Recently in Enterprising Liverpool Category

violin, amplifier & briefcase The Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) represents all sectors of business in the city - including those who work in arts and culture. A current Chamber concern is therefore to maintain and promote the gains made in 2008 by Liverpool's creative, arts and culture sectors. The recent momentum remains fragile, and for continued success it is essential that arts and 'non-arts' businesses across the city develop the synergies to be gained by working together in 2009 and beyond.

Enterprising Liverpool and The Future Of Liverpool

The Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a Members' Council which has an Arts and Culture Committee, of which I am chair*. This Committee seeks to help maintain the profile and business health of Liverpool's creative sector; hence the following article, a version of which has just been published in the "Liverpool Chamber" magazine:


We sometimes forget that arts and culture, as much as any other formal activity, is Business. Artistic enterprise brightens our lives and captures our imaginations, and it’s done by people, often highly trained, who earn their living in that way.

It’s therefore important that Liverpool’s Capital of Culture Year 2008 momentum is maintained into 2009. Liverpool needs the arts to flourish because they enhance both our communities and our economy.

Momentum unsecure?
Some of Liverpool’s arts practitioners fear however that the momentum of 2008 is not yet secured. The Liverpool Culture Company expects the ’09 funding round to be ‘highly competitive’; and everyone anticipates that sponsorship will be difficult to come by in the current financial situation.

So it’s unsurprising that Liverpool’s arts practitioners are currently nervous, some of them already publicly predicting ’09 will be a tough call.

New but vulnerable synergies
Of course this scenario applies to other businesses as well; but the arts have developed new synergies and added value during 2008 which, once lost, it would be extraordinarily difficult to reinvent. The ‘08 cultural gains remain vulnerable, and need more time to embed if they are to bring maximum benefit.

This isn’t simply an academic concern. Liverpool’s established businesses are beginning to wake up to how they can work to mutual advantage with arts providers.

Live music brings in more customers; visual arts encourage customers to linger; drama can be an excellent training tool.... and it also all helps the economy to tick over because practitioners are earning and spending money locally.

A role for all Liverpool businesses
The LCCI Arts and Culture Committee is seeking to encourage this beneficial synergy, but there’s a role here too for companies across the city. We all need to say how important the ’08 cultural legacy is; and we need to think how to conduct real business with arts enterprises.

Hilary Burrage
Chair [* retired June 2008], LCCI Arts and Culture Committee

A version of this article was first published in the January / February 2009 edition (Issue 19) of "Liverpool Chamber", the magazine of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Read more articles about Enterprising Liverpool and The Future Of Liverpool, and see more of Hilary's Publications, Lectures And Talks.

Liverpool Tunnel airvent outlet & Liverbirds There can be few issues, at the local level, more pressing than what's to happen to one's city. As Liverpool's European Capital of Culture Year ends, perhaps the new LinkedIn Group on 'The Future of Liverpool' will help to sharpen our ideas.

The Future Of Liverpool

For Liverpool, 2008 has been a year of enormous change, as buildings have come down and gone up, roads have disappeared and re-emerged, and of course the European Capital of Culture has taken, massively, the centre stage.

But now the emphasis must move from these transitions to our longer-term future; new critiques and ideas will emerge and point us in as yet unrevealed directions. And everyone who can will need to be involved; not just those who sit in committee rooms.

To help the debate along a new LinkedIn Group open to all has been formed. To join, simply go to LinkedIn and then search Groups for 'The Future of Liverpool'. Your contributions will be very welcome.


Read more articles about The Future Of Liverpool and see photographs of Liverpool & Merseyside.

Science bottles & test tubes The Liverpool city region (Merseyside) looks on available evidence to have only about half the number of scientists which might be expected on the basis of the overall national statistics. So by what indicators might Merseyside measure progress in the retention and development of graduate scientists and technologists?

In 2008 the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University between them will, excluding medical doctors, produce more than 2000 new Science and IT graduates. There will also be nearly 500 post-graduates, including those, a considerable number of whom studied part-time for Master's degrees, in the field of information technology - which is noted as a strength on Merseyside.

Here indeed is potential in every respect. So why do Liverpool and Merseyside stay so near the bottom of the national economic stakes?

Who's economically active?
Just under half the UK population (i.e some 28 million people) is economically active, nearly a tenth of whom (2.67 million, in 2005) have a Science or Engineering HE qualification – which is about two fifths of all graduates; and some 88% of these are currently in employment.

