Lights, camera, traction: can Liverpool make its moment in the spotlight last?
Seven local masterminds on how the city can wring the most out of 2023
Dear members — a genius chef, a creative powerhouse, a Bafta-winner’s dream manager, a spoken word poet, the co-director of an inspiring writing and literature fest, a regeneration boffin and a group of women in Toxteth “embracing arts, food and environmentally focused initiatives” walk into a bar. That bar is this edition of The Post. Here’s what they end up chatting about.
Editor’s note: Life is pain. But amongst the rainstorms, there are moments of sunshine. Which is why, on Thursdays, we send this email out to both our benefactors (paying subscribers) and free subscribers. Tragically (life being pain) only the top of the article will be visible to our free subscribers.
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Your Post Briefing
Disappointing news from the government’s latest round of Levelling Up funding, as many of the most deprived areas across Merseyside saw bids rejected. The two local areas that will be receiving money from the £5 billion pot are Halewood (£15 million to improve transport, sport and leisure facilities) and St Helens (where the council will get £20 million to invest in Earlestown’s market square). Failed bids include ones for West Everton — which was to be used largely on the Great Homer Street Market — Paddington Village, and Wirral council’s bid for cash to revamp Liscard town centre. Sefton council's bid for its ambitious Bootle Strand canalside project, which we reported on last year, was also turned down. Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson was highly critical of the decisions, saying: “If this government is serious about tackling regional inequality, they need to provide local authorities with the resources that empower us“.
Sporting siblings from L8 have been nominated as Citizens of Honour. Nikita Parris, a footballer, was a part of the winning Euro 2022 England squad. Though currently a forward for Manchester United, her career started on home turf with Kingsley United in Toxteth. Her sister, meanwhile, was Britain's first female Olympic boxer, reaching the quarter finals of 2012 London games, before winning a world title in February last year. Other nominees include curator of Liverpool International Music Festival, Yaw Owusu (who pops up later in this edition) and Bob Blanchard, a military veteran. If approved by the City Council, the Lord Mayor will present each with a Freedom Scroll at a special event.
And a less positive sporting story comes from Everton, as Merseyside Police have been in contact with the club to ensure the safety of members of the board after chairman Bill Kenwright was alleged to have received death threats, and chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale was placed in a headlock by an angry fan as she left a recent game. Our Monday briefing looked into some of the chaos and confusion surrounding Everton’s ownership, which, along with a rough season, has contributed to anger towards the club’s board. The Police has said no offences have been reported, but they are monitoring the ongoing situation closely.
By David Lloyd
At the first gathering between the city’s Eurovision A-team and the three hundred or so people desperate to help/get a ticket, councillor Harry Doyle said the event represented “his generation’s Capital of Culture” moment. Which begged the question, how young are our councillors these days, exactly? As well as, more importantly: what have we got to do to make sure we seize this moment? How can we avoid proceeding as we did in the Capital of Culture aftermath, spectacularly throwing all that momentum away, replacing it with nepotism, stagnation and special measures?
Harry has a point: it was a full 20 years ago that Teresa Jowell announced the city’s winning bid, prompting Mike Storey, leader of Liverpool city council at the time to say: "This is like Liverpool winning the Champions League, Everton winning the double and the Beatles reforming all on the same day — and Steve Spielberg coming to the city to make a Hollywood blockbuster about it.” It was an amazing moment.
But so too was the One Show announcement that we’d been chosen to host Eurovision, prompting Culture Liverpool’s Claire McColgan to jump up and down in a golden jumpsuit, looking for all the world like a mid-80s Luxembourg entrant. Which is to say, fantastic. And rightly worth jumping for joy over: Claire and the team’s bid was a set piece of confidence, chutzpah and belief in this city’s ability to bring it.
Much as I adore Eurovision, I’m reluctant to imbue the events with quite the same game-changing potential as Capital of Culture. But it’s still the first massive vote of confidence the city’s had in quite some time. We beat off Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and, erm, Sunderland. And, for a week at least, the city will be beamed to millions of homes from Stockholm to Sydney: this, really is a chance for us to show the world, again, what we’re really made of. And, quite possibly, to turn that tricky old tide.
So where do we go from here? I’ve no idea. But I rounded up a selection of people who are already doing amazing things, and asked them instead. Here’s what they had to say.
Kate Haldane runs the Liverpool office of PBJ, one of the country’s leading talent management companies. Specialising in comedy, Kate’s client list reads like a who’s who of BAFTA-winning wisecrackers. Her aim — to get more of our genuinely funny folk into the spotlight.
What's right about Liverpool right now?
Same as is always right about Liverpool, the people, the buildings, the river. The theatres are really stepping up to the plate — The Royal Court is a house of joy and the Everyman is looking lively again.
What's the stuff we do really brilliantly?
In the arts — things that everyone in the city can access easily — Light Night and public art in general, and jollity. There’s a sense of communal experience that brings the city together. There are a handful of new writers (a handful, mind) in theatre and performance and telly starting to break through now.
What would you fix?
I work across TV, film, radio, books and theatre, and there are problems with Liverpool being taken seriously. If it registers, it’s still seen as being a bit weird. I’ve long wanted there to be greater communication and connection between them all. I get the feeling that people want to protect their worlds, their little patches, as money and time are so hard won, and it’s not always for the common good or in their own best interests. In a city of self-interest, the arts organisations need encouragement to look outside their own domains, maybe?
If you could change one thing about LIverpool this year, what would it be?
Please don’t let Eurovision be the be all and end all. I’ve already had a really lovely and lively TV and radio writers’ conference that would have brought a lot of attention to the city banjaxed, quite cursorily and without any consultation ‘because of Eurovision’.
Paul Durand, together with partner Charlotte, runs the award-winning Manifest restaurant (recently placed in the top 50 by Hardens) in the Baltic. Intimate and assured, the restaurant’s leading the city’s recent food renaissance.
What's right about Liverpool right now?
I’d say the Liverpool food and drink scene is the best it’s ever been at the moment. There’s a real buzz around the city with loads of really great independents all pushing each other to be better and the people of Liverpool are really spoilt for choice.
From your vantage point — what's the stuff we do really brilliantly?
Liverpool and Scousers have always had such a strong identity. It’s the people that make up this city and I’d like to see more of this. I want to see more local businesses be given opportunities, less high street chains going in everywhere.
And, what would you fix?
This is me getting on my soapbox bit but the infrastructure needs a bit of work. Getting anywhere by car around the city is a bit of a nightmare and the trains are just as bad. Especially coming from the North of the city. Other cities just seem to be so much easier to get around