interview with Jim Hughes (Manager of the Cavern Mecca and organiser of John Lennon Statue Appeal Fund) BREAKOUT Issue 6. Jan. 1982

For every flower that blooms there is a root and leaf system that supports and goes out far beyond what you would ever imagine…..It was the same for Merseybeat, the early eighties music boom in Liverpool and so on….a cast of unknown thousands that support and nurture a few blooming heads. Without them supporters, fans and backroom boys and girls nothing would happen!

And so it was with BREAKOUT fanzine……we played a very small but significant role in the overall picture of the early eighties music boom in Liverpool.

The scene was centred around a handful of venues, promoters and record shops all passionate about this new wave of music being produced……bands like The Icicle Works, Echo and The Bunnymen and Afraid of Mice were all flowers in the dirt looking to ‘breakout’ into the sunshine!

In 1981, less than a year after John Lennon was killed I interviewed Jim Hughes manager of the Cavern Mecca (Liverpool’s first ever Beatles Museum) about his campaign to erect a statue to John Lennon  in Mathew Street……The article was first published in BREAKOUT No. 6 Jan 1982.

BREAKOUT Fanzine....Issue 6 cover designed by Philip Battle

BREAKOUT Fanzine....Issue 6 cover designed by Philip Battle. Published Jan 1982

 The other side of the coin…..A tribute to John Lennon and an interview with Jim Hughes (Manager of the Cavern Mecca and organiser of John Lennon Statue Appeal Fund)

For over a year now, John Lennon has been dead. Killed on the streets of New York on 8th Dec. 1980. I got to know about the shooting at 6pm the following day. My uncle knocked on my bedroom door, woke me up, and said; “Lennon’s dead, Johnny Lennon’s dead.” The world fell apart. The ‘immortal’ John Lennon, the man I’d grown up with. The working class hero was dead.

I can remember a bus journey to town, the day after. Everybody seemed to be in a state of shock. The entire city appeared to shed a tear for John Lennon. Or maybe I was looking for something that was never there. Either way, it was one of the saddest journeys of my life.

Liverpool has done little since towards the memory of John Lennon and the Beatles. Apart from the Kensington Estate Street names, Arthur Dooley’s statue in Mathew Street, and the Cavern Mecca. There’s nothing! But things seem to be changing. With the announcement of a new Beatles Museum, The John Lennon Medical centre and other activities. I spoke to the manager of the Cavern Mecca, and organiser of the John Lennon statue appeal fund, Jim Hughes. The interview took place in November 1981. We talked about the Lennon statue:

Inside The Cavern Mecca 1981. Liverpool's fisrt ever Beatles Museum. Photo: Philip Battle

Inside The Cavern Mecca 1981. Liverpool's fisrt ever Beatles Museum. Photo: Philip Battle. Click on image to enlarge!

B’Out: What’s the point of a Lennon Statue?

Jim: The John Lennon statue was made by a local sculptor Alan Curran. He worked on it for 9 months, day and night. He made it in his living room, and he had to go through the ceiling, into the bedroom, because it was too big. This is how dedicated he was, he made a hole in the ceiling. It was just something he felt he had to do, when John died. Statues for me, I always feel, are for dead people. You know, for kings and queens. John’s gone now , and it seems more tangible to have a statue to John, then one to the Beatles. We just offered to fund raise for the statue, because we were more in a position to do so than Alan. Because we have the contacts.  

B’Out: Where’s it going to be situated?

Jim: Well it’s up to Alan Curran really. But then again, it’s up to the city council. Alan would like it in Mathew Street.

Cavern Mecca Beatles Museum 1981. Photo: Philip Battle

Cavern Mecca Beatles Museum 1981. Photo: Philip Battle

B’Out: What do the council think of it?

Jim: We don’t really know yet: But the thing is, we’re hoping to get the statue up for John’s birthday, next year (1982) October 9th. The problem with the Beatles statue is that no one has really seen it, whereas Alan has already made the Lennon statue. It’s there. Whereas the Beatles statue doesn’t really exist. Alan’s spent something like £1000 out of his own pocket to make the mould. Which shows how genuine he is.