But the Merseyside conurbation has a population of nearly 1.5 million. Of those of working age however, against a national average of 74.5%, about 68% (551,000) are in employment (62%, or 167,000 in Liverpool itself) .

Graduates
Whilst it is very difficult to obtain accurate and up-to-date statistics on exactly how many scientists live and / or work in Merseyside, some approximations are possible. These suggest that numbers are significantly lower than they 'should' be, if the overall numbers of scientists and technologists were distributed evenly across the UK.

Approaching 30% of the UK newly adult population is now qualified to degree level (in any subject), whereas even after considerable recent improvement the figure on Merseyside is around 21% .

The Liverpool city region clearly needs to keep (or, better still for everyone over time, attract, and 'exchange' freely with other places) as many of our current annual output of 2,500 science graduates as possible.

Measuring retention, exchange and employment of graduates
How this can be done is, of course, a matter still under debate. But one sensible place to begin might be to set up a formal method of collating data about who, with a degree in what, stays on, comes to live and work in, or leaves the Liverpool city region. How else are we to measure progress or otherwise in our 21st century economy?

That these figures, for every stage in graduates' careers and lives, are not routinely available on a Liverpool city region basis, is an indicator of how far we have yet to travel in the knowledge economy stakes.


Useful statistics and references
BERR SET (Science, Engineering & Technology) Indicators 2005
City of Liverpool Key Statistics Bulletin August 2006
Office of National Statistics 2006
Knowledge Exchange Merseyside Graduate Labour Market Report
Merseyside Economic Review 2007

You are particularly invited to offer Comment below if you can tell us more about these statistics, in respect of Liverpool, Merseyside and / or the Manchester-Liverpool conurbation. Thank you.

Read more about Science, Regeneration & Sustainability
and The Future Of Liverpool.

'Gold' coins 4919 (99x134).jpg Here in Liverpool we are about to start our 2008 Year as European Capital of Culture. But apparently the connection between this year-long Capital of Culture event and hard European cash has yet to dawn on some local businesses. This is serious. Who's failed to get the message over? And will things improve?

A walk this morning took us through Liverpool's Sefton Park to Lark Lane, where the Boho action is, to find some brunch.

The brunch was fine; but the bill which followed it left us at best bewildered.

Sterling only
The card machine - as usual these days, the 'continental' 'take it to the table' type - came up with a sensible sum, requested in either Sterling or Euros. As it happened, we had some Euros on us, so when we'd paid (in Sterling) we asked lightheartedly if we could have paid cash Euros. (The literal conversion rate was 1.645 if anyone wants to know....)

The waitress was aghast. Oh no, she assured us, clearly thinking we'd sought such reassurance, they wouldn't even think of taking Euros. The cafe never dealt with Euros, the cost would be sky-high, it was quite out of the question...

Bafflement and business
We were unsure how to respond, having originally intended to congratulate the establishment on its forward-planing and preparations for Euro-billing.

Did our waitress know, we asked, what 2008 had in store for Liverpool? She confirmed that she knew 2008 is the Capital of Culture year.

But it's Liverpool's 'European' Capital of Culture Year, we protested......

The management decides
'I don't know about that', came the reply. 'Anyway, none of Liverpool's restaurants are doing Euros. You'll have to take that up with the management.'

On the contrary, we suggested, perhaps the management needs to take the Euro opportunity up with itself....

The 'Liverpool experience' missing link - Europe
So there we have it. At least some of our local businesses, just three months before 2008 begins, still fail utterly to understand that next year is an international, a European, event.

These local 'enterprises' haven't even begun to consider whether a billing system with the potential to offer payment in Euros as well as Sterling might in fact be a business advantage or selling point.... especially in the Boho part of town.

No leadership with the big picture
Could this failure to get the overarching picture be because the city's leadership has permitted developments (perhaps even decided?) not to move out of the Liverpool comfort zone?

Are city leaders neglecting to emphasise that next year's celebrations are not 'only' an excuse for some (what look to be very promising) major arts events, and for neighbourhood street parties and general local merriment, important though all these are?

2008 opportunities squandered?
If the whole rationale for Liverpool's European Capital of Culture 2008 Year is put aside, if the business opportunities are not seized, all that enormous amount of (our) money already spent will have been squandered.

I really hope someone will be getting things into gear pretty pronto.

