AM People
Julia Baird

It’s wonderful that the Salvation Army is going to cultivate youngsters in the precious soil of Strawberry Field. John would have loved it


The Strawberry Field visitor attraction – a unique addition to Beatles tourism in Liverpool – has reopened with a new nature-based wellbeing programme aimed at strengthening connections and addressing digital fatigue after years of lockdowns and home working.

Set in the grounds and gardens of the former Salvation Army children’s home immortalised in John Lennon’s song Strawberry Fields Forever, the visitor attraction first opened in September 2019, and then closed several times during lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, before reopening.

As a child, John Lennon lived with his aunt opposite the Strawberry Field children’s home, and often scaled the walls to play in the gardens with the children.

The attraction features the iconic red gates that lead to the historic gardens, which now act as a sanctuary and tranquil space for reflection.

Inside the new visitor centre – designed by Hoskins Architects – an interactive exhibition tells the interweaving history and heritage of the original children’s home, the Salvation Army, John Lennon’s childhood and the writing and recording of the song Strawberry Fields Forever.

Exhibits include the original piano which John Lennon used to compose and record Imagine, which is on long term loan to the attraction from the George Michael Estate, as well as a selection of images and filmed interviews from witnesses to the story, including John’s sister Julia Baird, honorary president of Strawberry Field.

“John and his friends used to climb over the walls of the Strawberry Field gardens to sit in the trees, to pick the fruit, to play and to watch the resident children at play,” Baird told Attractions Management.“

“I think it meant an awful lot to him, becoming his go to place of sanctuary when he was younger….he actually called the song, Strawberry Fields Forever ‘my only psychoanalytic poem.’ “The site has been a wasteland since 2005 when the government closed down the children’s home – nobody could have envisaged this amazing, visionary, state-of-the-art building rising like a phoenix from the ashes,” she said.

The Salvation Army – which still owns the site – runs a programme called Steps at Strawberry Field supporting local adults with learning difficulties and other barriers to work to help them with employment skills and work experience. All proceeds from the attraction are used to help with this work.

"I think John would have loved this,” said Baird. “The Steps at Strawberry Field programme offers support, a safe place and help into the outside world for students. It’s a wonderful idea that the Salvation Army is going to cultivate youngsters in the precious soil of Strawberry Field.“The gardens are my favourite part of the attraction; there are strawberry beds, a peace/meditation garden featuring the original red iron gates. People can just go there to sit and think.“Inside, the star attraction is the piano, which John used to write and record Imagine. Most people think the song was recorded on the white piano in the Imagine video, which was far more aesthetically pleasing than the Steinway that John bought directly from Germany in 1970.

“The White Room at Tittenhurst Park was prepared beautifully for the video, but Phil Spector – who was a perfectionist – said the acoustics weren’t good enough, so they had to go back to John’s studio to record it on the Steinway.”

2022 will see the addition of a bandstand in the gardens, which will be used to host music events and performances.

Memorabilia includes the piano John Lennon used to compose Imagine Credit: photo: Gavin Trafford
Credit: photo: Gavin Trafford
Money raised supports local young people via the Salvation Army’s Steps to Work project Credit: Gareth Jones Photography
Visitors play the mellotron, an instrument used in the song Strawberry Fields Forever Credit: Gavin Trafford
Credit: Gavin Trafford
The centre tells the story of the children’s home, the Salvation Army and John Lennon’s childhood Credit: Gavin Trafford
The gardens that inspired John Lennon act as a meditative space Credit: Gavin Trafford
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Attractions Management
Issue 4 Volume 26

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Leisure Management - Julia Baird

AM People

Julia Baird


It’s wonderful that the Salvation Army is going to cultivate youngsters in the precious soil of Strawberry Field. John would have loved it

Julia Baird in front of the famous red iron Strawberry Field gates in Liverpool, UK photo: Gavin Trafford
Memorabilia includes the piano John Lennon used to compose Imagine photo: Gavin Trafford
photo: Gavin Trafford
Money raised supports local young people via the Salvation Army’s Steps to Work project Gareth Jones Photography
Visitors play the mellotron, an instrument used in the song Strawberry Fields Forever Gavin Trafford
Gavin Trafford
The centre tells the story of the children’s home, the Salvation Army and John Lennon’s childhood Gavin Trafford
The gardens that inspired John Lennon act as a meditative space Gavin Trafford

The Strawberry Field visitor attraction – a unique addition to Beatles tourism in Liverpool – has reopened with a new nature-based wellbeing programme aimed at strengthening connections and addressing digital fatigue after years of lockdowns and home working.

Set in the grounds and gardens of the former Salvation Army children’s home immortalised in John Lennon’s song Strawberry Fields Forever, the visitor attraction first opened in September 2019, and then closed several times during lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, before reopening.

As a child, John Lennon lived with his aunt opposite the Strawberry Field children’s home, and often scaled the walls to play in the gardens with the children.

The attraction features the iconic red gates that lead to the historic gardens, which now act as a sanctuary and tranquil space for reflection.

Inside the new visitor centre – designed by Hoskins Architects – an interactive exhibition tells the interweaving history and heritage of the original children’s home, the Salvation Army, John Lennon’s childhood and the writing and recording of the song Strawberry Fields Forever.

Exhibits include the original piano which John Lennon used to compose and record Imagine, which is on long term loan to the attraction from the George Michael Estate, as well as a selection of images and filmed interviews from witnesses to the story, including John’s sister Julia Baird, honorary president of Strawberry Field.

“John and his friends used to climb over the walls of the Strawberry Field gardens to sit in the trees, to pick the fruit, to play and to watch the resident children at play,” Baird told Attractions Management.“

“I think it meant an awful lot to him, becoming his go to place of sanctuary when he was younger….he actually called the song, Strawberry Fields Forever ‘my only psychoanalytic poem.’ “The site has been a wasteland since 2005 when the government closed down the children’s home – nobody could have envisaged this amazing, visionary, state-of-the-art building rising like a phoenix from the ashes,” she said.

The Salvation Army – which still owns the site – runs a programme called Steps at Strawberry Field supporting local adults with learning difficulties and other barriers to work to help them with employment skills and work experience. All proceeds from the attraction are used to help with this work.

"I think John would have loved this,” said Baird. “The Steps at Strawberry Field programme offers support, a safe place and help into the outside world for students. It’s a wonderful idea that the Salvation Army is going to cultivate youngsters in the precious soil of Strawberry Field.“The gardens are my favourite part of the attraction; there are strawberry beds, a peace/meditation garden featuring the original red iron gates. People can just go there to sit and think.“Inside, the star attraction is the piano, which John used to write and record Imagine. Most people think the song was recorded on the white piano in the Imagine video, which was far more aesthetically pleasing than the Steinway that John bought directly from Germany in 1970.

“The White Room at Tittenhurst Park was prepared beautifully for the video, but Phil Spector – who was a perfectionist – said the acoustics weren’t good enough, so they had to go back to John’s studio to record it on the Steinway.”

2022 will see the addition of a bandstand in the gardens, which will be used to host music events and performances.


Originally published in Attractions Management Issue 4 Volume 26

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