Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fancy Another One, Warren?

One can only presume that Warren Bradley has had, let us say, a rather good festive break in order to contend that Liverpool is "outperforming" the rest of the country ( ).
Marc Waddington is the hapless hack on Oldham Hall Street who puts his name to little more than a statement of self-congratulation by Cllr Bradley. He even claims credit for the "superb" GCSE results in the city [the Oldham Echo refers to them as GSCE - sic].
Most of the comments on the article see Bradley's feel-good rhetoric for what it is.
His mentor Mike Storey chips in with his own novel take on the local economy:
"We are living in an unprecedented economic period but Liverpool has always shown a sturdy resilience to recession and I'm sure this will continue."
Seems the Christmas spirit has been flowing copiously in the Storey household, too.

Rancour Amidst The Revelries

Spare a thought for those who have to work this evening (& tomorrow morning), grimly tolerating the idiots who believe tonight allows them carte blanche to abdicate their senses. In particular, consider the job facing paramedics over the next 24 hours. Two years ago I highlighted the blog written by London paramedic Tom Reynolds ( ). Tom's still blogging ( ). All the best, mate.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Denial & Delusion Over Oldham Echo Arena

This is the time of year when the post-Christmas topor sets in, Grosvenor-pool reveals its true state of desperation at unsold stock, the sales notwithstanding, & slow news days predominate in the media. But, hey, don't let that deter the Oldham Echo; taking as its cue the amount of hogwash that's spoken at this time about New Year resolutions, the Echo decides to augment the mountainous edifice of bilge, self-congratulation & self-delusion ( ).
Gary Stewart really must have drawn the short straw at the Christmas party to find himself penning this turkey. It opens disingenuously:
"Two years on, we reflect on the stunning success story of the ECHO arena".
Yes, you read that correctly, he did write the words "stunning success story".
Warming to his themes of self-delusion & parallel universes, Stewart describes the last 12 months as "another fantastic year to celebrate."
Ah yes, the memories come flooding back, just as the booze often threatened to flood the arena itself with predictable regularity.
However, let's not interrupt the, erm, flow of Stewart's novel contention that the arena is synonymous with successful events. Do continue, Gary:
"July was its most musical month this year with 18 gigs, including the legendary Leonard Cohen, Jools Holland and the Pet Shop Boys.
"Bob Prattey, chief executive of the arena, said: '2008 was an incredible opening year and in 2009 we raised the bar even higher....
" 'Our aim is to make sure Liverpool is the best host city for any event or concert and people come back in the future.' "
Stewart glosses over the scenes of drunken punch-ups that disfigured the Leonard Cohen concert. He also, of course, makes no mention of the Morrissey debacle at the venue. Additionally, if Prattey thinks that such antics "raised the bar" in 2009, I can only surmise that it wasn't raised high enough to deter at least some of the drunken idiots who have made 2009 such a "stunning success story" for the venue. Dealing with a persistent public order problem by indulging in self-delusion & denial will ensure that increasing numbers of people do not "come back in the future."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

It's the season to see the best in those we often berate, the time to discern the goodness of the ones we lampoon, the period when we raise a glass in friendly yuletide bonhomie with some whose virtues are overlooked at any other time.
It's also time to have a chuckle at Paddy Shennan's expense (hello, Paddy!).
Merseyside's answer to Jonathan Swift pens an, erm, witty take on round robin letters from the upper middle classes in his Oldham Echo column today ( ), using names so cliched & well-used that you wonder if he spends his time watching DVDs of Terry & June, Till Death Do Us Part, etc.; how about Jocasta & Julius, anyone? No? Oh, come on, Julius, named after that emperor, him, yes.
A commenter on Paddy's piece, ewanmac, spaketh thus:
"Dear Mr Shennan,
you are boring us readers rigid with your 'humorous' take on round robin letters, which were done to death by genuinely funny columnists many moons ago. Can it be that difficult, in a city like Liverpool which has produced so many terrific comedians and has a reputation for witty characters, to find a columnist who can be funny?
Please stop trying to do comedy, it's grimly obvious that you can't."
Merry Christmas, Paddy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

But I Thought The Working Class Couldn't Write

Recommended reading: .
Today's Guardian had some warm words for the postie's blog, to which yours truly contributed a comment in a somewhat spirited online discussion ( ).
The blog has been published as a book & is currently being serialised on Radio 4 ( .
Naturally, it's also recommended listening.

Recriminations But No Regrets

No, just as I suspected, it was too much to hope that sanity would finally prevail over the Liverpool cruise terminal. Both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo were at it again this morning. David Bartlett scratched around forlornly, half-heartedly sniffing at a scrap here, a bone there( ):
"One option may be to repay the £9m of public money which helped build the terminal and which has been judged an unfair advantage over competitors like Southampton.
"A private partner, such as a cruise company, could be sought to salvage the bid.
"It is understood the council may also seek clarification from European authorities about whether if the terminal were classed as a vital piece of transport infrastructure it could bypass competition rules."
Yes, I know, talk about clutching at straws. However, it's a theme on Oldham Hall Street, it appears, to talk up a scenario so improbable that you wonder if it had its genesis at the Christmas party after a few bevvies.
Bartlett's article quotes Joe Anderson, leader of the city's Labour group, declaring that the decision by government minister Paul Clark shows he's "living in 'cloud-cuckoo-land' ". Joe, I appreciate you want to displace a corrupt administration but siding with said characters, their friends in local commerce & Oldham Hall Street does you no credit whatsoever.
Bartlett's piece also contains this gem which only feeds into the self-pitying Scouse stereotype:
"Tourism leader Cllr Gary Millar said: 'My own view from a political point of view is that once again the Labour Government has snubbed Liverpool.'
"He said it was too early to start talking about a legal challenge to the Government's decision."
In other words, there are no grounds for a legal challenge & Cllr Millar's use of the "too early" to say argument unsuccessfully tries to disguise it. Then again, let us not forget that Cllr Millar has form when it comes to bombast, spin & chutzpah; some of us recall his worried, pespiring presence at the PR fiasco for One Parked Here Without Our Say-So( ).
The editorialising on Oldham Hall Street was in full cry, too, with the Oldham Echo leading the charge like a tired & emotional scally on Dale Street at 2am( ), vowing to anyone who wanted to know that the decision "should not be regarded as the end of the matter.
"We have been defeated, but we should remain defiant and keep afloat our long-term plans to further develop our much-envied, world-class waterfront."
Ah yes, "our much-envied, world-class waterfront" which has been hideously disfigured by the arrival of the eyesores, a development applauded at every stage by those on Oldham Hall Street whose parrot-like cries that more buildings, any buildings, no matter how they look, on the waterfront, equate "progress", making a mockery of the port's World Heritage Status; Big Al Machray & Bill Gleeson, both much loved & respected by their colleagues, I'm told, bear a fair deal of culpability for this act of civic vandalism.
Nowhere in the Echo's swaggering & defiant yell of resistance to reality is there even the hint of an acknowledgement that allowing £9m of European money to be used for an upgraded terminal would have been tantamount to an illegal subsidy.
The Daily Ghost's editorial, written by William Leece, strikes a less populist tone than that of its strident sibling. However, it's still in denial about the inherent flaws in the terminal plans. It concludes ( ):
"Even if the worst comes to the worst, perhaps it may be still be best to repay the £9m in Euro-support and have done with it."
However, let's not end on such a dispirited note. Let's hear it from the Oldham Echo to bellow one last cry of parochial protest:
"No one can deny us our proud maritime history, and no one should underestimate our determination to bring back the glory days."
All together now, "In my Liverpool home, in my Liverpool home...."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Reality That Retail Therapy Conceals

