Is Liam Smith’s problem ours too?
Do the boxer’s homophobic comments reflect a pervasive undercurrent in our city? It’s a tricky one
Dear members — last week boxer Liam Smith’s dramatic victory over Chris Eubank Jr had been overshadowed before it started. A widely-shared clip of Smith asking Eubank Jr to explain why he’d never been “seen with a girl” promoted huge backlash and Smith was sent to make a round of weak apologies on various TV and radio stations for his homophobic comments. But it prompted a broader question: do these attitudes die harder in Liverpool than elsewhere, and if they do — why? We delved into it.
Our Thursday edition (being sent fashionably late on Friday lunchtime — we’re never not chic) is, as always, for members only. Readers on the free list will be able to view a mere slice of this email, and should join up as members now if they want to (a) read the rest (b) enjoy a windfall of good karma and (b) support the future of independent journalism in Liverpool and the rest of the city region. They’ll also be able to pitch in in our always-lively comments section. So why not treat yourself this Friday?
Your Post briefing
The Post got a shoutout in the government’s new report on the future of local journalism. The report was scathing of large publishers who own multiple titles (no prizes for guessing who that refers to) for “compromising the quality” of their journalism. The committee’s acting chairman, Conservative MP Damian Green, described how the shift towards online journalism had swallowed traditional revenue streams, making it hard for publications to stay afloat. “While hundreds have already folded, those that remain are faced with a lack of resources to conduct quality journalism, forcing them into a downward spiral of decline,” he said. Echo editor Maria Breslin naturally wasn’t pleased with the findings, describing their “lazy and perhaps even harmful judgement about the quality of local news". But enough about the publications on the naughty step, what about the light in the darkness? That’s us, apparently. We popped up (alongside our sister titles in Manchester and Sheffield and a separate title in Bristol) in a little section in the report entitled “innovation” about “publishers seeking to reverse the decline in new provision in their communities”. We’re trying!
90s revivalism is coming to a screen near you, as Sir Philip Redmond’s iconic Brookside lands on streaming services next month. Set in Liverpool, the soap chronicled the lives of characters living in 13 houses on a cul-de-sac called Brookside Close and ran from 1982 to 2003, pulling in an audience of nine million viewers at its peak. It was known for ahead-of-its-time plotlines (“teenage character Gordon Collins became the first ever openly gay character in a series, while the show also included the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss on British TV,” say the BBC) and helped launched several successful writing careers, such as Frank Cotterell-Boyce and Jimmy McGovern. The show's first 10 episodes will be streamed on STV Player from 1 February.
Save Liverpool Women's Hospital protestors got a key NHS board meeting suspended for 30 minutes amid fears about the hospital’s future. The SAVE campaigners were at the meeting to present a petition to Cheshire & Merseyside Integrated Care Board (ICB), who were discussing recommendations to relocate Liverpool Women’s Hospital alongside the new Royal. Campaigners say that the authors of the report, consultancy firm Carnall Farrar — who have been paid £200,000 for their work — refused to meet with them during its preparation. Discussions about a move, which those in favour claim will improve patient safety, have been in the pipeline for several years, but the SAVE campaign believe it would put the future of the hospital in jeopardy. However Graham Urwin, chief executive of the ICB, “reassured them that what was being voted on [at the meeting] was not a future decision about the hospital but the next step in the process to look at improving healthcare,” reports the Echo.
🎹 Post-punk dream pop that makes you feel like you’re drifting off into the ether (in a good way) at Future Yard, as duo White Flowers play the FY stage on Saturday. Their new album, Day by Day, is said to create “a crystalline atmosphere mixed with ethereal vocals that can be described as a revivalism of shoegaze that saw its day in the ’80s and ’90s.” Not bad for £13.20.
🍻 What beats a discount pint? A discount pint and brewery tour package. Azvex Brewery’s sale — a one-hour tour and a three-beer tasting session for £10 — is still running until the end of the month. Here’s the information.
📽️ Heavy on the romance and (hopefully) light on the getting drenched, enjoy an open air Valentine’s Day film night at the Bombed Out Church next month with a screening of Singin in the Rain. It’s £12.10 with blankets and a bar.
By Jack Walton
Perhaps more than anything, it was just embarrassing. The schoolyard bully glint in his eye, the fact that — save a splattering of sniggers at the back — the room didn’t buy into it, the host flapping about to deflect attention and failing spectacularly.
Liam Smith’s homophobic display in the build up to his victory against Chris Eubank Jr, in which he repeatedly asked Eubank Jr if he’d ever “been with a girl” (or: “You got something to tell us?”) was embarrassing, most agreed. On the face of things, essentially a cack-handed and bigoted extension of the kind of trestle-table tittle-tattle the boxing industrial complex demands of its fighters in the build up to fights. The more juvenile the better; if someone from one entourage throws something at someone from the other, then that’s money.
But in the days after the fight, as the accusations of homophobia soured Smith’s victory and he was sent on a quasi-grovelling media round of half-apologies in which he first repents, then denies that he said anything offensive, something stood out: a persistent pattern to the analysis. That his comments were indicative of a pervasive undercurrent in Liverpool specifically and somehow, this was the city’s problem as much as just Smith’s or boxing’s. “People make Liverpool out to be this super progressive place but really there are a lot of Liam Smiths,” read one tweet of many. “Liverpool has a homophobia problem in general,” said another.
Asking a handful of people in Liverpool’s gay community whether they think the city is homophobic provokes heavily caveated answers. Several describe the manner in which the city’s identity, and by extension how it relates to gay rights, can be conflicted and confusing: torn between a sense of itself as anarchic and progressive — the standardised Bold St apparel of CND badges and Docs — but also a separate sense of itself as hardy, traditional and wanting to project a kind of macho exterior under which homophobic comments get reframed as laddish banter.
In Kirkdale I meet a man who I’ll call Terry. Terry’s son is gay, but his son isn’t here. He doesn’t want me to use real names. He’s uncertain about this altogether and the meeting feels uneasy, as if the information he relays is in breach of some unspoken code.