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Festival Travel Liverpool (1984)

Courtesy of Angus Tilston

Main image of Festival Travel Liverpool (1984)
16mm, colour, 8 mins
DirectorAngus Tilston
Production CompanySwan Cine Club

Record of a day out to the 1984 International Garden Festival in Liverpool.

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"Some people have probably wondered about the relevance of organising a Garden Festival in a derelict area of Liverpool." This quote, from Queen Elizabeth's speech marking the official opening of the International Garden Festival on 2nd May 1984, appears over the opening credits of Angus Tilston's film Festival Travel Liverpool 1984. The festival was the brainchild of the Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC), an organisation established in 1981 by the former Conservative 'Minister of Merseyside', Michael Heseltine, to help regenerate the south docks area of Liverpool, a part of the city which had suffered considerable social and economic deprivation following years of decline. The festival did indeed provoke much debate and discussion, as hinted at by the Queen's understated remarks. Yet, with the project's detractors no doubt firmly in mind, the Queen goes on to opine, 'I think it is most appropriate'. So began the UK's first International Garden Festival, which took place on a former derelict site at Dingle on Liverpool's south docks, from May to October 1984.

Tilston's film offers a slightly oblique take on the festival events and activities by focusing on the various forms of transport that served visitors travelling to the site. Like many of his cine-club peers based in Merseyside, Tilston's shared his interest in filmmaking with a passion for transport. Tilston is a film collector, historian, and founder member of the Wirral-based Swan Cine Club. His 'Pleasures Past' series of DVD compilations of archive and contemporary film of Merseyside includes several titles on transport themes.

By following the different transport routes and services to the Festival site, Festival Travel conveys the anticipation of going to the event, of wondering what might await the visitor. In this respect, and viewed with hindsight, the film also taps into the wider sense of anticipation attached to the role of the MDC, and projects such as the Garden Festival, in boosting economic growth and urban renewal in Liverpool. While, with nearly 3.5 million visitors, the Garden Festival was one of the most popular UK visitor attractions in 1984, its longer term legacy can in part be assessed by visiting the former site itself: a landscape that has returned to dereliction, though now replete with half-buried Festival architecture, such as the Japanese pagoda or huge dragon head play slide, making it a rather more surreal urban wasteland than that which marked the area's former industrial decrepitude.

Les Roberts

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (8:00)
Not Just Flowers (1984)
Liverpool: Shaping the City