B’Out: How much money do you need?

Jim: We had an estimate from a foundry. About £10,000 which includes delivery, and another £1,000 to make the plinth.

B’Out: Do you think the people of Merseyside will appreciate it?

Jim: I think the majority of people will. Obviously there will be people who will say, Why should we have a statue for John Lennon?: John Lennon was so important to Liverpool. There’s got to be a statue for him. I mean there’s one in LA you know. We heard it cost £35,000 and it’s only 7 foot high! It was paid for by the council in Los Angeles and the Mayor had a civic reception for it, it was unveiled on John’s birthday, 1981.

B’Out: Do you think the city council should do something?

Jim: It’s a difficult time at the moment, and councillors are answerable to the ratepayers. So they can’t go spending their money any way they wish. But in Liverpool there’s always been an anti-Beatles thing. They say the Beatles left Liverpool in 1964. They did nothing for Liverpool once they became famous. Which is a stupid thing to say. The Beatles did a lot for Liverpool. They put Liverpool on the map!

Inside The Cavern Mecca Beatles Museum, 18 Mathew Street, Liverpool 1981. Photo: Philip Battle

Inside The Cavern Mecca Beatles Museum, 18 Mathew Street, Liverpool 1981. Photo: Philip Battle

B’Out: Any special point you would like to make?

Jim: Well I’d like to say, that it’s nice when people like you come along. It shows that there’s an interest in Liverpool. Not all of Liverpool is like the city council. It’s the people of Liverpool that counts, not these people who sit in their little offices and write notes!

This article appeared on page 22 and 23 of BREAKOUT Fanzine….Issue No. 6 Jan. 1982 written and interviewed by Philip Battle.

Do you remember where you were…..what you were doing when you heard that John Lennon had been shot? I’d be interested in hearing from you…..please feel free to leave your comments!

Also does anybody know what happened to the Alan Curran statue of Lennon?

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10 thoughts on “interview with Jim Hughes (Manager of the Cavern Mecca and organiser of John Lennon Statue Appeal Fund) BREAKOUT Issue 6. Jan. 1982

  1. Jim Hughes on said:

    Hi Phil, How are you doing?. As you probably know I closed down Cavern Mecca in 1984 after Liz suffered a major heart attack. Liz was in hospital when I closed down Cavern Mecca, she went bananas, she would have carried on regardless of her poor health, it was her baby. I decided Liz was more important than Cavern Mecca and knew there would be others to keep things going. We met some great people including Paul McCartney, he had a plaque made specially for us, it’s all I own now including some great photos with Paul. My other favourite was Victor Spinetti, a wonderful funny individual. Liz died on 26th. June 2008, two years today. We wanted Liverpool to recognize it’s 4 sons and be proud of them not ashamed as they told us they were. Things have changed in Liverpool now, it’s like a different city, dare I say Beatle City or is that a step too far. I donated all of the Cavern Mecca material to the Liverpool Records Office where they can be viewed by anyone.
    From the banks of the River Mersey I wish you all the best and thank you for your wonderful piece even though it’s 30 years late.
    All the best,
    Jim
    P.S. I believe the Allen Curran statue is in Central Park, New York. Allen died a few years ago.

  2. Hi Jim…..it’s good to hear from you. I was only in my early twenties when I wrote this article, but even then I could see that you and Liz where true pioneers.

    The city of Liverpool is indeed a much different place. In the early eighties you were swimming against the tide of indifference and even hostility towards anything ‘Beatles’ related.

    I might be wrong but I even remember one councillor saying something like “we don’t want no shrine to a bunch of drug taking hippies!” The anti Beatles thing was everywhere and even permutated through the local music scene where bands would go into bulk at the thought of citing the Beatles as an influence!

    I remember when I suggested that we ‘do a feature on Cavern Mecca’ nobody except myself was over enthusiastic about it….But that was the thing about BREAKOUT we just did our own thing and came together to publish it.

    That article WAS published in 1981 but only 1000 copies were made and sold locally.
    I’m so sorry to hear about Liz and Allen…..there is always a ‘back beat’ to everything and sometimes we need to hear it to put things into perspective.

