A day of events to honour Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley
17th January 2015

Reviewed by Tommy Nomoneyinthebank

Well! THIS was a thing of rare beauty:
The inaugural ‘Dooleyday’, on what would have been Arthur’s 86th birthday.

The first Bloomsday in 1924 in Dublin only had 5 people on it. They didn’t finish the route, ‘decending into drunken rancour’. Jimmy Joyce would have been proud! Judged by that standard, our first Dooleyday in 2015 in Liverpool was a roaring success. No fights or arrests.

The day began with me writing ‘Happy Birthday Arthur Dooley’ on the sign board at the Princes Park Sunburst Gates. Everyone should go and write their own messages of love and peace. Ar, go on! Team sport, y’know.

It was a struggle getting on the bus, I can tell you: I was laden down with a projector, a drum cable, and an A0 print of Arthur. It’s a work of art in itself. You should see it. A brilliant concept and design by Andy Edwards, artist behind the Christmas Truce statue.

This worked well as a mobile sign board, and a fantastic souvenir. The wonderful Jon Cooper opened up for us. Jon has worked there at Cooper’s Framing for a long time. He knew Arthur well, and was an enlightening, entertaining guide. There was standing room only there on Seel Street, mainly because there weren’t any chairs.

Jon gave us the best possible start to the day, with today’s edition of the local rag. We got a full page, with a great picture of Arthur, with four pictures of his work. One of which is ‘Four Lads Who Shook The World’. Unbelievable!

Suddenly, this ‘Dooleyday’ thing was real. It’s one thing to have an idea, plan a day of happenings and send a press release. Up until that point, you’re just making shit up. But this is in The Echo, man! The caper was officially on...
Better get on with it, then....

Incidentally, today’s paper is noteworthy, not just for our glorious page. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, now. A real possibility, I know. But this edition seemed significant in so many ways. The front page headline was ‘Welsh Streets War’. Big story, meriting two full pages inside as well. In classic Liverpool style, another housing disaster. The running sore of the blighted Welshies looks set to continue after Eric Pickles (Sumo wrestler number 1) rejects the findings of the independent planning inspector and sensationally REJECTS Liverpool’s scheme. Mayor Joe Anderson (Sumo wrestler number 2) condemned the Con-Dems. Oooohhh! Fight! They (LCC/Plus Dane/Gleesons) have brought it on themselves (and us!). They were always leaving themselves open to this. Ringo’s house, in particular, number 9 Madryn Street, has been a fly in their poorly-thought through scheme all along. The whole thing merits being placed in the ‘Sorry Saga’ section of your local library (until they close it). Arthur lived in Enid Street, opposite the blighted Welsh Streets. What would he have made of the state of the area? Probably he would have recognized them from the same clearances of working class housing and communities, and the heritage of the city in his day, that he strongly opposed.

Opposite Arthur’s page, was John Bishop and Ricky Tomlinson. Also Brian Reade and Neil Fitzmaurice. The story is about a benefit night for The Casa. Set up by some of the sacked Liverpool Dockers. They’re in trouble, obviously, like everything’s that’s good in the city.

Below that is a story headed: “Imagine! Lennon’s boyhood home rebuilt in Japan”. A Japanese man is building a replica of John’s house over there. The sound you can hear is John and Arthur, pissing themselves laughing.
Scouse factor 10, or what?

I also noticed stories about the army recruiting in town, and the navy here with a big fuckoff warship. “All’s we need is the RAF for a full set”, I thought. Then, in the “Wasn’t Life Better In The Olden Days?” section, there’s 4 RAF planes going over a city where the Anglican Cathedral was only half built.
What does it all mean?

I promised art, magic and The Beatles, and here they all were, surely well met.

Yeah, I probably am reading too much into it all. I blame Daisy Campbell. And John Higgs.

Jon kicked us off by telling us about Arthur, and the story of 36 Seel Street. It’s a place rich in local legend. The Liverpool Actor’s Studio was upstairs, Arthur’s workshop was downstairs, with potters and other artisans solidifying their dreams throughout. Until recently, when this whole block was ‘acquired’ for redevelopment, the studio was as intact the day he left it.

Yet another classic piece of Liverpool’s social and artistic history, wiped out. Next door but one is the mighty Kazimier and their lovely garden, who, along with world famous super-club Creme, have just had an attempt on their lives by the relentless shout of bulldozer and student accommodation. Money doesn’t talk, it swears.

But next door to them, the historic Liverpool Academy of Arts, which Arthur Dooley did so much to revive and sustain, is shut. Soon to be demolished.

Yeah. Probably best to throw it all away.

Nothing of value left in this property.

