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Music

The reason why no phones or cameras are allowed in Paul McCartney’s childhood home

In 1995, the British National Trust bought Paul McCartney’s childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool. According to Craig Brown, the author of 150 Glimpses of The Beatles, the purchase came after the then director-general of the BBC, John Birt, who was also from Liverpool, suggested the trust buy the property as a means of preserving the site and offering a site of historical interest to the public. The National Trust subsequently also bought John Lennon’s childhood home in Menlove Avenue in 2002.

At the time, the National Trust’s curator, Tim Knox, opposed the purchases because the “usual criterion for taking on property—that the building should have intrinsic artistic merit—had, he felt, been abandoned in pursuit of shabby populism.” His views were generally echoed by locals and fans alike who argued that the properties held very little unique value. 

The properties had changed hands many times since the early 1960s when the Beatles had said their final farewells to them. Naturally, by the 1990s, the properties had changed considerably inside and McCartney’s had even had all of the windows replaced. The National Trust decided to decorate the interior of the property to recapture the original aesthetic of the buildings as they would have been in the 1950s and ‘60s. They even swapped windows with the house across the street from McCartney’s old house to recapture the original look for the building.

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Despite the partial fabrication, the houses have now become tourist hotspots for avid Beatles fans on pilgrimage. But some visitors have been a little upset by the photography rules in McCartney’s old house. Craig Brown wrote in his book about his experience being shown around the house.

“Our National Trust guide introduced herself as Sylvia,” Brown writes. “She conducts 12,000 people a year around Paul’s childhood home, twenty at a go, four times a day… ‘This,’ she said, was where Paul lived for eight years… ‘By the time Paul left here, it was right at the end of 1963’”. 

The guide had begun to talk the group through more of McCartney’s time spent in the property until she suddenly froze and approached someone she thought was recording her. Brown explained that he had initially been worried it was him she was reprimanding as he had also been recording. The guide proceeded to remind the congregation that photos were only permitted for the front of the building.

“Sylvia warned us that we were not allowed to take photographs in the house or the back garden,” Brown continued. “‘There’s a special reason here. You’ll see inside we’ve got Mike McCartney, Paul’s younger brother’s, copyright photographs all around the house. It’s lovely to have them. And you’ll enjoy them. But he’d take them away if people had photographs of them.’”

Adding: “‘So if when you come in you could hand me your bags and cameras, and if you’ve got a mobile phone, can you switch it off and hand it in, so we don’t want to see mobile phones in your pockets.’ With that, Sylvia ushered us inside. Everyone lined up to give her their phones and cameras, as though crossing the border of a particularly nervy country. She then locked them all in a cupboard under the stairs.”

Paul’s younger brother Mike McCartney is a photographer and visual artist, but he also used to make music. Of course, his career was somewhat dwarfed by his brother’s success with the biggest band of all time, but he had reasonable success with his comedy music group The Scaffold, who even enjoyed a Christmas number one hit in 1968 with their song ‘Lily the Pink’.

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