Monday, December 31, 2007
As a necessary corrective to the mayhem & madness which will engulf the streets & bars over the next few hours, I'd recommend the Random Acts Of Reality blog by Tom Reynolds, a London paramedic who will be working this evening (http://randomreality.blogware.com/ ). Tom has promised to update the blog as the night/morning wears on. Good luck, Tom.
The thought that 2008 is just a few hours away is rather sobering in itself. For better or worse, the Capital of Culture madness will swing into action as the clock strikes midnight.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
It's always a little disheartening, though not exactly astonishing, when the so-called serious press is guilty of sloppy journalism over Merseyside. One such instance was to be found in last week's Guardian in an article on the growth of blogs in UK towns & cities:
According to the piece's author, Guy Clapperton, the blogging scene in Liverpool is slight:
"Not surprisingly," he sneers, "the city is characterised by a plethora of footie blogs pretending to be city blogs."
Clapperton's piece does go on to mention the Liverpool Subculture blog (http://www.liverpoolsubculture.blogspot.com/ ), but no others in a dismissively short paragraph. No mention of Liverpool Blogs (http://liverpoolblogs.blogspot.com/ ) nor the blogs featured on the Art In Liverpool website (http://www.artinliverpool.co.uk/ ).
There are many things in an unready state for 2008, but the city's burgeoning blogging scene isn't one of them.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
With this week's Champions League draw pairing Liverpool & Inter Milan for the first time since their meeting in 1965, it's worth recalling that tie & the way in which Inter bribed the Spanis referee, Snr. Ortiz de Mendebil for the second leg at the San Siro:
(With thanks to http://www.shankly.com/ for reproduction of the image .)
* A Chance For Revenge?
Ahead of the institutional cock-up that will be 2008 (thank you, Tony Parrish, you've made the council, the Culture Company & the Echo look like complete clowns, keep it up: http://www.liverpoolsubculture.blogspot.com/ ), there is some cheering information about the arts scene locally in today's Observer (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2231521,00.html ).
The emerging young artists, musicians & others involved in the city's arts scene have a take on 2008 which refreshingly steers clear of the old cliches & Scouse stereotypes. Indeed, some of them have settled in Liverpool, enabling them to have a fresh perspective on the forthcoming year as well as their general perceptions of the city. One or two have a timely dig at the farce concocted by the council & their partners in crime at the Culture Company.
With Jason Harborrow retiring (yet again) to his Spanish hacienda before his final pay off at the council tax payers expense & Messrs. Storey & Bradley finally facing the music for their culpability, it's heartening to know that the city's arts scene is getting on with its own projects & not allowing the civic chaos to affect their own work.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
If the comedians running the Liverpool Culture Company had been doing their job properly, they might, just might, have secured this gig for the city. Instead, the 60s are re-heated & served up yet again for local consumption.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Returning, as we must, to the ongoing farce that will be 2008, Tony Parish, has unearthed another gem (http://liverpoolsubculture.blogspot.com/ ) which the Echo will probably report as an exclusive sometime next month.
After the pathetically transparent attempt by Warren Bradley, Jason Harborrow, et al, to use Lee Forde as the scapegoat for the Matthew Street fiasco, the covering of arses is on a scale last seen at your average public school. However, the Subculture blog notes that Bradley, Harborrow & others knew in February of this year that there were real difficulties over the festival. In a series of emails between the relevant parties dating back to this point, it was acknowledged that the festival would be starved of resources & that the "Big Dig" in the city would make the staging of the event a near impossibility. This contradicts Bradley's oft-repeated claim that the first he knew of the situation was in July.
A week or so back, it seemed that the BBC was going to investigate the 2008 fiasco:
However, hopes were dashed this week, according to the same source:
How-Do reported, "It is thought that the content of the programme was set to focus on the numerous well-documented 'hiccups' that have occurred on the road to Liverpool's highly prized Capital of Culture status. One insider noted that city officials were 'justifiably nervous' about the apparent plans."
According to the piece, Paul Rasmussen, a spokesman for the programme, was initially wary of saying much about the claim. However, he did venture, "We did do some initial research on a programme about regeneration, which would have been linked to Liverpool 08."
Panorama is a mere shadow of the programme it was in previous decades. However, it would have been nice to see the spotlight turned on the machinations, chicanery, spin & mind-blowing incompetence which has characterized the Liverpool Culture Company (http://liverpool08.com/ ).
The sigh of relief emanating from Liverpool 08's corporate sponsors will be audible at Jason Harborrow's Spanish hacienda.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Alas, poor Declan, alack; once upon a time you seemed to be the only big name UK artist to survive the late 70s New Wave period with serious credibility (the Clash had their moments, but failed to sustain their momentum).
Costello's truly cringeworthy rendition of "Happy Birthday" to Hillary Clinton in New York last month followed closely on his appearance in a TV ad in the US for Lexus cars ( I have both to hand, but won't dignify them with the relevant YouTube links ).
Anyway, it seems that Costello has assumed the airs & graces of his namesake (Elvis, not Bud) with his ridiculously regal stance: http://www.nme.com/news/elvis-costello/32392 .
