TravelQ: Out in Liverpool

Liverpool is a small but lively city in Northwest England, and is rapidly growing into a top tourist destination. It is also my favourite city in the world, and I cannot stop talking about it. I lived there as a student at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), and have been back to visit several times.

During my time there, I have fallen in love with the city, made some of my closest friends, and discovered a lot about myself (which is what ultimately led me out of the closet).

My Old Flat (view from St John's Beacon)

Wait…you came out in Liverpool? What was that like?

It was probably the best decision of my life – for one thing, I came out in the Cavern Club to a band of four Liverpool lads, which makes for a fun story (see “The Beatles are from Liverpool, right…?”).

More importantly, I was met with a lot of support and love from all of my Liverpool friends. There is a fairly large LGBTQ community in Liverpool, so coming out is nothing new to Scousers.

What is Liverpool’s LGBTQ community like? Is there a queer village or neighbourhood?

Liverpool has a strong and growing LGBTQ community, which is now largely accepted and celebrated by the city of Liverpool.

Most of Liverpool’s queer community is centred on Stanley Street – Liverpool’s official LGBT quarter. It is officially endorsed by the Liverpool City Council, and boasts a number of bars and clubs for LGBTQ Scousers and tourists alike.

If you’re more of a pub than a club person like me, then I highly recommend The Lisbon – an ornate, Victorian queer-friendly pub with good food, karaoke, and live music on Sundays (perfect place for a pint with your friends).

The queer scene extends out onto neighbouring Victoria Street and a few places along Dale Street, with popular clubs including GBar, Navy Bar, Masquerade, and Pink (to name a few).

Liverpool hosts two main LGBT festivals: Liverpool Pride and Homotopia. Liverpool Pride is the city’s main pride festival, which takes the weekend closest to August 2nd. With events on Stanley Street and along the Pier Head on Liverpool’s waterfront, it has quickly grown into one of Europe’s largest free Pride festivals.

Homotopia, which takes place in November, is an international LGBT arts festival, partnering with theatres and galleries around the city to showcase LGBT art and culture.

Overall, Scousers and the LGBTQ community are growing closer and closer, and queers in Liverpool should feel as welcome as anyone.

What’s a “Scouser”?

“Scouser” is a nickname for Liverpudlians – the famously friendly people of Liverpool. In fact, Liverpool has been called one of the friendliest cities in the world (and if you make a friend in Liverpool, you are friends for life)!

“Scouse” also refers to the dialect and slang spoken by the locals. I absolutely love the Scouse accent, but it took me a while to understand it. You’ll see many tourist shops selling joke “Scouse dictionaries”…and they can actually be useful.

A bit of Scouse slang:

  • “Ta” – Thanks (said across Northern England)
  • “Come’ead” – Let’s go
  • “Boss” or “Sound” — Good
  • “Scouse” – 1) adj. Being from/of Liverpool. 2) n. The Liverpool accent. 3) n. A popular local stew.

How did the city influence your personal style?

Liverpool had a huge effect on my personal style – it was here that I discovered my love of menswear and began to experiment with fashion.

My StyleMy style

It is difficult to encompass what style is like in Liverpool…On the one hand, Scousers like to dress to impress, especially on a night out. On the other hand, there is definitely the freedom to experiment with style, and a wide variety of fashions can be seen on the streets.

In particular, I was strongly influenced by my favourite musicians and the mod look – a style that was born in 1960’s Britain and is still very popular with Brits today (think slim-fit suits, mop-tops, and Chelsea Boots).

Me in the Cavern Club - Still in the closet, still figuring out my style, but getting there

Me in the Cavern Club – Still in the closet, still figuring out my style, but getting there.

Like my sexuality, my exploration with fashion and gender identity was accepted by friends and locals (though I’d get a few weird comments from tourists…one person asked to take my photo because they thought I was wearing a Beatles costume).

So, how’s the shopping?

Liverpool is world famous for its shopping! It is home to a number of shopping centres, most notably the Liverpool One, which makes up a big part of the city centre. Shops there range from high-street department stores to queer favourites like Topman and H&M. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and cafes, including my favourite café in the city Rococo’s (It’s hidden up on Lord Street, and is the perfect place for a cup of tea and a slice of Guinness cake).

If you’re more into the vintage scene, or a more unique shopping experience, head over to Bold Street and the Rope Walks – this is where most of Liverpool’s independent shops, cafes, and bars are located, along with some great vintage and charity shops. Take your time exploring this area, or you’ll miss some hidden gems (like Dig Vinyl, a record shop in the basement of a vintage store…or The Egg Café, an amazing vegetarian café just off Bold Street).

For souvenir shops, hidden boutiques, and historic bars, check out the Cavern Quarter. Centred around Mathew Street, this quarter is mostly populated by bars, pubs, and clubs, but is also home to a small shopping centre and a couple Beatle-themed shops for the perfect souvenir.

Mathew Street, Cavern Quarter - LiverpoolMathew Street

The Beatles are from Liverpool, right?

Liverpool is the birthplace of the infamous Fab Four – John, Paul, George, and Ringo, were all born, raised, and discovered there (can you tell I’m a bit of a fan?).