Jim Gill  2007  Liverpool  Vision 115x114.jpg The public realm refurbishment of Hope Street, the thoroughfare which defines Liverpool’s cultural quarter, was finally completed in May 2007. This has offered an opportunity to reflect on, and learn some lessons from, the decade of activity culminating in Hope Street’s new look. Jim Gill, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision, agreed to share his perceptions of that decade and what it has achieved for Hope Street and the City of Liverpool.

What follows is a summary of a conversation between Jim Gill, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision, and Hilary Burrage, Hon. Chair of HOPES: The Hope Street Association, the body which since the early 1990s has consistently lobbied for the recognition and refurbishment of Liverpool’s Hope Street. In this discussion Hilary posed questions to which Jim responded.


Hope Street’s value to Liverpool and beyond
Hilary: Jim, thank you for agreeing to discuss Hope Street with me, as the street’s refurbishment is finally completed and the last few public seating areas are installed and lit. You’ve been involved in this process almost from the beginning, initially through English Partnerships, and then as Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision, the UK’s first Urban Regeneration Company. How would you describe the value of Hope Street, as a core part of Liverpool’s city centre?

Jim: Hope Street has huge intrinsic value. The problem is recognising it and exploiting it in an appropriate way; and in that we still have a way to go. But there’s no doubt that the perceived value of the street has increased significantly, both because of the public realm refurbishment and as a result of the individual development schemes, for instance by both Cathedrals, the Hope Street Hotel, the restaurant scene and of course the refurbishment of the Philharmonic Hall.


Securing the refurbishment of Hope Street
Hilary: Can you tell me what finally clinched the decision to refurbish Hope Street?

Jim: Essentially, it was HOPES pestering us, your solid determination to see something happen. Initially the refurbishment of Hope Street was just a long-term ‘red zone’ aim for Liverpool Vision; but we converted that to an immediate action ‘green zone’ because of your persistence.

It was the meeting which you (Hilary) and Adrian (Adrian Simmons, HOPES’ Hon. Secretary) had with myself (Jim) which clinched it. You told me how dis-spirited you were about lack of progress, and I agreed that we would develop proposals with you. And of course HOPES had also secured the full support of Steve Broomhead, Chief Executive of the North West Development Agency, so at that point things started to move.


A different way forward
Hilary: Was it a different way to do things?

Jim: Yes, it was a very different way! There have been two or three tranches of significant public realm works in Liverpool, such as Williamson Square and East Moorfields. Those projects involved ‘set piece’ consultation with the public through exhibitions. But the Hope Street process involved real community engagement from the beginning.

Engagement is always more difficult to achieve in an area with many individual, non-collective voices, but HOPES constituted a ready-made ‘panel’ which enabled deeper involvement of local stakeholders as well as the normal consultation.


The knowledge economy
Hilary: How significant is the knowledge economy (scientific, academic and cultural) around Hope Street Quarter? Has the refurbishment of the street had an impact on this economy?

Jim: We haven’t yet properly grasped how (if) we can capture all the benefits of the area. Clearly there is a link between the fortunes of Hope Street Quarter and the wider area which includes the Universities and much else; but this is not yet consolidated.

In fact, Liverpool Vision is currently engaged with both the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University in producing a prospectus / audit of the local knowledge economy and the contribution which it makes to the City and the Regional economy. The figures are very impressive. We believe that the quality of the Hope Street area has major role to play in supporting the growth of the Knowledge Quarter, and vice versa.

But we don’t yet fully comprehend the value of the knowledge economy. Knowledge can and will drive the City economy towards self-sustainability. Our ‘Transitional’ Programme for the City Centre suggests a refocusing of activity ‘up the hill’ to Hope Street, embracing the crescent of opportunity surrounding the city centre, linking the waterfront, Hope Street and the Knowledge Quarter, extending as far as LJMU’s Byrom Street Campus.

We all need to understand the potential of these links better. This perspective underlines our shifting focus ‘up the hill’; the quality of space around Hope Street can indirectly benefit the knowledge economy, including Hope Street’s high artistic skills. Hope Street, as you have said many times, is a sort-of South Bank and needs to be valued as such.


Lessons learned
Hilary: What lessons can we learn from the ‘story of Hope Street’? What helped or hindered the process and what of the future?

Jim: The first lesson is to understand what can be achieved by working in a real partnership where local stakeholders are fully engaged, as they were in this case through the mechanism of HOPES.

