Salvo's home that inspired Beatles hit 'Strawberry Fields Forever' launches global song contest

Can you write the next ‘Liverpool Song for Kindness’?

I was “today years old” – as the kids say – when I learned that the Beatles hit song Strawberry Fields Forever was inspired by the Salvation Army Strawberry Field children’s home in Liverpool, England.

No doubt, true Beatles fans already know this and are rolling their eyes at me. Bear with me, there’s new news for you, too!

Before today, it had never occurred to me that a physical location called the delightful-sounding ‘Strawberry Fields’ might exist in real life. I’d have believed it to be the place name of some location in a candy-coloured cartoon world. But not an actual place.

But Strawberry Field is a real place – a Salvation Army children’s home that operated from 1936 until 2005 in Woolton, Liverpool. Yes, the Beatles’ home town of Liverpool and, yes, I already knew that’s where they came from.

The Salvation Army still runs the revitalised centre, providing help to local young adults aged 18-25 who experience learning difficulties or other barriers to employment. Strawberry Field even has a structured Steps to Work program with classroom-based life skills learning, specialised training and work experience to help participants seek employment.

Oh, and there’s also a visitor centre for those people stopping by who actually know their Beatles history better than some others (ahem).

“Strawberry Fields is a real place.” – John Lennon

Apparently, Strawberry Field children’s home used to draw a young John Lennon to its gardens each year, when the Salvation Army Band lpayed at the home’s annual summer fete.

Lennon loved the experience so much that he referred to the home as his “paradise”.

“Strawberry Fields is a real place. After I stopped living at Penny Lane, I moved in with my auntie who lived in the suburbs in a nice semidetached place with a small garden and doctors and lawyers and that ilk living around …  Near that home was Strawberry Fields, a house near a boys’ reformatory where I used to go to garden parties as a kid with my friends Nigel and Pete. We would go there and hang out and sell lemonade bottles for a penny. We always had fun at Strawberry Fields,” Lennon said in a 1980 interview, saying that he used the real home as an image in the famous song he co-wrote years later with Paul McCartney.

Now, in a wonderful third chapter of this musical tale, Strawberry Field has launched a global song contest in search of “the next international song for kindness”.

Collaborating with global charity, as well as Liverpool City Council, The Cavern Club and Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, ‘The Liverpool Song for Kindness’ competition wants to give people something positive to think about in the “dark days, indeed” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it’s also a brilliant way for musicians to gain international exposure and maybe even win a prize.

“Music-making and, we hope, kindness is still at the heart of what we do and who we are as The Salvation Army,” said Major Kathy Versfeld, Mission Director at Strawberry Field.

“I would, therefore, challenge gifted and inspirational singer/songwriters across the world to have a go [and] enter The Liverpool Song for Kindness competition. Write a song birthed out of the heartache and hope you have experienced during this time of COVID-19, with words and music that will inspire and cause others to renew their faith in human kindness and the promise of better things to come.”

The contest was inspired by the message of the John Lennon song Imagine – a song often touted as an anthem for unity, peace and kindness (even as it invites listeners to “imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try”).

Contest organisers are hoping to find a song with a similar message of hope and optimism to Imagine.

Songs of any genre will be considered in ‘The Liverpool Song for Kindness’ contest, but the song must be an original piece submitted by the songwriter and performed by the songwriter or a nominated artist. To enter, songwriters and musicians can submit their track (video or audio) along with the song name, writer, performer, lyrics and where they are based via the competition’s online portal. Closing date for entries is July 31.

The top 50 entrants, as selected by the competition judges, will be announced on August 14 and the overall competition winner will be unveiled on October 9.

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