Taylor-made: How Liverpool is betting big on the global pop icon

Marie Carter, manager of the Phoenix Hotel in Anfield
-Credit: (Image: Liverpool Echo)

It is a brisk Thursday morning in north Liverpool and with the football season finished and the final farewells bid to Jurgen Klopp, the area is quiet and calm.

But in the coming weeks that is all about to change as the planet's biggest pop star is set to land here to play three sell-out shows at Liverpool FC's iconic stadium.

The Anfield gigs will be Taylor Swift's only performances in Northern England during her record-breaking Eras Tour and it is safe to say the city is preparing to capitalise on every single opportunity available.

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One business that is already attracting the attention of Swifties is The Phoenix Hotel in Foley Street, around a 20 minute walk from the ground. The hotel, usually popular with match-going fans, is hoping to attract an entirely different type of clientele over the next few weeks.

The venue has already made headlines around the world after unveiling a huge mural of the megastar on its outside wall. The story was picked up by US television news channels and has turned plenty of heads locally, with several people stopping to take selfies alongside it during our visit this week.

"When we found out Taylor Swift was coming to Anfield, it just inspired us to do something special," explains Phoenix manager Marie Carter.

"It is a really big boost for local businesses, especially outside the football season when a lot of the businesses don’t have that same footfall. Now we have three days to encourage visitors to come here from all over the world. We want them to remember Anfield and The Phoenix when they go home."

The hotel, which is fully booked for the concert period, has lots planned to make the most of Taylor's time in North Liverpool, explains Marie.

"We are putting on a three-day event while she is here. We will have tribute acts, local singers street food vendors. We are creating Taylor Swift-themed cocktails. It will be great for people who don't have tickets to the concerts but want to be in the area for the atmosphere."

"We saw what Liverpool did with Eurovision and we are doing it again. No one does this like Liverpool and I think this could be close in terms of bringing people into the city."

There can be no doubt that Liverpool is once again going 'all out' for this special occasion.

Like with Eurovision, the city is looking to make this about more than just the event itself, transforming into 'Taylor Town' for an eight day period around the concerts.

The new Taylor Swift mural on the Phoenix Hotel in Anfield
The new Taylor Swift mural on the Phoenix Hotel in Anfield -Credit:Liverpool Echo

For a fortnight around the singer's concerts, the city will be transformed into 'Taylor Town', with the creation of a trail of unique series of art installations, each inspired by a different Taylor Swift era.

Liverpool Council's Culture Liverpool team has teamed up with creative social enterprise Make CIC and a host of local artists and makers to curate the works. From a 7-ft-high butterfly to a moss-covered baby grand piano, a floral swing bench and a red room, the city is turning itself into a week-long Swiftie paradise.

As well as the art works, there will be a 'Tay Day' symposium held at the University of Liverpool in which academics will outline their research into the Swift phenomenon to the sound of her biggest hits. It really is all happening.

For the council's director of culture, Claire McColgan, the idea of capitalising on such a global figure arriving in the city was a no brainer.

"She is one of those stars that just captures people’s imaginations," explains Ms McColgan. "As soon as we found out she was coming we started planning."

"Eurovision, we made our own story and just went for it. I think because we had done all that, the team that worked on it were ready to do similar for Taylor. We've always done this with events, we want to get the whole city involved."

Pip Horrocks is a producer in the culture team and has worked to create the Taylor Town trail in the city.

"We know the power of hosting Tayor Swift," she explains. "I’m a huge Swifty myself. As soon as we knew she was coming last summer, we started planning. We have constantly been looking at the tour in the US and the impact it has had."

"It was really important for us to get local artists involved," she adds. "There is so much talent and creativity in this city."

That potential impact of Swift on the places in which she performs is enormous.

It is predicted that the Eras tour will provide a £997 million boost to the UK economy, with approximately 1.2 million fans spending an average of £848 each on tickets, travel, accommodation, outfits and other costs.

A 'Swiftonomics' report produced by Barclays found that the release of tickets last summer sparked a 15.8% year-on-year increase in UK spending on entertainment.

This is music to the ears of city bosses, who have seen Liverpool's hospitality sector bounce back impressively from the devastation of the pandemic and the lockdowns that came with it. April 2024 was the second busiest on record for Liverpool hotel stays and the singer's arrival could see June take top spot.

With a portion of a potential billion-pound windfall up for grabs, it is no wonder Liverpool is fully embracing its inner Swiftie, but Claire McColgan said this goes beyond simply an economic boost.