Second, for the future, recognition of the importance of the Knowledge Economy – and consequent actions - will be critical. As I have already mentioned, Liverpool Vision has recognised the importance of the wider Hope Street-Knowledge Quarter area and as we merge into the proposed new economic regeneration vehicle for the City we want to make sure the priority is taken forward, so that the potential of the wider ‘University Edge’ is maximised. This is a key strategic priority at Regional, not just City level.

Third, my mantra is, ‘Don’t kid yourself the job’s done.’ There has been massive change in the City Centre and the pace of change continues at a high level. But much more needs to be done to secure the long term economic health of the City and lasting opportunity for the people of Liverpool. We have to ensure the opportunity that is Hope Street isn’t lost. The wider Hope Street area will be a major contributor to the economic health of the City and the provision of additional jobs.

The associated challenge is to ensure that people needing the jobs here can get to them, and to spread the opportunities around. That, I’d suggest, is what real regeneration is about.

And lastly, I’d say the biggest challenge for HOPES is that you need somehow to keep and widen your circle of friends; not easy when you’re an unsupported voluntary body, but it’s necessary. HOPES has a central role in moving things along, but it will need to be flexible in how it does things and how it relates to developments.


The professional perspective
Hilary: Thank you. As you know, most of HOPES’ members are professional people in their own right, who have given their time and skills ‘for free’ to bring about the changes now seen in Hope Street. This has produced an interesting dynamic, perhaps because regeneration professionals on the ‘official’ side more often work with community groups with fewer professional qualifications than themselves. My other question here is therefore what ‘lessons’ can be learned from this unusual situation about how to get the best from such a dynamic. Are there particular issues for instance in respect of ownership of the ideas and developments?

Jim: Working with the HOPES members on the public realm project was occasionally challenging, probably because the level of engagement was close and because each of the stakeholders had clear views as to what would or wouldn’t ‘work', and because they were able to argue their corner very strongly. We had a shared goal which, I think, was achieved.

I think the wider lessons for all stakeholders is to learn how to work with other groups, for example, non-professional stakeholders, and to recognise that everyone's goals and aspirations have validity. Ultimately more will be achieved if the Hope Street area speaks with a single voice which embraces all interests.


Worst and best so far
Hilary: What have we done worst and best, so far?

Jim: The worst is probably the time it has taken, or is taking, to secure a full recognition across the range of ‘public' organisations - including the City Council - of the importance of the area for the future economic health of the City.

The best is that you mustn’t underestimate what HOPES has achieved as, a voice for the area and in delivering activity. As I said, it was the discussion I had with you and Adrian which effectively clinched the resources to deliver the public realm project. You have secured formal recognition of the area; and the stakeholder group which we’ve developed from your original group of activists has worked quite well. We’ve come a long way.

Read also: The Hope Street Festivals (1996 - 2006)
Liverpool's Hope Street Festivals & Quarter (1977 - 1995)

Grosvenor cranes (small) 70x137.jpg The deadlines for Liverpool city centre renewal now loom. Whilst the Big Dig continues to present us all with challenges, Liverpool One, the enormous Grosvenor development, is becoming a discernable entity.

Liverpool Grosvenor Development 07.5.14 480x412.jpg

Mersey ship from Old Hall Street Feb 2007 4069a (99x147).jpg There's much emphasis in city centre regeneration on Liverpool's waterfront. Plans for great ship visits are vital to the city's resurgence; as are plans to improve the city's road system. This photograph, taken today (7 February 2007) near St. Nicholas' Church in the business and commercial district, gives a glimpse of what may be to come.

Ship on the Mersey, Liverpool city centre reconstructed 2007 4070 (480x360)a.jpg

HOTFOOT(small) orange 2005 027.jpgThe National Museum of the Performing Arts closed 'for good' yesterday. This is a disaster for London (where it has had its home, in Covent Garden) and for the whole of the U.K. If the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum - in whose 'care' the Theatre Museum resides - cannot maintain the collection as an entity, perhaps the Theatre Museum should pass to those who can do better? The Chair of the V & A has close Merseyside connections; why not re-open the Theatre Museum in Liverpool?

No-one believed it could happen, but the announcement has been made - the National Museum of the Performing Arts in Covent Garden, London, closed yesterday (Sunday 7 January 2007) because the Trustees decided they couldn't commit further resources to the venue. This is despite the description of the Museum by its own Trustees, the Victoria and Albert Museum Board, as a 'world-class collection'.