    I too met Paul McCartney a few years ago……he even gave us some money to help fund our festival of Street Art and his brother Mike came along as a judge!

    They are good lads the McCartney’s quietly supporting stuff without recognition or asking for anything in return…..the truth is they don’t need to do it but they do out of a genuine love for the city and the people of Liverpool.

    Good to hear from you again Jim and take care.

    Best Wishes
    Philip

  3. julie sudbury on said:

    Hi Phil
    could you please contact me. I was a member of Cavern Mecca and at the moment at the early stages of trying to form a reunion for all its old members. I am trying to get in contact with Jim Hughes and think you could help me thanks and take care
    Julie x

  4. angela clarke on said:

    Hi phil, this is in response to julie sudburys posting.
    I to was a member of cavern mecca in the early eighties, and would be interested in hearing about any reunion.
    thanks
    ange

  5. Jim Hughes on said:

    I would just like to say what an amazing thing Julie Sudbury is doing in organizing the Cavern Mecca Reunion. It’ something I should be doing but my health is not good and I can’t thank Julie and Trish (for her amazing photos) for all they are doing. The Reunion is on Liz’ birthday 5/11/2011 at our old premises above Flanagans, Mathew Street. More info. on Facebook under Cavern Mecca. Best wishes, Jim Hughes

  6. Hi Jim/Julie/Angela….many thanks for your comments. It’s great to see that a Cavern Mecca Reunion will be happening, all credit to Julie for having the energy and foresight to make it happen…..I’m looking forward to attending in November, I have emailed Julie a number of times but have had no reply…..perhaps they’ve gone into her spam box???
    If Julie could email me I can pass on her details to the McCartney brothers…..perhaps they would like to attend??? *@*

  7. Hy there,
    its so interesting to read those lines and comments. I`m from germany and most time of my life I gladly lived in Hamburg. All the time when I hear something in relation to the Beatles I try to go or to drive there. You were asking for the situation by Johns dead. I remember exactly what I felt and have done that day, because its so heavy and shocking and also kind of mind-blowing.
    I was dreaming the night before of exactly five shots, that hitted me. Think about the time-zone. In my dream – and I remember this as it would happened last night – I`ve seen a pistol aiming me dircecty in front of me and shooting. If I was a painter, I`d love to fix this situation on a picture.

    I have to explain, that I lived in the 5th floor and in my dream I was looking out of an window to a big playground behind our house as this pistol directly fixed me. Hard to explain.

    I remember when I woke up, I was so horrified, slinked into the bathroom for a shower. I was alone, cause my mother already went for work.
    So I had nobody to talk to about my dream.
    Than later, I turned up the radio and – as every day – I wanted to have breakfast and so on. I had to go to school, you know.
    And than I heard those words spoken I never will forget. As Im writing those lines, again I have tears in my eyes.
    I can`t remember exactly, how I had the power to go to school and what I did. Some days after I lived like in a bad, bad dream and nobody took care or had some nice words. Nobody understood how I could feel sadness “just because of” a singer of an Ex-Band died.

    In all those years I had to learn, that everytime a person – I`m related with in any way (just love that one in any way) dies, I`m feeling it. Damned, I hardly feel it. Also as George died, I felt it exactly the minutes it happened.
    For some of you this might be frightening – even sometimes for me – but I`m also thankful.

    So this was my story. I had some problems with translation – sorry for that. Hope you like it :)
    Btw. I was looking for some information about Alen Curran, so I found your page..
    I also have some informations the sculpture is in Washington DC. Have a look, hope you`re searching this one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garypsmith/5776328486/

    I was looking for a smaller version I heard of and I want to buy it. Still a Beatles Fan – and yeah, all my life will be filled with them. :)
    All the best and many greetings a few kilometers away from Hamburg. Visit it, its so full of Beatles-stuff and locations.
    Bye

  8. I attended the reunion last night, and it was great. Loads of live music and dancing. A big thank you to Julie Sudbury for organising the event, great to see Jim Hughes there, who wrote a very touching letter about his late wife.

    Cine film I shot in the Cavern Mecca in 1981 is on YouTube, see link.

  9. Another very insightful article…cheers

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