Sunday, 21 August 2011

20: St Mary of the Angels

A song by Tony Flanagan about a Catholic church which shut its doors, and the campaign to reopen it.

St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church was built in 1907 in the baroque style - a slice of Rome off Scotland Road, richly decorated with Italian marble carved by local Italian craftsmen. Much of the lavish interior was paid for by Amy Elizabeth Imrie (later known as Mother Clare Imrie of the Poor Clares after she became a nun), heiress to the White Star Shipping Line fortune.

In 2001 the Archdiocese of Liverpool shut the church as part of a programme of 'pastoral regeneration', and subsequently announced that it would never be reopened. In 2002 the Archdiocese had to be prevented from ripping out the interior decoration of the church by Liverpool City Council, and many locals campaigned long and hard for its reopening. Perhaps the most active and celebrated campaigner was parishoner Kay Kelly, who tied flowers to the gates of the church (as shown in the picture above) season after season as a sign of her hopes and prayers for the future of the church. She died last year. Tony Flanagan writes, "I wanted to leave a footprint in my songs of all the wonderful people that gave this city its character", and this song certainly shows the footprint of Kay Kelly, which is why I have included her photo above (from the Scottie Press website). Since 2009 the church has been used as a rehearsal space and education centre by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

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