"Let me take you down 'cause I'm going to... Strawberry Fields," John Lennon sang in the Beatles 1967 hit. Now fans can follow in his footsteps as the Strawberry Field children's home that inspired the song has reopened as a tourist attraction and youth training centre for people with disabilities.
John Lennon spent much of his childhood hiding out in the grounds of Strawberry Field in his hometown of Woolton, Liverpool, climbing over the walls to play hide-and-seek in the gardens. The Salvation Army-ran school was immortalised by the Beatles in the 1967 song Strawberry Fields (Lennon pluralised it with an 's') and the grounds became a landmark for Beatles fans (who were only able to peek through the red gates and into the gardens). Now, 70 years after Strawberry Field closed down, its famous gates have opened to the public as a tourist attraction and youth training centre to "inspire future generations."
The newly-built centre includes a café, calm garden spaces and attractions like the interactive 'Strawberry Fields Nothing is Real' exhibition, which tells the story of Lennon's life through childhood, adulthood and songwriting. There are video interviews with the rest of the Beatles and Lennon's half-sister Julia Baird, who's also the honorary president of the centre. Areas of the centre will also provide training for 18 to 25-year-olds with mild to moderate learning disabilities, as well as teaching them life skills and social inclusion.
Speaking to the BBC, Baird said Lennon would have loved the project and she hopes that her brother would provide inspiration for future generations. "I think he would have loved it because he himself was not mainstream and was very aware of it. Hopefully they realise that one of the greatest rock icons, music icons, on the planet was also not mainstream."
The Salvation Army’s Anthony Cotterill added: "John Lennon found sanctuary here as a child and that’s exactly what we want to offer by opening the Strawberry Field gates for good."
Strawberry Field is open to the public now. An adult ticket costs £12.95 (US$16), a child ticket costs £8 (US$10) and drivers and carers can enter for free. See here for more details.