Just got in, have you? What's that, you say, Christmas shopping? Really? Oh good. Where did you go? Liverpool One, eh? Nice to know. Oh, erm, didn't stop to take any pictures while you were there, did you? No, it's just that after that business with the Guardian reporter in London last week ( ), you can't be too careful.
Sorry, didn't quite catch that, insulting to be suspected of terrorism, did you say? Well, yes, absolutely. It's just that, well, there can be all sorts of misunderstandings, can't there? I mean, take this piece by Anna Minton on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages last night ( ).
Mmm, yes, she mentions that incident involving Guardian journalist Paul Lewis. In fact, she links it to the place where you've just bought that Beatle Rock Star game (waste of money, btw, learn to play a real guitar):
"This monitoring and surveillance of innocent activities, which does not necessarily require anti-terror-laws, is taking place all around Britain as a result of the growing private ownership and private control of cities. Liverpool One, which spans 34 streets in the heart of Liverpool, is effectively owned by the Duke of Westminster's property company, Grosvenor, which leased the entire site, including streets and public places, from the council for 250 years. Cabot Circus in Bristol, Highcross in Leicester and what promises to be the biggest of all, Stratford City in London, are all owned and run by property companies."
Yes, I know you couldn't give a flying, erm, thingy who owns the place, as long as you get what you want. What's that? Oh certainly, especially at this time of year, Christmas spirit, eh?
What's that you're reading, btw? Oh, you've picked up Minton's article haven't you? Hey, she's got a point in this bit, look, just here:
"In their defence, politicians and developers point out that people like these places and flock to shop in them. But they also raise a challenge to the kind of public life, culture and democracy that has been taken for granted in British cities for the last 150 years. A host of seemingly innocuous activities --skateboarding, rollerblading, even eating in some places-- are routinely banned, along with filming and, of course, taking photographs. So is begging, homelessness, selling the Big Issue, handing out political leaflets, and holding political demonstrations. It's a very different and far less democratic idea of the city and citizenship. In place of the diversity of high streets we are creating sterile, high-security enclaves, policed by private security and CCTV. And rather than making us feel safer, the emphasis on security is a reminder of ever-present dange, fuelling fear of crime."
You've gone pensive, all of a sudden, cat got your tongue? Hey, I heard there's a free sausage roll with tonight's Oldham Echo as part of their Healthy Eating For Kids campaign. Did you get one? No? Shame, it was mentioned in last week's paper, next to that article about the OAP being mugged & how it shows that Liverpool's not safe anymore.
Oh well. Oh look, there's a comment on Minton's article by someone calling themselves Adorno:
"Liverpool City Centre is now partly owned by a private company. You drive in from the north or south of the city, through the likes of Toxteth, Walton or Anfield, and the social deprivation is shocking. Street after street, derelict and empty of life, schools surrounded by barbed wire, half-empty police stations, and the retail outlets that are vey quickly emptying.
"Then you reach the city centre with its 'Urban Outfitters' and other stores, with flat screen televisions on the wall, neon lights on the floors.
"The marginalisation of the poor is now a deliberate local and national government policy. It promotes the right conditions for neo-liberal economics, by driving a social and economic wedge between those who have and those who have not, whilst depriving people of any academic or cultural purpose, and thus leaving only materialistic masturbation."
Hmmph, probably one of those potty-mouthed, smart-arsed, sarky local bloggers, eh?
Anyway, never mind, get the Beatle game out & plug it in, will you? I love that song they covered, what's it called? Ah yes, Money. A One, Two, Three, Four...

Oldham Echo: Fight Arranger, Licence Revoked

Finally, after an inordinately lengthy period of denial, the penny has finally dropped with those on Oldham Hall Street about the cruise terminal affair & their eagerness to arrange some sort of manufactured feud with Southampton ( ).
It's worth noting, however, that David Bartlett still can't resist using the "cruise war" phrase in his headline. Indeed, such is the inconsistency so characteristic of those on Oldham Hall Street that Bartlett goes on to refer to the "so-called 'cruise war' ", conveniently forgetting to mention that both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo picked up the phrase & ran with it eagerly at the time.
These characters & the business interests they so assiduously support either display a staggering level of ignorance about European law, or consciously attempt to dupe a dwindling readership into believing that "they've all got it in for Liverpool" again.
Fact: the application to use European money for the purposes of upgrading Liverpool's ferry terminal was always a non-starter because it contravened the criteria for the use of such funds. It would have been PUBLIC money to fund a PRIVATE concern which would have competed against other PRIVATE & PRIVATELY-FUNDED concerns. Got that, guys?
Wayne spelt it out at the time: ( ).
Did Peel Holdings, the MDHC or their lackeys on Oldham Hall Street not stop to think about the implausability of the scheme? Nope, they carried on regardless ( ).
Even then common sense didn't dawn on the ranks of the befuddled, bewildered & bereft of original thought ( ).
It would be nice to think that sanity's finally prevailed. Don't hold your breath, though.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Candid Camera

In all the media retrospectives about the last decade recently one particularly toxic legacy of the so-called War on Terror has been largely overlooked, namely, the burgeoning of the surveillance State. Coupled with it has been an erosion of civil liberties via rushed & ill-thought legislation. A spate of incidents involving amateur & professional photographers in the last week or so has thrown the issue into, if you'll pardon the pun, sharp focus. The Guardian's Paul Lewis was filming outside the Gherkhin building in the City of London yesterday morning when a security guard took exception to his presence. The police were called & cited Section 44 of the Terrorism Act in their insistence on viewing the images Lewis had filmed. What followed was a cross between the farcical & the Kafkaesque: .
Anyone involved in a local Flickr group should waste no time in highlighting this disturbing threat to the very civil liberties which apologists for this ridiculously hamfisted legislation claim are under attack from Al Qaeda.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

They've Let Him Out Again

Nick Peet, remember him? Yep, he's the Oldham Echo's towering intellectual paragon who opined that it's OK to act like an imbecile at concerts ( ). Well, it's nice to see that Nick has been let loose with pen & paper again. The result? Well, as it was once said of dodgy tailors, never mind the quality, feel the width ( ).
Nick happily describes himself as "a fight fan" when recounting his visit to a martial arts show at the Olympia on West Derby Road, which would certainly go some way to explaining his Morrissey piece.
Nice, also, to see the Oldham Echo respect the basic rules of grammar (Nick refers to "brother-in-laws" -sic).

Family Fortunes

Taxing times of late for Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP for Walton. His attacks on the cronyism of New Labour & Cameron's Notting Hill set have been somewhat undermined by the revelation that a report he recently commissioned, calling for a "super mayor" for the entire region, was produced by his daughter's firm. Right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes made hay with the story & last week bumped into the MP. The Independent's Pandora column was happy to provide a ringside commentary on the encounter ( ):
"The Liverpool Walton MP took exception when he was informed that Paul Staines, the man behind the high-profile website, was in the Commons' Strangers Bar on Monday night. Staines, whose notable scalps have included John Prescott and Gordon Brown's ex-henchman, Damian 'Smeargate' McBride, was drinking with two of Kilfoyle's Labour colleagues when the furore erupted. 'I was with the MPs Tom Harris and Greg Pope and I was getting a round in,' Staines tells me. 'Suddenly he's ranting at the barmaid, "It's Guido Fawkes! Get him out!" I didn't want to embarrass the Labour MPs I was with, but I told him I was entitled to be there. It was all a bit childish.'
"Kilfoyle has come in for flack from Staines of late after the latter reported a survey commissioned by the politician was carried out by his daughter's firm. The MP has dismissed the criticism. He now says: 'If I'd had the energy I'd have chucked him out myself.
" 'I don't think people like him should come into this place, listening in on conversations and writing rubbish.' "
You'll notice that the Honourable Member for Walton sees no conflict of interest in having his daughter produce a commissioned report (i.e., paid for) & apparently makes no apology for enabling her to profit from one of his pet Parliamentary causes. Furthermore, his objection to Staines' presence had no validity; as for his gripe that Staines was only there to listen in on conversations & write rubbish, some might well point out that many a lobby hack does just that on a daily basis around Westminster's watering holes.
At the time of the report's publication the response was somewhat favourable from...guess who. Go on, you must know, it's obvious. Oh, alright then, I'll spell it out for you, the Daily Ghost ( ).
Penned by William Leece, the opinion piece warmed to Kilfoyle's call for a "super mayor" for the "city region", not just Liverpool & neighbouring areas, but also spanning Warrington & North Wales. Offering qualified approval for the proposal, Leece wrote that Kilfoyle's "opinions count. And when he backs the idea of an elected mayor....he should at least be listened to.
"It is certainly a far more interesting idea than that simply of a mayor from Liverpool alone. The report he has commissioned refers to the 'in-fighting, factionalism and allegations of unprofessionalism and mismanagement' that bedevil Liverpool City Council, and we would suggest that a directly-elected mayor would simply encounter more of the same."
Nontheless, the editorial concluded by saying that "Mr Kilfoyle has come up with radical proposals, and they deserve serious debate."
The merits of a "super mayor" notwithstanding (I regard it as a dead duck), what also deserves "serious debate" is Kilfoyle's family connection & how his constituents, for whom he was at pains to profess his steadfast support & representation in an Observer piece last month ( ), will view matters.
Liverpool Confidential had already broached the subject before the Observer piece ( ).
[The Independent's Pandora colum also carried a snippet about the hopes of West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper for Ringo Starr to return to the city & pick up the Freedom of the City scroll he was nominated for back in the 80s. Cooper, Pandora noted, "was behind the idea" back then. Er, Rosie, that may not be such a popular move anymore.]

