Acetate Steps: In memory of the mix tape – Arena Studios & Gallery

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve popped my Cultural Champion cherry.

After having a head-spinning introduction to our year as Cultural Champions on Thursday, I spent Friday evening poring over the masses of information we’d been provided with on upcoming events. I wanted to dive into my new role, but didn’t have a clue where to start.  What to do? What to do?

Trawling through the Open Culture website, I came across an advert for Acetate Steps, a celebration of the mix tape. This was it! A child of the 80s, I grew up with mixed tapes.  My fingers would hover madly over the play and record buttons on my old ghetto blaster while I tried to get it just right so that I caught the songs off the Top 20 without recording the DJ, but usually failed miserably.  It was also a rite of passage for a girl growing up back then to have boys who fancied her put a mixed tape together of songs that aimed to impress.  I still have a bunch of these old tapes, but sadly not the one my first ever boyfriend made for me that included Peter Gabriel, Syd Barratt and that legendary old romantic bunch, King Crimson.

So it was that with a spring in my step I set out on Saturday with my reluctant 13-year-old daughter for the Arena Studios and Gallery to see an exhibit that celebrated this wonderful, lost art form.  To say that the Arena Studios and Gallery was hard to find would be to flirt wildly with understatement; with my daughter questioning at one point if we were still actually in Liverpool.  But when we found it, man was it worth it.

We were welcomed warmly by Pam Sullivan, the studio manager and one of the people who had put the installation together, along with Carol Ramsay and Iain Yell.  In the studio’s intimate setting, the installation was made up of dozens of cassette tapes with their insides ripped out and hanging from the walls and ceiling.  I’ve always loved art you can interact with and I, or rather my ungainly legs, interacted with the hanging, intertwined tape so much I almost brought it crashing down. Oops. Pam couldn’t have been sweeter.

The walls were decorated with cassette boxes with hand-written menus and Dynano-label-type slogans that made me smile no end. Things like

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life

and the immortal

B-sides are the best

There was a massive old boom-box in a corner and the air was filled with an audio soundtrack by Iain Yell that evoked hours spent in my teenage bedroom.  Snippets of Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman, Al Green and generic disco overlapped with Donovan’s Sunshine Superman, while John Peel introduced Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible.

It was pure, unadulterated joy and when my daughter, a child of the digital age, declared, “This is so cool” I knew it wasn’t just me.

I couldn’t have asked for a better start to a year of being a Cultural Champion.  Back at home Carol Ramsay tweeted my to say she was glad I enjoyed it.  The mix tape exhibition has, sadly, now ended, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more offerings from this lovely studio.

And I wonder if, in 30 years, my daughter will be wandering round an exhibit that’s a celebration of Spotify play lists?  I hope so.

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One response to “Acetate Steps: In memory of the mix tape – Arena Studios & Gallery”

  1. CHCP says :

    Upcoming Events at Croxteth Country Park…

    Sunday 11th March 2012
    Behind The Scenes
    A Liverpool Ranger Event
    Starting with the “Upstairs” you will gain an insight into the lavishly pampered lifestyle of the Earls of Sefton, before we move “Downstairs” to the dull, cold, hard working lifestyle of the servants. Experience the life of these two different worlds on this costumed event – fun for all the family.
    Tickets: £5 available from Croxteth Hall Gift Shop (0151 233 6930 or 6915)

    Sat 17.3.2012 – Sun 18.3.2012
    Mothering Weekend
    Treat your Mum to a family day out on the farm for Mother’s Day and make her smile as all Mums are free of charge. Mums must be accompanied by at least one child!

    Saturday 24th March 2012
    “Go Walkies” with Guide Dogs for the Blind
    A fun and easy way to raise money for Guide Dogs.
    By taking part in a sponsored dog walk you and your four legged friend can help make a real difference to the lives of blind and partially sighted people across the UK.
    To book, please telephone 0845 600 6787 or email:

    Sunday 25th March 2012
    Croxteth Hall and Country Park Wedding Show in Association with Bliss Wedding Shows
    11.00am – 4.00pm
    Catwalk show times 12.30pm and 2.30pm
    Free admission.
    Complimentary goody bag for brides, sponsored by Lush handmade cosmetics.
    Over 30 of the leading wedding specialists will be showcasing everything you could need for your perfect day!
    For more information (would-be brides need to register to benefit from offers), please visit the Bliss Croxteth Hall Wedding Show website or contact 0151 227 9179

    Saturday March 31st – Sunday April 15 2012
    Croxteth Hall Easter Egg Hunt (Inside Croxteth Hall)
    10.30am – 5.00pm
    ‘Learning is Fun at Croxteth Hall’
    Great literacy fun for younger children and parents – find all the hidden Easter eggs (pictures) on your visit round the Hall rooms and enter the letters on the worksheet provided. Mums and Dads will help you unscramble them to find the seasonal answer! All correct answers will be entered into a prize draw to win a 3 foot handmade and hand decorated Chocolate Easter Bunny!” kindly donated by Bala Croman of the Chocolate Cellar.
    Normal Hall admission prices apply.

    A Special Event during the Easter holiday in the Old Dining Room…
    Good Friday 6th April plus Easter Saturday 7th April 2012
    Easter Chocolate Workshops
    11am & 1pm
    Join award-winning local chocolatiers The Chocolate Cellar in the stunning surroundings of Croxteth Hall for a memorable Easter experience! Make and decorate your own chocolate Easter creations to take home and learn more about the chocolate along the way. Join Croxeth Hall’s Egg Hunt for the chance to win our giant Chocolate Bunny, or visit our chocolate stall to buy personalised Easter eggs and gifts for loved ones.
    Price: £6.00 per child
    To book, please telephone 0151 200 2202

    Friday 6th, Saturday 7th and Saturday 14th April 2012
    Murder Mystery Evening
    7 p.m.
    “A Titanic Murder Mystery”
    In commemoration of 100 year anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s maiden and only voyage.
    The plot of this Murder Mystery is inspired by true events that took place on that fateful trip.
    Enjoy a beautiful silver service, three course meal in the exquisite surroundings of the Old Library. Be entertained by our award winning professional actors.
    Between each course the action, murder and mystery unfolds. As you eat your meal and socialise the characters in turn will take a seat at your table; feel free to quiz them about all aspects of their character and relationships to each other.
    The table who can deduce “Who done it” wins a bottle of wine.
    Music and a late bar follows.
    “Can’t think where else you would find such a brilliant setting, good food, a play that you are truly involved in and having such a good laugh – excellent value for money. Would we go again? You bet” (Guest comment at “Death at the Hall” Murder Mystery Evening, Croxteth Hall, 2011).
    Ticket Price: £35
    To book please call: 0151 228 6445

    Sunday 15th April 2012
    Croxteth Park Aintree Diabetes 10k Run
    11.00am Start
    All profits from this third annual popular race will go direct to Diabetes Research at Aintree Hospital.
    Entry Fees: £8.00 Club Affiliated Member
    £10.00 Non-affiliated
    For registration information, please call 0151 529 6256.
    Pre-Register by Tuesday 10th April

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