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Jimmy McGovern returns to childhood neighbourhood to celebrate Hopkins

SFX church 150x150 Friday 10 April 2015

Banished and Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern is to return to the parish in which he grew up to celebrate the life of another great Liverpool-based writer – Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of Victorian England’s greatest poets.  

Both Jimmy McGovern and Gerard Manley Hopkins have connections to St Francis Xavier's parish, which is also now home to Liverpool Hope University’s Creative Campus.

Jimmy McGovern was born and went to school in the parish, and it was also where Hopkins, a Jesuit priest there between 1879-1881, wrote two of his best poems, 'Felix Randal' and 'Spring and Fall'. Hopkins also composed music, believing that he had invented a new style.

Hopkins lived in the Presbytery at 8 Salisbury Street, and as well as serving St Francis Xavier's Parish he was chaplain to the St Vincent de Paul Brotherhood. He wrote that he found parish work “very wearying to mind and body” and that he was “brought face to face with the deepest poverty and misery”.

The manuscript of his poem 'Felix Randal' - about the death of a blacksmith - is dated 28th April, and Liverpool Hope University has chosen this date to celebrate Hopkins's life and work with a day of free talks and a Q and A with Jimmy McGovern.

In 1985, Jimmy McGovern made his own tribute to Hopkins when he wrote the radio play 'Felix Randal’ - a fictional account of what might have prompted the poet to write his famous poem. Members of the public will be able to listen to the play at 5.30pm, followed by a Q and A with Jimmy himself, where he will talk about Hopkins and his own work and influences.

Liverpool Hope University has a Hopkins Hall named after the poet, and the architecture of its Creative Campus gardens is also inscribed with his poem ‘Pied Beauty’. Also on the programme are talks on Hopkins’s ministry in Liverpool, his music, and the influence of the city on his writings. 

‘Hopkins at Hope’ has been organised by Dr Guy Cuthbertson, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, and Head of Music Dr Laura Hamer.  

Dr Cuthbertson said: “Liverpool Hope is extremely proud of its connections to Hopkins, and April 28 will be a chance to celebrate his work but also to get an insight into what Liverpool was like at the time he was writing. Liverpool and Lancashire played an important part in Hopkins’s life and work. Whilst he admitted that he found his time in Liverpool challenging and very different to the countryside that he loved, he knew the importance of his work as a priest at the heart of a big Victorian city.  We are delighted to have Jimmy McGovern with us, who will be discussing his own response to Hopkins’s work, as well as how Liverpool has influenced his own writing.”

‘Hopkins at Hope’ – Tuesday 28th April, 11am-7.30pm, the Capstone Theatre,  Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus, Shaw Street.

The day is completely free and there is no need to book. Everyone is welcome to attend as little or as much of the day as they like.  

For a full list of talks and more information see:

For further information please contact Guy Cuthbertson at 


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