Williamson Tunnels, Smithdown Lane
16th September - 19th October 2008

Reviewed by Alice Lenkiewicz

EdgeCentrics is worthwhile seeing as part of a guided tour at the Williamson Tunnels, Edge Hill. I had never visited the tunnels and so it was interesting to discover not only the existence of this underground world funded by Joseph Williamson in the 1820s, but also to see it being used as an innovative exhibition space for artists.

The first thing that I wanted to know is why the tunnels were built. Once you are on the guided tour, not only will you discover more about the tunnels, but also the concepts around the artworks exhibited and the mystery of the tunnels all start to unfold in an unusual and innovative way.

The tunnels are a fascinating glimpse into Liverpool’s heritage. They are part of a vast “mysterious kingdom of winding tunnels and caverns built in the 1820s and 1830s by local philanthropist Joseph Williamson”, also known as the ‘King of Edge Hill’. Joseph’s eccentric character, personality and ideas are the kind that come along possibly once every three hundred years. They are few and far between. A man with what seems to be a ‘social conscience’, he had the tunnels built on the basis of what some have described as “philanthropy”, although no-one knows the exact reason why the tunnels were built - which only adds to their mystery.

The art exhibition throughout the tunnels is curated by Jolanta Jagiello whose own artwork Wild Gourmet’s Menu: Stir fried; Oven-Baked; Charcoal-Grilled is also on display. Throughout the tunnels there is the sound of dripping water, and through the labyrinth of aged artefacts and debris you will discover that artworks and stories begin to unfold in association with the history of the tunnels. An installation - such as Many Hands Make Hard Work by Jayne Lloyd is a creative use of space. Storymaking by Laura Wild uses artefacts from the tunnels, and a writing book is an interesting start which uses an interesting interactive idea between the artist and the public (I wrote in the book but I’m not telling you which piece!) Intercepted here and there between alcoves and corridors are the formation of handcrafted heads by Brigitte Jurack, written statements by Kate Hammersley and Jeremy Turner, and a geometric installation by Emma Kemp. There is an overall haunting feel to the exhibition. An installation of Victorian dresses (by Margaret Cahill titled Gathering) lit up and suspended from the tunnels like ghostly figures was atmospheric and intriguing. Liz Tunn in A Way of Life used her own art mixed amongst found glass, and artefacts of the tunnels. Megan Broadmedow's work was a tribute to tunnel workers, decked out in true disco style, and created a medley of flickering light. Other artists also made fascinating works.

Towards the end of the tour, I was passed an audio CD, also part of the exhibition titled Music for the Williamson tunnels; A collection of the sound of dripping water, by artists Alan Dunn and Jeff Young.

Overall this was an interesting exhibition and hats off to Jolanta for curating a successful exhibition in an alternative space in Liverpool. Well worth a visit. Just remember you will be paying for the tour of the tunnels but the tour of the artworks is part of the tour and I feel is well worth it. It was fascinating to discover this other side of Liverpool and to see artists using the space innovatively.

Best to book and confirm first to check as hours may vary.

Adult: £4.00
Concessions £3.50
Children £2.50
Family Ticket £12.00

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