Was a Telegraph article criticising Liverpool’s culture a ‘deliberate attempt at misinformation’?
The city’s leaders want a ‘full apology’ — plus the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear readers — Liverpool has culture, right? Like the Tate, the Philharmonic, the Walker, lots of other museums and a storied musical heritage (a little known fact: The Beatles actually came from this neck of the woods). Well, according to a piece in The Telegraph, maybe not. Entitled “Glasgow vs Liverpool: when it comes to culture there is only one winner” writer Ben Lawrence makes the case that Liverpool should miss out on Eurovision to its Scottish competitor.
Suffice to say, local leaders have come out swinging, with metro mayor Steve Rotheram demanding an apology and retraction. We’ll be asking whether the reaction has been a bit excessive...
At the weekend we published our account of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. One comment read: “Nice well balanced piece and a very enjoyable read. Only time will tell if Starmer is fully accepted by Liverpool but if the Hillsborough Law is his way of apologising for his extremely poor choice of rags to write for, then it’s a big step.”
Last week our paying members received two great editions in their inboxes. First came a double bill on Tuesday with Mollie’s report of the Merseyside women’s derby and how quickly the gears are shifting in the popularity of women’s football, alongside a write up on Starmer’s address to the party conference. Then on Thursday we sent David Lloyd to Manifest, a restaurant in the Baltic that is attracting a lot of attention at the moment.
Other benefits to paying membership include a spring in your step and a general feeling of contentment with life. Don’t question it, it’s a fact. To receive those and support a future for independent journalism on Merseyside, sign up below for just £7 a month.
We’re now within touching distance of two big milestones: 10,000 subscribers on our free list and 600 members on our paid list. We’re aware that times are hard — any kind of support at all is greatly appreciated — but if you can afford a paid membership (it’s £1.34 a week if you pay for a year upfront) then we’ll be able to keep growing and put more time into longer, resource-costly investigative pieces. Moreover, if you know someone who might enjoy these stories, please do feel free to forward this edition on to friends and family.
This week’s weather
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from the Met Office and it’s for Liverpool.
Big Story: Is Liverpool a cultural wasteland?
Top line: Telegraph culture critic Ben Lawrence has made himself Liverpool’s public enemy number one with an article questioning our cultural offering. With the city awaiting the final Eurovision decision — having made the last two alongside Glasgow, the article prompted uproar. Metro mayor Steve Rotheram called it a “deliberate attempt at misinformation” and said the MPs would be “asking questions”.
What was said? On close inspection, the article is actually more even-handed than some of the headlines suggest. It praises Liverpool’s musical past and notes the influence of writers like Alan Bleasdale and Jimmy McGovern on the history of TV and stage drama. By and large the piece is more pro-Glasgow than anti-Liverpool, calling them both “great cities”. However, it was the following passage that was deemed unfair.
“But in other areas, it falls short, with no art galleries, dance companies or opera houses — at least not any that carry any great significance beyond the North West. The city’s greatest receiving house, the Liverpool Empire, is often stymied by the fact that it can comfortably seat 2,350 people”
In response to the piece, Liverpool seems to have sent out the cavalry. Rotheram demanded a full retraction, prompting the writer to “set the record straight” and Liverpool’s mayor Joanne Anderson accused Lawrence of failing to do his “homework”.
Reality check: Certainly, the “no galleries” claim seems egregious, with the Walker tweeting out an extensive list of local galleries, including the Bluecoat, the Tate and others. Given that the Walker’s collection includes the likes of Rubens, Hogarth and Hockney, to say it has no national significance is wide of the mark. It’s also true that Liverpool has the most public sculptures in the UK outside of Westminster.
The bid: The article came just as Liverpool was laying out its main bid to host Eurovision, with Ukraine at the forefront given its victory in the competition this year. The Echo has published a helpful rundown of the bid, including commissions of Ukrainian street artists, a large display of Ukrainian Easter painted eggs — Pysanka — to be created and Ukrainian designers will help create the outfits of delegates and volunteers.
Specifics of the bid aside, there’s also a case that Lawrence’s criticisms — where he talks about Glasgow’s better poetic, operatic and ballet offerings — don’t really tally with the Eurovision MO; cheesy Slovak pop bands in full-sequined costumes and an almighty piss-up. Our own writer David Lloyd summed it up quite nicely:
“Are there plenty of bars? Is there a place for a party? Can you wear glitter in the streets? Great. You're a host city.”
We do wonder if local leaders really need to throw their toys out of the pram any time a national newspaper writes something silly about our city. Is their time best spent demanding apologies and retractions for culture stories in the Telegraph? Was the piece really a “deliberate attempt at misinformation”? Tell us in the comments (members only).
Your Post briefing
Thomas Cashman, a 34 year old man from West Derby, has been charged with the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt Korbel. At a press conference on Saturday, DCI Mark Kameen urged the public to continue to “speak to us” with any new information. 40-year-old Paul Russell has also been charged with assisting an offender, accused of driving Cashman to an address and disposing of his clothing. Today, both suspects have appeared at Liverpool Magistrates Court.
The brother of Moors Murder victim Keith Bennett thinks there is “more than meets the eye” to the claims of Birkenhead author Russell Edwards to have found his brother’s remains. Edwards, who has a lifelong obsession with unsolved cases (and once published, in his words, “the definitive evidence to prove the identity of the world's most famous murderer: Jack the Ripper”) informed police that he had uncovered what he believed to be a human skull on a remote location on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester. Keith’s is the only body of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley’s victims that has yet to be found. So far a police search of the area has yielded no results.
