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Liverpool launches Capital of Culture

Elizabeth Alker donates her soul to our dear neighbour city at the launch of their BIG YEAR

Published on January 15th 2008.

Liverpool launches Capital of Culture

If there were ever a town to rival Manchester on the civic pride stakes it would be Liverpool. But now Liverpool is officially the ‘Centre of the Creative Universe’ - a quote which can be credited to Alan Ginsberg and so is no doubt true.

Certainly the event could have made more of the new talent in the city. It was hi-jacked by too many old men with an agenda.

Despite all the controversy leading up to the well publicised Capital Of Culture launch, events over the weekend probably ran as smoothly as could have been hoped. This writer was behind the scenes, on the red carpet and gathering the word from the street and was pleasantly surprised by the high levels of optimism on all fronts.

The spectacular people’s launch on Friday night brought the giants of Liverpool’s cultural past home. From Alison Steadman to Ken Dodd, Dave Stewart and Ringo Starr.

Criticism has been hurled at the city for basking in its former glories and its true, the proportion of new talent to old hats was notably low. On top of that, a slightly weathered looking Ringo has been caught using numerous opportunities to plug his own material whilst also claiming, ‘I wouldn’t be able to find my way from here to the school, its changed so much. But in my soul I’ll always be from Liverpool.’ He also said he felt ‘the Liverpool vibe’ and joked that he’d been, ‘looking over his shoulder more’. Nevertheless, a Beatle’s legacy is enough to trample over anyone’s better judgement and as a result even the most hardened cynic found themselves swaying alone to a visually and sentimentally overwhelming performance from the roof of St Georges Hall.

It was a heavy weekend for Liveprool. After the dust had settled on Friday’s stampede, it was only to be matched again the following day. Over 10,000 people flocked to the opening of the Echo arena for Liverpool the Musical. This was a mixed affair with jaw dropping visuals, overhead gymnastics, a meticulous performance from the Liverpool Philharmonic – an outfit any city should be proud of - an interesting set from Echo and the Bunnymen, a couple of tear jerking Beatles’ covers from Ringo and then a succession of dubious performances from the ghosts of Liverpool’s musical past, such as Pete Wylie.

The comments from the £56 paying public were varied, with one man adamant he could have put on a better show himself, a number of people leaving the building shaking their heads but the majority of punters seemingly satisfied.

Certainly the event could have made more of the new talent in the city. It was hi-jacked by too many old men with an agenda. When I quizzed Pete Wylie about the low profile of new bands such as Delta Sonic Darlings, The Coral, the Zutons, Candie Payne and the Rascals his remarks pointed to obvious tension between the old and the new. ‘I think there’s some late night hair gel salon somewhere in town where they’re all getting their hair fixed. There’s some good stuff in the current scene but it could definitely be a bit scarier.’

A high profile event wouldn’t be complete without a bit of controversy and the next day rumours of music scene tension were confirmed by La’s and Cast guitarist John Power. ‘We can’t all be professional Scousers, do you know what I mean? I was waiting for a call but it didn’t happen. Anyway I’m here now and hopefully there’s plenty to get involved with over the coming year.”

He’s certainly right. The launch has not only kick-started a wave of international attention on Liverpool, the development of creative industries across the city and a revival of its musical heritage, but it has also thrown forward a programme packed with world class events. From special commissions by Steve Reich and Michael Nyman to a festival headlined by Paul McCartney, the MTV awards and Electric Proms, and the first major UK Gustav Klimt exhibition, this should be Liverpool’s year in the sun. As long as it doesn’t press the Scouse self-destruct button as it did with the Matthew Street Festival in 2007.

In any case there’s no point being parochial about all this. Liverpool is a mere 35 miles away and is about to entertain everybody in the region - except those, of course, who carry some unreasonable pathetic caveman-like phobia about the place. Capital of Culture will be something we can all enjoy.

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Still BoredJanuary 15th 2008.

The reviewer put that Frankie Vaughan played alongside Pete Wylie and you took it out. Did she think he did play there then, or wasn't she there? You don't spell Dave Stewart like that either.

JamesJanuary 15th 2008.

The Beatles died three plus decades ago but it didn't stop Ringo turning up.

Bored!January 15th 2008.

Er, Frankie Vaughan died in 1999.

JonathanJanuary 15th 2008.

Honestly East Lancs, the criticism of the event seemed completely fine and justified here and not at all vindictive. Liverpool is big enough to take criticism surely where justified?

Jonathan - editorJanuary 15th 2008.

Still bored you're right about changing it, which I said I would above, and you're right about Dave Stewart, which I'm also going to change. Then I'll sack myself for letting it all through. The reviewer was there both nights and she met the people she said she met. Frankie Vaughan was a plain error. Thanks for keeping us on our toes and keep reading and we'll employ a proper sub-editor soon.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 15th 2008.

Bored - thanks for that. We'll excise from the article and apologise for the error.

Le SqualJanuary 15th 2008.

Well, I went there on Saturday and got very disapointed... Everything seemed to have been taken place within the Arena, it was expansive AND sold out anyway!! Is this what culture is supposed to be? I was in Lille for their year of culture 2004 and that was absolutly brilliant. People dancing and chanting in the streets, loads of things going on everywhere in the city, etc... why indoors?? Why not have brought culture to the people??

East Lancs Road Border GaurdJanuary 15th 2008.

Can`t you miserable, down beat Mancunians see anything positive in Northwest culture or the City of Liverpool. You may exist in the shadow of the great city but FFS lighten up and celebrate and get out your house and socialise.

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