|Cake cutting before Strawberry Field ground breaking. Photo: Jackie Spencer.|
LIVERPOOL UK, TUESDAY 31 st July, 2018 – Today The Salvation Army will break ground as their vision for Strawberry Field becomes a reality and return the iconic red gates to the site.
The world-famous red gates will open to the public for the very first time in summer 2019, giving visitors the chance to walk through the grounds where Lennon played as a child. A visitor attraction will tell the story of Lennon’s childhood connection with Strawberry Field and sit alongside ‘Steps to Work’, a vocational training and work placement hub for young people with learning disabilities – unique and innovative projects in one ground breaking venture that aligns community, business and tourism in the City of Liverpool.
To mark the start of construction of the new facilities, 51 years since the original release of the 1967 classic Beatles song (Strawberry Fields Forever), a time capsule box was laid at the heart of the buildings footprint. The roll call of diggers includes; Major Roger Batt of The Salvation Army, Julia Baird John Lennon’s sister and Honorary President of the Strawberry Field project, Lady Martin OBE, Cliff Cooper Founder and CEO Orange Music Electronic.co and young adults who are amongst the first group of trainees to pass through the Steps to Work placement hub.
Major Roger Batt, Divisional Leader for The Salvation Army, North West, said: “Breaking ground at Strawberry Field today marks a significant milestone in the heritage of this iconic site. It’s part of our mission at The Salvation Army to be present where there is a need and, whilst the needs around Strawberry Field have changed over the years, we’re proud to still be part of this legacy. As custodians of the site for the people of Liverpool and Beatles fans the world over, we want to transform Strawberry Field and re-open it for the good of young people in the North West who would benefit from access to support as well as encourage more similar projects across the UK.”
As a child, Lennon famously used to jump over the wall into the Strawberry Field grounds, where he would play with the children who lived there and listen to The Salvation Army band. He grew up just a stone’s throw away from the site in Woolton, Liverpool, which has lain unused for 12 years.
Lady Judy Martin OBE said, “The plans to open Strawberry Field to the public for the first time - so people can see a unique exhibition about the home, how and why the song was written by John, and allow visitors to explore the grounds as John did as a child - is very exciting.”
John Lennon remained a supporter of The Salvation Army, with a particular interest in Strawberry Field throughout his life, donating to the charity after the song’s release.
Major Roger continued, “It is our firm intention that Strawberry Field will also be a place for spiritual reflection with an opportunity to explore the grounds and create new memories for each and every person who comes to visit.”
“We are so grateful to the many donations we have received so far that has enabled this vision to become a reality, we still have a final million pounds to raise and we plan to do this over the next 12 months towards opening. ”
Beatles fans, supporters of Strawberry Field and the vision for young adults with learning disabilities can back the redevelopment by visiting www.strawberryfieldliverpool.com.
The website includes information on how to donate to the project, as well as exclusive Strawberry Field merchandise including limited edition bricks from the original Salvation Army children’s home as well as t-shirts, mugs and much more for Beatles and Strawberry Field fans.
Retired Strawberry Field officer, Major Ida Cawthorne (97), who fondly remembers young John: “We had a big tree with thick branches and he used to sit in it, dangling his legs and shouting to the children. “I love the song, he telephoned me when the song became a hit record and sent several thousand pounds to Strawberry Field for the children – we bought new play equipment – very kind, he was a good lad.”