National Media Ignore Liverpool Again!

The Guardian has been trying to work up some enthusiasm for its retrospective of the last decade (it began with the Millenium Bug that never was & ends with another Establishment inquiry into WMD that never were). Its architecture critic Jonathan Glancey has been casting an eye over the architectural gems of the decade ( ).
For some unfathomable reason, the graceful adornments to Liverpool's skyline, be they Grosvenorpool's aesthetically pleasing contributions, or the delightful new neighbours for the Three Graces aren't included. Shame on you, Jonathan!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Free Message

Pulsating with every characteristic & odious trait of the Dickensian avaricious philistine who knows the price of everything & the value of nothing, Rupert Murdoch lectured a journalism conference in Washington, DC on Monday. The Dirty Digger sidled his way to the podium & sneered that online payment for news articles, something he wishes to persue for his titles via a paywall, is necessary & normal, declaring that there is no such thing as free news. Well, we all know that everything has to be paid for. However, it has been the cue for another tedious round of BBC-bashing from the Murdoch empire; his son & appointed heir James couldn't get it into his skull recently that we do pay for the BBC's news services via the licence fee.
It fell to Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post ( ), to put Murdoch's myths into the shredder of web reality ( ).
[The full text of Huffington's address can be found at: .]
Huffington observed that "playing nice has suddenly become a one-way street -- suddenly the air is filled with shrill, nonsensical, and misplaced verbal assaults on those in the new media."
What was striking, however, was that there were passages of her address which didn't just pertain to the world's most famous Australian-born US citizen. The speech could well have been considered germane to a certain operation on Oldham Hall Street:
"In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back. Not in the media. They'd rather accuse aggregators of stealing their content."
Another excerpt which rattles uncomfortably at the doors of the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo:
"It's time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pretax profits of 20% or more, put cashflow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street -- not modernisation and pleasing their readers.
"They were asleep at the wheel, missed the writing on the wall, let the train leave the station, let the ship sail -- pick your metaphor -- and quickly found themselves on the wrong side of the disruptive innovation the internet and new media represent. And now they want to call timeout, ask for a do-over, start changing the rules, lobby the government to bail them out, and attack the new media for being...well, new. And different. And transformational. Suddenly it's all about thievery and parasites and intestines.
"Get real, you guys. The world has changed."
The reference to Wall Street notwithstanding, there's an observation which may induce a few sweaty collars in Big Al Machray's fiefdom.
But wait, there's more, oh yes, & it might just cause a fit of the vapours among what's left of the thinking elements on Oldham Hall Street:
"The same people who never question why consumers would sit on a couch and watch TV for eight hours straight can't understand why someone would find it rewarding to weigh in on the issues -- great and small -- that interest them. For free. They don't understand the people who contribute to Wikipedia for free, who maintain their own blogs for free, who Twitter for free, who constantly refresh and update their Facebook page for free, who want to help tell the stories of what is happening in their lives and in their communities...for free."
Alaistair, Mark, you just don't understand, do you? And I'm telling you that. For free.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Memories Are Made Of This

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Bill Shankly's arrival at Liverpool. He lost his first game 4-0, a result which would doubtless have had Hicks & Gillett phoning round for a successor & generally scheming behind his back. Here's a gem from the BBC archive featuring the man himself in conversation with Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley on the Anfield pitch in 1972:
I defy any Liverpool fan old enough to remember the old Kop not to have a lump in his or her throat as the camera pans away for a wide angle shot of the old terrace as You'll Never Walk Alone is sung.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Subversive Elements Smuggle Letter Into Daily Ghost

Just imagine if the views of Soviet dissidents had been given an airing in the pages of Pravda or Izvestia. It would have been unprecedented. Well, the Daily Ghost is no Pravda or Izvestia (sorry to break the news, Mark) but, as Wayne notes ( ), it has allowed the orgy of back-slapping & self-congratulation over the disfigurement of the city's waterfront to be momentarily halted by a letter in today's edition ( ).
It could be that Pamela Hoey, who edits the Ghost's letters page, has been reading about the samizdat phenomenon in the former Soviet Union & allowed it to go to her head. You did clear that letter for publication with Mark Thomas, didn't you, Pamela?

Imagine There's No Research

Nemesis Republic carries a gem of a post today which serves as both a salutary warning about the devaluation of historical research & an inspired glimpse a millenium or so into the future when our transatlantic cousins remember & commemorate four lads from this neck of the woods ( ).
Wonder if 22nd century America will also celebrate the music of that famous protest singer, Bob Hendrix?

Friday, November 27, 2009


As horizons narrow & hopes recede, the city's two football clubs find themselves in separate, though by no means unique predicaments. The decision by communities minister John Denham to reject Everton's application to build a stadium at Kirkby wasn't entirely unexpected; those who had been following the public inquiry closely related a tale of arrogance, ignorance & complacency on the part of the club & their "partners" Tesco. Such traits haven't completely disappeared in the wake of the government decision, as the club's comment that there was no Plan B indicates.
Within 24 hours of the announcement the question of a groundshare with Liverpool resurfaced ( & ).
The culture blog mused:
"So, Everton are still looking for a way out, having ruled out tarting up Goodison. So is Liverpool, but it's by far the most resistant of the two to any notions of ground sharing.
"LFC is still banking on Stanley Park, but it's now faced with a council and regional development agency keen on a shared ground.
"I suspect that will also be the government's view, with a mind on a 2018 Olympic bid, having turned down Kirkby.
"LFC remain tight-lipped. I suspect a groundshare is a financially-attractive option but it's likely to be a hard sell to Reds."
Everton may well be the most resistant of the two clubs to a shared stadium, despite noises from the Goodison board in the last day or so to the contrary. However, what matters above all other factors is the economic one, something that was equally clear this time last year ( ).
Liverpool's problems off the pitch, which have contributed so much to their inability to compete on it, are well-documented & the stadium issue only helps to perpetuate the chronic levels of deprivation in the neighbourhoods around Anfield ( ).
Of Kirkby itself, it's amusing to witness the grandstanding of the local MP George Howarth. Normally one of the lobby fodder for New Labour (he had no qualms about voting for a war now seen for what it always was -- ) Howarth bleats piteously, knowing that the plan he vigorously backed has turned out to be as watertight as those WMD dossiers. The Oldham Echo earnestly relates his peeved petulance ( ).
No one would deny that Kirkby's deprivation should be treated as an urgent priority; it has long been a disgrace. Equally disgraceful, however, is the record of the government Howarth has backed so assiduously since 97 in tackling deep-rooted problems in areas like Kirkby. That a donkey wearing a Labour rosette would be elected there probably explains why it's been ignored by Howarth's party. Kirkby's regeneration, if it ever happens, should be based on real investment & support, the like of which hasn't been seen since the post-war period. It cannot be based on siting a football stadium, with a bloody big Tesco store attached, in the middle of the town.
Don't believe me, George? I refer you to David Conn's excellent piece in today's Guardian ( ).
Of the proposed move to Kirkby, Conn writes:
"That was never a universally popular prospect; many even among the 59% of fans who voted in favour of the move in 2007 did so because it was the only option presented to expand the club's capacity and, crucially, its earning potential. Everton fans are painfully aware that Goodison Park, a modern marvel when it was unveiled as the world's first purpose-built football ground in 1892, has, in its present form, outlived its ability to generate the money required to compete in today's Premier League."
Conn goes on to detail the thinking behind the decision to reject the Kirkby application; I make no apology for quoting it at length because it helps to demolish some misconceptions, which Howarth regurgitated in his Commons peroration, about the project & shines a harsh, unflattering light on the motivations of those involved & the roles they've played in this farce:
"John Denham, communities and local government secretary, supported the judgment of a planning inspector, Wendy Burden, following a public inquiry that opened fully a year ago. Burden recommended that Tesco's application, for a 22,000 sq m superstore, a 50,000-seat stadium for Everton, and massive associated retail and commercial development, should be refused. Denham agreed that the plans 'failed to provide good and inclusive design', did not promote sustainable development or protect green space, and would economically damage the rest of Kirkby and its neighbouring towns by sucking retail custom away.
" 'The proposals would be likely to have a harmful effect on the vitality and viability of Kirkby, Bootle, Skelmersdale and St Helens and would conflict with policy to support and enhance the Liverpool city centre,' Denham said in his letter to Tesco's planning consultants, DPP, on Wednesday.
"As refusals go, that is categoric. It is a bitter twist for the club that Denham did not find that there was much wrong with the stadium proposal itself, except that it was hitched to Tesco's unacceptably enormous retail plans. The club are due to meet Tesco and their lawyers to consider, as a formality, whether there are grounds to challenge the decision by judicial review, but [Bill] Kenwright is understood to believe there will not be, and this is the end."
As the two clubs & their respective supporters prepare for the laughably-named "friendly Derby" at Goodison on Sunday, all parties will, or should, know that given current economic conditions, a new stadium on Stanley Park, whether it's shared, or the sole preserve of Liverpool, will not be built for the forseeable future & that both clubs will remain at their current locations well into the next decade.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sychophancy & Stress, Just Two Of The Things On Offer At Oldham Hall Street

