The Changing Face of Liverpool: your opinions wanted!
First of all let me introduce myself. My name is Steve Bird and I am an artist and musician based in Newcastle Under Lyme. I am currently studying for a PhD in composition in the Music Department of Keele University, but my compositions are rather unusual in that I work with both sound and visual imagery to create audiovisual artworks, and it is concerning my latest work that I am posting here to ask for your assistance.
You see the work in question focuses on Liverpool and specifically on the way that the face of the city is changing rapidly in preparation '08'. In the early 80s I was assistant manager of the recently demolished Floral Pavilion Theatre in New Brighton and I lived not far from the ferry terminal in Seacombe. In those days the city centre was of course only minutes away by any of the frequent ferries that crossed the river from early morning till late at night - how things have changed. Since then, although I have lived all over the country, I have been a frequent visitor to the city which has always been one of my favourite places on this island that we live on. However, as I watch the radical plastic surgery that is being performed on the city centre, I have to admit that I wonder where it is all going. Are the thousands of "executive apartments" and concrete and glass edifices really going to be of any lasting benefit the people of Liverpool? On the edges of the city I see street after street of tinned-up houses. Is this because the good citizens of Liverpool 8 have become so wealthy that they have sold-up and are preparing to move into the "Port of Liverpool Authority Building"? What do you think?
Or maybe this sudden influx of Culture with a capital 'C' is just what the city needs? More opera and ballet and concerts - maybe? Perhaps I am mistaken in thinking that the city that spawned The Beatles and The Liverpool Poets and Alan Bleasdale and Ken Dodd and The Liverpool Philharmonic and the massed voices of the Cop, not to mention a city that has numerous theatres, internationally renowned art galleries and museums, two cathedrals, two premiership football teams and countless comics, musicians poets and raconteurs filling its pubs every night, was doing pretty well on the culture front on its own before the men in suits moved in to tell it what it needed. In fact when it comes to real hardcore street level culture I'd say Liverpool has always had a thing or two to teach the rest of the world - hasn't it? And don't even start me on that hideous concrete slab of a museum that they want to build on one of the most distinctive waterfronts in the world!
But these are my opinions. I want to know what you think and I want to hear it in your own voices. In fact I want to build the audio track of my composition from the voices of the people of Liverpool and I would be grateful for your contributions. What I propose is that sometime over the next few weeks I will arrange a get together with anyone interested in taking part, where you can have your say. The discussion will be recorded and will form the basis of the soundtrack of the video.
I must stress at this point that this is not a commercial endeavour in any way. I am not making a documentary. This is part of my PhD and the completed work will be a work of art just like a painting or a symphony and although there will be public performances I will receive no remuneration at all - as such I can offer nothing but the opportunity for some interesting conversation and a DVD of the finished work to play to your grandchildren.
I am looking for opinions from all sides of the debate, so if you think that all this is the greatest thing to happen to Liverpool for years, or if you hate it all with a vengeance I want to hear from you.
If this is something that you would like to get involved in, please email me at email@example.com and if you would like to take a look at my previous works please visit the website at www.soundmangler.co.uk
Thank you for reading this and I hope to hear from you soon.
Firstly, Liverpool has never stayed still. I is a very different city in many respects to what it was when many of us were kids.
It was the second richest city in the world at one point and declined into a predominately working class city as its wealth declined. When places get richer the middle class take hold and that is happening now. Nothing new to the city and welcome to get the mix again.
The mix. Well we are a mixed bunch (we are not all Irish BTW) as Liverpool was the port for America. We have the same mix of people - hence the unique accent only applicable to a city in the English speaking world - accents are regional, except Liverpool's.
You have to understand where the city and its people came from to fully understand why it excels in many fields. Ethnically mixed port cities are always more vibrant and culturally diverse. Look at NY.
The city's buildings have never stood still and re-construction was always there. The city was a trail blazer in technology - the world's first steel framed glass curtain wall building was in Liverpool (in 1864) , the template for 90% of modern buildings.
The physical city has always morphed and the influx of outsiders is always welcome - as that is what the city was and is, a mixture of people. Without constant change the city dies and loses its identity. In the past 50 years there was movement to stop advancement and dwell on the past in look and feel - of course it failed and the city slid.
One point is that the city succeeded when it faced the open sea. After WW2 it started to look inland and failed. It is looking to the open sea again and rising again. A world city not a regional city. A city not liked by the land bound people inland, but liked across the seas.
Last edited by Waterways; 11-26-2007 at 01:57 PM.
Steve. I get your take on the tinned up estates, i've seen plenty just recently but the retail and apartment developments springing up in the city were happening regardless of CoC year and are private investments showing confidence in the city - for that alone it should be welcomed as leaving the government money for new housing estates. I just hope the people on the fringes of the city like Norris Green, Toxteth, Kensington, Croxteth, Kirkdale and Walton get them.