The protests of people as diverse as Alan Ackbourne, Judi Dench (Guardians of the Theatre Museum) and Ken Livingstone have, it seems, had no effect. Somehow, the performing arts are not compelling to the Museum Trustees. Apparently there is to be a website and some collections are to be shown at the V & A in Kensington in 2009, but basically that's it. Just at the time when London is preparing to host the 2012 Olympics, and when Covent Garden can never have been a more popular visitor attraction, the doors have closed. Firmly.

Nonetheless, after the experience we as CAMPAM had in the late 1980s / 1990s of 'resurrecting' the Liverpool Everyman - which actually went dark - and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (which just about clung on) I don't think anyone should give up all hope yet.

So come to Liverpool
I have already suggested that, if Londoners really don't want their Theatre Museum, it should come to Liverpool. Here, up North, we're preparing for an event even more imminent than the Olympics. 2007 is Liverpool's 800th Anniversary, and 2008, as everyone knows, will be our year as European Capital of Culture. The arguments for Liverpool taking this venture on have already been rehearsed; and I have been assured (though I await the evidence) that the City Council is considering things, as, one gathers from recent Minutes of the V & A Board, are the NWDA and Blackpool Council.

In the meantime, though, there is one other interesting aspect of this strange situation: The Chair of the V & A is Paula Ridley, a person with strong connections on Merseyside. It would be fascinating to know her view of the proposition that the Theatre Museum come to Liverpool.



Read more articles on the National Theatre Museum.

Hope Street Farmers' Market 06.11.19 (small).jpgThe regular calendar of Farmers' Markets in Hope Street has at last begun. From now on the third Sunday every month is scheduled as Market Day for Hope Street Quarter. Farmers' Markets are something different to look forward to: a great day out for adults and children alike, with fun opportunities to learn where our food comes from and who grows it.

H.St. Farmers Market 2.jpgAfter a false start in October, yesterday was the long-awaited commencement of the regular calendar [see schedule at the end of this article] of Hope Street Farmers' Markets. At last, with luck, we have lift-off, and not a moment too soon.

And we were incredibly lucky with the weather, brilliant sunshine for the duration, not even really cold. The atmosphere of the event was cheerful and relaxed, just the right ambiance for a happy family Sunday outing - though I have to say I was surprised just how few children were actually around....

It's really good to see the grown-ups enjoying themselves in such a time-honoured and positive way, but are we missing a bit of a trick here if we don't bring the kids? Perhaps someone will begin now to think how this could be an occasion for them as well. It's not often the opportunity arises naturally in the city centre for youngsters to meet people who have themselves grown the food and prepared the produce displayed before us.

Varied and fresh
H.St.Farmers Market 7 (veg).jpgH.St.Farmers Market 8 (cheese).jpgH.St.Farmers Market 10 (romanesca cauliflower).jpgHaving said that, here was produce for everyone. Vegetable and fruit - including a variety of cauliflower (romanesca, a brassica with stunning tiny, spiral green florets) that I'd never seen before - plus cheeses, food of all sorts to eat right now, and much else, including candles and preserves for the coming festive season. Judging from the public response, everyone loves this sort of browsing and shopping.

One of the many attractions of farmers' markets is that much of this produce had been grown or made by the actual people who were selling it - not a connection which is often so direct these days, when much of what we buy comes shrink-wrapped and complete with a fair number of attached food miles.

H.St.Farmers Market 4 (.Xmas).jpgH.St.Farmers Market 5 (preserves).jpgThis was an opportunity for locally-based people to purvey their wares; hand-made goods and food which may well still have been in the field a few hours before.

Trading busily
H.St.Farmers Market 6 (Farmers).jpgThe people running the stalls were pleased to be there, trade was brisk. I suspect that over time the current size of the market will grow considerably, if the regulations allow - already it stretches all the way along the Hope Street wall of Blackburne House.

We know of course that, locals though some of the growers and sellers may be, Geraud Markets, the organisation behind the venture, is big business; but someone has to organise all the detailed arrangements which these events entail. It seems Geraud now have a contract with Liverpool Council to do just that on several sites around the city.

Knowing more and feeling good
That however is only part of the story. This is the sort of enjoyable meeting-friends event that offers, especially, young people in the city a chance to see that fruit and vegetables don't of necessity arrive covered in plastic.H.St. Farmers Market 14 (Minako).jpg

It gives us a feel, too, for seasonal food. It reminds us, walking out in the open air as we make our purchases, that there is a cycle to things; we can eat for a whole year without bringing produce from across the world, should we decide to do avoid doing so. We can be 'eco-', and enjoy, at the same time.