In the original Mojo interview, Costello cites his reception at the Glastonbury Festival in 2005. However, the previous February, I saw Costello at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre, playing to a rapt & packed audience (he even jokingly dedicated "[I Don't Wanna Go To Go] Chelsea" to Steven Gerrard).
Perhaps he sees himself as the second Lennon, comfortably based in Manhattan. On this side of the Atlantic, however, his remarks evoke memories of Rod Stewart hopping across to New York with Britt Ekland.
I hope you're happy now, Elvis.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
It turns out that Gillett & Hicks are seeking a £500m loan to finance the new stadiun at Stanley Park (the cost having spiralled to £400m), as well as refinancing the £298m loan they secured from the Royal Bank of Scotland with which to purchase the club. One paragraph, in particular, from Hunter's piece is both damning & daunting to the city's taxpayers, not just the club's fans:
"The Americans intended to borrow from Goldman Sachs in a deal arranged by Liverpool's financial advisor, Robert Tillis, until the financiers responded to the global credit crunch by asking the sports tycoons to invest more of their own money into the refinancing package. With his employers reluctant to do so, Tillis has held talks with other financial institutions, including Wachovia and Morgan Stanley. The deal is yet to be finalised but, given current interest rates, the Americans are likely to be refinancing under worse terms than they received from RBS."
As well as shining a light on murky & opaque dealings, the article makes mention of the credit crunch, a phenomenon which has brought the global banking system to a juddering halt, & which has shaken the traders on Wall St. out of their triumphalist mindset about global capitalism.
The much vaunted aim of the chancers, charlatans & third-rate spivs in charge of 2008 for the year to feature the best that the city's cultural talents has to offer sits uncomfortably with this rather unneccessary addition to the calendar. If the Awards could be adapted to showcase local unsigned acts before a global TV audience, I'd be all for it.
However, we all know that it won't be anything of the sort. Most likely, it will offer the most cursory of nods to You Know Who's musical legacy before grinding on with homogenized, formulaic pap. It will also amount to little more than yet another stopping-off point for the usual suspects (bling-obsessed rappers, crooning soul boys, emoting divas, screeching banshees, etc.).
The event will take place in the city's newly-built Arena, a venue which will bear the name of the Liverpool Echo Arena, although as the Liverpool Subculture blog has been pointing out (http://liverpoolsubculture.blogspot.com/ ), the terms of this apparent sponsorship deal are shrouded in an Autumn mist rolling in off the Mersey.
As Tony Parrish has noted (great work, BTW, Tony, keep it going!), expect Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Echo & Daily Post, to be fawning & sychophantic in its coverage of the Culture Company.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Back in 1987, when a UK General Election was called by Thatcher, Billy Bragg phoned Costello to ask for his involvement in the Red Wedge campaign. Costello declined to assist, saying that it was a bad idea, presumably on the grounds that acts shouldn't align themselves with party political organisations. He's certainly changed his tune.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Today's Guardian carries a piece by Stuart Jeffries about the weekend just gone, which he spent in Liverpool city centre: http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,2197067,00.html .
Jeffries visited the city in the wake of findings that emergency admissions to hospitals in the city due to alcohol-related factors outnumber those of any other English council.
Perhaps I should tread warily here, given the amount of booze imbibed by the company I was in on Saturday both during & after the Merseyside derby, but I digress...
To be fair, Jeffries doesn't use his weekend up here as an excuse to trot out the usual jaded journalistic cliches. He does, however, pick the weekend just gone (20th & 21st October) when things were even busier than normal, thanks to the aforementioned Football match, the pub promotions related to this, & the Rugby World Cup final later that Saturday evening, with further pub & club promotions to cash in on that event.
In this context, it doesn't really count as a "normal" Saturday night, & Jeffries himself makes no attempt to imply otherwise.
There is some grim humour to be found in Jeffries' observation, "On Prescot Road, there is an off-licence called Not Drunk Enough, which until recently gave out fliers to taxi drivers, promising: 'Bring a fare here and get £2.50 per fare.' "
That stretch of Prescot Road is a fairly short walk from the prosperous city centre, yet its decay, delinquency & deprivation are so entrenched as to make 2008 raise a hollow laugh from local residents.
Interestingly, Jeffries does report that "there has been a recent decrease in alcohol-related hospital admissions in Liverpool. In the same week as the figures for 2005-2006 alcohol-related admissions made Liverpool England's binge capital, more up-to-date statistics from three city hospitals showed that alcohol-related A&E admissions nearly halved in the past year."
However, Jeffries can't help concluding his piece by describing his hungover state as he departs Lime Street Station "leaving adorable Liverpool to its endless life-affirming, life-destroying bacchanal."
There's a cliche in there somewhere.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
What puzzles me, however, is that if Alex was willing to stand for the West Derby seat, indicating a seeming desire to champion & defend the constituency, he did not make it clear that the post on the blog expressed a view which he disagreed with.
Oh, by the way, Alex, my criticism was not "personal". It was a robust criticism of what I saw , perhaps mistakenly, as double standards & churlishness; I don't do personal attacks, they're self-defeating. Over to you.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Redmond succeeded in talking sense & bollocks in equal measure:
"A city [Liverpool] where the status quo has never been an option naturally breeds suspicion, cynicism and a healthy disrespect for authority and cultural elites. At the same time, a culture of shared grief and pain generates a need for mutual and community support.
