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Still Lives: Phil Hayes

Snapper Stephanie de Leng gives Confidential another exclusive take on the people who populate Liverpool and the story behind the portrait

Published on January 12th 2009.

Still Lives: Phil Hayes

MY friend Tim Brunsden emailed me about Phil Hayes: “I think you should take his photo,” he wrote. “He is a positive force in Liverpool and good to know.” Intrigued, I googled Mr Hayes and found out the following:

“Phil is the driving force behind The Picket, one of Liverpool’s most iconic music venues. In 2004 it was forced to close when its Hardman Street home was sold to developers. Luckily, Phil found a converted warehouse in the up-and-coming area around Cain’s brewery, trendily called Liverpool Independent Cultural District, and it is here that the spirit of the original venue is continuing under his auspicious and dedicated leadership.”

Well, enough said about that. It could be a PR release. I emailed Phil and we arranged a “pre-shoot” during a band rehearsal. Never having met him before, I prefer to cover myself with a “pre-shoot” clause in case I mess up (and mess up I do).

Liverpool’s ICD is a motley assortment of bland industrial units whose streets remind me of the line from Adrian Henri’s Liverpool 8 poem: “now a wasteland murdered by planners not German bombers”.

In between a cacophony of prefabricated structures, the history of Liverpool hangs dankly in the air, on yellow bricks and crumbling stones. Cains Brewery was billowing out smoke that day, pulsing forward into the blue June sky, a sign that all had not passed - yet. The skeleton of a modern and extremely ugly apartment block dominated the skyline. The shape of things to come. Someone told me that its design had actually won an award.

Apart from this, only the weeds appear to be thriving, growing out of broken cast iron drainpipes and cracked lintels, upwards towards the blue.

Of The New Picket we could find no trace. I called Tim. “It is on a corner, somewhere near Greenland Street. He hasn’t got a board up yet”. So we drove around some more. On our final slow crawl we found the building - shuttered. Phil had forgotten.

He eventually sent me an apology by email, but I was riding the proverbial high horse and so never replied.

Some months passed and I found myself at the opening of “The Beat Goes On” at The Liverpool World Museum. Very interesting too, it was, and quite a number of the people depicted in wall posters were standing around in the real flesh. Echo and The Bunnymen, The Zutons, that guy from Cream.

It did not go unnoticed by me that many of these same were rather inebriated too. I don’t know what they were on, but surely it was not that lukewarm sparkly stuff I had been offered? In no way am I suggesting that anything untoward was afoot, just that there was another party in (com)motion somewhere that I had not been invited to.

It was as I was studying Billy Fury’s guitar, that I heard, “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” I beg your pardon?

Looking around I came face to face with none other than Phil Hayes. It’s Bob Dylan, he muttered. Never mind Bob Dylan, Phil was rather the worse for wear. How did I recognise him? From Tim’s “Liverpool Story” on him. No mistaking.

You stood me up, I told him, and I was supposed to have taken your photo. Swaying uncertainly, he peered at me, and then said, “You were?”

Around noon next day Phil called and apologised for being drunk. I was impressed. We are all entitled to be rat-arsed from time to time. Also, forgetting an appointment is not the crime of the century. Being on a high horse is not an admirable trait.

Soon after I did the real thing, and, by then, the exterior wall of the New Picket boasted a magnificent Irish mural. It was the perfect background for Phil’s green-blue eyes and highly coloured tattoos. Phil and I had a good talk, about life, his love of Shakespeare, and drugs in the music industry. And of course, Bob Dylan.

*To find out more about The New Picket visit www.savethepicket.com

*Stephanie's first book, People in Liverpool, £19.99, is available from Waterstones, Liverpool, or directly through www.stephaniedeleng.co.uk

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DigNovember 12th 2008.

Nice guy Phil. Good taste in cars too. If you read this Phil I will get my mates demo to you as soon as it's recorded with his new band.

Mr JonesNovember 12th 2008.

Cool article - love the photo too.

ticklerNovember 12th 2008.

This comment has been deemed inappropriate by editorial staff, and has been removed.

DigNovember 12th 2008.

Too late Nice Guy Phil. My Musical Saw Orchestra are supporting The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain & I'm currently in discussions with The Phil to replace Vasily and the RLPO. Nice to hear from you again Prof by the way. It has been a while.

Stan Colliemore's LassieNovember 12th 2008.

I beg to differ. The Otterspool carpark shenanagins have always been dogged

Nice Guy PhilNovember 12th 2008.

Dig thanks for the demo tape. In spite of the popularity of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, I am not sure that there is really a market out there for a Musical Saw Orchestra and to be frank, "Danny Boy" was not the best choice for a cover and you could hear the swearing when one of them tried for the top not and the saw slipped, slapping them in the face. A bit more work needed. Good luck and thanks again

Nice Guy ThrillNovember 12th 2008.

Either way you still have the chance to see somebody waving their baton about.I am very fond of the French Horn.

Nice Guy DrillNovember 12th 2008.

Rex, you know fine well it wasn't sonsored by Rapid it was Taskers. And it was part of the Sir Henry Wood Otterspool promenade concerts with a guest appearance by Justin Timberland singing hits by the Carpenters, Formica Jackson's Driller.

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