Chris Butler from Castle Fine Arts Foundry joined us (it was his birthday today, too – 21 a-gain), and shared some stories. I spread out 22 lovely pictures of Arthur’s work on Jon’s workbench. I was sad I hadn’t managed to contact Izzy and George to go down to The Bluecoat and do a Railings Union gig. Illy had the great idea to do it anyway, with the pictures of Arthur’s work.

Jon offered to frame my giant Dooleyday poster (yes!), and away we went. The day was fine, and seagulls swooped overhead as we walked down School Lane. Then splat, splat, splat, splat, splat – the birds shit on us, some landing on my chest and Illy’s hat.

We took it as a lucky sign.

We used Blue Tac glue spots to fix the pictures onto the railings, and they looked boss. They were taken from an MA thesis by the brilliant Rob Boult, It really felt like we were reclaiming Arthur’s legacy and radical spirit. I read out Adrian Henri’s poem ‘Tonight at Noon’ as the 1 o’clock poem that day. Then we went inside to pass a message onto Brian Biggs. Illy bought me a copy of ‘Adrian Henri Total Artist’, and I was made up.

We left the pictures occupying the railings and headed back up to Seel Street to collect the framed poster. Jon did us a most excellent job. It was so good, it would have been rude to offer him money for it.

From there, we walked up to The Pilgrim for an early lunch with Jude Masonovic, another local legend. Jude’s dad was an early patron of Arthur’s, and friends with Adrian and the whole scene too. Back then, the arts scene was more of a collective effort in Village Liverpool. She was thrilled with the whole thing, and really brought a spirit of CELEBRATION of Arthur.

On our way to Ye Cracke on Rice Street, a lady called Pat was out on her front lawn, spotted the picture, and smiled. She met Arthur. She told us a great story about when she was a little girl, her and her mates snuck into Arthur’s workshop when he was working. He welcomed them in, and showed them what he was working on. It was his ‘Resurrection of Christ’, or ‘Black Jesus’. After a while he told them to frig off, but she said he was a lovely man. She said there was uproar when it was unveiled. They were there, her and her mates, going ‘that’s what we saw Arthur working on’. She was really glad we were doing this thing today, that Arthur should be celebrated.

We were made up. That just showed, in a completely lovely, random way, how Arthur is interwoven with the fabric of the city. He’s in the marrow of our bones. He’s in our Soul.

And he’s a GREAT excuse for a piss-up.

Lots of Dooley stories, lots of laughs, and drink and songs. Jokes and stories. After the third pint, I realised we’d gone completely off-schedule. I suppose that’s how it goes on Dooleyday. That’s the beauty of having a first day of something, there’s no precedent for it, so there’s nothing you ‘have’ to do. You’re free.

Me and Judy walked up to the Anglican. It was getting late on Dooleyday, and we haven’t even been with Arthur’s work.

His ‘Redemption’ (with Ann Mc Tevitt) is glorious, but a bit out of the way in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. It would be much better somewhere central where people could see it. We photographed our big poster next to his work, and I felt his spirit flow through me. We lit a candle to him, and went to see our Truce lads. Tom and Jerry.

‘All Together Now’ looks amazing in this setting. One of the best so far. Certainly the most magnificent and well-lit. In front, is the book of the names of all the Liverpool lads who died in WW1, 46, 000 names, painstakingly, beautifully written out over 7 years. Surrounded by an exhibition by Anthony Brown on ‘soldier’s stories’, with a striking portrait of Wilfred Owen at the front. Our statue has had a remarkable journey so far: from the Bombed Out church in Liverpool to No-Man’s Land in Flanders and back to the Anglican Cathedral. It’s there until February 5th, and I’d urge you all to see it. It’s only the beginning. We plan to pop up all over the place...

We left feeling that we’d made a real connection to Arthur. We practically channeled the man. It was an incredible feeling. And then it was over.

I had a whole plan that involved visiting the Metropolitan Cathedral, Mathew Street, St Nick’s, The Swedish Church and loads more. Definitely for next year, or maybe sooner.

My appeal to anyone reading this far is to contribute to our campaign to raise £30K to put on our play/live casting/exhibition next year. A play about Arthur in a foundry, with live bronze casting of his work. As part of this we’ll stage a major retrospective of his work, in multiple venues throughout the city. Together, we’ll restore Arthur to his rightful place in our cultural living room.

I know we helped shine a spotlight on Arthur today. For the eyes of the world to see, yes, but more for ourselves. Scousers, Liverpolitans.
To remind us of when we dreamt at our mightiest.
To remind us of the best in us. Our elevated spirits. Our most noble actions.
Our salvation.
And next year? On Dooleyday 2016, we make history...
Watch this space.
A toast: happy birthday, King Arthur!

To contribute, contact: DOOLEYDAY, c/o Tom Calderbank, Castle Fine Arts, Bridgwater Street, Liverpool.
Or email:

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