Wayne's spotted another example of the way in which the Daily Ghost demonstrates not just its "pro-business" credentials, but also its willingness to crawl up the rear sphincter of local business interests with both a "story" & editorial in yesterday's edition ( ).
Meanwhile, Mark Thomas, editor of the Ghost, of course, has been fretting about the future. Not the Ghost's future, you understand (as with Liverpool's Champions' League participation, it'll cease to be in 2010), but that of the newspaper industry ( ).
Mark has the air of a medieval scribe suddenly confronted with a printing press for the first time when he talks about the web's impact on the industry; at one point he appears to cast an envious glance at the editor of the Times, who mistakenly thinks that a Murdoch firewall is the answer.
It's clearly not a happy ship, & at the other end of the Odham Hall Street vessel, Paddy Shennan (hello, Paddy!) perhaps lets on more than he should about life under Alastair Machray when penning an, erm, "witty" piece about coping with workplace stress ( ).
Paddy quotes yet another of these "surveys" so beloved by downmarket tabloids like the Echo. However, its relevance to life under Big Al is all too apparent:
"So, this medical study appears to suggest that covert copers have a choice to make -- either they carry on putting their health at risk by keeping a lid on their righteous anger (basically, by smiling, by grimacing, while inwardly harbouring thoughts of violent retribution) or they do their hearts a favour by saying exactly what they think."
Breathe, deeply, Paddy. Yes, that's it, calm, calm, calm.....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Janus-Faced Echo Bemoans Local Job Losses

Spare a thought for the workers at the Ladbrokes call centre in Aintree who were told this week that the operation is to close with the loss of up to 263 jobs ( ).
Of course, the Oldham Echo weeps crocodile tears over the loss of "Liverpool jobs", itself having made 100 Liverpool printers redundant with its switch to Greater Manchester this year ( ).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When Less Isn't More

Remember that thing called journalism? Go on, surely you must, it's what those characters on Oldham Hall Street still claim to practise. Pity their protestations are as valid as Thierry Henry's main de Dieu last night ( ).
Take this unsurprisingly byline-free piece in today's Oldham Echo
"Merseyside Labour MPs welcomed a Queen's Speech which focused on the chief concerns of northern cities.
"Top of their list was a bill to grant employment rights for agency workers who make up an estimated one in five of those in employment across the north west outside the public sector.
"But there were some fears that the package may not be enough to save Gordon Brown at the next election.
"The new agency workers' regulations mean that after 12 weeks they will get equal treatment with permanent staff."
Yes, that's it. Four sentences, masquerading as paragraphs, which claim to report the views of Merseyside's Labour MPs without quoting a single one of them. The assertion that the Queen's Speech "focused on the chief concerns of northern cities" is also a bit dodgy; no such aim was either openly spelt out or implied by OAP Liz Windsor at Westminster yesterday.
Oh, & about that legislation regarding agency workers, you'll find that it isn't what it seems, as Seumas Milne elaborates over on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages ( ):
"In some areas ministers are actually going backwards. Yesterday it was announced that agency workers would indeed get the same rights as permanent staff after 12 weeks -- a central demand of those battling the casualisation that has fuelled tensions over migrant labour. But not only will the measure be delayed for two years. The fine print has been drafted to water down protection to the point where one trade union leader involved in the negotiations told me yesterday: 'It's been made worthless, this is not what we signed up to.' Once again ministers have bowed to market orthodoxy and business pressure, some evidently with an eye on their own lucrative corporate options after the election."
Not only does the Oldham Echo claim to attribute views to MPs who aren't even directly or indirectly quoted, it also lazily proffers the sort of take-it-or-leave-it approach in its articles which is augmented by this apologia for journalism.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spin Over Substance

Given how far the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo have fallen, I suppose this proposal by Neil Benson, one of Trinity Mirror's editorial directors, isn't surprising: .
They used to report the news on Oldham Hall Street, you know.

It's Called The World Wide Web, Folks

When not letting newspapers off with nothing stronger than a slap on the wrist, the Press Complaints Commision (PCC) appears to think that blogs should be subject to the sort of accountability which it doesn't expect of the press itself ( ).
Its chairman Baroness Buscombe wants to see if it's possible for bloggers to be regulated by the PCC. She makes the bizarre comment:
"Some of the bloggers are now creating their own ecosystems which are quite sophisticated....Is the reader of those blogs assuming that it's news, and is [the blogosphere] the new newspapers? It's a very interesting area and quite challenging."
What's "challenging" is Buscombe's quaint nostrum that a blog, any blog, could be confused with, say, the BBC News website, or the Guardian home page. There's also the inconvenient & overlooked point for the PCC to realise that blog-hosting sites, including this one, are based in the US & therefore fall under that nation's jurisdiction.
The Independent piece notes that bloggers would be expected to volunteer to come under the PCC's guidelines. The only thing I'd "volunteer" is a two-word response.
Someone really should sit those old buffers at the PCC down & kindly tell them that their knowledge of this subject is non-existant. They should also be told that their preference for self-regulation in the press is tantamount to a dereliction of their duty.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reprise Rejected

It seems Nick Peet can buy his fellow intellectual a replacement pint after all ( ).

