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21 May 2008

NEWSLETTER                                                         No 45  : 21 May 2008

Consultation  -  or no consultation?

We sent you a copy of the Liverpool's draft Cultural Strategy (2008-2013) the other day. We do hope you will send your comments to before 2 June. We would be pleased to receive a copy of your views at the above e-address.

The document is 25 pages long. Inevitably it contains some things you will agree with, some that you will disagree with and will omit some matters that you think it should contain. It has its share of consultant-speak.  ("The aim is to ….promote the quality and sustainability of the cultural sector by building on its current strengths and realising opportunities for development and investment. – Hardly earthshaking stuff!  This strategy recognizes culture as an international right and essential life force. Fine, but does the document say what should actually happen on the ground or is it mainly a matter of discussion between the 14 public sector bodies cited?) It is very important that the City Council gets this strategy right and therefore that you tell them what you think it should say. You can either comment on whatever paragraphs concern you or you can simply send in your view of what a cultural strategy should contain and let Council staff decide where to include your contribution.

We urge you to consider certain points including the following:

-          Should the City Council devote time and public money to culture and heritage as a means of attracting tourists and their spending power to the city, to better educate our citizens, to provide fun for us locals….or what?

-          What are the chief aspects of the city and its life which help to achieve whichever of the above objectives you think are in play?

-          Do you include sport, pop music and nitelife in culture in this context or do you think that it is classical culture only that really matters?

-          Are you concerned about the total experience which a visitor gets in Liverpool including the cleanliness of the streets, the welcome received in shops, bars and restaurants or only more narrowly with the attractions themselves?

-          Do you think that a cultural strategy should have a specific place for voluntary organizations or should it only be about the "Big 8" (Empire, Playhouse, Phil NML etc) and public sector bodies like the Culture Company, Mersey Partnership, Liverpool Vision, the Development Agency etc?

-          Have you been satisfied with the Culture Company's willingness to listen to your proposals, to explain its own plans and to show visible leadership?

These are just some of the areas you may wish to comment on.  Say what you like but say it soon.

Our own comments will be made later. However, we will say at the outset that the way this so-called consultation has been handled bodes very badly for the future. Liverpool Council for Voluntary Services and it arts and culture network was chosen as the vehicle for consultation with the sector. None of the principal societies with whom we have spoken have heard anything about the exercise. The draft has been kept secret (apparently because it might have influenced the result of the local elections). We still do not know who has actually been consulted. We hope that the Council does not play the trick (by no means unknown in the public sector) of saying "Wait a bit, it's too soon to tell you what's going on" and then, in a flash, to say " Awfully sorry, it's too late for your comments to be taken into account".  We do wish the consultants (abl cultural consulting) had cast their net a bit wider in seeking suggestions.

Town Hall woes

Last summer the Heritage Forum organized three public meetings in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall on heritage topics.  Over 300 people attended and enjoyed them.  We had negotiated with the Town Hall to have the room free of charge for the three sessions, up to a value of £1,000 of what the normal rent would have been. No money was to pass in any direction.  There was no cost to the public purse. We tried to do organize lectures this year to coincide with the cruise ships arriving. However, the Town Hall will not discuss the matter with us because it is waiting of the Culture Company to pay them £1,000 for the use of the Chamber last year!. The first cruise ship has now arrived. No talks have been laid on for their passengers or anyone else.

Does the City Council support Capital of Culture Year or not?   

We commented in an earlier edition that buses have been taking cruise ship passengers to Manchester and the Lake District, wondering why they did not spend their time in Liverpool. We are informed that the Cruise Ship Terminal is funded by the North West Development Agency which has a responsibility to generate tourism for the whole region, not just for Liverpool.

Publicising Liverpool's history

# Liverpool University Press (0151 794 2233) publishes a number of books on local history. One is the story, written by Arline Wilson, of William Roscoe, writer, poet, historian and anti-slave trade campaigner. Another, by Suzanne Schwarz, tells he story of James Irving, a Liverpool slave ship captain who was shipwrecked off Morocco and subsequently enslaved himself.

# English Heritage, the City Council, National Museums Liverpool and others have published a booklet of streets whose names are those of slave traders and slave owners such as John Ashton, John Blackburne, Bryan Blundell, John Gladstone and Thomas Parr. It is useful that the names of these people who indulged in an utterly repugnant activity should be suitably publicised. However, many people will wonder if this wish to make the city’s history better known will extend to streets named after former citizens who made positive achievements such as William Roscoe, who played a leading part in abolishing the slave trade, Thomas Steers, who built the world’s first enclosed dock and his fellow engineers and builders Henry Berry and John Hope……….What other city focuses mainly on the downside of its history?

# “2008” has brought the city a great deal of national publicity. One example was the National Trust magazine's spring feature on the city, including its own properties at Forthlin Road (Paul McCartney’s home), Mendips (John Lennon’s home), Chambré Hardman’s studio in Rodney Street and Speke Hall. There has been very good television and radio coverage of services in both Cathedrals  -  and more to come.

# You may have seen back in April that someone cut the head off a topiary portrayal of Ringo Starr following his negative comments about the city that brought him to fame  -  for once a piece of vandalism that many would approve of.  This follows the wave of criticism about Jimmy Tarbuck’s remarks at the Royal Variety programme in the New Year about Liverpool thievery. Now that Liverpool is resurgent, this sort of comment, made by people who hardly ever come here but trade off the fact of their having been raised here, are offensive and damaging. Maybe the people who make such comments  have now got the message. The various public authorities within the city can help matters by concentrating more on the positive achievements of Liverpool history, not just on the black side. Show pride in the city, leaders of the City and the various quangoes in it, and the people will follow!

