History – Brief History of The Beatles Industry In Liverpool

The closure of the Cavern Club in 1973 marked the end of an era. Locally it was left to Bob Wooler (the former Cavern DJ) and Allan Williams (The Beatles’ first manager) together with a few die-hard fans to organise various gatherings. However, little or nothing was done to provide any type of services for thousands of fans who flocked to Liverpool.

Allan, in conjunction with the Tourist Information Centre, would offer occasional tours, provided he was available and could be contacted.

In 1977 Bob and Allan organised the first Beatles Convention at Mr Pickwicks club in Liverpool. It wasn’t until 1981 that the Convention started to become a regular annual event but even then its future always looked uncertain.

Towards the late ’70s a shop called the Magical Mystery Store was opened by fans in North John Street. This operation later moved to the first floor of 18 Mathew Street (now part of Flanagan’s Apple) and called itself Cavern Mecca. Cavern Mecca became a meeting place for fans in Liverpool and for those who travelled to the City in search of Beatle landmarks. Cavern Mecca did establish a world-wide membership and the beginnings of an industry. However the period between 1973 and 1981 can best be described as the time of dedicated fans and enthusiasts.

In 1979 Merseyside County Council’s Tourism Department advertised for Merseysiders to train as Tourist Guides. The Head of the Tourism Department was himself an avid Beatle fan (Ron Jones). Pam Wilsher was his assistant at that time.

Ron and Pam subsequently trained and licensed a team of 14 Blue Badge Guides in April 1980 and a whole series of guided walks and coach tours were created. Tourism on Merseyside was on the move.

On 8th December1980 John Lennon was shot dead. This tragic event brought a dramatic ending to The Beatles’ story, the dream of so many people to see The Beatles back together on stage could never become reality. All of a sudden people clamoured to find out more about The Beatles and Merseyside County Council responded. In 1981 more Blue Badge Guides were trained and the tour programme was extended and became more popular.

The Beatles had been afforded a civic reception in 1964 but a later sign that the City of Liverpool was accepting The Beatles’ importance came about in 1981 when it was agreed four new streets could be named after the members of the group.

In 1982 Ron Jones produced a guide book entitled In The Footsteps of The Beatles published by Merseyside County Council, which was used as the basis for a City Centre Walk Tour. Cavern Mecca organised successful Beatle Conventions at the Adelphi Hotel over the August Bank Holiday weekend in 1981, 1982 and 1983.

In 1982 the County Council introduced Beatle Coach Tours and Beatle weekends and in 1983 a special team of Beatle Guides were trained and it was at this point that Cavern City Tours was conceived (see notes on Cavern City Tours).

The souvenir industry and the memorabilia industry also began to develop. Cavern Mecca and Merseyside County Council had started to sell their own items but it was the opening of The Beatles Shop in Mathew Street in 1982, that saw the start of what some people might regard as a commercial sector.

Ron Jones put the County Council publicity budget and press office behind the tours, weekends and convention and, by using funds from the English Tourist board and British Tourist Authority, maximised the selling of Liverpool as the Birthplace of The Beatles. The national and international media took the bait.

In Liverpool, Radio City had started to gather memorabilia and put plans together to open a Beatles Museum which they did in 1984 and called it Beatle City. They purchased the original bus used in The Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour, restored it, and offered a one-and-a-half hour Beatle Tour, which proved a great success. The eventual closure of Beatle City led to the bus being sold for a six figure sum to a collector in the United States. The bus is now located at the Hard Rock Caf� in Miami.

Plans had also been drawn to develop the site of the original Cavern Club and in April 1984 Cavern Walks opened, complete with its Beatles statue, Abbey Road pub and a redeveloped Cavern Club.

The whole Beatles industry was further boosted in March 1984 when Liverpool City Council agreed that The Beatles should be made Freemen of the City and Paul had his acceptance ceremony coincide with his British premier of Give My Regards To Broad Street in November 1984.

The opening of the International Garden Festival in May 1984 and the progressive development of the Albert Dock made 1984 the year in terms of tourism, and hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Liverpool.

Cavern Walks and the Beatle industry hoped to benefit from the International Garden Festival but, unfortunately, a typical visitor to the Festival did not venture into the City Centre.

However, by 1984 people were now taking seriously the concept of a Liverpool Tourism sector. Unfortunately Cavern Mecca was under pressure, and competition, from Beatle City. The Beatles Shop and Merseyside County Council’s Tourist Information Centre led to its ultimate demise and it folded in 1984.

Merseyside County Council and Radio City pledged to put their resources together and produce a first class Convention in 1985. As it turned out Merseyside County Council organised it themselves, and it was a tremendous success.

The pending and eventual abolition of Merseyside County Council in March 1986 led to a drastic reduction in the marketing and operation of Beatle Tours and the success of the Convention in 1985 was not followed up in 1986.

Cavern City Tours were invited to fulfil the Beatles Weekends and Convention advertised by Merseyside County Council before its abolition.

With the formation of Merseyside Tourism board in 1986 the daily Beatles tours did continue, however less emphasis was placed on The Beatles by Merseyside Tourism Board than had been by Merseyside County Council. The only publicity produced was by Cavern City Tours who lacked the budget to produce lavish publicity.

Beatle City was not the success it promised to be and by the end of 1986 it was in serious financial trouble.

In July 1987, the exhibition was taken to Dallas, and never returned to the City. Fortunately Mike Byrne, it’s General Manager did, and over the next few years created The Beatles Story at the Albert Dock which opened in April 1990. Mathew Street has always been the hub of the Beatles industry and in 1984 The John Lennon memorial club opened, but initially the venture experienced difficulties. Throughout the 1980s, the fledgling Beatles industry had suffered many setbacks, however there were also many notable successes.

The Beatles Convention organised by Cavern City Tours since 1987 has become increasingly popular and is firmly established as one of Liverpool’s major annual tourism events.
The daily Magical Mystery Tour has increased in popularity.
The opening of The Beatles Story has helped increase the profile of the Beatles industry in Liverpool.
The two outdoor concerts in 1990. The John Lennon Memorial Concert but, more particularly, the McCartney show brought together all the main agencies, i.e. Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Tourism Board, Merseyside Development Corporation, The Echo, Radio City and the Beatle industry for the first time, and this created a base to launch the Beatles industry in Liverpool into the 1990s.
Since 1991 the Cavern Club has gone from strength to strength owned and operated by Cavern City Tours. Business has been so good that the Company opened the Cavern Pub in 1994 and extended the Cavern Club in 1995, adding a new floor and two bars. The Club has proven to be the catalyst for massive investment in the Cavern Quarter area over the last few years. Despite these successes, the industry has remained under funded by the public sector and unable to realise its true potential, although the major tourism agencies in the UK and Liverpool City Council recognise the importance of The Beatles and the industry created around them.

In 1996 the three principal players in the Beatles industry – Cavern City Tours, Beatles Story and The Beatles Shop – continued to increase turnover and profitability. However, their limited marketing budgets and organisational capacity need to be supplemented by public funds to allow them to find new markets and intensify their efforts in existing markets.