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Liverpool’s Grand Designs really impress!!

Yes, this week has seen thousands of visitors flock to the Echo Arena Labour Party Conference and stop….think, and take a closer look at Liverpool in all its glory.

I have heard so many comments about Liverpool’s fantastic waterfront, the historic buildings, entertainment, hotels and brilliant shopping facilities. Positive comments have abounded day after day and rung in my ears as I flit from conference to conference.

Involving myself in the many Fringe events connected with Culture, Brexit, and…… ‘How can we engage more young in their local communities’ gave me an opportunity to tune into the many visitors positive perceptions of the city during breaks, when we explored the ‘complimentary food and refreshments’ on offer.

Many visitors had travelled from the south and were on a first visit, but having seen what the city could offer……… promised a more in-depth visitation later in the year, to sample the ‘culture’ and the many museums, art gallery’s, and theatres; some even suggested a need to tread the many trails of the Beatles, or seek out educational establishments such as the LSTM in the Georgian or now also known as ‘the Knowledge Quarter’ some suggested even traveling further afield to the football mecca’s of Liverpool and Everton.

During the week, I became immersed in many of the public debates with leading politicians and thinkers, centering around bringing people together to strengthen communities through art, culture and social cohesion. L8 and the Biennial became a discussion point with ownership and belonging: reclaiming and reinventing public space a serious issue of discussion.

In one such meeting, favourable comments about Liverpool were voiced by Anna Turley MP during her ‘instilling skills, uniting communities’ conference debate chat.

Anna made it clear how the fantastic value a city’s heritage could make to the economy and the well-being of everyone, with Liverpool seen to be a perfect example of this.
I was pleasantly pleased when she recommended that Redcar her local constituency, look to Liverpool as an exemplar turn-around city using its wonderful historical assets.

‘Preston on Sunday’ did wonders too and gave the Titanic Hotel a good plug. The future of that area is really opening up and dissolving the city’s “divided” aspect. Hopefully more investment will pour into the Vauxhall and Bootle areas so we can become a more inclusive city and try successfully for the ‘European Green City Award’ with the Atlantic Corridor area fully serviced and developed with a development drive right up to Crosby.

During this week our TV has given us a constant nightly drip feed of impressive Liverpool backdrops giving the nation a full view of Liverpool’s iconic seafront and grand designs during casual interviews of political characters.

No matter what your politics though, this Labour Conference event was a showcase for the city. I was proud to be a Liverpool citizen while seated in the Tate sipping an espresso surrounded by envious southern colleagues.
I retold the old, old story of standing in the same warehouse room, windows smashed and pigeons galore flying about, telling Michael H. what a fine architectural city this was.

The vision in those early days was to clean up the Mersey, create the Mersey Forest and develop a Garden Festival. This was the blueprint for today.

The future plans for the city on both sides of the Mersey look stunning…. but that’s for another day.


What Connects and what Divides ? Liverpool’s Hidden Culture.

‘Hats off’ to the fantastic cultural work of the language teachers in Liverpool.

Over the past month I’ve been amazed at these unsung heroes and heroines, the champions of Merseyside’s Cultural heritage and a driving force to push the study of languages into the forefront of education.

The seventeen Supplementary Language schools in Liverpool, had a showcase of culture recently at Broadgreen International School. Here the different cultures in Liverpool provided a showcase of talent in singing, dancing, cuisine and art.

I was enthralled with the Wirral Multicultural evening at Wallasey Town Hall, meeting the Mayor, headteachers, governors and leaders of cultural organisations; discussing and networking future festivals and seminars in the pursuit of our cultural goals and diversity.

The Liverpool school improvement ‘EMTAS’ Awards ceremony at the Devonshire House Hotel on Monday was a feast of delights with performances from Liverpool Malayalee Association, Chinese Poetry, dancing and a performance of young children singing in Arabic.

On Friday I was in London giving a report to the British Academy of Schools Language Awards and was proud to receive an accolade for a second year involving a project developing language skills at the Liverpool Polish School.

