Pepper pushed creative boundaries and we want to do exactly the same – this is a festival which brings high-end art in to the mainstream and gives it a Liverpool twist which is thought-provoking, sometimes cheeky and always entertaining. Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson

Mark Morris in rehearsal, 2015. Photo © Amber Star Merkens

Each of the 13 works over the 23 days is based on one of the album’s 13 tracks and they have all been commissioned as world firsts from a list of eminent artists. Conceptually driven by notable Artistic Directors Sean Doran and Liam Browne, the wow factor of all the works comes through loud and clear. From Judy Chicago’s biggest painting to date, to a performance at Aintree Racecourse inspired by John Cage; and from a new Mark Morris work to Jeremy Deller doing something thrilling but yet to be revealed.

Judy Chicago. Photo © Donald Woodman

The events (many of them free), which will take place in venues, parks and on the streets across the city, are very varied and often open to participation from members of the public, typified by just the three examples here:

  • When I’m 64, a mass sing-along - broadcast live on radio - of 64 choirs from across the city and of all ages. With an inter-generational theme, the event will focus on what age really means to anyone who is between 14 and 64.
  • Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds, a light festival on an Olympic scale, with music and fireworks, in the beautiful surroundings of Camp Hill.
  • With a Little Help From My Friends, two public art commissions that examine the nature of friendship and self-sacrifice.
Sgt. Pepper at 50 artwork provided by Liverpool City Council

Commenting on the festival, Alison Clark, the Arts Council’s National Director for Combined Arts and Director North, said: "Our Ambition for Excellence fund uses National Lottery investment to support the creation of work for major national moments. The events to celebrate Sgt. Pepper at 50 on the scale and of the quality that this festival promises are very exciting."

The festival will have huge appeal to many people, far beyond Beatles fans, and the 13 commissions are a unique opportunity for artists to make incredible new work connected to this iconic album, and for audiences to enjoy great art and culture. Alison Clark, Arts Council England

Sgt. Pepper at 50 artwork provided by Liverpool City Council

You can find out about the full programme of events here, but do keep checking again as some of the commissions are still under wraps.

This programme isn’t simply a series of one-offs, but brings the long-term cultural might of Liverpool’s arts scene to bear on a very fitting, very exciting response to a 50 year old work of art that never feels old.