The Salvation Army’s UK leader officially opens the new Strawberry Field centre


12th November, 2019

LIVERPOOL, UK, NOVEMBER 12, 2019 – The Salvation Army’s UK leader, Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, will officially open the new Strawberry Field training hub and visitors centre with a special ceremony of dedication and worship.

Strawberry Field, the iconic site immortalised in The Beatles hit ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, welcomed the public beyond the famous red gates for the first time in the summer. The new Strawberry Field centre has proved popular, with over 40,000 Beatles fans visiting in the first few months of opening.

The official opening ceremony was led by Mission Director, Major Kathy Versfeld and followed a format of prayers, bible readings, thanksgiving speeches and hymns. There was also a presentation from the Steps to Work trainees; an opportunity for them to share with the 300 guests, how they have been transformed by the programme so far.

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill said,

“Already we are seeing through the Steps to Work programme, trainees and staff having their lives transformed by hope and love through social justice and inclusion. Already we are seeing intentional, genuine hospitality embracing and transforming the lives of guests who visit the centre and café. Already we are seeing transformation taking place in the lives of people who are enjoying a new or fresh expression of the story of God as it is lived out and shared by His people.

We thank God for these early indications of transformation but believe there is so much more to come especially now that we have finally arrived at the official opening and blessing of this remarkable place.”

A ribbon cutting and the unveiling of an official Salvation Army commemorative plaque by Commissioner Anthony Cotterill followed the official Salvation Army dedication ceremony. Guests in attendance on the day included a number of special guests from The Salvation Army, Liverpool City Region and friends of Strawberry Field. Musical entertainment was provided by The Salvation Army brass band, The Liverpool Signing Choir and Gyaan Lyon, a young man from Salford who has overcome barriers of his own due to a physical disability and is now a successful singer.

Gyaan said,

“My parents were told when I was born that I may never speak due to the brain damage to the language hemisphere of my brain. With their love and support, I now speak three languages fluently and have an MSc in European Public Policy from UCL—but since then, I have discovered my real passion, which is singing and now I can’t stop! 

Singing at the inaugural event of Strawberry Fields is a tremendous honour. One of my overarching aims is to inspire the general public to see that disabled people are capable of achieving the same degree of professional skill as any abled body person can. As the Fabulous Four so wisely taught us, “all [we] need is love" and "a little help from our friends.””

The world famous Strawberry Field, immortalised by John Lennon and The Beatles, opened its iconic red gates for good in September 2019 thanks to The Salvation Army. The site was gifted to The Salvation Army in 1934 and the organisation opened the site as a children’s home in 1936. For nearly 70 years the site supported some of Liverpool’s most vulnerable children until it closed in 2005. The new mission expression at Strawberry Field continues this legacy with a number of initiatives, the primary being the Steps to Work programme. The Salvation Army funded half of the capital campaign for the new site with the other half raised through generous donations and funding. Now that the centre has opened, it aims to be self-sufficient, with all proceeds from the café, shop and visitor exhibition going directly back in to fund the programme.

The Steps to Work programme reaches out to young adults aged 18-25 with learning difficulties and other barriers to employment through a comprehensive and supportive 15-month programme. The dedicated team adopt a person centred approach, with each trainee receiving support from their own personal work coach and placements selected based on the job aspirations of each individual on the programme.

The programme and other services housed at the new Strawberry Field will offer solutions to some of the challenges faced by members of the local community. There is a ‘talking table’ in the café, which aims to create a safe space to socialise and build community. With a ‘suspended coffee’ initiative, visitors are invited to purchase a coffee to be ‘suspended’ and redeemed later that day by those who may be vulnerable in the local community.

For more information on the project and how you can be involved, visit www.strawberryfieldliverpool.com

“The plan to open Strawberry Field to the public for the first time - so people can see a unique exhibition about the home, how and why the song was written by John, and allow visitors to explore the grounds as John did as a child - is very exciting.”

Lady Judy Martin OBE