'Safe to say we're Swifties now' - How Liverpool artists are putting on a welcome for Taylor like no other

How do you top the summer of 2023 in Liverpool?

For a brief moment the sun shone and the eyes of the world looked upon us as the city stepped in to host the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine. It felt like after years of difficulties, Liverpool could take a massive sigh of relief and let its hair down and party.

The only way to go one better is to get the world’s biggest pop star to come round to ours for a few days. In a matter of weeks, Taylor Swift is going to shake the foundations of the new stand at Anfield when she plays out three massive, sold-out shows.

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12 months ago, the city laid out the turquoise carpet for the wonderful multitude of acts coming over for Eurovision. How then, do you lay out a welcome for the most famous woman on the planet as she turns our city into Taylor Town?

Culture Liverpool has enlisted the help of social enterprise Make CIC and their team of makers to put on the colourful spectacular that will be the Taylor Town Trail. A series of art installations are being specially designed to be placed around the city centre each inspired by a different Taylor Swift era.

Claire McColgan, Culture Liverpool director, explained. She said: “We’ve done this for years and Eurovision really cemented how we do things in the city.

“If you create an experience, people love the city as much as what they’re going to. We’ve got 50,000 people a night going to see Taylor in Anfield, brilliant that LFC are bringing her, and that’s fantastic but the city needs to embrace those fans as much as the club does.

“It’s important for us to create something and work with local artists; these are young artists in our city and we’re giving them the opportunity to connect with the biggest artist in the world and create the place we love in the city they live in.”

Beginning on Saturday, June 8, Liverpool ONE, the Albert Dock and Metquarter will host works to reflect the style and stories of each album. Unlike last year’s musical extravaganza, while the ambition is the same, the scale isn’t.

Claire said: “This isn’t as big as Eurovision, we’ve not got the budget for Eurovision but it’s absolutely about embracing the biggest artist in the world and making sure people don’t just come, go for a coffee, go to the stadium then go home again. We want them to see this incredible city and the warmth that it gives and grow that.

“That’s the way I think events are going to change over the next 10 years, fans are going to want experience, not just to spend a huge amount on a ticket then go home. For us as well what’s really important is the fact that loads of people haven’t got tickets, so that means the weekend before they can come and do the trail, have a lovely time and get a bit of a Taylor experience without having to spend massive amounts on a ticket.”

Among the artworks is a throne from Taylor’s Look What You Made Me Do video, with Lucy Sneddon, of Submarine Studios, putting together the finishing touches to snakes that wrap around the seat. She told the LDRS how she became involved.

She said: “I started renting space here in January last year and my business grew really rapidly. Make have been really supportive so they brought me in on this project as well.

“I’m a theatre designer so I do a lot of set and costume and props as well. That’s why I’ve been doing the snakes and the clouds - the snakes are for reputation and the clouds represent 1989.

“It’s been four or five days now and it’s quite finicky. This is very in line with what I do so it’s transferable.

“It feels quite similar to last year as I was involved with the Eurovision project, so it feels on a similar level. It’s nice to be involved in such a big project again especially when I have so many Taylor Swift-mad friends, they’ve been freaking out since I’ve been able to tell them.”

Make CIC was the brain child of co-founders Kirsten Little and Liam Kelly. Starting out from a 90 sqm space, the organisation has grown to offer working opportunities to a whole host of makers across the Liverpool City Region.

Becoming part of the team for Taylor Swift is Make’s latest partnership with Culture Liverpool after playing an integral part in Eurovision preparations in 2023 as Kirsten spelled out. She said: “We previously worked with Culture Liverpool to deliver the Eurovision key that went to Malmo and the legacy has brought us incredible things like Taylor Swift coming to Liverpool.

“We have 137 makers across the city region and a plethora of skills here so initially Culture Liverpool approached us with interest in working on one of the projects and somewhere between that we ended up with all 11, which is incredible, because we’ve been able to give 12 of our makers in our space work on this project.”

Having embraced the colour and excitement of Tattoo and Cha Cha Cha for last summer, Kirsten said she and the makers at North Docks were very much now in their own Taylor era. She said: “We were fully immersed in Eurovision and it’s safe to say we’re Swifties now.

“We’ve got this beautiful circular economy where all our makers may not be able to take on such a big project like this but with the skills that exist here, we’re able to realise it as a beautiful collective. When we started 11 years ago, it was because I was an artist struggling to find workshop space and access to resources.

“Now to have three spaces with an innovation lab, a maker space, a woodwork shop and all those makers under our roof is incredible, I couldn’t have imagined such an amazing project. I think the thing that’s of real value is that the project Culture Liverpool has brough to make stays in the local economy.

“That’s a risk they’ve taken but I hope it pays off and for us to be doing that is such a wonderful opportunity.”

Rachel Smith-Evans, of Quirky Design Company, has helped lead the project management alongside Kirsten having helped paint the Eurovision key handed to Malmo earlier this year.

Her primary role has been to deliver a remarkable moss covered piano to reflect the Evermore era and said she had even been greeted by some wild occupants in the process. She said: “We’re really lucky, one of our residents is a florist and does big weddings, so whenever she finished she would hand over the moss to us and we’ve repurposed it all.

“I had to dry some of it out but some of it is alive - we’ve had bumblebees come in, I found a ladybird in it the other day, it’s been really nice.”

As with Kirsten and the other makers involved, Rachel said she had to become an expert in all things Taylor. She added: “I liked her songs, I wouldn’t have described myself as a Swiftie but now I definitely am.

“I’ve had to watch all her music videos and get immersed in her whole life. I’ve been looking at all the finer details, the hidden easter eggs to put things in the installations as well.

“In my weekends I’ve spent it watching Taylor Swift videos, I know the Eras tour back to front. I feel like I’ve disappeared off my social media, I just kept telling people I’m working on something really special, really exciting, the biggest project ever.”

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