southport guide
Photo by Ronald Saunders from flickr

Southport

Creative Tourist

Southport is a large seaside town in the county of Merseyside, which also takes in Formby, West Kirby and Liverpool. Formerly known for genteel ladies of a certain age and crust-less afternoon teas, Southport is subtly and gradually changing from crumbling grandeur and kitsch amusements to an attractive town with a focus on the arts. Take The Atkinson: this determinedly innovative, Grade II-listed arts centre offers a theatre, galleries, museum, deli and an artisan bakery.

There’s also the Waterfront Arts project and excellent architecture, including the wonderful, cathedral-like fernery at the Botanic Gardens and the Belle Epoque colonnades of Lord Street. Legend has it that the graceful boulevards of central Paris were modelled on Southport, after Napoleon spent two years in exile here. Southport does, of course, boast “Britain’s longest overland pier”, a listed structure with its own tramline to carry visitors over a mile between Southport promenade and the pier head.

There’s also Southport Market, a number of good places to eat (if you know where to look) and the Southport Model Railway Village – a pretty unique experience, and yours for only £4.50 entry. Finally, let’s not forget the British Lawnmower Museum, a short walk from the town and everything a specialist museum should be: earnest, interesting and incredibly eccentric.

Discover our top picks

Serena Korda: The Bell Tree at Speke Hall
Exhibitions 8 September 2018–28 July 2019, FREE

Serena Korda: The Bell Tree at Speke Hall

The Bell Tree by award winning contemporary artist Serena Korda responds to England’s alternative history of fairy-tale folklore, the ancient forest at Speke Hall and the legacy of hidden rebellion that surrounds the historic Tudor home.

Exhibitions 19 October 2018–3 March 2019, FREE

Quentin Blake and John Yeoman: 50 Years of Children’s Books at Lady Lever Art Gallery

Bookworms rejoice! The first exhibition to celebrate illustrator Quentin Blake’s decades-long partnership with author and childhood friend John Yeoman promises literary larks and crazy characters for all.

Leo Fitzmaurice: Between You and Me and Everything Else
Exhibitions 29 September 2018–17 March 2019, FREE

Leo Fitzmaurice: Between You and Me and Everything Else at Walker Art Gallery

Curated by Newport-born artist Leo Fitzmaurice, ‘Between You and Me Everything Else’ at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool is an invitation to approach the age-old genre of portraiture through fresh, curious eyes.

Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures at Tate Liverpool
Exhibitions 23 November 2018–17 March 2019, from £10.50

Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures at Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool presents the first major UK exhibition in 30 years of renowned modern artist Fernand Léger’s work, exploring how the iconic French painter, sculptor and filmmaker redefined the value of art to 20th century society.

John Beck and Matthew Cornford: The Art Schools of North West England at Bluecoat
Exhibitions 17 November 2018–10 March 2019, FREE

The Art Schools of North West England at Bluecoat

There were over 150 art schools in England in the mid-1960s; now most of them are closed or absorbed into other institutions. Bluecoat’s new exhibition, ‘Art Schools of North West England’, asks: What did it mean to have an art school in every town and what can we learn by discovering their fate?

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: making the Glasgow Style at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool
Exhibitions 15 March–26 August 2019, from £2

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: making the Glasgow Style at Walker Art Gallery

Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool prepares to present its blockbuster exhibition of 2019, dedicated to the life and work of the Glaswegian artist, architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh – father of the UK’s part in the international Art Nouveau movement.

Big Up! Courtesy Theatre Rites / Helen Murray
Families 8–16 February 2019, from £9

Big Up! at Unity Theatre

Calling all rulebreakers everywhere. This brand new show by Theatre-Rites and 20 Stories High challenges all order as we know it.

Macbeth at the Epstein Theatre
Literature 7–16 March 2019, from £16.00

Macbeth at the Epstein Theatre

After two critically acclaimed seasons of Shakespeare, Daniel Taylor Productions will return to the Epstein Theatre with Macbeth.

Set in the aftermath of a ruinous civil war in Scotland, this new production explores the damaging psychological effects of war, betrayal and destructive political ambition by those who seek power for it’s own sake.

Brought to life with the same brilliance that has made Daniel Taylor’s shows a highlight of the city’s cultural calendar.

Exhibitions 26 September 2018–29 March 2019, FREE

Stability and Survival at Speke Hall

This autumn, learn about the inspiring life of Miss Adelaide Watt – an independent and powerful Victorian woman who fought the forces of modernity to preserve Speke Hall and all its treasures for generations to come.

Broken Symmetries at FACT in Liverpool
Exhibitions 23 November 2018–3 March 2019, FREE

Broken Symmetries at FACT

A new international exhibition premiering at FACT in Liverpool, Broken Symmetries brings together artists who aim to understand and question the physical world by navigating the shifting realities of modern science.

Broken Symmetries encompasses a wide-range of artistic approaches: reflecting the diverse ways in which scientists and artists are collaborating in both tackling and communicating some of the most elaborate concepts of modern physics.

Places to go / stay / shop / eat / drink

Liverpool District Guides

Lark Lane, Liverpool

A little way out of Liverpool City Centre, and a short and leafy walk from…

William Brown Street, Liverpool

As city centre districts go, this one is relatively small: a cluster of buildings along…

The ship in Liverpool Sound City

Waterfront, Liverpool

The waterfront, which takes in the Albert Dock and the Pier Head, is an integral…

Ropewalks and Chinatown, Liverpool

The Ropewalks is a part of Liverpool that combines old and new. Once crowded with…

Hope Street, Liverpool

One of Liverpool’s most graceful quarters can be found along Hope Street. Named after the…

City Centre, Liverpool

Here’s the thing. Liverpool dates back to the 13th century but, in the city centre,…

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Serena Korda: The Bell Tree at Speke Hall
Exhibitions 8 September 2018–28 July 2019, FREE

Serena Korda: The Bell Tree at Speke Hall

Big Up! Courtesy Theatre Rites / Helen Murray
Families 8–16 February 2019, from £9

Big Up! at Unity Theatre

ARTIST ROOMS: Alex Katz at Tate Liverpool
Exhibitions 23 November 2018–17 March 2019, FREE

ARTIST ROOMS: Alex Katz at Tate Liverpool