A MASSIVE public art trail on the scale of the celebrated Superlambananas is one of the highlights of a major programme of free cultural events in Liverpool.

A Winter?s Trail is part of the city?s 2009 cultural programme being unveiled today.

Other attractions expected to draw thousands of people onto the city?s streets include a waterfront festival over three weekends in the summer featuring art, film and music.

On The Waterfront will celebrate Liverpool?s links with New York as part of a series of events in the run up to the 2012 Titanic centenary.

The council is also planning major new artistic commissions, worth up to ?25,000 each, for some of Liverpool?s existing annual free festivals.

The programme was drawn up by the city?s cultural team, Culture Liverpool, which will commission arts organisations to stage most of the events.

City head of culture Claire McColgan said: ?Being European Capital of Culture has raised everyone?s expectations.

?We haven?t got the budget and resources of last year.

?But what we wanted to achieve for 2009 was to build on some real successes of 2008, especially the free programme and things which captured people?s imagination.

?A Winter?s Trail will do just that.

?I think people will absolutely love it. We wanted to create a programme that people will come to take part in from both Liverpool and outside the city.?

A number of annual events have also been revamped for 2009 including the UK?s biggest free extreme sports festival HUB which will feature a week-long fringe from May 24-31.

Mathew Street?s fringe festival will be expanded and in June the city will stage an exhibition of all the grassroots cultural projects it funds for the first time.

Ms McColgan said it was also important to keep the closing working links with arts organisations to ?talk about Liverpool as a whole city?.

She said: ?We want to build on the links with our cultural partners and present a whole city offer. It?s really important to keep that combined programme going.?

Arts organisations? cultural highlights include Urbanism 09 - a new work by the Liverpool Biennial unlocking the potential of the Leeds-Liverpool canal; the New Radicals exhibition at the Walker, actor Jonathan Pryce returning to the Everyman in The Caretaker and Boy Dylan, Eric Clapton and Joan Baez among big names appearing in concert.

Council leader Warren Bradley said: ?To be offering so much free culture that no UK city is even attempting speaks volumes for the way the cultural sector works together.?

Liverpool Echo