# 5 April was Organ Day in Liverpool. There were performances in both Cathedrals and also a performance in St George's Hall.  During that weekend there was a recital in Christchurch, Port Sunlight, on the newly refurbished organ. See our Events listings for future recitals.

# There was a performance by a classical trio in Bootle Town Hall a few days later  - one of a number of lunchtime concerts given there over the summer.  The Town Hall itself is small but interesting, as are many of the Victorian Town Halls in the north of England. This one was built in 1882 and reopened after wartime bomb damage in 1962 (in the course of which four bronze bells were removed  -  and sold for £423  -  the tower being unsafe). Bootle was recorded, unlike Liverpool, in the Doomsday Book in 1086, was made a borough in 1868 and avoided being incorporated into Liverpool as many of the city’s other neighbouring areas were.  (It was said that there would be riots in the street if that were to happen!). There is some beautiful civic silver in cabinets on the staircase.  The silver was beautifully clean (in contrast to the much more extensive and attractive silver in Liverpool Town Hall which sorely needs a touch of Silvo and elbow grease).

# A week or two ago the Liverpool Scottish Museum at Botanic Road were notified that they would probably have to vacate their premises by 30 September 2008. This has now been confirmed.  Although the long term viability of the Liverpool Scottish Regimental Museum has always been under review by the Museum's Trustees against the background of the available financial and human resources (i.e. money and volunteers), this is a considerable set back and one which we had not expected to have to face for some years. It is anticipated that displays will remain in place until the beginning of June when it is probable that they will begin to be dismantled. The museum will try to welcome people to the Museum through into September but the first priority will have to be the orderly packing of artifacts in a way in which the location of every item is documented. If you wish to visit the Museum and have not yet done so, you need to make arrangements to do this soon. Where items are on loan to the Museum, approaches from lenders are sought at an early stage to discuss the future of their loans. The Trustees will have to consider the other artifacts in their care. Many of them are the responsibility of the Trustees of the Museum, others (such as the War Memorials and much of the silver) are the responsibility of the Regimental Trustees (a different body). The aim will be as far as possible to maintain the integrity of the collection but it may be necessary to dispose of some of them. 

The Liverpool name

Liverpool had several great financial companies bearing its name. The Bank of Liverpool later became Martins Bank and was absorbed later by Barclays Bank. One famous name is the Royal Liver Friendly Society, occupant of the Liver Building at the Pier Head. Another was the Liverpool Victoria financial services group, now known as LV and with its headquarters now in the South. A reminder of it is the Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club in Wallasey (founded in 1884). Yet another major company with "Liverpool" in its titles was the Liverpool, London & Globe Insurance Company, which occupied the now empty and badly looked-after gold-domed building in Castle Street. It is now part of Royal & Sun.

# Our recent mention of the World War II U-Boat should have said that it is to be a tourist attraction at Woodside ferry terminal in Birkenhead, courtesy of Merseytravel,  whom we congratulate on their initiative.


# Sat/Sun 29 and 30 July: There will be a festival  to commemorate the sailing of the ‘Mimosa’ from Liverpool to Patagonia.  Saturday’s programme to include two lectures, the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and a dinner.  On Sunday at 10.30 a.m. there will be a service of thanksgiving at Bethel Welsh Presbyterian Church, Heathfield Road, Liverpool. 15.

# John Edwards (0151 489 6116), a Blue Badge Tourist Guide for Merseyside will give the following  illustrated talks amongst others with slides:-

The Buildings of Liverpool

Liverpool's American Connections

The Chinese in Liverpool

Murder, mystery and oddities of bygone Liverpool

Lord Leverhulme, His Life and Residences

Crime & Punishment

Around and about

# Wallington House in Northumberland is said to contain one of the best collections of pottery in National Trust properties. There among the Meissen, the Sèvres and pieces from Japan and China are three Liverpool pieces, a charger (serving plate) and two punchbowls. The bowls are inscribed “Lett us drink success to Blackett and Fenwick”, two local Tory MPs in the eighteenth century. There is a display of Liverpool pottery in the Merseyside Maritime Museum but there is no indication on the site on which some of the principal potteries used to stand (where the Museum, the Central Library and the Walker were later erected), to give witness to what was once a major Liverpool industry. The technique of transfer printing on the round surfaces  of pottery was invented here and used by Wedgewood, who sent wares from Staffordshire for this treatment.

#Our recent mention of the World War II U-Boat should have said that it is to be a tourist attraction at Woodside ferry terminal in Birkenhead, courtesy of Merseytravel,  whom we congratulate on their initiative.

# I watched a couple ordering scouse in one of the several restaurants that now offer the local delicacy. “We’ll both have scouse”, one of them said. He could have said “Two scouses, please”. But then, is the plural of scouse  scouses as in houses, or is it scice, like the plural of mouse and louse (both meaty delicacies no doubt)? If the former, is it houzes like the plural of house and the verb rouse or is it howsses as in dowses? Callouses presents a further challenge. The revival of our local dish clearly presents new challenges for pronunciation experts!

# The old unmodernised Liverpool pubs are delightful reminders of the city's past and present culture.  In one of my favourites -  a haunt of old men with carved faces and buxom ladies and a much warmer welcome for Everton supporters than for supporters of the other lot  -  I knew I had become accepted, city gent suit and all, when the barman greeted me with "Oh, hello there, Lad". As age creeps slowly on, does one ever cease to be a Lad? One will certainly never be a "Sir", not in that pub! But the friendliness and the wit are there for the taking.

Andrew Pearce, Editor.