Charles Nevin: Liverpool... a perfect stage for culture


Much clucking, I notice, combined with the significant look that goes with the finger tapped on the nose and reference to predictions whose coming to pass gives absolutely no pleasure, about Liverpool and its forthcoming sway in 2008 as the European Capital of Culture.

But there are those, including myself, who look at and listen to accounts of rows, sackings, resignations, nobody booked, chaos, drift, and time running out with satisfaction. Because this is all that the people who chose Liverpool for this honour could have expected.

Because this is what Liverpool does, is. You want some impeccably organised, po-faced piece of exemplary eventing, go somewhere else that will have the usual impact of European Capitals of Culture. With Liverpool, you get drama every time a throat is cleared; this is what Liverpool does, is. This is why we currently have such a fine row over the slavish provenance of Penny Lane. This is why 2008 is going to be such a cracker; in fact, with a good dollop of that old Scouse magic, it already is.

Liverpool's history, dark, busy, fluid; its great grandstanding architecture, and its people, a vivid whirl of Irish whimsy and Lancashire wit and a dash of most else besides, make it the perfect stage to celebrate the energy, creativity and independence bordering on anarchy that is as true of these islands as all that cool and polite reserve and the other understated virtues many prefer to go on about.

Being unprepared and making it up as we go along is, after all, something we are particularly proud of in other contexts: as in the way we somehow supposedly just acquired an empire and won all those wars. At home, the Dome and Wembley confirm a view we're comfortable with; I was also most taken to read last week that Nelson's Column, symbol of island supremacy, has just been discovered to be 16 feet smaller than it's supposed to be.

So why sneer at Scousers? This is Alan Bennett, another national symbol, on Liverpudlians: "They all have the chat, and it laces every casual encounter, everybody wanting to do their little verbal dance." The shame of it. But then, he is a Yorkshireman. Personally, I love it (I should perhaps declare an interest: I was born there, although I did leave quickly for Lancashire, with my mother, from the maternity hospital).

And nearly all of it is in the famous exchange between Cilla Black and her audience during a panto at the Liverpool Empire: "Now, then, children, how are we going to kill the big, bad giant?" "Sing to him, Cilla!" They can laugh at themselves, too: this is how they sum up their acquisition of the cultural capital, coming from behind against Birmingham and Newcastle: "We just nicked it".

So I am entirely confident of two more thrilling years marked by fuss, fun, delight, despair, targets triumphantly hit and noisily missed and all splendidly mixed up with the other celebrations next year of the 800th anniversary of the city's founding by King John, also sharp, witty and much misunderstood.

You should go, if you're not there already. The city's abuzz with building and bickering and business as usual. Are you aware that Jung had a dream that Liverpool was the pool of life? He did, in 1927. It's certainly a good metaphor for it. Good luck, too, if you arrive at Lime Street station, where not so long ago one visitor was given directions to a hotel by a friendly, attentive tourist official: "You could piss on it from here." Ah, Liverpool!

My pride over Pole position

Pride swells over the latest Jack the Ripper suspect, the Pole, Kosminski: reader, I first revealed the existence of the note naming him.

It was 20 years ago, my only world exclusive, and it was held over a day for lack of space. It was also courtesy of the News of the World, which had decided, wisely, judging by the interest until now, that an unknown Pole, rather than a crazed prince or celebrity artist, didn't do the business. I'm afraid I've lost interest, too, as all that ripping was a touch rich for my, er, blood. But, a tip. Montague Druitt, the suicidal barrister suspect, has traditionally been cleared because he was playing a lot of cricket at the time, and it was thought all that would have put him off his game, and certainly wasn't, er, cricket. But I've now watched enough Midsomer Murders for a rethink.

* Sad news for crime writers, topographers, euphemism aficionados, and metaphor hunters: the cul de sac stands condemned by a government briefing paper as isolating, inconvenient, incoherent and dangerous.

I rather like them; but they do have a mixed record. AA Milne wrote the Winnie the Pooh books in a Chelsea cul de sac, clearly unable to get out more. Lord Kitchener and Lord Palmerston lived in one, which is no surprise; Chris Moyles, I read, comes from one in Milton Keynes, while Darren Gough used to live in a Yorkshire one called Dimple Gardens.

Dimple Gardens! Marvellous. I prefer closes, though. There's one near me called Rogers Close, to which I always add, "and Simon's not far behind" or "but Brian's miles away". My favourite, nevertheless, has always been the St Peter's Close, containing a home for the elderly.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Recruitment Genius: HVAC & Mechanical Service Estimator

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Yorkshire based firm looking to...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty