It’s the last picture show at Mathew Street’s View Two Gallery this weekend. That big red door will close for one last time and shut its eyes to the spidermen, super women and shot-sellers that saunter up and down Liverpool’s most famous stroll. The bricks and mortar will remain, but the soul may not. By Alan O’Hare.
An oasis of calm above Mathew Street. It’s over a decade since I wrote those words for Trinity Mirror’s now-defunct Liverpool.com. I was writing, of course, about the View Two Gallery – a creative space you could find behind a big red door in between The Grapes and Lennon’s Bar. You still can… but you can only go through it for twenty four more hours.
“I will leave View Two with many happy memories,” says owner, Ken Martin. “But I live in Cumbria now and it’s a long journey on the M6.” He’s right – but it’s a longer journey up the stairs of the place he’s leaving behind! No, seriously, it is… it’s a mighty long way down rock ‘n’ roll from The Cavern Club down the Mathew Street stroll. Especially when you enter View Two.
The place is magical and has given a home to exhibitions, gigs and, erm, emperor’s palaces for decades. “The beauty has been that we’ve been able to stage exhibitions, often at short notice, with no committees or two-year lead-in periods,” says Martin. “We were even able, not so long ago, to accommodate a team from China at short notice, who converted the whole gallery into an emperor’s palace! It was magical.” That word again.
View Two Gallery is magical, but it’s only magic because it’s a trick. “Trust none of what you hear and even less of what you see… this is what will be.” Bruce Springsteen sang that on his Bush-baiting ‘Magic’ back in 2007 – but it’s a statement that works equally well to describe the popular gallery and its place in Mathew Street history. Sure, it’ll be a footnote to Eric’s and The Cavern, but it’s the footnotes that complete the picture. It’s the footnotes that tell the truth. It’s the footnotes that are the stories behind the headlines.
While the rest of Mathew Street chased the tourist trade, View Two got on with being a space that offered a shop window to established artists, alongside hundreds of aspiring and up-and-coming musicians. The gallery has also never sought or received grants, just existed on the ever-present energy of the owner (and his team of helpers). “I will miss Liverpool and the many friends I have made over the years,” says Martin, who incidentally helped to save Albert Dock from total demolition in the seventies. “But it’s a good time for me to move on, do some travelling and explore the world.”
Nobody in Liverpool’s wider arts community will deny Martin that. But the gallery will be missed – by art and music lovers alike. Where now for an ethereal evening of finger-picking delicacy from the city’s folk singers? Where now to hear a grand piano caressed less than ten yards away from where your sit? Where now for an exhibition from a first-time photographer with an itch to scratch? Where now for a cup of tea on Mathew Street?!
Of course, it’s not the bricks and mortar (or stairs) that will be missed. It’ll be the people, promoters and personas that frequent the place on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. I went to a celebration of Mellowtone’s ‘Above The Beaten Track’ at a buzzing Bluecoat earlier this year. The boutique festival, which has packed out the chambers during many summer nights over the last few years, featured and focused on up-and-coming singers, songwriters, artists, craft makers and music makers. It did it well and many of the artists featured have gone on to bigger and better things.
Where did they hold the first one? In an oasis of calm above Mathew Street. The Beatles are dead. Long live View Two Gallery.
Pic courtesy Graham Holland (YouTube)