Merseyside maisonettes

Paul McCartney has come far since leaving 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool 8. Now it's open to the public.
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The Independent Culture
MY DESIRE is always to be ...

In a perfect world, Paul McCartney would have been brought up in Penny Lane. In fact his teenage home, where he moved at age 13 in 1955, was a modest terraced house at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool 8. When Paul left home in 1964, at the age of 22, the house was occupied by another tenant who remained in the property for 31 years before she sold it to the National Trust.

His old home opens to the public on 29 July. It could hardly be said to be on a long and winding road, though: the house is in a quiet residential area of Allerton, just off Martha Avenue, a leafy, wide road east of the city centre. Influenced by his father, Jim McCartney, who used to play the trumpet in his own ensemble, Jim Mac's Band, Paul spent hours playing his guitar and singing.

The house is now being renovated and given the retro treatment, back to its original Fifties feel. The double glazing will be replaced with the original windows, and internal fittings such as doors will also be changed. Although none of the original furniture that belonged to the McCartney family remains, the National Trust is hoping to match the contents of what was there, working from the advice of Mike McCartney, Paul's younger brother. It could be like yesterday.

This is an opportunity to see memorabilia and photographs recording the history of Paul's family life, which have never been on view to the public before. The family's private moments and Paul's life up until 1964 are dealt with, all captured by the hand of his younger brother Mike.

Most visitors will probably be more interested in the days of singing and playing with the Quarrymen, which he first came across in 1956 at an outdoor party at Woolton Parish Church; early rehearsals with John, en route to becoming the greatest songwriting partnership of the 20th century; and on until after they'd made their first professional recordings with Tony Sheridan on the Polydor label, as the Beatles.

An audio tour will also be available at the house, narrated by the Beatles' biographer, Hunter Davies.

Tours will run on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until 31 October, and then throughout November and December on Saturdays only. Bookings open next Wednesday (0151-486 4006); planning regulations mean a strict limit on the number of visitors allowed each year. The cost of your ticket - pounds 4.50 for adults, pounds 2.50 for children, pounds 1.50 for National Trust members - goes towards the cost of restoration, employing a resident custodian in the McCartney home, and running a minibus service from Speke Hall, a nearby stately home that is also run by the National Trust. The aim is to minimise the impact on other residents, and this will be the only way to get access to the McCartney home.

The first tour will depart by minibus from Speke Hall at noon. It is hoped that there will be six tours a day, with the last one departing at 4pm.There is no direct access for cars. Get a cup of tea or other refreshment at Speke Hall, where the trip begins.

Souvenirs of your visit will also be on sale there. The price includes entrance to the gardens and grounds of Speke Hall.

In the city of Liverpool itself it is also possible to go on the Beatles Magical Mystery bus tour, which runs everyday from Albert Dock at 2.20 p.m. or the Welcome Centre in Clayton Square at 2.30 p.m. These have to be booked with Liverpool Merseyside Tourist Information Office on 0151- 709 3631, price pounds 8.95. The tour includes Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and the houses they lived in.

There is also a walk-through exhibition of the Beatles story at Albert Dock, which opens every day from 10am until 6pm (last admission 5pm), price pounds 5.95.

The Beatles Convention takes place over the August Bank Holiday from 26 August to 1 September; you can book through Cavern City Tours on 0151- 236 9091.The festival is in its 15th year and usually attracts crowds of more than 100,000 people. There will be at least 130 bands playing on 30 different stages, some in the city centre and others in local pubs and clubs, plus many other events including: a garden party at Strawberry Fields. The Matthews Street Festival which runs on the final Monday is free.

The new Albert Dock youth hostel in Liverpool should be taking its first guests in a month's time. It is ultra-luxurious by the standards of most youth hostels, and the price for adults will be pounds 15.50 including breakfast.