In Our Liverpool Home

It's an outrage, isn't it, that those cynical bloggers can sneer that culture year was all style & little substance, that it was a triumph of hype over reality, that it was symptomatic of the Lib Dems' bread & circus approach to local politics. Well, let me inform those naysayers, those cranks with a keyboard & a web connection, that culture year was an outstanding success & one of the greatest moments in Liverpool's history!
What, eh? Oh: .
Warren Bradley popped up at the How-Do awards ceremony & delivered this gem: "Being European Capital of Culture has done wonders for Liverpool's national and international profile and has created a feel-good platform for everyone connected to the city to build on."
Yes, yes, I know, but it was, by all accounts, a long evening.
Ah, yes, building on the "feel-good platform" of 2008 (no jokes, please, about unsafe structures & inferior materials), that's what it's all about in the city under Warren & his mates on Dale Street. That's why we can wheel out the mop tops again & call ourselves a UNESCO city of music ( & ).
Try to imagine "Ferry 'Cross The Mersey" playing unobtrusively in the background as Warren brushes away a tear, clears his throat & delivers a self-serving, sorry, I mean sincere paean of praise to our musical history. Take it away, Warren: "Music is in Liverpool's blood and its influence has been truly global from the days of sea shanties and Merseybeat to classical and dance -- it was a fundamental reason why we were European Capital of Culture.
"The city today has a phenomenal pool of talent and it's exciting that now, more than ever, the venues, the studios, the promoters and the festivals to nurture new ideas and diverse artists who will carry on Liverpool's best musical traditions.
"To be a UNESCO city of music would be a massive boost to the city's international cultural profile and give the city a focus, like in 08, to develop our music offer at all levels for the benefit of musicians and music lovers alike."
I really hate to disturb your surreal, Scouse stream-of-consciousness odyssey, Warren, but you might just be out on the chronology there; I know it seems like we've been harping on about the Fabs for, ooh, millenia but you'll find that both classical music & the sea shanties actually pre-date You Know Who by a couple of centuries. As for the claim that it was "a fundamental reason" for being Capital of Culture, well, we'll pass on that one, shall we? Nor did it have anything to do with council stooges posing as members of the public accosting Jeremy Isaacs et al at every opportunity, whining, "Let It Be Liverpool".
Oh, & about that "phenomenal pool of talent" in today's Liverpool music scene, Warren, it's nice to see them prominently featured every year at the Matthew Street festival, given prime-time slots on the main stages, & not shunted off to a scaled down makeshift stage by Tithebarn Street, away from the rest of the action. Isn't it?
Yes, Warren, I'm convinced that it will be just as successful as your handling of culture year, the 08 Place on Whitechapel ( ) & the delightful additions to our waterfront, as Wayne explains ( ).
All together now: "When I find myself in times of trouble, Warren Bradley comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be".

Friday, November 13, 2009

PCC Contact Details

A commenter on my post about Nick Peet's wretched scrawl said that Morrissey should contact the Press Complaints Commission about it. I'm dubious about the PCC; it's a body run by the newspaper industry itself & complacently holds that self-regulation is the best way for aggrieved parties to obtain redress from the press. Besides, Peet's article has now been Facebooked & Twittered for near universal opprobrium.
However, for what it's worth, here are the contact details for the PCC:-
phone: 020 7831 0022
address: Halton House, 20/23 Holborn, London, EC1N 2JD.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Required Reading For The Echo's Poodles

Nick Peet, Paddy Shennan, et al would do well to read Neil's post on his Northern Uproar blog yesterday ( ).
He describes the Echo Arena's total absence of security & organisation at the Kings of Leon gig towards the end of last year (not earlier this summer, Nick, just in case you haven't got it yet).

Oldham Echo's Mood Music

With a speculative & highly ambiguous NME article dangling the prospect of a re-staged Morrissey concert at the Echo Arena ( ), which has already been given the cold water treatment by Simon's excellent No Rock And Roll Fun blog ( ), it's unsurprising to see that Oldham Hall Street has sent out what it considers to be a couple of its attack-dog columnists in order to blame the performer rather than the lax security & stewarding at the venue bearing the Oldham Echo's name. The prosaic reality, however, is that these columnists are more like poodles than rottweilers.
Paddy Shennan (hello, Paddy, survived the cull, have you?) considers Morrissey to be a wimp for walking off ( ) & harks back to the days of punk when gobbing was de riguer. Ah, yes, Paddy, I, too, was at some of those gigs; consensus of opinion among many who were part of that generation on Merseyside was that such individuals needed to have their facial features rearranged. Joe Strummer once contracted hepatitis B after a Clash gig when some moron spat at his face.
However, the prize for journalistic stupidity on behalf of the Oldham Echo's attempt to blame the performer, not the venue is won hands-down by Nick Peet in a juvenile scrawl which makes me wonder about his mental age, IQ & experience of local gigs ( ).
Peet asks:
"Is it really such a big problem? Hardly.
"Plastic beer cups and the odd smuggled plastic bottle are frequent overhead projectiles when you go to rock concerts the world over."
Presumably Peet was of a mind to excuse the near torrent of missiles thrown at the Mersey Tunnel stage throughout the Matthew Street festival, despite onstage appeals for the idiots to stop.
Peet goes on to jeer in a beery sort of way at Morrissey's back catalogue, as though it's relevant to the incident at the Arena & the wider issue of security & stewarding at the venue. The Oldham Echo's very own Lester Bangs opines in jocular fashion:
"Both the Arctic Monkey's [sic] and Kasabian have concerts planned for the ECHO Arena later this week and I'd bet both bands would be somewhat insulted if a couple of beers didn't get sprayed about the place.
"The only fear for the venue is that is [sic] escalates out of control like it did towards the end of the Kings of Leon gig earlier in the summer [the concert took place late last year], as there was content far more sinister than beer in some of those plastic cups.
"But the regulation and sale of booze at the ECHO Arena is just a toothache on a sensational first 12 months of trading."
Peet's saloon-bar sloshed words reveal both his own alarming immaturity, not to mention an inability to write properly, & the Oldham Echo's desperate attempts to exonerate the management of the ECHO Arena [my capitals] from last Saturday's incident.
Hearteningly, the comments left on Peet's depressing diatribe all take issue with his management-sanctioned defence of the indefensible. One commenter asks if Oldham Hall Street's scrawlers would have penned the same, erm, thoughts if it had happened at a McCartney concert. Another refers to Peet's "toothache" quip, commenting that the venue itself has become a pain in the backside for the city (it's telling, btw, that Peet gratuitously inserts the "sensational first 12 months of trading" comment into the discussion).
However, Peet isn't quite finished. Indeed, he saves the best till last, remarking:
"And if dreary Morrissey chooses not to return then real Merseyside music fans should all stand united and buy last weekend's beer chucker a replacement pint."
Yes, there's nothing like a real Merseyside music fan, Nick. And you're nothing like one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Inspired Comparison

Ah, the wonders of Google! Just when you're searching for something else, it throws up a priceless artefact which not even Channel 4's Time Team could uncover.
PR Week is not normally on my reading list, for obvious reasons, but it featured the Oldham Echo at the back end of 2007 ( ).
It began memorably:
"It is the Scousers' answer to The Sun. Large-type headlines leap out from each page of the Liverpool [sic] Echo, announcing the latest news and celebrity gossip from Liverpool and Merseyside."
Some testimonial, eh?
The piece spoke of the Echo's two daily editions flying off the newsstands. Well, this is PR Week, after all.
And there's more. Consider this delightful snippet:
"The Echo's readership is, as editor Alastair Machray puts it, 'the broad rump of ordinary people who are making a living for themselves'. "
Broad rump? Charming, Alastair.
The piece gave a revealing glimpse into the world of press releases masquerading as news, how to approach certain Echo scribes with a glorified ad & the cosy arrangement between hacks & celebrities' agents.
The penultimate paragraph of the PR Week article cautioned:
"A final obvious, but crucial, point to remember is that the Echo focuses on the local angle. 'We purge national and generic stories from the paper. We may find a place for a really big national story, but it would not go on the front page,' says Machray. 'If people want national news, they will go to national papers.' "
Clearly, Oldham Hall Street is somewhat confused about the role of its publication. After all, it was only a year-and-a-half later that it announced the Echo would be appearing in the mornings from October of this year in order to "compete with the nationals", as a Trinity Mirror suit put it ( ).
Still, at least it can now take a bow, having demonstrated to the PR luvvies its similarity to Murdoch's rag. It's some accolade, isn't it, Alastair?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Junk Journalism

No one would deny Jacqui Janes' fury & grief over the death of her son in Afghanistan; her wider point regarding both the shortage of equipment & the long-term mission in Afganistan are unarguable ( ). However, her grief & understandable rage have been manipulated by The Sun. The rag that spewed its repellent lies about Hillsborough now wishes to trade on her anguish in a sickening attempt to boost its flagging circulation.
Steve Bell gets it spot-on in today's Guardian ( ).

