A Capital of Culture - across the Decades

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), January 7, 2008 | Go to article overview
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A Capital of Culture - across the Decades


EVERYONE is talking about culture these days, but to whom does it belong? Well, it wasn't given only to those who tip-toe between the shelves in the lending library, whispering Greek quotations under unread books, hushed as spiders on a web.

And to be part of it, you don't have to nibble olives on a stick, while hob-nobbing with pale-veined curators in denim jackets, as they serve warm wine, and then sway on their haunches over polished floors, to better admire the paintings hanging from the white wall.

You can buy some of it, if you are rich and powerful, but it will never really be yours, unless you feel it rising from your soul to soothe or electrify the senses, depending on the moment.

The truth is that culture belongs to all of us. It is, of course, wonderful that Liverpool should be this year's European Capital of Culture.

But the culture was here long before the logos were draped from buildings and beamed on screens, and the bureaucrats began deciding what should go where.

It came from the mouths of philosophers telling stories on lazy afternoons around stubby, wrought-iron tables in the pubs. It was heard in the dentures clicked by wide-bottomed grannies in the bingo halls, as well as in the sigh of the poet leaning over his desk, and in the soaring notes of choristers under the ancient stones of their churches. It was seen in the eyes of beautiful young women at their pianos, and it was felt in the skin of oranges dropped in brown bags by the barrow boys. It trembled to the light feet of girls dancing in the all-night club, and it thundered in the mud ripped from the turf by the boots of the beefy centre-half.

There is high-culture, low-culture and middle-brow culture. Just thinking of it is enough to make those brain cells spin.

Is it more cultural to be the conductor of an international orchestra, bringing the music of masters to the ears of admirers, than it is to be a comedian standing on the stage of the Glasgow Empire with only your jokes to save you from the naked mockery of the audience?

The compilers of dictionaries offer their definitions of culture: Cultivation, the result of cultivation, refinement in manners, thought, taste, etc - loosely, the arts, a type of civilisation; the attitudes and values which informa society.

The last bit is good - "the attitudes and values which informa society".

That's where we come in, the Daily Post, recording the history of Liverpool and its surrounds since 1855.

So, as we enter this year, in which the culture of Liverpool will be the centre of international attention, it is appropriate that we should offer you another in our popular series of Heritage Collections.

Through the photographs published in our paper, we are able to show the world why Liverpool is the European Capital of Culture.

There is, of course, the skill of the photographers themselves, the men and women who can hold history in the blinking of a camera's eye. But they need subjects, and down the years Merseyside has provided them. Liverpudlians have excelled in almost every field of human endeavour.

The achievements of our people are astonishing, and we know it.

Down the streets stand the heroes and heroines in bronze and stone because, if you do well here, this city will never forget you.

These statues become our friends, familiar landmarks, on which the gulls and pigeons can rest, lest those honoured by us should puff their chests too much.

For we like pride, but we don't like boasting. We will tell you whether the poem, painting, song, sculpture or novel, is any good. You don't tell us.

In this way, the offering of the artist and his/her acceptance by the public become one. For example, Bill Shankly, the great manager of Liverpool FC's revival in the 1960s, was loved by the crowd because he had understood from the start that he had to gain their respect.

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