Culture On The Road……Vasily Petrenko Rules OK!

Well, as the year comes to an end, reflection and evaluation of the cultural activities looms ever closer so, I will share some thoughts and highlights.

At the moment I seem to be revelling in the moment signing autographs and fighting off the hoards even though I have resorted to wearing glasses in a bold effort to fend off the flocks of well-wishers that have followed us through the days.

Have I enjoyed the year?… Well, it’s only just begun.

The calendar for 2013 now looks as busy as ever with pantomimes far and wide and regular festivals to participate in getting booked up now, ready for next year… …International Language Day….Widnes Ice Rink Spectacular and New Year Ice Parties…..Polish Day………Liverpool Irish Centre Festivities…..International Arts and Crafts activities at the World Museum Community Room…..Newsham Festival ………Greenbank Sports Festival…. on and on.

The contacts, and interests that have been sparked through visits to art shows and the theatre provided an open door to the ‘world of art ‘. This will last forever.

This cultural world I have been involved in has expanded my family interests massively this year. The events have given us the opportunity to venture into realms of music for example which we would never have dreamed of doing. Realms such as the St Georges Hall concert room for recitals from Internationally acclaimed musicians.
Music performed so intensely, from performers with musical abilities of awesome standards.

Recently, sitting in the chapel of the historic Swedish Church in Park Lane, during a Heritage Open day, gave me an ‘experience’. It was a church I had grown up in and I had not visited the church for many years. My great-grandfather was a founder member way back in 1848. He, being a Swedish sea captain, put down roots in more prosperous times of trade.
When I was a child, I remember playing the piano in the concert room adjacent to the prayer room. I sat on one of the pews in the chapel the other day, gazing at the beautiful vaulted ceiling and with my daughter sitting close by. I had this spiritual moment, a moment of nostalgia. Church custodians looked at my Nordic looking daughter and spoke in Swedish to her and I thought….. yes…I belong here and I must come back.

The friends I have made through the cultural programme will last decades and the stories and adventures will live on ‘in blogs’ till the end of time.

My friends will never ever forget the terror of ‘Farmageddon’ and they will worship me for a lifetime for getting them orange wristband tickets and nights of torment.

My culture colleague passed me a sheet advertising a Shakespeare production in Liverpool and I took it with a pinch of salt, blogged it, attended it in Reynolds Park Walled garden one Friday night during the summer, and I was given the spice of life.
Never, ever, thought I would enjoy Shakespeare, but that production ‘A Winters Tale’ touched a raw nerve of reality in my life.

And then…. there was Nightlife..nightlight or lightnight……I tend to write these blogs with a few whisky drams..a throw back to the ‘Camp and Furnace Whisky Tasting day’… Lightnight, was a memorable night because it was my birthday and alot of things happened rapide. Met Rolf Harris, met a modern artist called Hockney(who looked a bit strange) at the Elevator…Upper Parliament Street, met the Moth Man…met the Mad Hatter at the Town Hall….printed pictures using an early press at the Bluecoat till very late….watched a Morris Man dance and drank coffee with delicious cakes at the Spanish bar Lunya……. art activities for the girls just went on all night long and we stayed out very late ….it was……unforgettable, especially when the evening rounded off with us standing in the middle of a mad drama team rampaging through Clayton Square with blood and axes protruding from their brains.
All part of the excitement of the night I read about in the press report about Lightnight, the day after.

Writing for a North West Polish newspaper for the first time was a challenge, just as appearing on a Polish TV channel about ‘culture’ was entertaining. Supporting the Liverpool Polish School every Saturday continued with the odd Polish Cultural Governmental Minister and Consul visiting (see website) in their ministerial black merc’s. This has all been a valuable exercise in cross-cultural links using the hub of the media.

The meeting and chat recently with the Southport Mayor who has twinned his town with Gdansk was fascinating. The coastlines are mirror images with dunes, pine trees and farms.
Sefton Arts had two Polish authors flown into Liverpool and driven to the Town Hall for a ‘Writers Evening’ and it was an inspiration. I was surprised at the number of journalists interested in the authors works and the questions the banned books in Poland provoked from the audience. The free food and drink from Gdanska restaurant Southport was excellent. All praise goes to them for supporting an entertaining and memorable literary evening.

Weekends have been spent playing hospitality, taking International guests in and around Liverpool…a city I and every Cultural Champion loves so much. There is always something new around the corner.

Some days though, you just don’t know who is looking over your shoulder and who you are having a vodka with.

But then again, if they speak perfect Polish and you can speak Russian… can be an entertaining evening all round! Because nobody around knows what you are talking about so they keep clear.

Early in the year, the meeting with a Zulu chief who was a good friend of Nelson Mandela was an enlightening experience. His stories of political struggle and hardship over the years of turmoil in South Africa was an education.

Didn’t know we had a Hungarian Consul in Liverpool until I was invited to a ‘Goulash Evening’ during an Independence Day gathering arranged by Merseyside Polonia, the Liverpool Community Cohesive department. Plans were afoot to develop an East European Centre in Liverpool.

Looking back at the blogs is a reminder of all the festive write-ups Easter had along with the Titanic exhibitions and the historical legacy it left behind associated with its Liverpool links.
But, most of all, this year…..there are the memories of the hundreds and they must have been…. of people I have escorted around Liverpool.

German, Russian, Lithuanian, American, Polish and locals too, who have been amazed at the variety, history and architecture of our beautiful city.
When you are asked to take a Polish priest to see the Philharmonic toilets and explain that even Bill Clinton has ventured there!….well that says it all.

On the sporting side of life, Awesome Walls and the Liverpool Watersports Centre takes up a big part of my sparetime.

It’s here that I climb to the rafters and float down like a spider on a silk thread after a hard day at the office…is it the sense of danger that sends the adrenaline off the scale?.

Sailing at the Liverpool Watersports Centre is just incredible. You can take a yacht out, after a short training course…. for a £5!
So, consequently, most weekends my daughter and I race the single skimmers around the Albert dock at breakneck speed.
For that price and the skill you acquire it’s brilliant! The last time I blogged about the centre and gave it a spread in the local press it was innundated for weeks and still is.
Try joining the Dragon Boat team….an hour in that will shift the flab.

Meeting the Lord Mayor, Councillor Sharon Sullivan in September at the Liverpool Language Day gave me the opportunity to voice some messages about the fantastic Liverpool cosmopolitan community, a rich and vibrant mixture of different races bringing vibrant initiatives to the city through, for example, the Arabic Festival. With her support and her backing Liverpool will truly fly the flag of the nations and continue to support multi-cultural activities and events. Liverpool is a global city which should celebrate its diversity.

If you have read so far….
a thought crosses my mind, as I could have said to most of the above ‘no way’….. after a busy day at work or mad week. I didn’t…..I took up the challenge… myself up out and off to an event most evenings. I could have been a lounge lizard sitting in front of the TV all night and every night…I didn’t.

I planned, I organised and I went to these events. With 80% of them being free to the public, I have been educated, well socialised, happy; with time spent worthwhile involved in activities that have contributed to the community which has given me a long lasting beneficial enjoyment inside. I was asked at an interview once to express how my ‘inner grace’faired. This had nothing to do with the job I was going for……but I think I now know what invoving yourself with culture in a big way does to you. To your ‘inner grace’.

He nodded with my answer then, but now I know I would have given him a much fuller answer today to that question that plagued my mind for years.

I could write and write all night long about the plays, dances and events I have ventured to …. but no…I will leave it here and say….

Finally, Vasily Petrenko will be Liverpool’s Culture King 2012

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