Uncanny Echoes

When not breaking "exclusive" stories which were already known to the local cognoscenti -- prior to yesterday's splash ( ) it was strongly rumoured around Liverpool that the Telegraphed MP for Wavertree wouldn't serve beyond this parliament --the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo proceed on their merry way, recycling PR releases, claiming credit for saving endangered buildings ( ) & glamourising small-time local hoodlums.
A timely reminder of the role & function of many local papers, including those churned out at Oldham, is provided by George Monbiot on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages ( ).
Monbiot states, " For many years the local press has been one of Britain's most potent threats to democracy, championing the overdog, misrepresenting democratic choices, defending business, the police and local elites from those who seek to challenge them."
Think that's over the top? Think again, as Monbiot relates a tale about his local rag which raises uncanny parallels with the papers which claim to serve Merseyside:
"I'm prompted to write this by a remarkable episode in my home town, Machynlleth, which illustrates the problem everywhere. A battle has been raging here over Tesco's attempt to build a superstore on the edge of town. Its application received 685 letters of objection and five letters of support, but the town council, which appears to believe everything Tesco says, supports the scheme. The local paper, the Cambrian News, appears in turn to believe everything the council tells it."
Monbiot goes on to assert: "Most local papers exist to amplify the voices of their proprietors and advertisers and other powerful people with whom they wish to stay on good terms. In this respect they scarcely differ from most of the national media. But they also contribute to what in Mexico is called cacquisimo: the entrenched power of local elites."
As the 17 editorial positions are axed, to use an Echo term, & the final salary pension scheme is no more, those remaining on Oldham Hall Street would do well to read Monbiot's piece; it will drive home the reality of the nature of their employer.

9.50 UPDATE: Ronnie was there before me in a comment he left on my post from last Thursday.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Happy In The Haze Of A Drunken Hour?

There's nothing particularly unusual about idiotic acts at concerts, unfortunately, & Liverpool has seen more than its fair share of those (the Beastie Boys at the Royal Court in 87 immediately springs to mind).
However, the object thrown at Morrissey at the Echo Arena yesterday evening (conflicting reports describe it as either a bottle or a glass), resulting in the abrupt & premature end of the concert ( & ) is indicative of an all-too common pattern at that venue; several incidents have occurred there with different acts & it seems to date from the venue's inception ( ).
The Arena appears to be the only major indoor venue which allows the sale of alcohol during concerts. Its level of security & stewarding also leaves more than something to be desired; a friend of mine went to see Bob Dylan at the venue earlier this year & expressed both his amazement & exasperation at the ease with which people already the worse for wear could return to the bar time after time.
The management of the Arena have offered a limp statement, citing their faith in CCTV to identify the culprit. However, they, too, should accept culpability for last night's incident, in that they preside over a venue in which the standard rules of procedure are blithely suspended.
And what of the venue's sponsors, our old, beseiged friends on Oldham Hall Street? Well, to their credit, they did report the event on their website yesterday evening (some might say they had no option). However, it is telling that the guiding, emaciated hand of desperate PR ensured that both the news report & the follow-up story featuring reaction quotes appeared to imply that Morrissey was a bit of a wimp for not tolerating the odd missile or two ( & ).
Memo to the remaining hacks on Oldham Hall Street: it's called zero tolerance, it's of a piece with your manufactured "campaigns" & "crusades"; think ASBOs, guys, then you might get the message.

Sara's Sayings

With one apparent Oldham Hall Street insider commenting on Liverpool Confidential's treament of its travails that a meeting of staff was called on Friday evening to announce the end of the final salary pension scheme ( ), attention has been paid to the role played by Sara Wilde, managing director of Trinity Mirror Regional North West and Wales. It's interesting to recall her words from September of last year when the last major round of job losses took place ( ).
Does Ms Wilde's gift for bollockese know no bounds?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Will The Last Person Left On Oldham Hall Street Please Switch Off The Lights?

As I write, the rockets & fireworks soar & explode in the local night sky. There'll be a few more fireworks being ignited around Oldham Hall Street at the news that Trinity Mirror is seeking 17 editorial job losses at its Merseyside titles ( ).
The Guardian piece reports that Trinity Mirror "would seek to make the cuts....through voluntary redundancy where possible."
I like the "where possible" bit, don't you? It gives the impression that management on Oldham Hall Street are "flexible" & "reasonable", & that they hate having to do this. It's also nice to know that Sara Wilde, managing director of Trinity Mirror Regional North West and Wales, hasn't lost the ability to talk fluent management bollockese: "It is vital that we continue to make and take these difficult decisions and I believe these changes will ensure we have a viable, robust and thriving business which continues to provides jobs and media services to the communities we serve."
Not buying it? Nope, me neither. Nor, too, isthe NUJ branch on Oldham Hall Street, leading it to make noises unusual for the NUJ, ie., threaten industrial action ( ).
How-Do quotes NUJ assistant organiser Lawrence Shaw:
"The relentless cuts on Merseyside are damaging the quality of the papers and websites, and the local economy. They also lead to stress and other health and safety issues for the journalists left behind".
[You've only just noticed the declining quality of the paper & website, Lawrence?]
Hold The Front Page's take on the jobs bonfire alludes to the impending demise of the Daily Ghost ( ):
"Although the company has not spelled out the nature of the changes in detail, it is understood that most of the job losses will be at the Liverpool Daily Post and will span a number of editorial functions."
What's more, here's another comment which encapsulates the concerns felt by staff, stating that "workers would be right to seek reassurances regarding their futures and a clear mapping-out of the company's long-term strategy."
Fine words, spoken by...the Oldham Echo in today's editorial about GM's decision to rescind the sale of its European operations to Magna & what it means for the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port ( ).
Still, it's the right sentiment, isn't it? Pity Trinity Mirror doesn't practice what it preaches, eh?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Public Money To Pay For Port's Plan

Raising my head above the parapet in the Liverpool-Southampton port wars (& still nursing a broken heart after David Bartlett dropped the link to this blog on his Dale Street Blues site, oh, how fickle & thin-skinned they are on Oldham Hall Street, you can forget about that Christmas card this year, David!), I see that local Hampshire MP & prominent Lib Dem Chris Huhne has written to the European Competition Commissioner ( ).
As has been pointed out too many times for the liking of vested local interests, Southampton has a case for raising concerns about the cruise liner terminal. The BBC report that the government "must approve the plan because a £9m EU grant helped pay for Liverpool's £20m cruise liner terminal, whereas Southampton is commercially-funded."
Business being business, the notion that public money should subsidise nearly half the amount needed to fund such a development on the Mersey is risible. Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm no apologist for free market capitalism, but the inconvenient reality for the usual local suspects is that having established an operation under its own steam, so to speak, Southampton has every right to highlight this absurdity.
The report quotes Cllr Gary Millar, executive member on the city council for enterprise & tourism: "We believe that the creation of a full turnaround facility at Liverpool will benefit the cruise liner industry in the UK, as the city is uniquely positioned to attract business from outside of Europe.
"The application to the DfT [Department for Transport] has been made in response to calls from the industry and passengers and the city is keen to build on the success of the facility so far."
I recall Wayne pointing Cllr Millar out to me at the PR stunt for One Parked Here Without Our Say-So ( ). Pespiring visibly, Cllr Millar clasped a mobile in one hand while wearing what can be best described as a harrassed look on his face as the kids were bussed in for the photo-op; it's no surprise to observe that his attempts with syntax are as clumsy as his hamfisted PR technique.
The substance, if you can call it that, of Cllr Millar's puff-piece is more hole-ridden than Swiss cheese. Contending that a facility at Liverpool will "benefit the cruise liner industry in the UK" is arrant nonsense & an all too transparent bid to hoodwink a larger audience outside Merseyside. In addition, what's this garbage about Liverpool being "uniquely positioned" to capture & secure a non-Europen market? Is it merely because Liverpool is a westward-facing port? If so, you could make the same argument for Plymouth, Bristol, Cardiff or Glasgow.
It is of no surprise that Oldham Hall Street hasn't yet formulated a response to latest developments (still waiting for a press release to be issued by Peel Holdings, I suspect). However, if --or when-- it does, will it also mention that Chris Huhne was once a humble scribe for the Daily Ghost?

