Making the Most of Our Past; Sir Bob Scott, the Man Heading Liverpool's Bid to Be the European Capital of Culture, Believes the City Must Do More to Capitalise on the Beatles If It Is to Fulfil Its Potential. David Charters Reports

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Byline: David Charters

THE tall young man, whose bass voice rumbled through comedy songs written by fellow students to gently mock the manners of British society, is now leading Liverpool in its most important quest - to become European Capital of Culture.

But Sir Bob Scott has affection for those days at the fizzling end of the satire boom, when he gangled before the footlights, hoping to follow other Oxbridge wits and writers, like Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore, Peter Cooke, John Cleese and Michael Palin, into the halls of comic immortality. And this former public school headboy and the other member of Four Degrees Over felt their moment was ripe when Parlophone invited them to record an LP to be produced by George Martin, who was then enjoying some success with another quartet of eccentric young people from a suddenly-revitalised northern seaport.

Yes, the Beatles are held in the memory of this city like cling-film on a jar of mature pickles. It's all such a long time ago. Even so, Sir Bob remains convinced that the group are central to Liverpool's future.

Of course, they have for years been the most important part of Merseyside's growing tourism industry, attracting fans in their tens of thousands. Despite this, Sir Bob, chief executive of the Liverpool Culture Company, is unconvinced about the city's efforts to tap their full potential. Twice in a few minutes the word ``pathetic'' is released from lips, regaining their colour after his recent heart attack.

As the son of a senior diplomat, Sir Bob can be outspoken, while maintaining a measured tone, occasionally embellished by an almost continental flourish of his large hands.

For example, he is an unflinching admirer of the Fourth Grace, the proposed waterfront building, which has angered traditionalists, who feel it would detract from the more aesthetically pleasing image of the `Three Graces' - the Royal Liver, the Cunard and the Port of Liverpool buildings.

Furthermore, he feels that the structure, which has been unfavourably compared to an inverted marshmallow, would be an ideal home for a comprehensive Beatles' centre. But that should complement rather than replace the existing attractions to the `Fab Four'.

Although his home is still in Greenwich, London, Sir Bob works three days a week in Liverpool, staying nights at the Moat House Hotel, less than half a mile from his third floor office in Millennium House, Victoria Street.

`ANY suggestion that the Beatles have become a millstone around the city's head is outrageous,'' he says. ``What I do detect is that there is more to Liverpool than the Beatles. I respect and understand that.''

The main growth of Liverpool, which became a city in 1880, had been 19th century. ``That was its great century,'' he adds.

``But modern culture was born here thanks to the four boys and others. I think we desperately undervalue the Beatles.''

He mentions the success of commemorations to Jimi Hendrix in Seattle and Elvis Presley in Memphis. Beyond pop music, towns and cities dedicate much their commercial enterprise to celebrated former citizens, whether their success had been based on literature, science, medicine, sport, classical music, politics, architecture, war, the stage, cinema and so on.

``There is an edginess with people saying they are more than the Beatles,'' Sir Bob says. ``But if you ask me, do we make enough of the Beatles, do we cherish them, do we build them up enough: I think it's pathetic.

``Things are beginning to change. Naming the airport after John Lennon was a significant move. The Liverpool Insititute for Performing Arts is no just a monument but a living testament to what Paul McCartney wants to do - help young people do things.

``I think we have a very heavy duty on u snow to commemorate George Harrison properly. That should be done soon.

``So long as the Americans, the Germans and the Japanese, basically say Liverpool equals the Beatles - no matter how much some people might resent that - we MUST, MUST, MUST, as our first priority, build up a Beatles' attraction here and a Beatles' archive - so that we will have something that could be recognised as the official story. …