Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Visit Liverpool capital of culture in 2008

So January 2008 marks the beginning of Liverpool being one of the European capitals of culture. One of Stephen's party tricks on a relaxed evening is singing "In my Liverpool Home" - I must try and make a podcast of it sometime. Anyway it's his Liverpool home not mine and I've only gradually been finding out about it over the years. 18 months ago we stayed in Liverpool itself rather than with family on the other side of the Mersey and it was a real discovery to learn about the rich and sometimes painful history of a very exciting and vibrant city. The two cathedrals, linked appropriately by Hope Street, were highlights for me, both built in the 20th Century and quite amazing places inside. The view on a clear day from the top of the Anglican cathedral is also quite spectacular - there's a lift most of the way up but you walk up past the bells on that last part.

I found the walk around the circular more modernist Roman Catholic cathedral very enriching, as much in terms of colour and art as in terms of prayer. I was struck by how much care had been taken with the notices and explanations in both places. Quite a challenge to me as an untidy non-conformist, for faith to look attractive it needs to look as if someone cares about it - and notice boards, tidying, cleaning and dusting are all part of that. I am squirming as I think about the mess of papers, books and matches in the various pulpits I've inhabited. Ah well, even the Reformed beauty of simplicity needs attention to detail and maintenance.
Any way, Liverpool is also a city of museums. Stephen's sister Myra is senior exhibition officer at the Walker Art gallery and very involved in the John Moore's competition as well as responsible for the Art and the Age of Steam exhibition later this year.
I had not realised how much the past wealth of Liverpool was built on slavery, the elephant tusks and African heads in the stonework on the city hall are one sign of this. The history is explored at the recently opened International Museum of Slavery I haven't been there yet but Stephen took friends from Berlin around in November, as part of a radio programme they're making about Liverpool, I'll post a link to it once it comes out.
"They will remember that we were sold but they won’t remember that we were strong. They will remember that we were bought, but not that we were brave."
William Prescott, former slave 1937