The market reminds us about nutritional quality - seeing produce presented so directly perhaps also helps us to think more carefully about what we are actually eating. Of course, food sold in supermarkets can also be fresh and nutritious - canned can be as good as 'fresh' - but the connection with its production is less overt.

Encouraging a healthy life-style
H.St. Farmers Market 15 (children).jpgBy a strange co-incidence, just today there have been articles in the local Daily Post about vegetables and health -the local Primary Care Trust has a Taste for Health campaign -and The Guardian, which offers thoughts by Zoe Williams on 'Vegetables and how to survive them').

Liverpool people have the worst health in England and we owe it to our children to make sure their diet is as good as it can possibly be, encouraging them to understand the connection between what they eat and where it comes from. How better could we do it than by bringing them to a farmers' market where they can see for themselves what it's all about?

Liverpool City Council have contracted with Geraud to provide farmers' markets. Perhaps they can now follow the example of the authorities in continental Europe (where Geraud began) such as Valencia and Aix-en-Provence, where, as I have seen for myself, the local markets make children really welcome?

It would do us all good, in every sense of the word.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Calendar of Geraud Farmers' Markets in Liverpool [subject to change, please contact to check as below]:
Monument Place Farmers' Market (Lord Street) ~ Every 1st & 3rd Saturday of the month
Lark Lane Farmers' Market ~ Every 4th Saturday of the month
Hope Street Farmers' Market (Blackburne House end) ~ Every 3rd Sunday of the month

Other Geraud Markets in Liverpool
:
Broadway (Indoor) Monday ~ Saturday
Garston ~ Friday
Great Homer Street ~ Saturday
Monument Place ~ Thursday, Friday & Saturday
Speke ~ Thursday
St Johns' (Indoor) Monday ~ Saturday
Tuebrook ~ Thursday & Saturday
Toxteth ~ Tuesday
For more information contact: 0151 233 2165 / info@geraudmarkets.co.uk

Liverpool%20ferris%20wheel%20%26%20tower%20%28small%29.jpgLiverpool is excitedly preparing for its big years in 2007 (the city's 800th anniversary) and 2008 (the European Capital of Culture year). With such a long and dramatic history of diaspora, who knows what the city will be like by the end of the celebrations? The scope for enterprise - both in Liverpool and by other cities and regions - to build relationships across Europe and beyond is enormous.

Liverpool%20FACT.jpgBBC Radio 3 hosted a fascinating Free Thinking event in Liverpool's FACT building last weekend, with presentations, discussions and performances by an impressively eclectic array of debaters and artists. And, perhaps appositely, the very next day the City launched its initial plans for the 2008 European Capital of Culture year.

One of the sessions at the BBC event focussed on the question, ‘Is Liverpool an English city?’. ‘Everyone in the country knows Liverpool is special – and unique,’ says the blurb, ‘but do they secretly mean it’s “unenglish"?'

Sadly, I couldn’t be at the debate, but it’s an interesting question – and one that, although I’ve lived in Liverpool for over three decades, I’d find difficult to answer. All of us have only one shot at life, so comparisons are difficult, but is it usual for people who have been resident in a place for over a third of a century still to be asked where they ‘come from’?

Ports are meeting places for the world
Working up the hill, away from the ports in the education and cultural sectors, it actually took me a while to realise that for some of my fellow citizens, Liverpool’s maritime history is the city’s autograph feature. Indeed, until the Heseltine interventions in the 1980s it was not even possible really to see much of that history. At least the reclamation of the southern docks for retail and leisure use (the Tate Gallery and Maritime Museum are situated there) helped us to see what an important port Liverpool was – and in fact still is, for freight rather than passengers.

So Liverpool is cosmopolitan in a particular way. In the mid-eighteenth century that one port was involved with 40% of the world’s trade. Liverpool is therefore home to many whose predecessors reached the city by sea, or who in some cases had intended to travel onwards, but halted when they got this far.

We have communities of several generations from the Caribbean and parts of Africa, from China (Liverpool’s China town is a large and important feature of the city) and the Indian sub-continent, who travelled from the West; and, from Eastern and Central Europe, reached us from the East. With these historic influxes has come of plethora of religious and cultural understandings – Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Orthodox and many others.

