Monday, 2 June 2008

Liverpool: City of culture clash

Take thousands of well-heeled visitors from around the world and invite them to an event in a deprived inner city area. 

Have them queue for two hours in a line that snakes up and down abandoned streets of boarded-up houses.

That's the view of itself that Liverpool- 2008 City of Culture - gave to the world last night. 

Of the 35,000 who patiently shuffled their way towards Anfield for the Liverpool Sound concert starring Paul McCartney, many were from America, Japan, Australia and Europe.

The City of Culture tag was something Liverpool hoped would sell it to the world. The McCartney concert was it's best hope of doing that. The Scousers in the queue were embarrassed. It wasn't like this on match days, they said. The houses were boarded up because Liverpool FC was snapping them up and plans to build a new stadium on the site.

Meanwhile, the world saw a city that reeked of decay. That's probably not an accurate impression - but there was nothing to counter it. Nor was there any mention during the concert of other things visitors might like to do while they were in Liverpool, either within the Culture agenda or away from it. 

Even in the 08 information office in Whitechapel, the focus was on selling T-shirts rather than explaining that you might have come for Macca but that you could stay - or return - for more. If you wanted advice on how to tour the city's rich array of pubs, for example, you'd have to buy a £9 book. What you needed was a free leaflet. 

McCartney himself was superb. He gave a wonderful performance, full of love and nostalgia for the city that made him. The one boo of the evening came from Scousers when the city council was mentioned. They know who done good and who done them down. 

But for visitors, there is only one conclusion: Liverpool, you blew it.