"This is expected of us now. People have grown up with Liverpool post Capital of Culture and it is what we do. We just want people to come to the city and feel the energy and the buzz, whether they have a ticket or not."

The culture boss explained that the council used to spend £2.5m a year putting on its own music events, but can now rely on the private sector to take the lead, with the council team then building a programme around this.

"We don't need to put on the events ourselves anymore, we have proven the case for commercial operators to come in and do it and we can add to that," adds Claire.

"I mean hats off to Liverpool Football Club for bringing the biggest artist in the world here. What we want to do is support that with added value that hopefully will attract more acts to come to the city. It is a win win."

Asked what the event could mean for the city in total, Claire laughs: "Well she is doing four UK cities so just split that billion pounds in four. Who knows? But everything we get out of it is an absolute bonus. Something has made her choose Liverpool and that is a massive coup for the city."

But while the rewards of such a high profile star coming to the city could be plentiful, the challenges around it are substantial as well.

For months now the council has been planning with emergency services and other agencies around the specific measures needed to keep the hundreds of thousands of Swifties safe in Liverpool

Anfield resident Catherine Byrne
Anfield resident Catherine Byrne -Credit:Liverpool Echo

"It became really apparent really quickly that this would be very different to anything we had encountered before," explains the council's head of city events, Sue Gibson.

"The demographic we are looking at here is 18-25 years-old and it is 80% female. It is completely different to the football crowds we would normally see at Anfield and we've all had to work on this together."

Having watched the behaviour of fans attending the Eras concerts in the United States, one concern is the potential for Swifties without tickets to head to the area around the stadium and set up tents.

"We have looked at how the Swifties behaved in the American stadiums and there was a trend for people to gather outside the stadium, so our message is for people not to do that. But we have lots of plans in place for whatever happens," adds Sue.

Transport is another crucial area, with a need to get huge numbers of young people back into the city centre after the concerts finish.

Sue explains: "We will have an influx of younger people, predominantly female, being in and around the city, so we are all very aware of that.

"But we know that this is a really, really good natured crowd we are dealing with here. They want to meet up, soak up the atmosphere, we see it as being incredibly friendly and compliant."

Around Anfield stadium this week life is carrying on as normal - for now. The usual flow of tourists are milling around the famous stadium, while local people are going about their daily business.

One person visiting the stadium is Fumika Goto, from Japan who is visiting the city. While she is not heading to the Taylor Swift gigs at Anfield, she has just recently seen her perform in her native Tokyo.

"She was very good," explains Fumika. "She will put on a good show for Liverpool."

At a nearby bus stop, 75-year-old Catherine Byrne says she is "not particularly bothered" about the Fortnight singer specifically, but welcomes the boost to the local area.

"It will be great for the Anfield area, " she explains. "It will be busy like on match days but it is nothing we can't cope with."

Rushing past the stadium is Linda, who asked us to only use her first name, but said her two teenage daughters both have tickets for one of the three Anfield gigs.

"My daughters are crazy for her," she explains. "They are both going. She is a superstar. This is all they are talking about."

The Swifty sensation has also captured the imagination of the area's Member of Parliament.

Boundary changes coming into force after July's election will see Dan Carden lose Anfield Stadium from his constituency. He thinks the arrival of the world's biggest star is a good way to bow out.

"It is just such a great selling point for the city," explains Mr Carden, who has represented this area since 2017.

"We know we are world famous for football and music and to have Taylor Swift choose to come to Liverpool is brilliant. I think people will really enjoy it and make the most of it.

Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden
Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden -Credit:Liverpool Echo

"It is what we are good at, putting on a show, welcoming people to our city. When those people come, they always want to come back."

The Labour MP is talking from inside Homebaked, a community bakery and pie shop in the shadow of Liverpool FC's home. The bakery is one of many that will benefit from the 150,000 Swifties who will descend on this area in the coming weeks.

"We are all waiting to see if they make a special Taylor Swift pie," adds the MP.

He says the value of the city's visitor economy cannot be overstated, adding: "We know hospitality suffered the most during the pandemic, but it is so important to Liverpool.

"Taylor Swift is a phenomenon and we are really going to benefit from seeing that phenomenon up close in Liverpool."

Asked for his favourite Taylor track, the MP plumps for Who's Afraid of Little Old Me.

When it comes to the way Taylor Swift's arrival in Liverpool has caused this city to pull out all the stops, perhaps the most appropriate track to reference is 'Look what you made me do.'

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