While Liverpool’s streets were the focus for the public spectaculars of 2014, this year is all about the city’s most important highway – the River Mersey.
Plans are being made for six weeks of waterborne festivities which are expected to draw more than a million people to the Mersey waterfront between May and July.
The season of events will be bookended by two major weekends to mark the 175th anniversary of Cunard and its first transatlantic crossing from Liverpool to North America in 1840.
And we can reveal Cunard’s Three Queens will have a ‘Royal Rendezvous’ in the river in May, while in July the flagship Queen Mary 2 will replicate that voyage from 175 years ago.
And in between, the International Mersey River Festival will bring the waterfront alive between June 5-7.
The three-day event will include Tall Ships, Royal and merchant navy vessels, and there’s even discussion about a Northern Boat Show which could see world class sailing and power boats head for the Mersey.
‘A most spectacular gathering’
Cunard’s three Queens will sail up the Mersey in a “series of carefully choreographed ship movements” when they appear together in a Royal Rendezvous in Liverpool.
The company is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year with what it is describing as “the world’s most spectacular gathering” of its three Queens – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria – ever seen.
May’s event will see the liners sailing in the river from Crosby as far as Tranmere.
The exact details of the event are still being kept under wraps.
But Cunard revealed today that the complex marine operations plan is well underway, being prepared by a team including the Commodore of the Cunard Fleet, Captain Christopher Rynd, Captain Steve Gallimore, the Port of Liverpool Harbour Master, and Captain Chris Booker, chairman of Liverpool Pilotage Association and senior river pilot for the event.
Specially-created computer programmes for the Mersey Pilots’ sophisticated simulator are being used to plot the positions of the ships and their manoeuvres.
Captain Booker said: “Our river simulator, and the input we are receiving from the Cunard Captains, is invaluable in helping us plan and prepare for this event. It promises to be a once in a lifetime experience for everyone involved and spectating on May 25.”
The three ships will arrive in the Mersey at different times over the late May bank holiday weekend, as part of special anniversary voyages and carrying around 6,000 passengers from 28 countries between them.
Commodore Rynd said: “With the unique backdrop of Liverpool’s world-famous waterfront, and the capacity on both sides of the Mersey to accommodate tens of thousands of spectators, I believe this will be a most spectacular gathering of the Three Queens. I’m excited by the prospect of bringing the Fleet to its spiritual home and I’m impressed by the level of engagement and collaboration between the partners involved and required to make it all possible.”
And Captain Gallimore added: “The planning is at a very advanced stage and the sight of the Cunard Queens together in close proximity off Pier Head and elsewhere in the river will create a lasting impression for spectators and those seeing TV coverage.”
In July, the Queen Mary 2 will return to mark the actual anniversary of the first transatlantic voyage of a Cunard liner, the Britannia, which sailed out of the Mersey on July 4, 1840 for Nova Scotia.
Liverpool waterfront will become a ‘Sea of Faces’
A ‘Sea of Faces’ will be beamed on to Liverpool’s waterfront buildings as part of celebrations for Cunard’s landmark anniversary year.
Hundreds of people who live, work or play in the city will be featured in the projections as part of three nights of shows to coincide with the arrival of the three Cunard ‘Queens’ in May.
They form part of a series of activities being planned to entertain the hundreds of thousands of people expected to descend on Liverpool for the festivities.
The Colour Project, the organisation behind the state-of-the-art projection project, is one of the UK’s leading video mapping and design companies, and will work with the city and with Hope Street Ltd to produce the event.
Its previous work has included a World War I video installation in Liverpool as well as illuminating everything from Great Ormond Street Hospital to Battersea Power Station.
Creative director Carl Miller said: “This event will transform the rich waterfront canvas into an exciting and engaging visual display, and provide a fitting punctuation to this momentous occasion.
“This is a great opportunity to explore the spirit of Liverpool, its heritage and culture, along with highlights from the extensive history of Cunard.”
And Cllr Wendy Simon, assistant mayor and cabinet member for culture and tourism, added: “There’s still five months to go before the three monarchs of the sea head for the Mersey, and yet there’s already an air of excitement about their arrival, not just in the city but across the UK and the rest of the world.
“The Colour Project’s work will light up one of the most recognisable waterfronts in the world and will add another dimension to what is set to be an unforgettable weekend.”
Details will be announced in the spring about how people can get involved with Sea of Faces.
Cunard boss on Liverpool celebrations
The chief of Cunard has promised a “barnstormer” of a year as celebrations for the shipping line’s 175th anniversary get underway.
Director Angus Struthers today outlined some of the company’s plans for 2015, including the two high-profile weekends of festivities in Liverpool, where Cunard was founded in 1840.
He said: “It’s going to be a barnstormer of a year for Cunard, and for the special bond that has existed between Cunard and Liverpool from the first. We can’t wait to celebrate at our one and only spiritual home.”
He added: “So many people in the city have a strong personal bond with Cunard, having seen the Cunarders sail in and out over the years, or having worked for the company, or having a relative that did.
“There are so many ways that bind Liverpool and Cunard together.”
The two weekends of events take place over May 24-26, and July 3-5.
In May, the company’s flagships Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria will all be in port, and Mr Struthers says he expects up to one million people to watch “this extraordinary event from the shoreline”.
Then on July 4, during a weekend of activities and celebrations in the city being curated by Wayne Hemingway, the Queen Mary 2 will replicate the first transatlantic crossing made by a Cunard ship in 1840. Mr Struthers said: “There will be 400 passengers sailing into the city within sight of the Three Graces and then disembarking, and another 400 joining the ship for the crossing to Halifax, Boston and eventually New York.
“This will be the first time transatlantic passengers will have embarked at Liverpool since 1968. There will be such a special and emotionally-charged atmosphere on board and ashore!”
Cunard’s Three Queens
Queen Mary 2
Visiting Liverpool as part of a 10-night voyage around the British Isles and Ireland.
The RMS Queen Mary 2, launched in 2004, is Cunard’s flagship and the only transatlantic ocean liner in line service between Southampton and New York.
She was built at Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St Nazaire, France, has a gross tonnage of 148,528 and a length of 1,132ft (345m), and cost £460m.
The liner can carry 2,620 passengers and 1,253 officers and crew.
She boasts a planetarium, Royal Court Theatre and spa among her facilities.
Visiting Liverpool at the culmination of a 16-night tour to the Baltic.
The MS Queen Elizabeth was officially named in 2010 by Queen Elizabeth II, and is the second largest ship in the Cunard fleet.
She was built at the Fincantieri Monfalcone Shipyard in Italy, has a gross tonnage of 92,000 and a length of 965ft (294m), and cost around £350m.
The liner can carry up to 2,100 passengers.
Her facilities include a casino, 6,000-volume library, cinema, and a resident theatre company.
Visiting Liverpool during a six-night cruise of the British Isles and Guernsey.
The MS Queen Victoria was christened in 2007 and is the smallest of the Cunard ‘Queens’.
Like her sister ship Queen Elizabeth, she was built at the Fincantieri Monfalcone Shipyard in Italy, and has a gross tonnage of 90,000 and a length of 964.5ft (294m). She cost around £270m. The liner can carry up to 2,014 passengers and 900 officers and crew. On board, passengers can enjoy a trip to the theatre, themed balls, a jazz band, a spa and fine art in the Clarendon art gallery.