The first Beatle-site in Liverpool you need to see is The Cavern Club, dubbed “The most famous club in the world.” Located on Mathew Street, The Beatles played the original Cavern 292 times, and were discovered there by their manager Brian Epstein. Countless other great music legends have played the Cavern as well, including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen, Elton John, and in more recent years Adele, Jessie Jay, Oasis, and the Artic Monkeys (just to name a few). There is live music on daily, and you cannot go to Liverpool without visiting it!

Oh, and those four lads I mentioned earlier? They’re called The Cavern Club Beatles, and all bias aside, they are one of the best Beatles tribute bands out there. They are four born-and-bred Scousers with amazing musical talent and a rock n’ roll wit. They play every Saturday at the Cavern Club, performing music from The Beatles full career. The show tends to sell out weeks in advance, so book your tickets early!

The Cavern Club StageThe Cavern Club Stage

The city is full of Beatles tourist spots – a great way to see them all is on the Magical Mystery Tour, which will take you to all the key spots from Penny Lane to Strawberry Fields. The tour also takes you by The Beatles’ childhood homes, but if you want to go inside John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s former homes, you can book a tour through the National Trust (only open from the end of February to the end of November).

There is also the Beatles Story Museum located on the Albert Docks, and for the true Beatlemaniac, the Cavern Club hosts Beatleweek at the end of August – and international Beatles festival with non-stop music and tribute bands from across the world.

How’s the night life?

Liverpool is a night-out destination…a chance to wear that new outfit you bought, see some live music, and stay out until closing time!  Music is a huge part of Liverpool’s soul. Live music is literally everywhere – the streets are filled with buskers, creating the soundtrack to your shopping. I truly believe that all Scousers are either in a band, with the band, or sing a lot of karaoke. To navigate Liverpool’s music scene, check out Mersey Gig Guide – the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of Liverpool gigs and concerts. You’re almost guaranteed to find something that fits you’re musical tastes.

Liverpool loves a good festival, and there is usually some sort of special event going on at any time of the year. From giants wandering the streets, to music festivals like Liverpool Sound City and Liverpool International Music Festival (formerly the Mathew Street Festival), there’s always something going on.

What does it mean to be a “Red” or a “Blue”?

Red vs. Blue refers to the city’s football rivalry – Liverpool Football Club (Red) vs. Everton Football Club (blue). Football (or Soccer, as the Americans say) is beyond huge in Liverpool. If you happen to be in the city during a match, get yourself to a pub, grab a pint, and experience the excitement of the UK’s favourite sport.  If you are a massive football fan, or even just a sports fan, you can tour the teams’ stadiums…Anfield and Goodison Park (By the way, both teams have come out to support the LGBTQ community, through supporting Liverpool Pride and anti-homophobia campaigns).

Sounds boss! Anything else I should know about Liverpool?

Where do I start? Honestly, I could write a book on what to do in Liverpool, and this article barely scratches its surface…

The best advice when it comes to exploring Liverpool is to let yourself get lost…it’s a small city, so you can’t wander off too far….and you’ll find places you’d never see otherwise.

The architecture of Liverpool alone is incredible – a mix of styles and marvels. Wander around the statues and building of St. George’s Quarter (featuring the Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum). Stroll between its famous two Cathedrals – the Catholic “Wigwam” and the giant, towering Anglican. Check out the Chinatown Arches and explore St. Luke’s, or “The Bombed-Out Church” – the remains of a church that was bombed in WWII, which now serves as a venue for art, music, and film.

Walk along the waterfront – the Albert Docks are home to a variety of restaurants, bars, and shops…and the Pier Head runs along the famous Liver Building (which I’ve taken far too many photos of). You’ll find a number of museums along the waterfront (most of which are free): The Museum of Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum, and The Beatles Story…For the artist, there’s the Tate Liverpool, Open Eye Gallery, and a number of galleries along the docks.

Albert DocksAlbert Docks

If you really want to take in the city without too much walking, then head to the top of St. John’s Beacon – you can buy a ticket to the top of the Radio City Tower and get a 360° view of the city!

Where should I stay?

Liverpool has wonderful selection of hotels and hostels, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The city centre is quite compact, so you can get around on foot fairly easily.

Liverpool has plenty of busses, trains, and affordable taxis if you’re staying outside the city centre…but personally, I recommend staying in the city. While at Uni, my flat was right on the corner of Stanley Street, Mathew Street, and the Liverpool One, and I absolutely loved it (a bit loud at night, but worth it)!

There is now a boutique hostel/hotel right next to my old flat called HOAX. I stayed there on my last trip, and I highly recommend it! The staff are amazing, the rooms are great (they have both private rooms and shared dorms), and it’s above a pub!

Again there are plenty of hotels to choose from, from trendy (Parr Street Hotel and Z-Hotel), to posh (Hard Day’s Night Hotel…Beatles-themed of course), to backpacker-friendly hostels (HOAX and Hatters Hostel).

Would you go back to Liverpool?

Hell yes! Liverpool is notorious for becoming a “second home” to its visitors. I have friends from across the UK, Europe, USA, Japan, and Russia who have all fallen in love with Liverpool. We’re not quite sure what it is – the friendliness of the people, the vibe of the city, or the feeling of belonging…but we all refer to the city as our “Liverpool Home.”

*Feature image via WikiWand

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