Unlocking the Lock Up

A new play is giving people the chance to relive the history, myths and legends of an extraordinary place in the heart of Everton.

The 235-year-old Lock-Up, known locally as Prince Rupert’s Castle, is a famous landmark in Everton Park, looking down across the community from its prominent position on a triangular piece of ground between Netherfield Road South and Everton Brow.

It is also an icon which features prominently on Everton FC’s crest.

Now, a special play, ‘The Heart of Everton’s badge’, written by local musician Kenny O’Connell, will tell the stories of hardship, love, passion and triumph which have helped make the Lock Up such a powerful, enduring symbol for both the football club and for local people.

The play comes to the Capstone Theatre, Shaw Street, on 4 February; and The People’s Club Lounge, Goodison Park, on 7 February. The Friends of Everton Park and the football club are partners on the project, which also has the full support of Liverpool City Council.

It came to fruition after an Arts Council England grant was secured, with the storyline inspired by the work of the Friends of the park in creating a local Heritage Trail. The trail features 13 sites along Everton Ridge, three of which are directly linked to Everton FC and the birth of big-time football in the city.

Heart of Everton's Badge - Old Lock-Up2

The fledgling club took the landmark decision to change its name from St Domingo’s to Everton FC at a meeting in the Queen’s Head Hotel in Everton Village in 1879. The Lock-Up Tower, originally built to hold anyone disturbing the peace in the village, soon became the instantly recognisable symbol of the football club.

Everton FC’s nickname, ‘The Toffees’, is linked with Molly Bushell’s world famous Toffee Shop that formerly stood adjacent to the tower and attracted patrons like Queen Victoria and novelist Charles Dickens.

The play’s characters include legendary local figures, such as Molly, immortal Blues goalscorer, ‘Dixie’ Dean and Bessie Braddock MP.

Kenny, who grew up within sight of the tower, uses his production to take audiences on a walk through the history, myths and legends which helped shape the area, all seen through the eyes of the proud Lock Up, which still looks magnificent after standing on Everton Brow for over two centuries.

It’s looking better than ever at the moment, following a 2013 clean-up programme by the city council last year. And there will be more announcements coming shortly about a new project which guarantees that local people will soon be seeing the Lock Up in a whole new light…

• Tickets for the inaugural performance of ‘The Heart of Everton’s Badge’ at Hope University’s Capstone Theatre on Tuesday 4 February, at 8pm are £10 each. They are available from www.ticketquarter.co.uk, where tickets can also be obtained for a performance at The People’s Lounge, Goodison Park on Friday 7 February at 8pm.