Then she applied those ideas to a recent Beatles-related event. Last year, Tessler said, street signs along the real Penny Lane were defaced as Black Lives Matter protests spread across Britain. There was a longstanding belief in Liverpool, she explained, that the street was named after an 18th-century slave trader called James Penny. (The city’s International Slavery Museum listed Penny Lane in an interactive display of street names linked to slavery in 2007, but it now says there is no evidence that the road was named after the merchant.)
“What would happen if they did change the name to — I don’t know — Smith Lane?” Tessler asked. That would deprive Liverpool of a key tourist attraction, she said: “You can’t pose next to a sign that used to be Penny Lane.” The furor around the street name showed how stories about the Beatles can intersect with contemporary debates, and have an economic impact, she said.
The course’s 11 students — three women and eight men, aged 21 to 67 — all said they were long-term Beatles obsessives. (Two had named their sons Jude, after one of the band’s most famous songs; another had a son called George, after George Harrison.)
Dale Roberts, 31, and Damion Ewing, 51, both said they were professional tour guides, and hoped the qualification would help them attract customers. “The tour industry in Liverpool is fierce,” Roberts said.
Alexandra Mason, 21, said she had recently completed a law degree but decided to change track when she heard about the Beatles course. “I never really wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “I always wanted to do something more colorful and creative.”