"Sentimentality comes easy on the backs of nostalgia while Celtic romanticism is never far away and everything is, well, 'worth a try'. Extremes become the norm. Whether Hillsborough or Istanbul, whether the tragedies of teenage death or the triumphs of teenage celebrity, whether employment law or local politics, everything is heightened by the reflective glow of the Mersey."
If it weren't for a couple of truisms thrown in there, Redmond's panegyric would merit a place in Pseuds' Corner.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Unfortunately, the debate generated more heat than light. I'm all too aware of the Liverpool-Manchester rivalry, seen at its most tribal & visceral when Liverpool & Manchester football teams meet. However, as one contributor pointed out in exasperation after a series of petty, parochial points, it's the height of stupidity to give such divisions house room in an age of globalisation.
What made it doubly depressing was that the two speakers against the motion were Rogan Taylor, director of football studies at the city's university & co-founder of the Football Supprters' Association, & Jayne Casey, former member of Deaf School & organiser of the annual Creamfields festival.
The reality is that though the two cities will always have their own identities, they cannot operate in a state of supreme indifference to each other, something which was finally realised by the 70 strong audience which voted 51% to 49% in favour of the motion. Sanity prevailed.
However, my admiration for Elvis Costello has, if anything, increased over the years. Quite often, he has, as the Americans say, walked the walk. A month after the Hillsborough disaster he played two nights at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre. Costello announced on both evenings that all the proceeds would be going to the Hillsborough Fund.
This week, however, it was revealed that Costello will play at Hillary Clinton's 60th birthday party in New York later this month. Tickets start at a cool $250 (£125) & access to a post-gig party will set you back $25,000.
It reminds me of a song Costello wrote for Roger McGuinn, "You Bowed Down":-
"You value the burnt amber of falling leaves,
And long to delay,
When you feel their breath, they whisper,
'It won't hurt you now to betray',
And now every time that we meet on the edge of hysteria,
You're helping them sell off some new party line,
I remember a time when you would have seemed so superior,
Now you say, 'Will you please meet this good friend of mine?"
Now you're in demand, as long as you kiss their hand,
And all the applause is for their name, not yours".
Some might rush to Costello's defence (not that he'd need any assistance), saying that he is supporting a Democrat for the White House & registering his opposition to Dubya & his Republican party. That overlooks the fact that Clinton is far & away the most right wing of the Democrat contenders. In 2003 she voted enthusiastically for the Iraq war. Now she's trying to play down that decision, lest it draw attention to her suspect judgement.
And Elvis? Well, the guy won't be swayed by the bloggers, the music jurnos, etc., but he knows that he has prostituted his name, & once you become a corporate whore, the label sticks. Enjoy your fee, Declan.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Makin has long been a controversial figure on Merseyside, both inside & outside the region's legal circle. His lugubrious nature & his penchant for verbosity has not endeared him to the average Scouser, for whom words of more than three syllables are viewed as signs of pretentiousness.
Unlike a lot of people, I have no strong feelings either way about Makin. He is one of those eccentric characters that provincial civic , cultural & legal life tend to throw up every so often. He still has his weekly column in the Liverpool Echo, "Makin his point", a largely Rumpolesque rumination on local matters.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Bascombe's decision to leave his job at the Echo & join the News of the World has provoked a lot of criticism, some of it disturbingly threatening. Bascombe's "crime", in the eyes of some, is that by joining the MOTW, Bascombe is pallying up to its sister rag, the Sun, whose obscenity after Hillsborough is known to many on Merseyside.
Greenslade rightly condemns the threats made against Bascombe. However, he mistakenly suggests at the end of his piece:
"But I wonder if this is the appropriate moment to ask whether they are also wrong to continue to ostracise The Sun? Is that boycott justified any longer? It is almost 18 years since the lies, headlined as 'The Truth', were published. None of the journalists directly involved in putting together the disgusting front page --accusing fans of being responsible for the tragedy and for hampering rescue operations-- now work on The Sun's staff."
Greenslade, however, does contradict his own point when he concedes that Kelvin MacKenzie, then Sun editor, is now employed as a columnist on the paper.
For this reason, though there are a few others, in my book, it is only right that the boycott continues.
I also recall the badges worn by many on Merseyside in the aftermath of the disaster, calling for a boycott of ALL News International titles.
I realise that Bascombe, an ostensibly unassuming, personable hack, is entitled to work for whoever he wishes. However, his air of wounded innocence at even the milder posts of criticism on the messageboards & blogs suggests that he is pretty naive not to expect at least some flak for his decision to work for a Murdoch paper.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Yet the brief handed to Phil Redmond (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2167770,00.html ) seems to be a case of Harborrow et al throwing in the towel last week. The Guardian related that Redmond "hoped to give the programme more of a 'Liverpool-Scouse edge' by examining the city's Irish heritage and providing a 'cultural clearing project', where arts groups who made submissions for 2008 and felt they were ignored can resubmit their ideas. He also spoke of the open culture initiative, which will encourage people to engage in activities: 'I want people to know they don't have to have culture done to them--they can take part.'"