Friday, October 30, 2009

150,000 Hits & Rising

I hadn't seen this goal since the night itself back in 1985 when my brother & I were part of a swaying, raucous, cascading Kop. Must have travelled a good ten feet down the old terrace when Molby's rocket hit the back of the net. Memories are made of this: .

Oldham Hall Street's Sage Advice

These are dark times for journalism. The web has pulverised beyond recognition what was once a secure business model; the dead tree press could once control not just the dissemination of news, but the news agenda itself. No more. Blogs (guilty, m'lud!), Facebook & Twitter have changed all that.
It's not exactly a bowl of cherries at the BBC either. Whilst the likes of the Daily Mail won't be happy until the Beeb ceases to exist & we have to rely on the likes of said rag & a Foxed Sky News, some of the Corporation's travails have been self-inflicted.
So who will step forward to dispense some words of wisdom to Auntie?
The Oldham Echo.
Yes, the Oldham Echo (
The editorial applauds the recent decision to cut the number of senior management staff & reduce the wage bill. It goes on helpfully:
"Now, we suggest, it's time for director general Mark Thompson to turn his attentions to the broadcaster's planning strategy.
"The ECHO still values the BBC as a trustworthy brand and reliable provider of news and information, but its role as a public service broadcaster needs to extend to providing more content which is simply not assessed on a commercial basis."
The Echo editorial refers to "reality" TV & the usual Saturday evening fodder, stating that the commercial & cable channels should produce such output, not the BBC. It concludes reproachfully:
"The BBC, through the licence fee, is provided with so much public money but, in return, it isn't providing the public with enough quality."
Ah, yes, quite right. Quality, that's the key consideration, isn't it?
Moreover, the Oldham Echo should be commended for highlighting the need for quality in the media; indeed, a case in point was provided by its editorial earlier this week which reminded us of the truly cerebral concerns we should think of: ( ).
It may hearten the aesthetes & classicists on Oldham Hall Street to know that the Beeb's more considered & challenging output is gaining a new audience ( ).
It's nice to know that the Oldham Echo's "truth project" & "positivity programme", now a year old ( ) are yielding a burgeoning consciousness of higher thoughts.
Of course, let us not forget that Oldham Hall Street once tried its hand at broadcasting via its Channel One network. It was a true beacon of public service broadcasting, focusing on those aspects of cultural discourse normally the preserve of Radios 3 & 4.
Here's an example: .
Peerless, simply peerless.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hotel Reservation

I rather suspect that when the weather improves in the spring of next year, another group hug may be called for down at the waterfront. Just a short carbuncle away from One Parked Here Without Our Say-So, the new Hilton Hotel is taking shape as the new addition to the waterfront's Botoxification. And, guess what, Oldham Hall Street is very much on board to ask the hard, searching questions that a news organisation should ask; their reporters will be on hand to buttonhole those behind this latest scene of civic disfigurement in Paxmanesque fashion.
Don't believe me, do you?
Thought not. OK, OK, here's the squalid reality, both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo print pretty much the same PR blurb which seeks to convince the gullible that hotel rooms costing in excess of £800 per night lie at the heart of a city's, erm, renaissance ( & ).
Featuring a small picture of the view afforded by the most expensive suite in the hotel, the Echo version swoons:
"This is the view that will cost visitors to Liverpool £859 a night.
"The Presidential Suite - described by Hilton Liverpool's general manager Marcus Magee as the hotel's 'piece de resistance' - will be the most expensive room in the city when the hotel opens its doors on November 17.
"Guests who want that extra luxury will be able to get an extra package that will include butler service and a provision of a top of the range car."
What immaculate timing, just perfect for the end of Liverpool's year of the environment ( ).
The PR piece, which would look just right in its natural habitat of glossy brochures, & which Wayne has already held up for some well-warranted derision ( ), goes on to enthuse brightly:
"The 215-room hotel, built on the site of the old Customs house and overlooking Chavasse Park, has been designed to reflect the city's trading and maritime history."
Ah, yes, the port's importance to the city, how could anyone forget that....which is why they've built the hotel on the site not just of the old Customs house (a real architectural gem long since sadly lost), but also the original dock system briefly uncovered by Channel 4's Time Team during The Big Dig. Oh, & could we finally dispense with the risible piece of fiction which contends that the small elevated patch of greenery adjacent to One Parked Here Without Our Say-So is Chavasse Park? Why? Because, you see, it isn't. Chavasse Park was bulldozed away & lost while Oldham Hall Street proclaimed a bright new dawn for the waterfront.
Think that's bad enough for squandering as well as misrepresenting the port's past?
Think again:
"The importance of cotton is captured in the Pima bar - named after the high-grade American cotton - with cotton displayed in glass wall panels. The lights also resemble cotton buds."
All involved in this farrago of deception, self-congratulation & sanitised local history seem to display a crass ignorance worthy of an aggressive ale-head in Concert Square at 3am.
The cotton trade was bound up with the slave trade. Fact. I wonder if the hotel will mention that? While the monstrosity that will be the new museum at the Pier Head appears to include a section holding all Scousers, past & present, responsible for the worst chapter in the port's history, the Hilton will go in entirely the opposite direction, lauding a trade which necessarily involved the enslavement of human beings ( )
There may no longer be "six in a bed by the old Pier Head", as the "Liverpool Town" song put it, but the theme & pattern of missed chances & squalid circumstances still apply.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Last Post?

With the Oldham Echo now established as a morning red-top, it's inevitable that its sickly sister the Daily Ghost, limping along on a horribly thin sub 10,000 circulation figure, will be coldly scrutinsed for its relevance & viability in the Trinity Mirror empire.
The word from many newsagents in the city is that they've been informed it won't be for this world much longer, an early 2010 closure being widely expected.

Anatomy Of A Meltdown

Given the company they keep & the contacts they have to maintain, financial journalists can speak fluent jargon without realising that they alienate most people. Credit, therefore, to Gillian Tett ( ), assistant editor of the Financial Times, for delivering an account of the banking crisis which, if anything, engaged & involved her audience at the Bluecoat on Saturday afternoon.
Basing her account on her recently published book*, she related the tale as one of risk-taking gone mad, spurred on by a combination of hubris & denial on the part of a fairly small group of young bankers in the early 90s. Explaining in plain English the meaning of terms such as Credit Default Swaps & CDOs, Tett calmly, yet damningly laid bare the decisions taken over the course of a decade or more which ultimately led to last year's meltdown & what many would regard as socialism for the rich in the ensuing bail-outs.
Tett outlined three stages of the period when bankers were feted as masters of the universe: innovation (devising the "bundling" of debt to be shared & thus lessened for those concerned), perversion (the continuation of such practices in spite of the fact they couldn't continue) & disaster (when the banks on both sides of the Atlantic, with the exception of Lehman Brothers, looked to the taxpayer for relief, & got it, when the proverbial hit the fan).
In stark terms, Tett assessed the global outlook in the light of last year's crash & expressed her amazement when answering questions later that the issue of bankers' bonuses hadn't engendered anywhere near the same level of outrage caused by MP's expenses. She's spot-on; the expenses issue rightly remains a hot issue. However, what was & is being perpetrated on the world's markets affects the average person in a way which still hasn't been grasped.
Given her position at the FT, Tett was never going to present the sequence of events as a damning indictment of capitalism. That said, however, she did not demur when several in the audience raised the issues of accountability (or the complete absence of it), regulation & even nationalisation of the banks.
I look forward to reading the book.

