Here's to Next Year; Liverpool 08 EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE as the Champagne Corks Pop for '08, One Quizzical Liverpudlian Launches the 2009 Appreciation Society, for Those Not Swept along by the Hullabaloo

Article excerpt

Byline: David Charters reports

IT HAD been a long and worrying time for the Liverpool loyalist. Grey was winning its battle to be the dominant shade in the hair still sprouting gamely from his head, over a nose sculpted at that mildly eccentric angle much favoured by the English.

And Jeremy Hawthorn's normally amiable countenance was clouded by a frown, as he pottered through the Scotland Road area of the city in his green, 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.

What was to be done about this ceaseless flow of news, the political and financial bickering, logos, boasting, plots, proposed and abandoned development plans, official statements and the comings and goings, which threatened to engulf his adopted city, as it prepared to be the 2008 European Capital of Culture?

Jeremy thought hard. From what he had learned since the award was announced five yawning, limping years ago, ordinary people didn't share the euphoria of those in charge. Then an idea sprang up.

What about a 2009 Appreciation Society? The smile returned to Jeremy's face. That was it.

He would establish a society with no members, no constitution and no real purpose, other than to help us through the next 12 months - while reminding everyone that Liverpool will still be here, the city we all love, long after 2008 is a footnote in history.

More than that, though, it would be a funny way of mocking authority, perhaps the strongest of the many fine qualities in the cultural composition of Liverpudlians.

If you agreed with that broad sentiment, you could buy a badge for a pound. It says, Liverpool O9 in the MMIX (2009 in Roman numerals, which Jeremy is pleased to note spells "mix").

They are on sale at the News From Nowhere bookshop, in Bold Street, Liverpool.

Although there is a widespread hope that the Capital of Culture will be a huge success, Jeremy speaks for those already disillusioned by the whole thing.

"So we look to 2009 to regain our self-respect," he writes in an introductory note. "That's where the Appreciation Society comes in. It is open to absolutely anyone, except city councillors and employees of the Culture Company. The only test for membership is a simple question: Are you planning to continue living in Liverpool after the end of 2008? If the answer is yes - you're in!"

Of course, we have to face the unhappy possibility that, by December 31, 2008, some cultural leaders might have packed away their heavy job titles, CVs and coffee-percolators to bless faraway cities or events with their brilliance and energy.

The rest of us, however, will still be here on January 1, 2009, when Vilnius, in Lithuania, and Linz, in Austria, take over as European Capitals of Culture. …