Redmond's words are welcome, but they come at the eleventh hour. Whatever takes shape in less than three months, the damage will have been done. The top-down approach of the Culture Company, though understandable in some respects [assigning as much importance to the RLPO as pop acts], was never going to enthuse those for whom 2008 could have formed part of a cultural & artistic learning curve.
[It's the sort of notion which usually draws snorts of derision, but there shouldn't be any barriers to a kid in Norris Green persuing an interest and/or career in classical music.]
In addition to Redmond's appointment, the board of the Liverpool Culture Company has been reduced in number from 25 to 6, a move which confirms the widespread suspicion that those nominally in charge under the Harborrow regime had the life of Riley.
Some of Redmond's suggestions are a little fanciful at this late stage (a "Liverpool song" to rival "Maggie May", "In My Liverpool Home", etc. in the city's affections & act as a contemporary anthem).
In a damning critique of the old regime, Redmond added, "The existing board system was bureaucratic, unwieldy and slow and it is time to move forward with a new slimmer board. It will mean I can pick up a telephone and we can make instant decisions rather than waiting for board meetings. We have gone from debating to delivering the programme.'"
That final sentence should make Harborrow, Bradley et al cringe in embarrassment.
There was also a nod to the city's outskirts, hitherto excluded from the 2008 events; Redmond made a point of mentioning Croxteth & Norris Green in this context, its significance in the wake of Rhys Jones' murder clear to all.
Drummond Bone, effectively ousted as Chairman of the Culture Company, put out a suitably sugared piece of PR bullshit, expressing support for Redmond & even agreeing with the reduction in the board's size. He said that "an appropriate structure" is needed for next year. Bit late with that one, mate!
Most of the programme already unveiled for 2008 does the job for the city, a mix of popular & "high" culture striking a fair balance.
Sticking out like a Sun reader on the Kop, however, is the WAG's fashion show in June,2008. Culture? My arse!
It may seem that I think Redmond is the ideal man for the job. I don't endorse the guy. Nor, however, do I dismiss him. After the farce of the last two months, a change was badly needed. Moreover, Redmond's track record in TV drama demonstrates his creative as well as administrative abilities; "Brookside" was never my sort of thing, but it was successfully produced, & it was popular.
According to Liverpool Confidential, in an interview with Forde at the end of last month (http://www.liverpoolconfidential.com/index.asp?sessions=IpqiNwB6IwTjNwB6IaqiNwA ), Forde is persuing a claim of constructive dismissal against the Culture Company. It continues, "Mr Forde, who handed in his notice three months before [LC's italics] the Matthew Street Festival fiasco, says months of frustration, caused by a lack of resources and decision making from bosses at the beleaguered Liverpool Culture Company, left him with no option but to quit."
Forde also claims that there was no increase in budget or personnel for 2007 and 2008 despite an increase in workload.
If those aren't grounds for a constructive dismissal case to be heard in court, I don't know what are.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Meanwhile, deeep down in the subterranean swamp which is the abode of "family" campaigners (stoutly praised by moralistic MPs over the years who have been so keen on families themselves that they've had two or three), a loathesome stirring is afoot.
As Hugh Muir relates in today's Guardian diary (http://www.guardian.co.uk/diary/story/0,,2168854,00.html ), "Yesterday activists from the Life League stepped up their anti-abortion campaigning by publishing on their website and circulating by email the addresses and private telephone numbers of the directors of Amnesty International. The charity's crime has been to change its neutral stance, in favour to supporting access to abortion for women in cases of rape, incest or violence, or where the pregnancy jeopardises a mother's life or health. Campaigners are urged to 'contact' the directors to 'politely tell them what you think regarding the recent decision'."
As Muir goes on to point out, the views of the Life League (love the alliteration, must have been after a weekend's brainstorming) warrant a little more attention. Keen to show that theirs is post-Millennial thinking (think 1000 AD, though, not the Y2K razzamatazz of seven years back), contraception degrades western society, homosexuality is deviant, sex education is a no-no & state schools encourage children to be sexually aggressive libertines, indulging in competitive copulation, the like of which is sure to keep Durex in business for years to come (I paraphrase).
Muir takes his cue from the Life League's apparent enthusiasm for open & honest communication:
"You may agree or disagree with any of these positions, and in keeping with the spirit of the times resolve to 'politely' share your views with the Life League. 'Contact' them at Trafalgar House, 11 Waterloo Place, Piccadilly, London, SW1Y 4AU. The published telephone number is 0870 240 3158. The mobile is 07977 195577."
Declared interest time: I'm a member of Amnesty, as well as an atheist who rejected Catholic strictures at the age of 17. Since when I've lived a life of left-wing, atheistic, sexually deviant (still single, no kids) debauchery, & I don't take kindly to a rag-bag of sexually repressed, tunnel-visioned, cripplingly bigoted Christian Taliban cretins trying to harass & intimidate the leaders of an organisation which I support.
