Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Not Just Flowers (1984)

Courtesy of Angus Tilston

Main image of Not Just Flowers (1984)
16mm, colour, 4 mins (edited version)/18 mins (unedited version)
DirectorAngus Tilston
Production CompanySwan Cine Club

Activities taking place at the International Garden Festival at Dingle, Liverpool, in the summer of 1984.

Show full synopsis

Capitalising on its status as European Capital of Culture 2008, Liverpool is again endeavouring to turn around its economic fortunes, battered and bruised by years of industrial decline, by placing tourism and leisure at the heart of its new post-industrial economy. Culture-led regeneration strategies are driving much of the development currently underway in the city, such as Liverpool One, the largest retail and leisure development in Europe. In 1984, the International Garden Festival represented an earlier attempt to embrace the tourist economy in the hope of stimulating inward investment and economic growth.

The festival was part of a raft of development initiatives proposed in the 1980s by the Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC), set up by former Conservative Environment Minister Michael Heseltine in the wake of 1981's Toxteth riots and the widespread urban deprivation of the time. The development of the south docks was the main focus of MDC's regeneration plans. The restoration of the historic Albert Dock led to the opening of Tate Liverpool in 1988 in a converted former warehouse. Further upriver, reclaimed dockland at Dingle was chosen as the site of the International Garden Festival, opened by the Queen on 2nd May 1984.

Not Just Flowers, like Festival Travel Liverpool 1984 (1984), provides a filmic document of the festival and the many visitors and tourists who flocked to the site between May and October 1984. On the site was a festival hall, 60 show gardens, pavilions, a 15" gauge miniature railway, attractions such as a Yellow Submarine and a Japanese Garden.

While the film's title reflects the diverse range of attractions on offer at the festival (such as the miniature railway, of particular interest for transport enthusiast Tilston), it also unwittingly serves as a reminder of one of the chief criticisms of the project at the time. The call for 'jobs not trees' pointed to questions about the festival's lasting benefits for communities such as Toxteth and Dingle, which were (and remain) among the poorest in Europe. Films by independent film and video collectives such as Community Productions Merseyside, whose Welcome to the Pleasure Dome (1985) provides a critical look at the role of the MDC, question the value and impact of initiatives such as the Garden Festival on local residents and communities. Similar questions are being posed today in relation to some of the corporate-led regeneration plans attached to Liverpool's status as European Capital of Culture 2008.

Les Roberts

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Edited version (4:22)
Festival Travel Liverpool (1984)
Liverpool: Shaping the City