On this project we worked with journalist Alistair Houghton. He’s written this piece explaining it.
With the Electric Liver Bird, we’ve taken an icon of Liverpool and a symbol of the Liverpool Echo and turned it into a multicoloured all-purpose illuminated sign that you can connect to social media or anything else you want.
It all started when the old Liverpool Daily Post and Echo signage was taken down from the old Echo building, on the corner of Old Hall Street and Brook Street, where it had been since that complex opened in 1974.
One Saturday in 2014 - the year after the Liverpool Post closed - I went for a lunchtime wander to find workers taking the illuminated letters down, one by one.
Cheekily, I asked if I could have the Liver Bird sign that sat between the blue words Daily Post and the red words Liverpool ECHO. Yes, the foreman said, as long as it wasn’t damaged when they tore it off the building.
I heard no more, so assumed it had been skipped. But then a couple of days later I got a call from a confused security guard telling me there was a Liver Bird waiting for me in the van bay.
What could I do with a 5ft tall Liver Bird with a newspaper in its mouth?
I’d written about DoES Liverpool many times in my Liverpool Post days, and spoken to Adrian many times about Internet of Things matters. So the solution became obvious - let’s light up the Liver Bird once again and connect it to the internet.
Reach digital expert Alison Gow agreed, and so we took the Liver Bird to DoES to work out what to do next - after scrubbing away 40 years or so of dirt.
We agreed it needed a grid of lights installing but that was easier said than done, as the Liver Bird is a complex shape, with its legs, wings and newspaper-clutching beak.
But out came the foamcore, a knife, and a drill, and Adrian and I set to work.
It took trial and error- we realised the lights needed to be closer together than first planned, for example, and it took a while to get the foamcore grid lined up to get the vertical lines we wanted.
The positioning of the lights inside the big Liver Bird box was also tricky. Too far from the opaque front and the light isn’t visible - too close and they turn into spots, giving the poor bird a bad case of the psychedelic measles.
Adrian finally 3D printed some cones to hold the grid in place, and finally it all came together.
The sign - which somewhere along the way became known as the Electric Liver Bird - could be connected to social media to show, for example, the reaction to the Echo’s tweets. Or it could even be connected to the Echo’s analytics platforms to show how many people are on the Echo’s site at any one time. And depending on its setting, we can even make the newspaper in its beak flash when we hit a target.
The Bird settled in to its new home at DoES Liverpool but did once make an outing to Preston on the train. Sadly though, it never made it back to the old Echo building before the newsroom moved out in 2018.
Now the Liver Bird has had an upgrade, thanks to Adrian’s My Baby’s Got LED board, to make it even more striking and colourful. It brightens up the main room in DoES Liverpool where it shows progress of the coffee being brewed, among other things.