Go on, do the decent thing: drop 'em a line, "politely", of course, to let them know what you think of their organisation. I'll certainly be giving them a polite call.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
But first, a bollocking for my ISP, Virgin Media, for delivering a substandard internet service over the last fortnight. Not just that, they kept me waiting on a premium rate line (25p per minute, plus a 10p connection charge) on at least eight occasions over that period. Initially, I assumed it was a slow connection issue affecting the network. Then I realised that a local area cable had been unplugged. Getting Virgin Media to acknowledge this & reimburse me for the cost of the phone calls has been both exasperating & enraging. Great work, Branson, another fuck-up by your motley set-up & I'll be decamping to BT. OK?
Friday, August 31, 2007
Inside the ground, little had changed The sausage rolls were as greasy (& overpriced) as ever. It was only when I looked at the Kop that it hit me. Last time I'd been there, the old terrace still stood. Now, an expanse of seats occupied that space. It seemed surreal, I had to gaze at it for a few moments to take it in. Of course, I'd seen it countless times on TV. However, seeing it for myself made me recall childhood memories; my late father took me on to the Kop when I was 18 months' old.
I don't think it's going to be a trend, but I'll be back there tomorow for the league game against Derby County.
The tune was immediately followed by "You'll Never Walk Alone". On this occasion, however, the crowd's rendition was aimed at the Jones family. Sung more as a secular hymn than as a football song, it carried a raw emotion & poingnancy not felt since Hillsborough.
Meanwhile, more arrests have been made (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6970107.stm ), although most of those arrested over the last week have been released on bail. There is news this morning of another four arrests made last night.
This week's New Statesman dropped through my letterbox this morning. Casually leafing through the pages, I was suddenly struck by a piece written by its political editor, Martin Bright (http://newstatesman.com/200708300009 ).
It puts the Croxteth murder in a wider historical context, laying the blame for the increase in gun crime on Merseyside on a hitherto unlikely source: Michael Howard. Yes, the man who told a gleeful hang 'em & flog 'em Tory conference, "Prison works!" was Home Secretary in 1996 when he agreed to award a royal pardon to two well known Liverpool gangsters, John Haase & Peter Bennett.
The kernel of Bright's piece is worth quoting at length;
"In three months at the beginning of 1994, over a hundred weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were discovered after tip-offs from informants. According th 'Powder Wars', a chilling account of the Liverpool underworld in the 1990s by the Sunday Mirror's Graham Johnson, these were not just the handguns and sawn-off shotgus that had always been available to British small-time gangsters, but an armoury more suited to a Balkan warlord. They included Uzi sub-machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles and even an elephant gun. At the time, the police didn't question the fact that no one was ever found at the scene of the caches: usually abandoned cars or empty houses. The seizures ere hailed as a triumph in the war against violent crime.
"In fact, police now believe that the arms caches were an elaborate scam carried out by Haase and Bennett to secure thir early release from prison. If that is the case, far from marking a victory for the forces of law and order, the seizures reinforced Liverpool's gun culture by allowing those involved in the scam to operate with virtual impunity in the years that followed.......Following information passed to him by Customs and Excise, the trial judge wrote to the Conservative home secretary, Michael Howard, asking for a royal pardon. When this was granted in July 1996, Howard justified his decision by saying the information provided by Haase and Bennett 'had proved to offer quite enormous and unique assistance to the law-enforcement agencies'."
Bright notes grimly that Haase & Bennett's testimonies "had led to no major arrests."
I suspect that Howard will be "unavailable" for media interviews over the next few days.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Incidentally, the link for Tony Barrett's blog is: http://www.tonybarrett.merseyblogs.co.uk/ .
Saturday's Guardian drew attention to the fued beween gangs from Croxteth & Norris Green:
The funeral of Liam "Smigger" Smith, a particularly odious individual who won't be missed, seems to have been a Soprano-style spectacle:
"His funeral last September saw scores of shops and businesses on the estate close for the day amid fears that they would be attacked if they failed to show sufficient 'respect'. Even at St Theresa's, the infants' school next door to the church where the funeral was held, children were prevented from playing outside, according to the local newspaper."
Elsewhere in the Guardian that day was an account of gang warfare, and the subculture which accompanies it, from a low-life piece of scum from the Norris Green gang (http://www.guardian.co.uk/gun/Story/0,,2156010.html ):
"I just stay in bed till about 2pm. Then I sit arond and smoke weed. Sometimes we do beak [cocaine] or garys [ecstasy or MDMA] but I don't do that on the street because your jaw swings like fuck and you would need a good kip half the time. I do it every weekend though and it's fucking great. I'm being good tonight. I'll have a Bud and a smoke."
Euan Ferguson penned a sympathetic, yet brutally honest appraisal of the nighbouring areas in the Observer (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,,2156448,00.html ).
With the city in a jittery mood, the atmosphere wasn't helped by a shooting in Tuebrook on Saturday evening, although it was said to be unrelated to the Croxteth case (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6964597.stm ).
One piece of cheering information emerged this morning. After the reception & applause for Rhys' family at Goodison Park on Saturday, Liverpool FC announced that the Z-Cars theme, or "Johnny Todd", a tune always played to herald the Everton team taking the pitch at home games, will precede the normal airing of "You'll Never Walk Alone". Rhys' parents will also be at Anfield tonight. I'm sure every Red present, myself included, will show their support for them at this time. It was originally suggested by Tony Barrett in his LFC blog on the Liverpool Echo website the other day. Apart from a few grumbles by blinkered idiots, there was strong support for it in the comments posted. Cheers, Tony, the blue half of Merseyside will remember this, I'm sure.
