International Garden Festival

AIPH Liverpool 1984
BIE-class Horticultural exposition
Name International Garden Festival
Building Liverpool-Garden-Festival-Dome
Area 95 hectares (230 acres)
Visitors 3,380,000
Country United Kingdom
City Liverpool
Coordinates 53°22′21″N 2°57′21″W / 53.37250°N 2.95583°W / 53.37250; -2.95583
Opening 2 May 1984 (1984-05-02)
by Queen Elizabeth II
Closure 14 October 1984 (1984-10-14)
Horticultural expositions
Previous Internationale Gartenbauaustellung 83 in Munich
Next Expo '90 in Osaka
Specialized expositions
Previous 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville
Next Expo '85 in Tsukuba
Universal expositions
Previous Expo '70 in Osaka
Next Seville Expo '92 in Seville
Specialized 1984 Louisiana World Exposition
Dragon slide exhibit from the Garden Festival. This was designed by the winner of a competition on the Blue Peter TV show.
The Japanese Garden
Commemorative coffee mug from the festival, showing a cartoon Liver bird.

The International Garden Festival was a garden festival recognised by the International Association of Horticultural producers (AIPH)[1] and the Bureau of International Exhibitions and held in Liverpool, England from 2 May 1984 to 14 October 1984.[2] It was the first such event held in Britain, and became the model for several others held during the 1980s and early 1990s. The aim was to revitalise tourism and the city of Liverpool which had suffered cutbacks, and the idea came from Conservative Environment Minister Michael Heseltine. The festival was hugely popular, attracting 3,380,000 visitors.[3]

The Festival

The garden festival was held on a 950,000-square-metre (10,200,000 sq ft) derelict industrial site south of Herculaneum Dock, near the Dingle and overlooking the River Mersey. On this site was built sixty individual gardens,[4] including a Japanese garden and pagodas. A large exhibition space, the Festival Hall, formed the centrepiece of the site and housed numerous indoor exhibits.

Other attractions included a walk of fame, featuring numerous stars connected with Liverpool, and a light railway system (see below). Public artwork included the Yellow Submarine, a statue of John Lennon, a Blue Peter ship, the Wish You Were Here tourist sculpture, a red dragon slide, a large red bull sculpture[4] and Kissing Gate (by Alain Ayers).[5]

The Festival Railway

A 15 in (381 mm) gauge minimum gauge railway system provided transport around the site.[6] The light railway system consisted of a mainline providing transport links between a series of stations at key locations around the festival site, and a junction linking to a branch line. There were also extensive shed and workshop facilities. A considerable investment was made in the purchase of passenger coaches, and in the purchase and installation of permanent way. Additional passenger coaches (of the 20-seat 'teak' saloon type) were borrowed from the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent. The prohibitive cost of purchasing locomotives was avoided through the use of engines which were deemed 'spare' on other existing 15 in (381 mm) gauge minimum gauge railways, particularly the United Kingdom's two most extensive railways of this gauge, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. The cost of building and hiring passenger coaches was partly offset through sponsorship by the National Westminster Bank, whose name and logo was painted on the side of every coach. The visiting locomotives, leased coaches, and purpose-built passenger carriages provided the mainline service, whilst the branch line was operated on a shuttle basis by a 1970s-built diesel multiple unit railcar set (named Silver Jubilee) on loan from the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.

The Festival Site

The Festival Hall, once the focal point of the Garden Festival, shortly before demolition in 2006.[4]

Since the festival closed, the site has passed through the hands of a series of developers. From the late 1980s until its closure in 1996, the Festival Hall was used as the Pleasure Island amusement park.[7] Half of the site has since been turned into residential housing. The Festival Hall dome was demolished in late 2006.[4]

In November 2006 local companies Langtree and McLean announced plans for the site that will see more than 1,000 new homes built around the cleared dome area, as well as the restoration of the original gardens created for the festival in 1984.[8]

Festival Gardens

In September 2009 it was announced[9] that work would begin on redeveloping the site in November 2009, after the city council gave permission for work to begin.[10] The redevelopment would see the Chinese and Japanese gardens being restored, as well as the lakes and associated watercourses and the woodland sculpture trails.[9] Funding came from a range of sources, including the Northwest Regional Development Agency, who provided a £3.7million grant.[10] Redevelopment work began in February 2010

In 2012, Liverpool Festival Gardens finally reopened. The restored garden site had been due to re-open in September 2011, however, this was delayed until 2012 whilst a new landscape management contractor was found after the original contractor, Mayfield Construction, went into administration.[11] The garden site is now managed by The Land Trust.

The new restored site features:[12]

New Housing

In March 2013, the developers Langtree began work on the 1300 planned homes on the site, despite the earlier collapse of partner David McLean Homes.[10]


  1. AIPH Exhibitions, History retrieved 8 January 2011
  2. Mersey Reporter - History
  3. Horticultural Exhibitions: Liverpool, Bureau International des Expositions (International Exhibitions Bureau), retrieved 25 March 2005
  4. 1 2 3 4 Coslett, Paul (1 May 2009), International Garden Festival, BBC Liverpool, retrieved 10 July 2009
  5. "Liverpool Monuments: Kissing Gate (5)". Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  6. A large collection of photographs of the railway may be viewed here.
  7. Festival Gardens (PDF), Langtree McLean, retrieved 10 July 2009
  8. New plan for garden festival site, BBC News, 22 November 2006, retrieved 10 July 2009
  9. 1 2 Festival garden revamp to start, BBC News, 2009-09-21, retrieved 2009-09-22
  10. 1 2 3 Sharpe, Laura (2009-09-22), Work starts on Liverpool’s International Garden Festival site, Liverpool Echo, retrieved 2009-09-22
  11. Building Firm's Collapse Delays Garden Opening
  12. About Liverpool Festival Gardens

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 53°22′21″N 2°57′21″W / 53.37250°N 2.95583°W / 53.37250; -2.95583

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