It’s that reflective time of year so I thought it would be appropriate to review the highlights of my time as a Cultural Champion, particularly as I will be replaced early next year. It’s also an opportunity to thank the many people who have helped and supported me over the last 18 months.
Art has played a large part in the cultural life of the city. The Tate has put on two major exhibitions, Picasso last year and Magritte this year. Both were enjoyable and enlightening but I must admit that I enjoyed the Picasso most. A real insight into the artist as a political animal. The Bluecoat put on a great exhibition called Democratic Promenade. This gave a real insight into the work of (amongst others) Adrian Henri. A much missed radical poet and artist and made this city what it is today in terms of its political outlook..
My favourite art exhibition though was Paul Trevor’s ‘It’s Like You Were Never Away’ at the Walker. A photographic exhibition of life in Liverpool in the 1970’s. It really showed the great spirit of this place.
In theatre there are two highlights. Antony and Cleopatra at the Playhouse was my first taste of Shakespeare and I really enjoyed it! I guess that Kim Catrall as Cleo helped. My other highlight was the last panto at the old Everyman ‘Wake Up Little Snoozie’. I laughed from start to finish.
Theatre also saw a new addition with the formation of Tell Tale Theatre Company. They got to the semi finals of Sky Arts ‘Stagestruck’ competition as well as producing a 3 night run of ‘1984′ at the Kazimir. Good luck to them next year.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra went from strength to strength with a great performance of Rachmaninov’s No.2. They performed at the BBC proms and got rave reviews in the national press. Good luck to them in their plans and tours for next year.
In popular music my personal highlight was watching Supercharge at the Mathew St Festival. A great fun group from the Sportsman in the 1970’s. They had a number 1 in Australia and actually played at Richard Branson’s wedding I believe!
It was a difficult year with government cuts biting deep but most of our cultural institutions are doing well. Leading the way are National Museums Liverpool. The splendid new Museum of Liverpool is now fully open and getting record attendances. It’s in a great location and is breathing life into the waterfront. Good to see the Lion locomotive back, brought back happy memories when this was in the museum in William Brown St.
Also, the new Open Eye photography gallery opened at Mann Island.
Some concerns though.
The Mathew St Festival is getting increasingly rowdy. Something should be done about the uncontrolled drinking in the city centre during this festival, an accident waiting to happen.
The cuts to art and culture will affect the ability of our arts groups and our local authority to put on concerts, exhibitions etc. Art and culture is what separate us from animals and give us meaning and identity. I hope the debate with the government continues and that the public purse is used to support this activity as it is as important as healthcare or education in my view. Unfortunately we seem to have a government that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Lets hope this will change next year.
Finally I would like to thank everyone who has helped and supported me over the past year.
My fellow Champions Barb, Kristal, Donna and Becky. Also the staff at Culture Liverpool, particularly Sam McEvoy and Graham Boxer. Also thanks to Ruth Melville and Dave Ellis who ran a research project studying the effects of culture on health and wellbeing (we were their guinea pigs).
Laura Davis and Catherine Jones at Liverpool Daily Post and Echo have given us good coverage. The staff at LARC who have provided invites and tickets, thank you!
Also a big thanks to Mark McNulty who has kindly photographed me and the Liverpool Ukulele Orchestra on a number of occasions. Many thanks too to Charlotte Corrie at Open Culture for much help and support.
A final thanks to my missus for putting up with me generally!
Next year sees a new set of cultural champs selected. I hope they will have as much fun as I’ve had and will play a full part in observing and commenting on the cultural life of our city. It is important that ordinary people take an active role in culture. After all, culture is for you and about you. It is not something separate from life but actually the activity that makes life great!
I caught up with Phil Redmond, Chair of National Museums Liverpool, a couple of days ago and asked him about the new Museum of Liverpool and what is in store for us on the museum and galleries front in the coming months.
This is what he had to say;
PA – When did you first visit Liverpool’s museums and galleries and what inspired you?
PR – Too young to remember very first visit. I think that it’s part of our DNA as scousers. This place has such a range and depth and breadth of the collection. It was such a fantastic place to be. As a very young man I remember the giant crab! The Samurai exhibits also. Just the scale and range of exhibits.
PA – Were you a frequent visitor in your youth or did you have to be dragged there by school etc?
PR – Quite frequent, my mum and dad used to take me. I used to drop in when sagging off school if it was raining! Later when studying at the Picton I used to come here too.
PA – Recent years have seen significant investment in museums and galleries in Liverpool. Maritime Museum in 1984, Tate in 1988, renovation of World Museum Liverpool in 2007 and renovation of the Bluecoat in 2008. Attendances are larger than ever. Why is this?
PR – I think it is two things. One is, austerity is no stranger to Liverpool and coming to the museum is a good value day out. The other aspect is that people are not always interested in daft TV programmes, people want a richer experience which the media does not always offer.
PA – Do you think that museums and galleries can drive wider cultural activities, music, art etc, not just receptacles of artifacts? If so, how?
PR – I think that they are about the stories about the artifacts and about context. Also the stories are saying this is what happened then and can it happen now? We are getting more and more visitors coming to the city and the museums are the second most visited attraction in cities. The museums offer an activity that can be used in between the other things like shopping, theatre etc. We need to increase the dwell time in the city and museums can do this.
PA – Museums have recently, tentatively opened in the evening. Is there more scope for this?
PR – I think that this is one of the things behind the ‘Big Society’ thing that has been lost in the recent debate. If we want people to linger after work or do something prior to the theatre or whatever we need to fill that 5-00 to 8-00 o’clock gap. We are funded to open between 10 and 5 and we need to find a way to do this. We can create a different vibe by getting families to come into the city in the evening. Also with football games, we can attract visiting supporters to visit if we are open.
PA – The new Museum of Liverpool is opening later this year, in July. In my opinion a stunning building in a great location. Apart from acting as a traditional museum, will it have other functions?
PR – Well, there are but initially we are concentrating on getting 6,000 objects out of storage so the first objective is to get it up and running as a museum. There are plans down the track to do some theatre in the museum and some theatrical interpretations of the objects. There will be a good cafe though!
PA – My next questions was going to be about volunteers but I guess you have answered this.
PR – We have 500 volunteers and it’s about getting volunteers to extend what we do. If we can get volunteers to help us extend our day that is important. Also, we have an obligation to offer roles to people who may be unemployed or whatever and the volunteer programme can do this.
PA – Just one Capital of Culture of question to finish! If you were to go back in time and do it all again what would you do differently?
PR – Ha ha ha! I think that I would give a typical scouse cheeky answer and say that I should have got control earlier! The message I am trying to get over to Derry now is to not forget the local people. I think that had I got control earlier 08 would have been better!!
My first visit to Sudley House today,I left my visit a little late so tomorrow I return for a longer visit and another look at the Turner Paintings I didn’t know were in Liverpool. My favourite artist and I felt as if I had discovered a hidden treasure, three paintings by Turner ‘Rosenau’ 1841. ‘The Wreck Buoy’ 1849 and ‘Margate Harbour’ 1845 Yes definitely returning tomorrow