An unrelated item of good news: the Liverpool SubCulture blog is up & running again. I'll return to this presently.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
There is much to note about the area where it happened, the issue of gun crime, parental responsiblity (or lack of it) & other related topics. The police investigation has so far resulted in the arrest of two teenagers (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6959761.stm ) .
As I heard the chilling details of the case on BBC Radio Merseyside this morning, two things struck me. Firstly, the parallels with the James Bulger case, not in the context & detail of the murder, of course, but the horrendous phenomenon of a child being killed by slightly older children. Secondly, I was reminded of a story on the Liverpool Times website last June (http://www.liverpooltimes.net/2007/06/11/gun-crime-in-knowsley/#more-647 ), which could now be seen as disturbingly prophetic.
Croxteth has long had problems with teenage gangs. In recent months the rivalry between gangs from Croxteth & Gillmoss has resulted in shootings, one of which claimed a fatality. The unspoken view from the police & local media was that as long as one gang of thugs was killing another gang of thugs, who cared? Now, however, it's different. An innocent 11 year old has been caught in the crossfire. The national & international media are all leading with the case. Warren Bradley, already under microscopic scrutiny after Matthew Street, now finds journalists from London comparing Liverpool's gun crimes to Manchester's, just three months before the city hits 2008. Hence his call today for a summit of civic leaders from all parts of the UK with the Home Secretary to address the issues of gun crime, teenage gangs, juvenile offending & anti-social behaviour.
As well as the continued media coverage of the case, I'm expecting someone, somewhere, to pen a Kelvin MacKenzie/Spectator libel on the city before the weekend.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
She moved to the Kensington area, one of the most socially blighted part of Liverpool, despite its close proximity to the city centre. It is a world away from its namesake in central London. Olivia had had mental health problems while living in London. However, she was given a Housing Association flat in the area, effectively dumped in a place she didn't know & at the mercy of the locals, most of whom soon spotted her eccentric ways.
[To go around a deprived area of Liverpool, sprinkling platitudes & truisms based on Beatle lyrics is a recipe for attention, much of it negative & hostile.]
The article essays the administrative errors & general inattention of housing & social services bodies in London & Liverpool; information was not passed on to relevant agencies & bureaucratic inertia was tolerated.
However, what also emerges from the piece is a less than flattering portrayal of Liverpool & the residents of Kensington.
Olivia Trevelyan-Thomson was found dead in her Kensington flat in December 2006. She had died of hypothermia. She was 54.
Anyone still upset about Matthew Street?
Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, is an erstwhile political foe of mine. He would have loved to have expelled me from the Labour Party in the early 90s, but I denied him that honour by leaving the sinking ship of my own accord.
However, his comments in the article ironically echo my own observations about the changing face of the region, & how some areas are changing more than others:
"Capital of Culture, as it stands, is not going to have any real impact on the problems that have dogged Merseyside for decades.
"The area needs a sustained period of investment, not just for one year, and the few years running up to it......
"But what is also worrying is the inequality within Merseyside itself. For example, the north-south divide in Liverpool. South Liverpool's prosperity is way beyond that of North Liverpool in terms of growth, employment and health. This needs addressing urgently."
Ah, yes, Peter, but you know as well as I do that there's as much chance of it being addressed "urgently" as there is of your beloved Everton FC winning the Premiership.
There's always been a qualitative difference between the north & south parts of Liverpool. However, the last decade or so has seen the south pulling away from the north; house prices are at least twice as much in the south. School league tables show that a child has a statistically better chance of educational attainment & progress on to university in the south. There is no shortage of amenities in areas like Aigburth, Mossley Hill & Woolton. Sefton Park & the adjacent Lark Lane offer recreational facilities & restaurants the like of which are completely unknown in Kirkdale, Croxteth & Bootle.
There are other factors not all of them economic. South Liverpool is far more racially diverse than North Liverpool (the Toxteth riots were not "race riots", Anthony Walker was murdered in a predominantly white part of Merseyside) .
Yet the reality is that while parts of South Liverpool are on the tourist trail (all four Beatles grew up in the south part, Penny Lane & Strawberry Fields nursing home are nearby, Speke Hall, John Lennon airport, etc.), North Liverpool's only points of interest to tourists are Anfied & Goodison Park. Socially & economically, the north side of the city still bears visible scars of the last three decades. As far as I can see, that isn't going to be rectified in the forseeable future.
No picket line? No brazier? Where's the sad-looking kid clutching unsold copies of "Socialist Worker"? Forget it, brothers & sisters!
We live in an age when advertisers, programme controllers & marketing agencies see the working class as an amorphous sump of chavdom, wedded to reality TV, hostile to reading & chronically addicted to heedless hedonism. Against this depressing backdrop, Byrnes points out that the term elitism has right wing connotations, not least among liberals & socialists.
