Liverpool has chosen Eurovision kitsch over protecting its h
เวลา:2022-11-23

The city ought to be the UKs foremost cultural destination, but after losing its World Heritage status, hosting the show is another blunder

I was born just outside St Helens and, as a woollyback the Scouse word for all those who speak Kings Lancastrian and know what a sheep looks like I have always admired Liverpools glorious docks, towering cathedrals, superb (and free) museums, as well as its appetite for a great night out. Compared to the hinterland, the city is an intense hub of civilisation and hedonism. The mighty Mersey symbolises hope, adventure, bravery and historical prowess; the Thames, by comparison, is a culverted ditch but that doesnt matter, as Liverpool never looked to London for anything.

But its also my duty to bring Liverpudlians down to earth when they get overexcited about something that deserves, at best, unfazed neutrality or, at worst, derision.

Last weeks announcement that the music capital of the north would be hosting the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest slides neatly into the latter category.

The generalised glee among the city burghers was as predictable as it was pretentious. Putting on a show that will give millions a night they will never forget in one of the most turbulent and trying years for our continent is no mean feat, bragged Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram.

This is a massive event and the eyes of the world will be on us in May, boasted Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson.

Political leaders have clear vested interests. They hope to cheer up, or at least distract, the residents not only of Liverpool which has a glitzed-up centre but rundown inner city zones as well as the post-industrial zombie towns of Merseyside like Rainhill, Prescot, Kirkby and my own, much-maligned St Helens.

BBC and ITV news vox-pops have highlighted interviewees dizzily delighted about the Eurovision shindig. But contemporary telly specialises in overegging dumbed-down shows; look at the endless trailing of Strictly and the Ru Paul vehicles. Some confused suits in White City seem to think kitsch equates with cool. Eurovision fits neatly into this genre of naff, brainless extravaganzas.

More reassuring has been the deafening silence from the citys musical heroes. From Echo and the Bunnymen to The Farm, from The Mighty Wah! to the Lightning Seeds, pop and rock culture in Liverpool has always been anti-establishment, iconoclastic and, often, disdainful of national, media-driven circuses.

Last Wednesday, music fans around the world marked the 60th anniversary of the release of the Beatles debut, Love Me Do. Two days later, Graham Norton the thinking mans clown made the official Eurovision announcement with his trademark whoops and giddy gasps.

Thats quite some journey isnt it, from, a band that changed the history of music, fashion, teenage culture and the arts to an artistically inconsequential tune-a-thon that even Terry Wogan struggled to get through in its better days.

Reassuringly, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have kept schtum about Eurovision 2023.

The sales pitch to locals has been that the five-day competition will attract foreign visitors, showcase the citys music and wider heritage, and revive the Liverpool brand post-pandemic.

But Liverpool seems to have got its priorities all messed up when it comes to projecting either its past or future.

The loss of Unesco statusfor the citys waterfront and other important sites in July 2021 was, in itself, not that big a deal for most Liverpudlians.

People never went to the Baltic Triangle, St Georges plateau or, for that matter, Pier Head because a faceless organisation put a badge on their buildings. But the decision to turn the wharves and warehouses into private flats and to site a football stadium on the docks demolishing much-loved Goodison Park in the process and tearing the heart out of a community reflects a wider problem.

The simple truth is: Liverpool has no idea what it wants to be. Part of this is, perhaps, inevitable. Containerisation, deindustrialisation and decades of London-obsessed government economic policies have squeezed the life out of the local and regional economies.

But in the 18th and 19th centuries, Liverpool was hugely important, powering Cottonopolis and the textile towns, forging links with America and the Far East and, yes, using sugar and slavery to build an empire.

History is never simple or painless. But Liverpool has an ace in its pack when it comes to narrating Britains past. Manchester was a grubby township when the Mersey was a forest of sails and masts. To this day, the inland city, for all its Manc strutting and business-oriented development, remains an ugly half-sister, bent on demolition and sub-standard skyscrapers that ape like a spider monkey a gorilla the Square Miles vertical aspirations.

By this, I dont mean the future should be eclipsed by an overreliance on what has gone before. But Liverpool could, and should, become the UKs foremost cultural and heritage destination. In 2019, the creative industriescontributed 115.9 billion to the UK economy. The sector could be the citys springboard for economic revival. Leave the paper-pushing to Leeds and Manchester. Build on what you have got.

To do this, conservation-minded, arts and entertainments-focused tourism is key. How about festivals of 60 years of musical magnificence, 300 years of shipbuilding and sailing, a century of Chinese culture, 150 years of footballing genius and celebrations of the glass, salt, coal and canals of the Liverpool City Region, while were at it?

All kinds of weasel words are being used to link Liverpools event to Ukraine but that has a desperate ring to it, too. War, death and destruction shouldnt even be mentioned in the same breath as something as ostentatiously trivial as Eurovision.

But, who will benefit? Eurovision wont bring in tourists. It will make Airbnb prices skyrocket for a week or two. It will give a few million television watchers a party they cant attend. It will produce the usual bonanza of tedium and a winning song no one will be able to remember by the end of June.

Liverpudlians and Woollybacks often disagree, but they will definitely find common ground in May 2023 probably somewhere outside the arena on the Albert Dock, wondering what all the fuss was about, while a busker bangs out a cover of A Day in the Life or The Story of the Blues, and the Mersey flows on by, impassive and underwhelmed as ever.

How do you feel about the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Liverpool? Please share your thoughts in the comments below

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