Levelling up the North is about far more than just a new Beatles museum - Anthony Clavane

The Government’s plan to scrap the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds and downgrade Northern Powerhouse Rail appears to have derailed its hugely-hyped “levelling up” agenda.

This statue of the Beatles which stands outside the Liver Building at Liverpool was unveiled in 2016. (Getty Images).

Never mind. Rishi Sunak is giving the city of Liverpool £2million to investigate acquiring another Beatles museum.

So, we’re back on track again. That will keep the northern hordes happy. That will demonstrate the Chancellor’s determination to reduce regional inequalities.

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I’m sorry, but the last thing Liverpool, the North – and the world – needs right now is another Beatles museum.

And, I should add, the last thing we all need at the moment is another Beatles film. For today sees the release of The Beatles: Get Back. Or, rather,

part one of Peter Jackson’s hugely-hyped six-hour documentary about the iconic band.

Before we go any further, it should be noted that I’m a huge fan of the moptops. They redefined popular music. They shook the world. They were, in short, fab.

And I’m not, in principle, against a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into their creative processes back in the day. Especially if that day happens to be a cold January one, in 1969, when John, Paul, George and Ringo (and keyboardist Billy Preston) blasted out their beautiful music into central London during an impromptu rooftop concert.

I’m also, I’ll admit, intrigued to discover how the infamous tensions during rehearsals contributed to splitting up the world’s greatest ever popular beat combo.

Who broke up the band? Was it Paul McCartney’s ego? New manager Allen Klein’s duplicity? Yoko Ono having the temerity to sit in front of Paul’s amp? George’s frustrations with Macca? Ringo’s insecurities? John’s alleged drug addiction?

The split eventually took place in April 1970 and, reported a breathless CBS News crew from America, “it was so momentous that historians may, one day, view it as a landmark in the decline of the British Empire.

Fifty years on, however, it’s no longer that big a deal. They came, they saw, they conquered. Then, after a decade of dominance, they split up. A good innings, really.

The original Michael Lindsay-Hogg 1970 documentary Let It Be, which has been recut by Jackson, has earned its deserved place in Beatles scholarship and fandom.

Was there really any need for the Lord of the Rings director to wade through 55 hours of unseen footage to make a documentary about a documentary about the final year of The Fabs?

The word “overkill” springs to mind. Fifty years on, why are we all still so obsessed with this group? Their marketing machine hasn’t had a break since Lennon declared, in the song God: “The dream is over.”

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In the run-up to this Christmas, for example, alongside Jackson’s Disney+ docuseries, you can buy a Get Back book, the Let It Be album and boxset and two volumes of McCartney’s lyrics.

The Government, of course, likes nothing better than jumping on a cultural bandwagon. Whether it’s Peppa Pig or Adele, Boris Johnson never misses an opportunity to namecheck a homemade global phenomenon.

In a bizarre, rambling speech to the CBI a few days ago, the prime minister described Peppa Pig World as “very much my kind of place”, insisting that it exemplified “the power of UK creativity”.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries made pretty much the same argument when welcoming Sunak’s announcement on the Beatles museum (although, and you can call me old-fashioned, I prefer the days when soft power was boosted by sublime songwriting rather than a cartoon porker). According to the Tory minister, the Beatles story “personifies” the Government’s levelling-up agenda.

“They came from humble backgrounds in Liverpool and went on to be the most important band in history,” she said.

To which McCartney himself responded: “I think they could spend the money on something else.”

Indeed. What about investing in existing arts venues, museums and galleries? Or creating new grassroot venues, reopening youth centres and boosting arts education?

Liverpool boasts a plethora of Beatles attractions, with two museums already dedicated to The Fab Four, a Beatles Week festival and myriad bus and boat tours.

Then there is the Casbah Coffee Club, the Strawberry Fields Centre, the Hard Day’s Night hotel, the Yellow Submarine boat...

Once again, the word “overkill” springs to mind.