* "Fool's Gold", Gillian Tett, published by Little, Brown, 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Striking Out Against The Stereotypes

Recommended reading: a piece by Peter Lazenby, NUJ rep at the Yorkshire Post, on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages, putting the case for the postal workers ( ).
Lazenby, whom I met during the Writing on the Wall festival in Liverpool earlier this year, summarises the real cause of the dispute, a macho management which isn't content just to administer a business, but also to rub the staff's noses in the brown matter. He also tackles the myth of the average union member as strike-happy:
"Working people do not take strike action lightly. They do so when every other door has been slammed in their faces. Striking is an act of desperation. It isn't fun. It's hard. It's financially punishing. At Christmas it's going to be even harder on the strikers and their families than on people whose delivery from Amazon is late, and even for the little old lady whose Christmas card won't be delivered."
Unsurprisingly, Lazenby's piece has attracted the usual comments from those who excoriate the postal staff. One wonders what such individuals would do if faced with a management equally bone-headed or worse at their workplace. Perhaps they already do work in an environment under such managers & meekly keep their heads down while berating those who have the temerity to stand up & be counted. It wouldn't surprise me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oldham Echo: Fight Arranger-Round Two

Some people just don't know when to stop, do they? To take a typically cringeworthy pun employed by the Oldham Echo in relation to Flo Clucas' "Long & Winding Road" suggestion from Whitechapel to Matthew Street [more of A Short Walk Round The Corner, if you ask me], it simply isn't possible for some to Let It Be [sorry].
David Bartlett clearly wishes to resurrect the playground spat between Liverpool & Southampton ( ):
"I have been criticised in some quarters for responding to Gareth Lewis from the Southern Daily Echo after he suggested that Liverpool wanted to steal Southampton's cruise trade.
"I wrote a defence of Liverpool and pointed out Liverpool's achievements compared to Southampton.
"This was taken as me acting as some sort of stirrer or agent provocateur in the so-called 'cruise wars' between Liverpool and Southampton."
Criticism from "some quarters", David? I presume you're referring to this blog & Wayne's, whose response to your post decisively disabuses you of any illusion that your comments command unanimous local assent ( ).
Furthermore, what you posted could hardly be described as "a defence of Liverpool", the "achievements" you cite relating to football (irrelevant to the matter in hand) &, yes, of course, The Beatles (equally irrelevant to this topic). Instead, it reminded me of a playground rant from a peeved primary school pupil, as I noted at the time ( ).
In addition, I did not accuse you of being a "stirrer or agent provacateur", I levelled that charge at your employer on Oldham Hall Street, & given the enthusiasm with which both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo have returned to this story recently, I see no reason to withdraw it.
You can hardly be surprised that a local columnist in Southampton has reacted by trotting out all the old Scouse stereotypes, nor should you feign offence taken at it; every town & city has its local propagandists whose egos are in inverse proportion to their IQ, Southampton is no exception.
In Liverpool's case, David, they tend to be fellow employees of yours.
You conclude your post by asking:
"So what form should a response take?"
The answer, David, is that there should be no response, as Ronnie de Ramper comments on your post. Acknowledge the fact that Oldham Hall Street deliberately engineered a confrontation via its reporting & headlines when the issue first arose, & augmented it with pathetically parochial editorials once the flames had been kindled.
It would be refreshing if Oldham Hall Street posed some pertinent journalistic enquiries on the role of Peel Holdings & held its record up to a sufficiently rigorous level of scrutiny. How about it, David?
Or are you just going to Let It Be?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Message Marred

Despite her naive middle-class outlook, there was something quite laudable about Martha Lane Fox's interview with Jonathan Charles on the BBC Hardtalk programme about her role as a "champion of digital inclusion", a tag she acknowledged as clumsy ( ).
She was entirely right to stress that the future is increasingly online, but that a dangerous digital divide is opening up between those with web access & those without.
It was therefore regrettable that she referred to "unpleasant areas" & "horrible council estates" towards the end of her interview. Delivering those phrases in a cut-glass voice, it reeked of naked class prejudice & potentially undermined her message about digital inclusion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A New Liverpool Sound

Given Oldham Hall Street's wish to wallow in nostalgia for a band which split up 40 years ago, it's up to others to highlight the fact that there is a healthy & vibrant music scene in Liverpool, unencumbered by gratuitous mentions of you-know-who.
One of the unexpected gems I came across at the bombed-out church on August Bank Holiday Monday was a short acoustic set by The Mono LPs. They were far more entertaining & original than the entire dreary procession of "tribute" acts around Matthew Street itself. Enjoy: .
Disclaimer: Following recent articles in the press about bloggers & product plugging, I would like to state that I am not a band member, nor am I their manager. In fact, I don't even know them.

Believe It Or Not, This Band Came From Liverpool

Culture year was great, wasn't it? We had the Beatles, erm, the Phil, the Everyman, erm the Beatles, the Playhouse, erm, the Beatles........oh, yes, Macca's gig at Anfield, you know, the one which was meant to be at the Salthouse Dock with the dock drained of water & the fish humanely stunned by the city council before they realised it wasn't feasible, a conclusion arrived at via a six-figure "feasibility" study.

Well, now the council have realised that we don't celebrate the Beatles enough in Liverpool. After all, you have to admit that a casual stroll around the city centre wouldn't even indicate that they came from here. Would it? ( ).

Marc Waddington's article is typically sketchy with the word "could" being used in such a way as to mean "will" to the casual peruser, a tried & tested trick on Oldham Hall Street. It also goes over Beatle history in Liverpool (just in case anyone is still in the dark about the group's local origins).

Waddington's piece breathlessly gasps:

"Councillors will discuss the possibility of teaming up with record label Apple and Peter Blake, the artist responsible for the front cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

You can imagine the reaction in Apple's offices as they receive yet another cringe-inducing approach from the council, can't you? A sigh, a few comments to the effect that these people need to start living in the twenty-first century & a patronising reply which trots out the old cliches about the 60s.

The gimmick, sorry, idea will take the form of a motion at the city council tomorrow, proposed by deputy council leader Flo Clucas. Yes, the same Flo Clucas who remarked back in 2005 that the demolition of Ringo Starr's birthplace in Madryn Street, alongside that of the other houses in the neighbourhood down in the Dingle, was justified because he spent only the first few years of his life there. Besides, the Lib Dems wanted to indulge in a little social cleansing to preserve their ruinous grip on the city.

But back to today & the Bread & Circus tactic beloved by Bradley, Storey, Clucas & co. is wheeled out with Waddington's piece acting as the cheerleader:

"It is hoped the project would be completed by next May, the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' final album, Let It Be.

"In the run-up to the Capital of Culture year, some were keen to stress that Liverpool had more offer than just The Beatles.

"But Cllr Clucas said she believed there was more to be made of Liverpool's Beatle history.

"She added: 'From my point of view, The Beatles are big business, whatever you think about their music - which I happen to love.

" 'Look at the classic performers like Elvis Presley, and Graceland, his home in Memphis - their home towns exploit it to the full.' "

There's so much to get my teeth into here, it's a veritable feast. Firstly, the thought that anyone would want to make a meal of the band's worst album 40 years after it apologetically slipped out is bizarre; oh, & it wasn't the group's "final album", Abbey Road was recorded later.

Moreover, those of us who stressed that there was more to the city's culture than the Fabs were either ignored or derided throughout last year. As for Cllr Clucas' contention that the Beatles are "big business", it's telling that she puts this consideration ahead of their musical legacy. The Elvis Presley parallel is one which makes discerning observers here wince; the Matthew Street festival is bad enough, a mawkish, backward-looking nostalgia fest, it's well on the way to aping the Graceland "experience" & homage to the original Burger King.

Do such caveats & reservations permeate the thinking of the intellectuals who put together what passes for the editorial in the Oldham Echo? Put it this way, there's more chance of McCartney having a pint with Pete Best, Mark Chapman & Heather Mills in The Grapes ( ):

"IT'S a debate which Liverpool has with itself all the time - do we make too much or too little of The Beatles?"

And, of course, the Oldham Echo has never been reluctant to reflect such a debate in its pages. Has it?

The, erm, editorial goes on to trumpet: "We're not just talking about a good thing, but the biggest and best thing and biggest and best band to have ever come out of Liverpool."

Hang on, are we suddenly talking about Professor Chucklebutty & his Diddymen? Oh, sorry, my mistake:

"Critics may continue to carp and complain that Liverpool is living in the past. They may say we should now 'Let It Be'. "

See what they've done there? Clever, eh? Like I said, they're all intellectuals in the Oldham Echo editorial department.