Capital of Culture - that's Liverpool!
Jan 1 2008
THE day has finally arrived. Today, January 1, 2008, marks the start of Liverpool’s reign as European Capital of Culture.
A total of 1,671 days have passed since the accolade was awarded to the city on June 4, 2003 amid scenes of celebration, and there have been a number of highs and lows on the way to the big day.
The eyes of the world will fall on Liverpool throughout this year, offering the city an unprecedented opportunity to market itself on a global scale.
And those who have waited and planned for the past five years agree it is vital Liverpool capitalises on 2008, setting the tone for years to come.
Sir Paul McCartney said: “I think Liverpool is going to be a magical Capital of Culture throughout 2008 and really show itself in a new light.
“Come on Liverpool.”
Sir Paul, 65, is due to appear at two Capital of Culture events.
He will be at Liverpool Cathedral on May 1 when the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performs the northern premiere of his award- winning classical work Ecce Cor Meum.
And a month later he is back to headline one of the highlights of the year – the Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield on June 1.
David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool, said: “The big year is here and the nation is watching.
“It is time to put the wrangles and mistakes behind us and do the city proud.
“We will deliver a great cultural year that will change the perception of Liverpool forever.
“National Museums Liverpool will put on a fantastic series of exhibitions and events and break all our visitor records, and we will build the Museum of Liverpool, the biggest new national museum in this country for 100 years, as the great physical legacy of the year for the people of Liverpool.”
Legacy was always a key component of Liverpool’s bid to host Capital of Culture.
The years in the run-up to the main event were all themed – Year of Learning in 2003, then Year of Faith in One City in 2004, followed by the Year of the Sea.
Liverpool Performs – incorporating arts and sport – was celebrated in 2006 while 2007 was, of course, the city’s 800th birthday.
These were all aimed at building towards the crescendo that would mark the arrival of 2008 – the city’s year as European Capital of Culture.
But it continues with the Year of Environment in 2009 and in 2010 the Year of Innovation.
Council leader Warren Bradley said: “Like Glasgow in 1990, Liverpool 08 will use culture to transform national and international perceptions of Merseyside.
“We’ve already gone from 16th to sixth most-visited UK city since winning the bid.
“Now 08 should set the seal on Liverpool as a top tourist city. Over £3bn has been invested in the city’s infrastructure in the run-up to 08 and regeneration activity is now accelerating, with projects worth £4.6bn on site or in the pipeline.”
Martin King, director of tourism at The Mersey Partnership, said: “If you consider the huge investments like Liverpool One; the Cruise Liner Berth; ACC Liverpool and elsewhere – such as Southport – we are seeing a huge growth in our city region’s tourism infrastructure which will provide a very real legacy well beyond Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture.
“In many ways, the real measure of our success as a destination in 2008 will be to see how many first-time visitors we can attract back in 2009 and beyond.”
Labour leader Joe Anderson added: “This is a huge rebranding opportunity to show our rebirth and it is also an opportunity for Liverpool to regain our standing as one of the important cities in the UK and Europe.”
Phil Redmond, deputy chairman of the Liverpool Culture Company board and with responsibility for the entire cultural programme, said: “The one thing I have been looking forward to is actually to just get the year under way so that things can be judged on what they are, what people are and were attempting to do, rather than all the talk about what might or might not happen.
“The very nature of culture, defined as arts, literature and shared lifestyles means what is one person’s good night out is another’s purgatory.
“It will throw up a good cultural debate and that, I suppose is the real thing I am looking forward to, the cultural conversations and debates that will surround the year.”
The director of Tate Liverpool, Christoph Grunenberg, said: “The fantastic success of the Turner Prize confirmed the city was ready for 2008; we are preparing to present more high-profile international exhibitions including Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 1900.”
Tate also marks its 20th year in Liverpool in May.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent his warmest wishes to the city, and pledged: “I believe the spirit in Liverpool is to make this a great success over the course of the next year, and I look forward to visiting the city to congratulate everyone.”
The year’s programme officially starts on Friday, January 11 at St George’s Plateau, with a huge open-air ceremony featuring performers including Ringo Starr.
He said: “I’m coming to celebrate the year of culture with everyone in Liverpool. The good thing about it is that, as the city’s the Capital of Culture, they will get into lots of other situations to present Liverpool in an incredible light.”
Fellow former Beatle Paul McCartney will return to the city in May to play in the Liverpool Sound Concert at Anfield.
Although not everything will be as high-profile as those two gigs, the city’s key cultural institutions have been working to ensure success.
Alistair Upton, chief executive of Bluecoat, said: “It is too late for hopes and fears for ’08, now is the time to get on and enjoy it.
“The new Bluecoat opens in March and will be the finest new building in Liverpool; as a whole new model for an art centre there will be nothing else like it in the country.”
Lewis Biggs, director of Liverpool Biennial, said: “Our ambitious programme responds to the growing public appetite and enthusiasm for contemporary art by artists of international stature working within our neighbourhoods and with the support of local organisations.
“We are confident the programme will be a talking point for residents and visitors alike, impossible to miss as art fills the city’s streets and squares.”
Mike Stubbs, director of FACT, said: “Everyone at FACT is hard at work delivering a world-class programme.
“I am excited for 2008, can’t wait for it to finally begin and I’m sure everyone who comes to FACT will leave with the same level of enthusiasm.”
Liverpool’s theatres and the Philharmonic Hall will also play a crucial role this year.
Hannah Collins, general manager of Liverpool’s Empire Theatre, said: “After proudly hosting the Royal Variety Performance, the theatre is on a real high.
“It boosted the theatre’s profile and proved that Liverpool could host world- class events.
“Visitors will be able to ‘take in a show’ at the theatre during their stay, as they would in the West End.
“The Empire has long been at the heart of Liverpool’s thriving entertainment scene and we will continue to host top-class productions throughout 2008 and beyond.”
Liverpool’s explosion of pride
A FINAL chime of the world’s highest and heaviest bell and a spectacular 40ft firework heralded the start of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year. Read
Month-by-Month: Capital of Culture highlights
THE cultural year officially gets under way with a weekend of frantic activity from Friday, January 11. Read
The dramatic changes influenced by Capital of Culture honour
IN THE near five years since June 4, 2003, when Tessa Jowell uttered that immortal statement: “The winner is . . . Liverpool” there have been dramatic changes in the Culture Capital’s structure and skyline – with more to come in and onwards from 2008. Read
First day of an era that defines the city’s future
The countdown is over and it’s time to deliver. David Bartlett assesses the mood as Culture year kicks off Read
How our city’s proud Christian traditions will help shape the celebrations throughout 2008
LIVERPOOL’S rich Christian tradition will form a key part of the city’s Capital of Culture celebrations. Read
‘Capital of Culture is an opportunity we should grab with both hands’
IN MAY, Liverpool will welcome in a new Lord Mayor. Read
A milestone, not the end
LIVERPOOL embarks today on the most significant 12 months in its modern history. After four and a half years of hopes, plans, dreams and ambitions, 2008 is here at last, and our home city is officially European Capital of Culture. Read