Merseyside Police is the latest force in England to axe services by Victims Support, the biggest charity helping people targeted by rapists and domestic abusers. Almost a quarter of police forces in the UK have now cut the charity's services, which Merseyside Police was spending £185,000 on annually. Police and crime commissioner Emily Spurrell said that an internal assessment had highlighted “gaps in provision” and that a new, centralised “victim hub” would be set up with police-appointed staff.
Louis McKechnie, a 21-year-old climate activist who used a metal zip-tie to attach himself to the goalposts at an Everton vs Newcastle match at Goodison Park in March, has been sentenced to six weeks in jail. McKechnie wore an orange “Just Stop Oil” t-shirt and during the protest and told South Sefton Magistrates Court he chose the match against Newcastle because they are sponsored by oil company Saudi Aramco. He denied the charge of aggravated trespass, saying he had hoped his protest would help save billions of lives.
📚 You may have seen the signs, you might have heard the whispers: It’s Liverpool Literary Festival this weekend. Performance poet Malik Al Nasir is using his memoir, Letters to Gil, as a springboard to talk about where the care system goes wrong, and Frank Cottrell-Boyce will lead a discussion on patriotism, nationalism and how we abuse soft power. A weekend pass is £60.
🎧 God Colony, the Liverpudlian techno-inspired duo, is hosting a party in Quarry, a club under a railway arch in the North Docks, on Friday night. It’s organised by James Rand and Thomas Gorton, who is also the editorial director of Dazed Magazine and is promising “Scouse storytelling, Persian grime, hard-as-nails MCing from Salford, then some of Liverpool's best DJs.” Tickets are £10.
📺 Kirkby-born actor Stephen Graham plays the reformed neo-Nazi and intelligence lead at Hope Not Hate Matthew Collins in a new ITV drama series which takes a look at Jack Renshaw, the 22-year-old who walked into a Warrington pub with a plan to kill Labour MP Rosie Cooper, the rise of the far-right and hate speech on social media. Tonight at 9pm.
🗣 The South Liverpool Debating Society will discuss the motion “This House believes that a Nuclear War is Unlikely” over drinks and dinner at Keith’s on Thursday night. Debates take place in a safe and civilised setting, and reasoned, well-thought out arguments are encouraged. Reserve a place here.
⚓️ In 1969, two sailors started a new life at sea in the Merchant Navy. They were both 17, and their names were Michael Rudder and Dominic Brown. In A Lisbon Liaison, a podcast created by National Museums Liverpool documenting Liverpool love stories, they discuss the openness and acceptance they found at sea. Listen here.
Home of the week
Sadly we don’t have a spare £1.2 million lying around, but if we did this might be how we’d spend it. This property in Cressington Park has uninterrupted views of the Mersey and an indoor swimming pool. Best start saving.
Our favourite reads
The Times visits Liverpool’s most popular seafood and Welsh wine bar on the docks for this review. Is Lerpwl, which is named after the Welsh translation for the city, “straining for awards”, the critic Marina O’Loughlin wonders? She adds that she can’t fault the energy and friendliness of the staff, who deliver beetroot goat’s curd, Cosyn Cymru sheep’s yoghurt scattered with sunflower seeds and mango dessert — each with its own introduction and story. “If they let the food do more of the talking (it’s perfectly capable of this)… well, I’d be raving about Lerpwl to the rafters.”
“I once burst into tears while doing the flat of an obsessive Italian shoe-hoarder,” writes Michele Kirsch about her experience working as a cleaner in The Independent. “He had hardly any stuff except the basics — bed, fridge, cooker, telly — and hundreds of boxes of Italian designer shoes.” Kirsch, the writer who grew up between Liverpool and New York, gives us an insight into the lives of low-wage workers and what we learn about people from their messy, unpolished homes.
A beautifully written critique of the paintings of Russian artist Semyon Faibisovich, as is typical of the prose in The Critical Friend, the newsletter of the South Liverpool Debating Society. It has a beautiful passage about the value of art in the Soviet era, ending on the reflection: “It is important that we remember Russian artists like Faibisovich now, as Russia moves towards totalitarianism. This is because artists like him, and the great Russian film director Andrey Zvagintsev, are the genuine face of dissent against the Russian state.”
The writer Will Lloyd hangs out at a left fringe event at the Labour Conference for this feature in UnHerd, where he asks the question: what is the future for Corbynism, when the present belongs to Starmer? “Marxism taught the people at this festival that this moment ought to be seized by revolutionaries. Instead, they are marooned on the far side of power, eating vegetable soup and singing songs to a faded messiah.”
Photo of the week
A protestor at the Enough is Enough rally over the weekend — a campaign to fight against the cost-of-living crisis — by the Liverpool editorial photographer Jane MacNeil.
Letters from readers
Personally I can’t stand restaurants who show off all their ducting and where the exposed concrete and steel bounce conversation around as an echo chamber of discordant noise. However, that's no reflection of the quality of the food and I wish Manifest well. ‘Manifest is a place for people who love food — a subset smaller than those who love taking pictures of food,’ Ruth Smart
I woz there! A balanced account though I picked up he theme that politics needs root and branch change, devolving power right down, including PR. Big disconnect between people and Westminster creating brexit, division, inequality, disaffection and minority tory governments that most voters don't want. Unless Labour bring in fair voting and challenge ownership of the billionaire press, nothing will change. ‘When Keir came to town,’ Liz