Both FACT and Liverpool BID were approached by the public on social media, requesting action for the ship's preservation after it was removed from a former antiques shop on Bold Street in September, where it had been on display for the past 30 years.
Following a successful telephone bid at a city auction a couple of weeks ago, the one off hand-made piece is to be displayed in the foyer at FACT, before going on tour around Liverpool city centre. The Shell Boat will be unveiled at FACT on 27 October.
Although nobody knows who built the ship or why it was created, it has become a beloved cultural artefact with strong ties to Bold Street’s identity and history. If you know anything about the boat or it's origins, we'd love to hear from you.
The importance of saving the Shell Ship is being highlighted during our current exhibition Lesions in the Landscape (open until 22 November) by Shona Illingworth, which explores identity, memory and place. The exhibition depicts the devastating effects of amnesia on one woman and the striking parallels with the sudden evacuation of the inhabitants of the island St Kilda in the North Atlantic in 1930, highlighting the similarities between how our cultural and individual identities are formed and affected by our surroundings. Other than being the home of the Shell Ship, 130 Bold Street was also the birthplace of Sebastian Ferranti - a pioneer in electrical distribution and the inventor of the national grid. Ferranti was born in 1864, at a time when the antiques shop was a photo studio.
Michael Doran, Communications Manager at Liverpool BID Company, which represents the businesses on Bold Street, said: “Once we saw that the Shell Ship had been sent to auction we felt compelled to intervene. It’s one of the icons of Bold Street and to lose it would be to lose something of the eclectic spirit which makes the street so special. Once we saw FACT was thinking the same way and that it fitted brilliantly with their exhibition, it felt fated. The public reaction just reaffirmed our instincts and we were delighted when we put the final bid in and the auctioneer shouted ‘sold’!’’
FACT’s Director Mike Stubbs says: “It made sense for us to save the ship as we recognize the importance to invest in the heritage and local memory of Bold Street and the Ropewalks area, and the ship itself is an artefact with a large significance for Liverpool’s cultural identity. It reminds us of the strong post war hobbyism and the independent maker culture which we now can see in its renaissance at FACT; both demonstrated in the recent the Build Your Own exhibition, which presented works by Turner Prize nominated architecture collective Assemble, as well as in our experimental workshop FACTLab. We are very happy to be able to display the ship, and hope that people will take the opportunity to stop by to take a closer look at it!”
The ship will be unveiled at FACT tomorrow, at 10am. Please get in touch if you'd like to share your stories or memories about this local artefact.