We need advanced construction and design - the city excelled in that in the past. The redundant dock waterways are a brilliant setting for this and bright, innovative, creative young planning and architectural minds must run wild given such locations. We have it all and it must materialise. No anytown setups!!! We have a special setting, so special environments for special developments. Then the cultural aspects will advance. Culture changes too. We need to excel in creative culture not static culture of opera and classical music - although nice to have to contribute to the mix..
Originally Posted by Ged
What is begging and staring us in the face is new close waterbased environments on a human scale to create vibrant communities that are creative in themselves - set the scene!!!. Ever wondered why not much comes out of Milton Keynes and Telford? OK these places are newish and have not settled yet, so I am probably giving them a miss-service, however they are not on a human scale for the most part except in the close suburbs which is all family housing.
Which are the more culturally creative cities?
NY or Washington?
San Francisco or Salt Lake City?
Sydney or Canberra?
Liverpool or Leeds?
New Orleans or Birmingham Alabama?
Barcelona or Madrid?
Thanks for setting the ball rolling.
It is interesting to see that the first response to this thread is such a positive take on the changes that are happening and I take your point on the diversity of the city having always been a great crucible for cultural development. Also I have to concur that the city has been badly in need of investment for many years and it is good to see that materialising. I will be very interested to hear what others think. Is the rise of the middle classes in the city centre necessarily going to lead to an increase in cultural activity? Is it not the case that most of Liverpools greatest cultural exports of the second half of the 20th century have come from the working classes? Are the glass and steel edifices that are being erected actually trendsetters of modern design or are they simply following a trend that is sweeping through city centres globally? I look forward to your responses.
London is also full of glass and steel - they'll also tell you they're the most cultural city in Britain. A lot of what came out of Liverpool in the era you mention and beyond were from the working class masses from usually the most deprived areas anyway so why should that change as they clearly still exist.
It was debatable if John Lennon and Paul McCartney were working class at all, I would say more lower middle class. George Melly, one of the UKs greatest jazz musicians was from Liverpool and clearly not working class. Even the folk groups like the Spinners were hardly working class. The problem is that Liverpool acquired a working class identity and many only see the city that way. The more middle class people from the area: Rex Harrison, Glenda Jackson, Ian Botham, Peter Sissons, etc, rarely are mentioned as being from Greater Liverpool, yet Paul O'Grady, Freddie Starr, Ricky Tomlinson, Derek Hatton are. Middle class does not fit the media's image, its pigeon hole.
Originally Posted by soundmangler
Middle class cultural activity in the centre may be more of the traditional type, however many will be strung along with the core cultures of the city. Thousands of people living in the centre with high expendable incomes and a high degree of diverse cultural awareness is a very good thing. This does not mean relegate the working classes complete with culture out of the centre. The mix is needed.
Beetham West is fine and is a distinctive block. The sail shaped Brunswick Quay Tower was distinctive, yet the idiot council turned it down. Hit the link in my sig and go to the menu. The Shanghai Tower is to be in the middle of Princes Half-tide Dock and is to be the second tallest building in the UK. It will be stunning and three designs are on the short list - not a square anycity glass block. The initial core of talls were not that outstanding, however served their purpose in attracting others which will be.
Are the glass and steel edifices that are being erected actually trendsetters of modern design or are they simply following a trend that is sweeping through city centres globally? I look forward to your responses.
Liverpool has to change or it ends up a dead city with a rich history like Venice (also a once great world trading city) with people visiting the old docks areas in the World Heritage Site and not much else. Liverpool is still a major port and commercial (not industrial) city with the port getting bigger with the post-Panamax container terminal being built.
The city moves along and commerce, the port, should be the core if its economy. Other cultural related industries will tag along, like film and TV production (which is increasing) and of course the music industry. About time the city had its own distinctive hard core music business with a plethora of recording studios and companies based in the city. The city does have a world-wide image of music.
The change is welcome and must be managed properly. Water based environments on a human scale that promote cultural activities is what is needed. Culture and commerce must prosper side by side. It is just another chapter in the ever changing city, but change must be directed to the city's strengths.
I wouldn't call this an anycity waterfront. The blend of buildings is nice.
Last edited by Waterways; 11-27-2007 at 02:15 PM.
Good point Ged. They are still there. What is happening is that the aspiring working class are moving up and there is an influx of middle class outsiders. The outsiders tend to move to Liverpool for what it can offer, with many not just being economic migrants. These are mainly taking over the centre and some of the dock areas and hopefully the newly developed dock areas. This can only be good for the city.
Originally Posted by Ged
People fear the working class culture and any creativity within will disappear. Well it will not in the short term, however a mixing of classes, cultures and people will mean another form of cultural dynamism with the old being the core.
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