To which Byrnes responds: "Well, I am an elitist. And so, I suspect, are you. It is elitism that allows us to set yardsticks by which to measure merit, be it in art, music, education or any other field of endeavour. Elitism allows us to proclaim with confidence that Geoffrey Chaucer was a greater writer than Jeffrey Archer, that Shostakovich was a superior musician to Shakira, and that Ronaldo's most pyrotechnial diplays are still of a lower cultural order than any page of any novel by Philip Roth."
Bynes is cogent &, yes, accessible in his case for rehabilitating elitism after its intellectual abduction by the Right. It's a pity, therefore, that last week's New Statesman didn't pick up on the case Byrnes made. Indeed, none of the letters published in its print edition mention it.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Paul: "We're occupying the main stage for this year's Matthew Street Festival."
The normal pace of political life on Merseyside would shame a sloth. However, the last 48 hours have seen well fed, well paid bureaucrats sweating in their designer attire as they do their headless chicken routine. The dash to cover their own backs has been matched only by the amount of exercise their arms have had as the finger-pointing assumes Olympian status. Normally, the arm exercises are confined to the bars around Dale Street & Castle Street.
This morning's Liverpool Daily Post is in bullish mood as a city's already shop-soiled reputation is paraded for wider ridicule (BBC Radio 4's Today programme even ran a piece, asking, not unreasonably, if this is the outcome of events for Liverpool's 800th anniversary, what awaits the city next year). The Post quotes leading figures/suspects (delete as appropriate) as saying that the show will go on: http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2007/08/04/beatles-festival-will-go-ahead-vows-council-64375-19568775/ .
It's interesting to read into the piece, however, & find that the festival will not go ahead in the same format as previous years:
"Moves to salvage the festival event around the Cavern Quarter were still taking place last night, and will continue throughout the weekend."
The Post article backtracked a little further when it conceded:
"The rescue package will see a modified festival seized from the grip of the Liverpool Culture Company and handled instead by a hand-picked team under the control of the city council."
Health and Safety issues, the ostensible cause of the cancellation, are to be "overcome", yet the piece is vague on this. It also reports that the children's fun fair, previously situated around the South John Street area, will "be relocated to a nearby park to ensure their safety."
There is no "nearby park" in the city centre. The last remaining piece of greenery in the middle of town, Chavasse Park, has long gone, thanks to the Big Dig.
According to the Post, Jason Harborrow, chief executive of the Liverpool Culture Company, & who "earns" £150,000 per annum, "told councillors that he was devastated by the decision, and spoke of how Culture Company staff had worked tirelessly to make sure the event would be a success."
If this counts as success, I'm glad he isn't managing Liverpool FC.
I recall attending a public meeting at St George's Hall late last year at which Harborrow played the role of Little Sir Echo to Professor Drummond Bone, the then chairman of the Culture Company, his bumptious demeanour annoying the audience.
Where the Liverpool Daily Post dared to venture, its sister organ, the Liverpool Echo, boldly strides on in the PR/bullshit morass. This afternoon's edition claims that Warren Bradley, the city council leader, last night proposed a deal which "could see some of the outdoor stages rescued." (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2007/08/04/plan-to-save-outdoor-stages-100252-19568709/ ).
The key word here being "could". In other words, it's all still a reaction to Wednesday evening news rather than a clear plan to respond to it.
Again,there is ambiguous wording in the Echo piece, which is typical of local papers when they fly a kite for local projects which never take off:
"Police were this weekend looking at proposed sites including St. George's Plateau, William Brown Street, Dale Street and Castle Street."
Catherine Jones' Echo report goes on to offer a hint that the "plan" is, at best, a long shot, & that the careers of certain politicians in Liverpool are on the line:
"Cllr. Bradley said: 'The police have gone away over the weekend to have a look at the sites we've proposed. Logistically, I can't see why we couldn't use all the sites we've suggested.
'But we will have to go through the traffic movement and emergency planning. It's critical to do a risk assessment.'
Merseyside police last night declined to comment on the festival.
Cllr. Bradley added: 'I'm willing to talk to anybody to deliver the Matthew Street Festival. It's synonymous with outdoor stages.'"
That final comment betrays the sudden heat Cllr. Bradley is facing, the level of which is higher than that in the Canary Isles where he is currently on holiday.
It's worth noting, en passant, that Bradley was already facing questions about his leadership after the decision of Everton Football Club to move to Kirkby. Bradley had claimed that the city council had offered the club three possible sites for a new stadium within the cty boundaries. Responding to Everton's preference for Kirkby, Bradley, an avid Evertonian, was quoted as saying that it was a move to "a cowshed in a small town".
How to win friends & influence people, indeed.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
The city centre is currently in the throes of the "Big Dig" & the waterfront area (Pier Head) faces major building work as the Leeds to Lverpool canal is extended to the area as one of the developments for 2008. Last year's festival took place against the backdrop of the construction upheaval in its infancy. Road closures, building sites & diversions meant that it wasn't the smoothest Matthew Street Festival. Today's statement cited health & safety as the major concern.
However, the timing of the decision couldn't be worse. With the festival a little under three weeks away, it leaves no time for a Plan B (Sefton Park has been mooted as an overspill site, but it's surely too late to arrange that).
