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Saturday 27 May 2017

Strawberry Field forever! Charity to revive site which inspired Beatles classic

An artist's impression of plans for the redevelopment of Liverpool's Strawberry Field (The Salvation Army/PA)
An artist's impression of plans for the redevelopment of Liverpool's Strawberry Field (The Salvation Army/PA)

Liverpool's Strawberry Field, which inspired one of the Beatles' greatest hits, is to open its gates to the public under new plans to revive the historic site.

The former Salvation Army children's home, where John Lennon played as a child, is to be redeveloped by the charity.

Today the charity launched a public appeal for funds - 50 years to the day in 1967 since Strawberry Fields Forever was released in the UK as a double-A side single with Penny Lane.

Plans will include a training and work placements hub for young people with learning disabilities, a haven for spiritual exploration and an exhibition on the place, the song and John Lennon's early life around Strawberry Field.

The site in Woolton, south Liverpool, is close to where John Lennon grew up with his aunt Mimi, after being handed over to her care by his mother.

The woods around the children's home were said to be a place of peace and refuge from Lennon's troubled childhood, where he went to play with friends, climb trees and dream hours away.

The refrain in the song, "And nothing to get hung about", is said to be a reference to Lennon's retort "they can't hang you for it" to Mimi about playing on the property.

Lennon would also visit the home for its annual garden party and his early musical experiences were listening to the Salvation Army band at the events.

Major Drew McCombe, divisional leader for The Salvation Army, North West said: "Strawberry Field is special in the hearts of many people in Liverpool, the UK and across the world, and we at The Salvation Army are aiming to redevelop the site to do justice to the many people that have been supported by the children's home or formed a connection with the iconic Beatles song.

"It's no secret that Strawberry Field was special to John Lennon - it mattered to him - and it feels right to launch our fundraising campaign and new website on the 50th anniversary of the UK release of Strawberry Fields Forever."

The children's home, dated originally from 1870, was transferred to a wealthy merchant in 1912, whose widow sold the estate to the Salvation Army in 1934.

The original house was later demolished and replaced with a smaller purpose-built home, which opened in the early 1970s. It closed in 2005 and is now a church and prayer centre.

The famous red wrought-iron gates marking its entrance were removed and replaced with replicas in May 2011.

However, it is still a popular stop for worldwide fans of the Beatles who pose for photos and scrawl their names on the stone gate posts.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: "I'm expressing my wholehearted support of The Salvation Army's plans to redevelop their children's home at Strawberry Field. Their plans for a totally unique project, to provide vocational training for young people with mild to moderate learning disabilities, are to be commended."

Peter Hooton, lead singer of The Farm and chairman of The Beatles Legacy Group, added: "I can think of no better way Strawberry Field could be re-developed in such an innovative way, which gives hope and job opportunities to vulnerable young people, whilst making a valuable and worthwhile contribution to The Beatles Legacy in Liverpool."

More information on the plans is available at www.strawberryfieldliverpool.com.

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