Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Once Upon A Time, It All Seemed So Simple

Remember this moment, folks? That morning in the bar area of Liverpool's Empire Theatre in 2003 when the assorted local civic worthies & their business pals glugged back the champers at a ridiculously early hour to celebrate the Capital of Culture Award?
Even then, there were conflicting spins being put on the accolade. The Liverpool Echo, & to a lesser degree, BBC Radio Merseyside, not so much inferred as trumpeted the award as the catalyst for the economic & social transformation of the entire Merseyside region. The local Chamber of Commerce, intoxicated by the champers & heady rhetoric that day, augmented this guff.
There were, however, more sober voices. Those whose input was considered key to the cultural projects (local artists, musicians, theatre staff, etc.) questioned whether what was, after all, a series of cultural projects over twelve months in the city was tantamount to an entire region's renaissance.
The councillors, however, were bullish & hyperbolic in their booze-fuelled euphoria. Mike Storey, the then leader of Liverpool City Council, declared, "It's like the Beatles reforming, Liverpool winning the European Cup & Everton winning the Premiership all on the same day!"
At that point someone should have instructed Cllr Storey to go & lie down in a darkened room.
Well, with just six months remaining before 2008 arrives, the wheels are beginning to fall of the Capital of Culture juggernaut.
The first wheel came spinning away last week with the resignation of Joe Anderson, the city's Labour leader, from the Capital of Culture board (http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0100regionalnews/tm_headline=labour-leader-quits-08- ).
According to the article, Anderson's criticisms are pretty damning:
"In a hard-hitting attack he said the Culture Board and the Culture Company were:
FAILING to engage communities and real people.
FAILING to provide a 2008 events programme that excited people.
FAILING to provide a worthwhile legacy for the city and missing the chance to kick-start creative industries."
Anderson particularly hit home with his comment, "People are constantly complaining about over emphasis on city-centre investment and when you visit parts of Speke and see the dereliction there it really hits home."
I have been critical of local politicos such as Anderson, seeing them as willing accomplices in the hype & bluster from the Culture Company (http://liverpool08.com/ ). However, Anderson, to his credit, blew away some myths about 2008. On the major developments in the city centre he said, "The renaissance is real but it was begun byEuropean Objective One funding and maintained by government grants."
The Liverpool Echo piece noted that Anderson "believed the culture board was guilty of building up unreasonable expectations about the festival from the word go."

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