In tandem, South Sefton College, Litherland also received an award from the British Academy for their ‘Love Languages’ Project, which is a student-driven programme aiming to develop the student’s experience of a varied range of languages and cultures. It also aims to develop the skills and confidence of students to broaden their horizons through partnerships with schools, universities, employers and schools abroad.

Throughout Merseyside I have witnessed the brilliant work of the language teachers in both Primary and Secondary. Imaginative language studies which bring ‘Snow White’ alive on the stage in German, visits to Chateau and the pupil exchange initiatives which enhance pan-European experiences.

As part of a global economy and increasingly multilingual and multicultural society, I feel it is essential that we equip the next generation of students with vital skills which allow them to succeed. Language skills are an integral part of this.

I was amazed to see so many children at the EMTAS Awards, receive Fast Trackers Language Awards, Traveller Awards, EAL Awards, Grade A GCSE & A- Level Awards in Polish, Chinese, Bengali, Somali and Arabic.

Events like this across Merseyside, celebrate the efforts of staff and children and give well-deserved recognition for the important work they are doing.

I spend well over three months of the year in Europe, travelling, teaching, lecturing, developing projects and working through diplomatic agencies. The cost of living in Europe is not that demanding and undergrads overseas this year saw a 17% rise in UK students considering studying overseas. The US was the most popular destination, followed by Australia, France and Germany. Germany surprisingly is the most affordable study location, with costs of £4,200.

With UK universities charging up to £9,000 a year for tuition fees, an increasing option is to study abroad for a fraction of the cost.

Once a month I’m in Bruges. Language is no problem if you have a simple understanding of French or German but in the case of Maastricht University for example, 11 out of 16 undergraduate programmes are taught in English.
As an example-
Netherlands Fees-£1,500 (£4.500 for a standard degree)
Monthly Rent £357 (student flat)
Tutorial Groups-12-15 students
Teaching Hours- 14
Worst Thing- Health Insurance is a must at £80 a month
Value- Excellent, you get lots of education for your fees!.
“It’s like Cambridge, with warmer weather, and the fees are £1,500 a year”.

With so many Primary schools taking up a modern foreign language now, it’s well worth seeing through that particular language to a higher level, and using it to advantage in todays competitive jobs market. There is strong evidence to suggest that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when global demand for language skills is expanding.

With the evidence I have seen in Liverpool this month, the children of Liverpool are indeed one step ahead in the game, and there is a hidden culture that certainly connects.

As we move towards a New Year, I would like to think that some of our readers may take up the pursuit of a language, renew its acquaintance or support a younger member of the family to see how language learning translates to employment.

Harald Jaeger…..the man who opened the Berlin Wall.

Liverpool University’s £500m upgrade facilities will be host to a very special guest on Tuesday 21st October 6pm at the Eleanor Rathbone Building, when Harald Jaeger, the man who opened the Berlin Wall gives a fascinating interview.

When hundreds of East Berliners showed up at the Bornholmer Strasse border crossing on a cold and grey November evening in 1989, demanding to be let into West Berlin, Lt Col. Harald Jaeger asked for guidance from his superiors.

By the time the crowd grew into a thousand and became more demanding it became clear to Jaeger that he would get no guidance from his superiors.

If you are interested in this story; this significant world event, an event that gave individual freedom, an event that started the slow disintegration of Communist Europe, meeting a classic Stasi intelligence officer and talking to the man who opened up the Wall in which a ‘class enemy’ gained a victory. Then book a ticket for the event on

The excited East Germans did converge on the border crossing that Jaeger commanded with him unaware that hours earlier Politburo member Gunter Schabowski had announced to the international media that the ruling Communist party had ‘declared East Germans were free to travel immediately’.

The dramatic decision took all by surprise. Jaeger, the highest ranking officer at the time, having spent 30 years in the East German army and overseeing the building of the Wall in 1961, gave his people the order to ‘raise the barrier’.

The decision to open the Berlin Wall border crossing almost 25 years ago began the process of German unification that left former Stasi officer Harald Jaeger unemployed.

On Tuesday Harald will deliver a talk recounting his experiences and subsequent reflection.

This is the only UK stop on his world tour, a tour which should be ‘very, very interesting’.

6pm Eleanor Rathbone Building L697ZA

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