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Made of Iron celebrates Wirral's maritime heritage

Wirral’s Borough of Culture celebrations continue with a series of exhibitions and events exploring its key role in the UK’s shipbuilding industry.

Made of Iron comes as the borough is in the spotlight as the birthplace of one of the most advanced polar research vessels in the world – the RRS Sir David Attenborough which is currently being built at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead.

It was named in honour of the famous naturalist broadcaster after the favourite in a public vote, Boaty McBoatface, was turned down.

The Made of Iron season includes exhibitions, performances and cultural projects and aims to explore how Wirral-built ships have travelled the globe and reflect how shipbuilding changed the area.

Six Vessels is at the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum until September 22 and charts the stories behind half-a-dozen Wirral-built ships - the HMS Birkenhead, Ma Robert, CSS Alabama, HMT Leasowe Castle, HMS Ark Royal and RMS Mauretania.

Brian McCann’s musical Down Our Street will be performed at the Floral Pavilion from August 29 to September 1.

The show celebrates life in the Cammell Laird shipyard from the industrial revolution to the present day with drama, comedy and song.

And along with it being 80 years since the outbreak of the Second World War, this year also marks the 80th anniversary of the HMS Thetis submarine tragedy where 99 people lost their lives when the vessel sank just off Liverpool on June 1 1939 during sea trials.

The story will be brought to life in Close Enough to Touch at Birkenhead Priory, staged by Liverpool’s Royal Court.

Meanwhile A Community Made of Iron will see a digital archive of stories, photographs and artefacts being developed to capture the social history and experiences of workers, families and communities linked to Wirral’s shipbuilding and maritime heritage.

Anyone who would like to take part or nominate a friend or relative can contact to register their interest.

Lucy Barrow, Assistant Director for Culture & Visitor Economy at Wirral Council, said: “The role of shipbuilding in Wirral – past, present and future – is a fascinating story which we wanted to bring to the forefront in our Borough of Culture year.

"Our programme this year is all about discovery, exploration and the great outdoors, and Made of Iron really ties all those elements together.”

Tony Graham, Chief Operating Officer at Cammell Laird, added: “Wirral is the womb of over 1,000 iron ships. Cammell Laird is proud to be associated with the Six Vessels exhibition which tells an important story. A story that demonstrates that the Wirral people have iron in their genes.”

Painting: AJW Burgess & EF Skinner - Visit of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary to Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, 14 May 1917. Courtesy of Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Birkenhead; Wirral Museums Service

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