Please don’t think I’m being negative with that title; it’s the complete opposite. Liverpool has gone through so many stages over the years, most of which have led me to claim that I would enjoy the city ‘when it’s finally finished’ – meaning done…..complete.
I’ve never stopped going into town. From the ride on the top deck of a bus or occasionally an even more exciting trip via the less regular train service into Exchange Street Station as a very young child, to the wanton destruction in my teens of fine buildings (luckily many of them survived the 70’s penchant for the demolishing of what seemed to be anything historical by kipper tie-wearing bureaucrats whose obsession with ‘modernisation’ knew no bounds), then despair as political infighting and extremism created financial meltdown and Liverpool appeared to be abandoned. Bereft of hope, credibility and it’s reputation.
I had a recurring dream in my teens of going into town and, veering off the usual route through familiar streets, I would wander down towards the derelict dock buildings. My late father was a ship repairer and in my dream I would meet him as I passed; he asked me why on earth I was in that part of town. Then I would walk with him towards one of the many stark yet imposing warehouses that line the River Mersey. We would discover a wonderful arcade of exclusive stores and marvelling at their existence, promised to let others know they were there. I had that strange dream many times so imagine my amazement when, several years later, I stood in astonishment in the amazing Albert Dock. It was exactly as I had seen it so many times. I’m not sure why I had that dream and sceptics would argue it was nothing more than coincidence. My dream began to include talk of twinning Liverpool with New York and a vision of a huge screen at the Pier Head declaring this. Growing up with an obsession of all things American (it’s fine I’m over it now), perhaps it was down to wishful thinking. Whatever it was, I’m glad my dream came true and the culmination of so many years of ‘hard knocks’ have now led to Liverpool most certainly being ‘finished’.
Yet although the developments are not over yet and there is a continuous programme of refurbishment and construction, I do feel Liverpool has finally arrived. Rather, it is back where it always belonged – one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and beyond. Our history of poverty, slavery and maritime excellence are a strange mix and we hold our hands up in shame at the slave trade and our part in it. We took a battering during the second World War and, after relishing in the spotlight during the Merseybeat era, we rode out the recession with Scouse staying power. Through it all, the humour, wit and resilience that makes Liverpool’s citizens a particularly affable lot enabled us to take all the knocks on the chin. We have grown up, we’re sophisticated yet fun – sarcastic yet friendly. Liverpool is living proof that racial integration works – our vibrant, culturally superior city would not be what it is otherwise. Bill Bryson once said that Liverpool always felt like ‘some place’. I know exactly what he means.
It was only recently we witnessed the amazing, emotional sight of the three Queens making their ‘salute’ to the Cunard Building at the Pier Head to mark 175 years of transatlantic travel. Next week, we are in store for another treat; Transatlantic 175 promises to be a visual, musical and gastronomical delight, celebrating the links and cultural influences from across ‘the pond’. How fitting that it’s held over the American Independence weekend – in some respects Liverpool has more in common with New York than any British city. Our thirst for music, art and anything deemed slightly different is insatiable but for 4th and 5th July I’m sure there will be many satisfied Scousers plus a wonderful eclectic mix of visitors from further afield, making up the thousands that are expected to attend. What a fitting way to herald Liverpool’s status as a world class, dynamic yet ultimately friendly city.
Perhaps my dream was a bizarre coincidence and nothing more. However, I would like to believe it has some significance; my youngest daughter is working on T175. Her role is project co-ordinator of The Very Big Catwalk – an attempt to break the Guinness World Record of the largest number of people taking part in a catwalk. It’s being held at the Pier Head. With a huge screen projecting the proceedings. Coincidence indeed………..