Giant images at Liverpool of Beatles in Indian ashram

By Prasun Sonwalkar, IANS

Liverpool : If you visit Liverpool as it revels in the status of the European Capital of Culture during 2008, chances are that you will be greeted by large, blown-up images of the Beatles in Rishikesh at the local John Lennon Airport (JLA).

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The northwestern port city of Liverpool is better known the world over as the place where the Beatles came together in the late 1950s. The iconic group of the flower power 1960s generation had close interaction with Indian spiritual leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

He not only taught them meditation and Indian spiritualism but also invited them to spend time in his ashram in Rishikesh. The Beatles travelled to Rishikesh in 1968, by when they had become icons of their generation.

During their eight weeks in the Rishikesh ashram, the Beatles were said to have been very relaxed and most creative – they wrote 48 of their songs during their time there. The press and photographers were kept away.

But Canadian Paul Saltzman, a photographer, was at the ashram at the same time to learn meditation from Mahesh Yogi, and stumbled upon the band by accident. And during the time the Beatles were at the ashram, Saltzman clicked away rare pictures, only to forget about them in a box for 33 years.

Large, blown-up images of some of those photographs showing the Beatles were switched on by Saltzman at the JLA Monday night as part of a project called ‘Collection 08’ to fill the building with artwork in preparation for the ‘European Capital of Culture’ year.

At the unveiling ceremony, Saltzman said: “I am completely delighted. How many times in your life do you have time to do something like this? The music these guys produced changed my life and meeting them had a profound effect on me. I am delighted they are up here.”

Neil Pakey, managing director at JLA, said: “As one of the key gateways to the North West we want to demonstrate just what JLA has to offer visitors in the run up to next year’s Capital of Culture celebrations and launching JLA’s ‘Collection 08’ was the way to do it.

“Over the years, JLA has worked with a number of different artists and I’m delighted with the array of photographs and exhibits which are showcased in and around the airport. We are keen to make JLA more than just an airport and more of a visitor experience. We look forward to getting the local community involved as well as some performing arts.”

Throughout 2008, a large number of events have been planned in Liverpool. The opening weekend is from Jan 11-13. Large areas of Liverpool have been refurbished and redeveloped as part of the preparations that are expected to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists during the year.

The European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union for a period of one year during which it is given a chance to showcase its cultural life and cultural development. A number of European cities have used the year to transform their cultural base and, in doing so, the way in which they are viewed internationally.

The two cities designated European Capital of Culture for 2007 are Luxembourg and Sibiu (Romania). The initiative was launched in 1985.