This year Liverpool is the European Capital of Culture. For the industrial city hard hit by the economic crisis in the 1980s, this is a consecration. For about fifteen years, the city of the Beatles has been able to heal its wounds, renovate itself and rehabilitate its docks by playing the cultural card to the full. Even if everything is not yet perfect on the banks of the Mersey, the city is showing real dynamism. In the coming months, some three hundred events are planned to celebrate the designation of Liverpool as the European Capital of Culture. Go take the pulse of the liverpudlian phoenix!
The rebirth of the docks
On January 11 and 12, Liverpool inaugurated with great fanfare the festivities of 2008, during which it will be “European Capital of Culture”. Among the guests, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics and Ringo Starr of The Beatles, the native child. For many, culture in Liverpool boils down to the “four trendy boys” who grew up in this industrial city in the north of England. Liverpool do not have a good reputation. Its football club may be one of the best in Europe, but the city carries a gray and sad image, that of a metropolis undermined by industrial decline, Thatcher's ultra-liberalism and mass unemployment. However, in recent years, Liverpool has been reborn from its ashes. Its designation as “European Capital of Culture” rewards years of spectacular efforts.
Take the harbor, a former symbol of Liverpool's industrial misery which has now become the epicenter of the city's cultural renewal. Once prosperous, thanks to slavery and trade with the colonies, it collapsed in the 1980s. Today, there are no more ships in the Mersey estuary. The docks, classified as a Unesco universal heritage in 2004, have undergone a spectacular renovation, emblematic of the transformations of contemporary England.
At the edge of a marina, the Victorian buildings of Albert Dock house lofts, trendy restaurants, souvenir shops and the Tate Liverpool, local branch of the prestigious Tate Gallery in London. All around, cranes attest to the renaissance of Liverpool: large-scale real estate projects are flourishing, such as the Arena & Convention Center or the future City Museum. An effervescence that contrasts with the poverty of certain suburban districts like Speke or Dingle, where the forgotten of Tony Blair's Cool Britania reside.
Contemporary art, pop and the Beatles
Surprisingly, Liverpool is the UK city with the most museums and galleries after London. Here again, warehouses and factories have been recycled into contemporary art as well as FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), at Novas Contempory Urban Center or, soon, the A Foundation on Greenland Street. A visit to the site www.artinliverpool.com gives an idea of the city's cultural richness.
Fifty years after the wave of the Beatles, it is still pop music that remains one of the essential components of creation made in Liverpool. The night scene, around Matthew Street Cavern Quarter, between North John and White Chapel, aligns clubs, pubs, bars where many groups perform live. Rock fans are sure to go to the Jacaranda on Slater Street or at Cavern on Matthew Street, two legendary places that were frequented by the Beatles. Liverpool also has its benchmark club in the field of electronic music: the Cream, which even became a record label, started a festival (Creamfields) and opened a “branch” in Ibiza. And, since January, the city has had a brand new concert hall: theSand, installed in a glass and steel building with 10 places.
Finally, the goose that lays the golden eggs of the Beatles has not said its last word. More than half a million fans make the detour to Liverpool every year to pay tribute to the country's children, especially during Beatle Week in August. John, Paul, Pete, George and Stuart are still the main tourist attraction in the city today!
Ask for the program!
Still not convinced by the renewed dynamism of Liverpool? The busy schedule of celebrations in the European Capital of Culture might convince you. More than three hundred events are planned, including a Klimt retrospective at Tate Liverpool (from May 30 to August 31), another dedicated to Le Corbusier at the Metropolitan Cathedral (from October 2) or at Niki de Saint Phalle (at the Tate, February 1 to March 5) or to the history of pop in Liverpool, “from Cavern to Creamfields” (July 2008 to November 2009). Contemporary art lovers will be attending the 5th Liverpool Biennale to be held from September 20 to November 20, 2008.
The high point of the festivities, the concert "The Liverpool Sound" will see Paul McCartney and his band perform in legendary Arnfield Stadium on June 1st. He will be surrounded by a host of big names in pop. Then on June 28, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the magnificent War Requiem composed after World War II by Benjamin Britten. On September 4, it will be the turn of the British conductor Simon Rattle who will conduct the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic. And that's not all: multiple street performances, operas, plays and concerts of jazz, rock or contemporary music will be held throughout the year, as will festivals focusing on both Arab culture and on gay and lesbian art. So there is something for everyone! 1,7 million visitors are also expected this year. Hoping that the craze for the European Capital of Culture 2008 lasts beyond December 31 ...
Official website of the event
and www.enjoyengland.fr/liverpool08 (in French)
British Tourist Board
England Tourist Board
Liverpool Tourist Office
Blog about the Liverpool art scene
Albert Dock attractions
Tate Gallery in Liverpool
Going out in Liverpool (museums, exhibitions, bars, clubs ...)
Cavern Club website