Inner City Rainbows - Summer 1978

Submitted by root on Tue, 01/10/2012 - 14:07

The first of the Blackie's Rainbow projects - inspired by the political debate of the time on regenerating the inner cities, by the work of the artist Patrick Hughes ( by the Blackie's own tradition of public art, took place in the summer of 1978.

The Blackie put on some form of summer cultural activity outside of the building from as early as 1969 (Lorry Theatre) - this was called 'summer theatre'  but was just as likely to be a public art event as a performance.   Inner City Rainbows was part of that tradition.

Patrick Hughes postcard - rainbow coming through a letterbox Patrick Hughes Postcard - Rainbow hanging over a crescent moon

As with many projects it started with research (through books and a visit to Patrick Hughes
in St Ives).  Early on it was decided that the 'rainbows' would not be simple 2 D representations but following the work of Patrick Hughes contain an idea or pun.  (See post cards by Patrick Hughes on the right).  They would also be limited to 6 rather than 7 colours:  Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple.         

The final idea was simple: seven rainbows on seven buildings in seven days.  So we would create seven rainbows, lightly but robustly made from aluminium on a wooden frame - between 15 and 80ft long, which would be erected high up on inner city buildings on seven consecutive nights. So in the morning people would be greeted by the rainbows which would appear to have arrived as if by magic.  Like many simple ideas making it a reality was complicated.   

The Rainbows

1. Twin Rainbows on the Mersey Docks and Harbours Building - Pierhead

 Picture of Twin Rainbows on Mersey Docks and Harbours Building| Twin Rainbows on the Mersey Docks and Harbours Board - Pierhead Twin Rainbows on the Mersey Docks and Harbours Building - view fron afar

2. Powerbow on Lime Street Chambers (next to Lime Street Station).

Picture of an train where the overhead power lines are a rainbow Rainbow Power viewed from the steps to St Georges Hall PiazzaRainbow Power on Lime street chambers from afar

3. Birth Of A Rainbow - Capricorn Boutique in Casey Street

Picture of rainbow coming out of an egg - on the roof  View of Birth of a Rainbow from further away  View of Birth of a Rainbow from the steps

4. Rainbow Bouquet on the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and  Pun in Mathew Street.

Rainbow Bouquet on the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun  Rainbow Bouquet consists of flowers each one a different  colour tied together  People view the Rainbow Bouquet from Mathew Street.

5. Muscial Rainbow on Rushworths and Drapers in Whitechapel

Musical Rainbow at roof level on Rushworths & Drapers - Whitechapel Picture of Musical Rainbow from afar Musical Rainbow-view from left hand side

6. Rainbow Art on the back of the new Annex of The Walker Art - viewed from Gerrard Gardens

Two Pictures with rainbow Coloured Horizontal Stripes. Back of The Walker    A line of Pictures consisting of Rainbow Coloured Horizontal Stripes

7. Tube of Rainbow Paint on the China Town side of The Blackie 

Teh Rainbow tube of Paint being erected on the side of The Blackie        The Blackie with a Rainbow Paint Tube on the China Town of the building

The project was led by Judy Bates (now Gough) and Bill Harpe. The team included designers (to come up with the ideas ), engineers (to work out how to make the rainbows and most importantly ensure that they stayed up), makers (who actually created and painted the rainbows) and the erectors (those who put the rainbows up).  Of course being the Blackie many people did more than one job. Then there was all the back room work - getting permission to put the works up, getting the materials and tools, recruiting the people to make it happen, and organising publicity (made more difficult since we did not want anyone to know who was behind the Rainbows until the last one was up).

The team from the Blackie staff was Judy & Bill plus Martin Brems, Neil Johnson and Stevie Smith;  Blackie volunteers Hew Currie, Anne Riggleson, Liz Allen, Henrick Moller, Dominque Ohlssen, Hans Jensen, Pierrre Le Besco, Anne Jensen, Kevin Noh Rovens, John and Jimmy Klieve; and Blackie youngsters Tina Ignacio and Margaret McHale.  This team was joined by the sculptor Fred Bushe, community artist Pauline Kam, engineers Charles Stuart and John Proctor Harpe (Bill's dad), makers, painters and erectors, Ronnie Barker, Tessa Chisolm, George Eaton (Slim), Frank Murphy, John Szarkiewicz, Ted Sallinger and Ronnie Taylor. 

Sadly since the rainbows were mainly put up through the night we have only one picture of them being erected though we have photographic coverage of them all in place.  BBC North in Manchester filmed the first three Rainbows to be put up but we do not have the film. Nonetheless there was press coverage.