The Forthlin Sessions
The Forthlin Sessions initiative, backed by Paul McCartney’s brother Mike, will see artists chosen by Mike and local partners to write music in the childhood home of the McCartneys, in Forthlin Road, Liverpool.
Some of the early Lennon-McCartney (or McCartney-Lennon) compositions took shape in this house, and wannabe musicians are hoping some of the magic will rub off to their songs.
5 April 2022, The National Trust announced full details of its plans to open up 20 Forthlin Road, the childhood home of Sir Paul & Mike McCartney, to unsigned artists, with the aim of inspiring new generations of creativity. Here’s the press release:
“The Forthlin Sessions” will see unsigned music artists given the chance to visit, write, and perform at 20 Forthlin Road, sitting in the very same spots where around 30 of the world’s most famous songs, including “Love Me Do”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Hold Me Tight”, “I’ll Follow The Sun” and “When I’m 64” were written and rehearsed. It is also where Paul wrote his first-ever song, “I Lost My Little Girl”.
To choose the artists who will perform at “The Forthlin Sessions”, the National Trust will work with Mike McCartney and Pete Paphides and consult with the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). The opportunity is open to any unsigned, UK-based music artist aged over 18. “The Forthlin Sessions” will be recorded and publicised, offering vital opportunities for new musical talent to reach audiences.
To celebrate a year of the Beatles’ anniversaries, including Sir Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday in June, and the 60th anniversary of the Beatles’ debut single “Love Me Do” in October, the charity will be celebrating the creativity sparked from the rooms of 20 Forthlin Road (“the birthplace of the Beatles”), by supporting a new generation of talent and bringing a place rich in popular music history, to a wider audience.
In addition, the British public will be asked to share what the creativity sparked at 20 Forthlin Road has meant to them, to help inspire the new music that will be created at “The Forthlin Sessions” by the chosen artists. This could be a memory, a favourite song or how music, photography and art gave them courage to follow a different path in life.
To find out more about 20 Forthlin Road, how to apply to play at “The Forthlin Sessions” or how to share what the creativity sparked there has meant to you, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-forthlin-sessions.
Hilary McGrady, National Trust Director General, says:
“What the Beatles did was inspire a generation to feel free to be creative, regardless of who or where they were. Much of that started at 20 Forthlin Road with the songs that were written under this roof. It’s a pleasure to care for the Beatles’ childhood homes and to use the story of what happened there to continue this legacy. Our places don’t have to be stuck in time; they’re here to keep sparking creativity, dreams, and new ideas. We can’t wait to hear how what happened at 20 Forthlin Road inspired and keeps on inspiring the nation.”
To kick off the search for the musicians who will play “The Forthlin Sessions”, a new poem – “An Ordinary House, An Ordinary Street” – telling the story of the house has been released as a short film.
It features figures from the history of the house including Mike McCartney, the Quarry Men drummer Colin Hanton, Colin and Sylvia Hall, custodians of Mendips – John Lennon’s Liverpool home – and 20 Forthlin Road respectively. They appear alongside schoolboy Luca from the Wirral and a number of creatives from across the City of Liverpool, including former students of LIPA – the performing arts education institution – founded by Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Mark Featherstone-Witty in 1996, in Paul and Mike’s old school.
Simon Osborne, National Trust manager for the charity’s Liverpool properties, says:
“20 Forthlin Road’s story has some uncanny parallels with today – hope rising from grief and change from a time of crisis. What happened here has inspired many musicians and famous faces. Acts like Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran, the Gallaghers, Paul Weller, Stormzy, comedian Harry Hill and TV host and actor James Corden have all talked about the impact of what came forth from Forthlin had on the creative industries and beyond. We want to tell the story of this ordinary house in an ordinary street, to continue to inspire new generations of creativity. Imagine the chance to write and play on the exact spot where ordinary lads from Liverpool changed the world.”
The McCartney family moved from Speke to 20 Forthlin Road, a post-war terraced council house, in 1955. Devastatingly, within a year Mary McCartney died, leaving husband Jim to raise 14-year-old Paul and 12-year-old Mike alone.
Jim brought music back to the house to help the boys through their grief, with first a trumpet, then a guitar and then drums that in Mike’s words “fell off the back of a lorry”. In 1957 Paul McCartney was introduced to John Lennon at the St Peter’s Church fete in Woolton, halfway between their two homes. The chums rehearsed and wrote at 20 Forthlin Road, writing lyrics to songs like “I Saw Her Standing There” in school books on the front room floor.
Mike drummed for the Quarry Men until an accident at scout camp put paid to his career on the sticks. The Quarry Men’s loss was history’s gain, with Mike turning to photography – taking the number 86 bus to Allerton library to learn the art – and documenting the rise of creativity that would change the world. The shots of the new poem film reflect many of Mike’s poignant and intimate images of that time at Forthlin Road.
Mike McCartney explains more:
“It was just a normal family home. We were school kids. There was no music except that my dad would tickle – as he called it – the ivories after a hard day at work. At the beginning, there was no music other than dad and no photography. There wasn’t any thought of showbusiness, I can assure you.
“After we lost our mum, dad was bringing up his two little boys who were growing bigger all the time, on £10 a week. We were poor. The idea of getting into photography or music was unthinkable for working class lads back then, but Dad saw how creativity could help us through our grief. Everything that was created here – the music, the photography – was created from love. I’m delighted our house and our family can inspire new generations to follow a path that might surprise people, and that it’s been part of so many lives, not just ours.”