As John Lennon fans worldwide commemorate the 20th anniversary of his assassination in New York, curators at Liverpool Museums have uncovered the truth behind an iconic object connected to one of the former Beatles’ most famous acts.
© Tedd Church
The handcrafted "All You Need Is Love" bedspread was presented to John Lennon and Yoko Ono in May 1969 during their Bed-In at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal and now resides in the city’s museum collections.
For a long time it was thought to have been given by a local Hare Krishna chapter. Now curators have uncovered the truth; it was made by a woman from Yorkshire.
“We bought the bedspread at auction, with the belief that it had been made by a local Hare Krishna group,” confirms Paul Gallagher, curator of contemporary collecting at National Museums Liverpool.
“That was until I was contacted by a lady in Toronto who had in fact made it over 40 years ago, and presented the piece to John and Yoko personally, in a spontaneous expression of friendship and solidarity on the first day of the Bed-In.”
In 1969, Christine Kemp, a recent Yorkshire émigré to Canada, was living and working in Montreal as a part-time designer. In the weeks before the now-famous Bed-In for Peace, she had created a large dark blue felt wall hanging embroidered with title ‘All You Need Is Love’ as a room divider for her workshop.
When John And Yoko took up temporary residence at a local city hotel she thought the hanging might make an appropriate present for the peace loving pair. So, wrapping it in a Union Jack flag, she decided to try and visit them.
© National Museums Liverpool
“When I arrived at the hotel, I asked the elevator operator if I could go up, and after a few minutes, I was taken to room 1742,” remembers Christine. “I entered the room where John and Yoko were in bed and presented them with the hanging.”
After watching proceedings for a while, Christine bade John and Yoko farewell. “Once every so often in the intervening years, I had wondered what happened to it,” she adds. "I lived my life with no idea about its journey ending up in Liverpool, the home of John Lennon and the Beatles.”
Christine re-discovered her bedspread after picking up a book about the Bed-In at a local store and noticing it in some photographs which credited it as belonging to the collection of National Museums Liverpool.
With the help of the bookseller she tracked down photographer Tedd Church, who had been there for the Montreal Gazette newspaper, and was given the proof she needed - a photograph of the moment she gave the bedspread to John and Yoko.
“This is a fantastic story, and makes the journey of the bedspread even more intriguing,” adds Gallagher, calling the sheet "an icon" of the Bed-In.
“Coming from humble origins as a room divider in a design workshop, Christine’s kindness and her own demonstration of "Giving Peace a Chance" gave this lowly wall hanging a great start in life. It is set to be an iconic item in our new museum.”
The photo and bedspread will be on display in the Wondrous Place gallery of the new Museum of Liverpool when it opens in summer 2011.