Amazingly, there was still no word of the cancellation on the Culture Company website this evening (these people are supposed to be among the best in the marketing business, but communication is an alien term to them).
The leader of the city council, Warren Bradley, was quick to distance himself from the decision (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6928466.stm ), saying he was "adamant" that the festival could still take place. Optimism or covering your back, what do you think?
Liverpool Confidential's take on the story has an interesting twist:
"The council, in a statement, says: 'Staff worked right to the 11th hour to try and produce a workable plan which could accomodate the festival in the city centre.'
"Eleventh hour indeed. Just yesterday a tender document went out for PA and lighting companies to pitch for the festival, taking place in under four weeks time, with a deadline of today."
(http://www.liverpoolconfidential.com/index.asp?Sessionx=IpqiNwEiNw7jJaqiNwF6IHqi&realname= Matthew Street cancelled ).
Given that the city council & the Culture Company were supposed to be working in tandem, such chaos & disarray beggars belief.
Where's the Liverpool Subculture blog at a time like this? Well, "Tony Parrish" turns up on the comments section of the Liverpool Confidential webpage. His thoughts merit quoting at length:
"This almost makes me want to start the blog up again, so that I could tear these incompetent bastards apart. Heads SHOULD roll....The point is that this has been cancelled because of the money they have wasted on fools and fakes from outside. They have hired the outside consultants in at the lat minute to give the impression of independence, but they have stitched this decision up because they haven't got the dosh to run Matthew St. The Big Dig is not something new, nor is the Pier Head work=so they must therefore be monumentally incompetent for not realising months ago what the problems were."
He conludes by calling for action in stirring prose:
"They [The Culture Company] have thrown away the opportunity to make 2008 a defining moment in Liverpool's history and a genuine life-changing experience for Liverpool people. Tossers, they deserve all the aggro they will now undoubtedly get....Start a blog. Create a campaign. Organise and agitate. The city really deserves better than these shysters. HEADS MUST ROLL...."
Well said, Tony, but this is the time to resurrect your own blog.
My own reservations about the Matthew Street Festival (too many "tribute" bands, not enough contemporary Liverpool acts & the need to make it a modern music festival which takes the Beatles' legacy as a starting point in highlighting today's scene) have been made more than once to various figures in today's Liverpool's music scene. However, this news makes me realise just how strong a brand (& for once I don't blanche from using a marketing term) the Matthew Street Festival actually is. I've mentioned it in emails to acquaintances across the Atlantic. I owe it to them to highlight the farce which has culminated in today's news.
I read the news today, oh boy indeed.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
The phrase that comes to mind when digesting Keen's tract (ironically, Keen is himself a blogger with his own podcast, AfterTV.com ) is trowing the baby out with the bathwater. I'm not going to defend everything on the web, that would be ludicrous. However, a central concern of Keen is that the blogosphere has replaced the mainstream media. If that's the case -& it applies more to the US than Europe-, it has more to do with the MSM's weaknesses. The main news networks in the US have been guilty of distorting or even ignoring major stories.
According to the Guardian article, Keen disputes the suspicion that his stance is deliberately provocative so as to attract attention. He does so, however, with comments which have, predictably, kept said bloggers busy since he made them a week and a half ago:
"I don't know if it necessarily sells books..because I don't think bloggers read."
This guy sure likes an argument.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Sunday, July 01, 2007
However, last week's outburst by Simon O'Brien, broadcast during the station's breakfast show ("Fuck the government, fuck the planners!") provided some entertainment.
The affair is highlighted on the Liverpool Confidential website:
http://www.liverpoolconfidential.com/index.asp?sessionx=IpqiNwEiI0qjNwB6IA&realname=Not Strictly Confidential That Simon OBrien tape and more .
A recording of the comments by O'Brien is available at http://www.how-do.co.uk/.
It raises an interesting point, however, regarding the regeneration, if you can call it that, of the city's Edge Lane area (the topic being discussed by O'Brien and Phillips in their exchange), as the residents in the area are being offered £66,000 each for the demolition of their properties. With house prices in the city rising exponentially because of 2008, etc., such a sum of money probably won't be sufficient for other properties in the same area, let alone any other part of Liverpool.
It is in this context that O'Brien's colourful observation is, perhaps, understandable.
On the same webpage there is sad news of the demise of the Liverpool Subculture blog. I had been denied access to the blog (by Blogger, thanks, guys ) over the last couple of weeks, so the news didn't come as a complete shock.
According to Liverpool Confidential, "Tony Parrish", the blog author, "tells Confidential, by alias email, that the experience of running the often scurrilous and controversial blogs, authored anonymously, 'made me care even more about the city because I have seen the best from people. It has also been pretty amazing to have witnessed such a fantastic spirit from complete strangers in the blogosphere'."
Today's news is, of course, dominated by the attempted attacks in London on Friday & yesterday's attack at Glasgow Airport. There have also been police raids in the south end of Liverpool, one in Toxteth, as yet unspecified, & one in the Penny Lane area. I know the latter quite well. Its population has a preponderence of students, making it a transitory sort of place, ideal, come to think of it, for anyone with something to hide to do whatever without attracting too much neighbourly suspicion.