Liverpool has succeeded in luring back one of its most famous sons, Paul McCartney (pictured), to take part in its programme of activities as the European Capital of Culture for 2008 (See News, 4 Jun 2003). McCartney will headline “The Liverpool Sound” concert at Anfield Stadium on 1 June 2008, while fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics will feature in Liverpool The Musical, which helps kickstart the year.

As part of the official opening weekend, Liverpool The Musical will have a one-off performance at the new Liverpool Echo Arena on 12 January 2008. Starr and Stewart are joined by the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, Pete Wylie, Ian Brodie, Shack and the Christians in what’s described as “probably the most unusual line-up ever to set foot on one stage”. Music by the Beatles, Elgar, John Newton, Goes to Hollywood, The La’s, The Wombats, The Farm, Stravinsky and others has rearranged by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in collaboration with No Fakin DJs, conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

The “musical” will also feature specially commissioned film and rare archive footage and an eclectic supporting cast comprising poets, singers, aerialists, comedians, construction workers, gardeners, and sailors.

More conventional theatre offerings during the year, at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, include several new commissions “infused with the unique spirit of the city”: 3 Sisters on Hope Street, a new take on Chekhov’s classic by Liverpool writer Diane Samuels, with Tracy-Ann Oberman, relocating the story from Russia to the Jewish community of Liverpool in 1948; Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi, Phil Willmott’s musical comedy that takes an irreverent look at one of Liverpool’s iconic buildings; and Eric’s - The Musical, by Liverpool writer Mark Davies Markham. The last celebrates the musical hothouse of the late Seventies early Eighties when the Clash, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols appeared.

Meanwhile, on 31 December 2008, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers returns to the Empire, celebrating 25 years since it first played the Liverpool Playhouse, after beginning life at the Mersey Youth Theatre.

Commenting on the programme announced today, Sir Paul McCartney said: “I’m very excited about Liverpool being the European Capital of Culture in 2008. We have a fantastic series of events which are sure to get you excited too. I’m very proud of the city and I look forward to welcoming you all and showing you a good time. It’s going to be a great year!”

Four years ago, Liverpool beat out competition from five other UK shortlisted cities - Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford and joint nominee favourite Newcastle-Gateshead - to secure the year-long title for 2008. The last UK city to be named the Capital of Culture was Scotland's Glasgow, which saw a significant rise in tourism and inward investment from the 1990 honour.

Originally called the European City of Culture, the scheme was launched by the European Union in 1985, conceived as a means of bringing European citizens closer together. It was renamed in 1999 and, to celebrate the millennium the following year, six cities - instead of the usual one - were named to share the title for a year. In all other years, the various EU member states take turns in nominating one of their country's cities for the honour.

- by Terri Paddock