Mark had been fired up by Alan Parker’s 1980 blockbuster ‘FAME’, a film about the New York High School for the Performing Arts. The film established the idea that performing artists needed to train in all three performing arts (acting, dance and music) at the same time. By 1985, Mark had nearly 50 artists, directors, choreographers and entrepreneurs backing him in this new approach. It was the Beatles producer, Sir George Martin, who was to be a catalyst in realising this new approach to performing arts education.
In a remarkable coincidence Sir Paul had embarked on a plan to save the Liverpool Institute for Boys building, his old school.
“Late one night, I made a sentimental visit to my old school, the Liverpool Institute, which was built in 1825. I found the place in a dilapidated state, but was still intrigued by being in a place where so many of my early years had been spent. I took a film cameraman around and reminisced about the teachers, the pupils (one of them George Harrison) and some of the events that once took place in this lovely building. Making this film inspired me to start talking to people about ideas to save the building”.
Separate to this, Liverpool City Council was wondering how the city might build upon its reputation as a music city. Pete Fulwell, then managing the Liverpool band The Christians, was commissioned to report on how this could be done. He was to write a report called, appropriately , ‘Music City’. Pete looked to Mark to input the training element of the ‘Music City’ report.
Sir George Martin, a supporter of Mark’s approach to performing arts education, then introduced him to Sir Paul. The two men brought different but symbiotic aspirations to the project: Paul wanting the building restored, Mark wanting to pioneer a new approach to performing arts education. It took seven difficult years of planning, fundraising and building to get the project off the ground and is fully described in Mark’s book ‘OPTIMISTIC, EVEN THEN’. It wasn’t easy, but then, as Paul reminded Mark from time to time, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it”.
The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts officially opened its doors to students in January 1996. During his speech at the inauguration event, Paul wished his parents could have been alive to witness the event, while Mark hoped that, one day, students would experience the feelings he was experiencing then.
The building was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen on the 7th June 1996.