Ireland and Continental Western Europe
What is less evident in our overt cultural mix is the direct influence of Southern Europe – though it is certainly there, especially in the sometimes overarching ethos of Roman Catholicism and Southern Ireland (Eire). And then there is the strongly Protestant Orange Order influence of Northern Ireland (Ulster), whose descendants in Liverpool, like their southern counterparts, have traditionally lived siloed in tight-knit communities with little knowledge or tolerance of other ways of seeing the world.

As is well known, the clash of Southern and Northern Irish influences (Catholics ‘versus’ Protestants) was only be resolved when, in the 1980s and ‘90s, the leaders of Liverpool’s two great cathedrals (Bishop David Sheppard and Archbishop Derek Worlock) by their personal example called time on this damaging friction.

Liverpool 2007 – 800 years and proud of it
Liverpool%20cranes%209.6.06%20004.jpgGiven the particular diasporas from which Liverpool has benefited historically, it will be fascinating to see what the city can make of its opportunity to shine on the world and European stage in 2007 and 2008. There are a number of factors here, even apart from the celebrations as such, which should enhance the opportunities for Liverpool at this time - amongst them, the massive privately funded Grosvenor 'Liverpool 1' commercial development (at £950 million reputedly the largest project of this kind in Europe) which is currently taking root in the heart of the city centre.

The 2007 event will celebrate Liverpool’s 800th Anniversary. (The city’s charter was signed in 1207.) This surely is the opportunity of a lifetime to acknowledge and embrace the rich and diverse cultures and traditions of the city, to look back at our past but also forward - not only to what follows in 2008, but also much further into the future.

This is in a very real sense ‘Liverpool’s year’, a ‘birthday’ (as the locals insist on calling it) worthy of pulling out the stops. 800 years as a city, even if others can also claim it (Leeds’ charter is also dated 1207), is an important milestone.

The birthday party will be for the people of Liverpool. Others will be very welcome to join us – what’s a party without honoured guests? - but the style, the scene itself, needs to be determined by those, the citizens of Liverpool, whose 'birthday' it is.

Liverpool 2008 – European Capital of Culture
But what does Liverpool’s history mean for its year as European Capital of Culture? It has consistently been said that it was ‘the people’, Liverpudlians themselves, who won this award. Is there a danger that 2008 could be ‘more of the same’, an extension of the scenario for 2007?

If we return to our first question, is Liverpool “unenglish”?, we need to note that, so it is said, some 60% of Liverpudlians have never even been to London (and I’d guess that maybe 90% of people living in England outside the North West have as yet never been to Liverpool).

Given this situation, we must ask how many of the citizens of Liverpool so far have a real knowledge of Europe outside the influences we have already noted? How many are fluent in other European languages? How many have business or other formal connections across Europe? The answer is surely that here is a city at the start in every way of its journey into the twenty-first century.

Unique opportunity
Liverpool%20St%20George%27s%20Hall%20front.jpgLiverpool 2007 / 8 offers a unique opportunity to establish two-way connections with the city. The very next day after the BBC debate on Liverpool’s ‘englishness’ or otherwise, the city launched its initial programme for the 2008 year with a grand civic event in St. George’s Hall, and another one in London for the wider world. 2007 is for Liverpool; 2008 is intended for the world,

2008 offers business and cultural entrepreneurs from around Europe and beyond a real chance to establish themselves in the city, whilst Liverpool’s eyes are firmly fixed on the global stage – and, we hope, theirs on us.

The full extent of the outward-facing Liverpool ‘offer’ for 2007 and especially 2008 remains to be seen - there is increasing confidence that something interesting and worthwhile will be made of these unique opportunities.

The scope for inward investment, connection and synergy with elsewhere is however already established as truly enormous.

Here is a city ripe for growth of every kind, and increasingly ready to jump at the chance. This is a virtuous circle for anyone enterprising enough to recognise it.

Global players
Liverpool%20Dale%20Street%20sunlit.jpgWhether Liverpool is “unenglish” we must leave the BBC debaters to determine. Whether that same city is now positioned once again to take its place as a major player at the European and global levels we can answer for ourselves.

The answer is Yes.

And, in contrast to the last time Liverpool was a great trading city, when the odds were stacked against ‘outsiders’, this time Liverpool will be trading on an even playing field with its external partners.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This article is also published (as Liverpool: Ripe For Growth in 2007 And 2008) on the European Renaissance website.

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