What a difference 10 years makes. It is exactly 10 years since we were told that Liverpool would be European Capital of Culture 2008.
I remember where I heard the news. I was on a Train to London. You could tell who came from Liverpool. As they decision time approached we were looking at our watches; checking that our phones were on and genuinely sweating!
Two minutes after the announcement was made ver phone started ringing and the Virgin Train conductor announced over the interim, “We’ve f******ng done it!”.
But that was not the start of the process nor the end. In fact what was confirmed that day is still what is going Liverpool the big MO today. it started in a car when Mike Storey decided that he would rescue the invitation to bid from the Chief Executive’s waste paper pile. It continued when we put together a bid against derision from many in the Country and more than a few in Liverpool.
We amazed everyone when we were shortlisted and delighted everyone when that key announcement was made. During that time we had created two fall back positions. We’re we’re gong to have a big Party in 2007 to celebrate our 800th birthday. We were bidding to get UNESCO world heritage status for our commercial centre. With both our fall backs under our belt we thought we had used up all our luck – but we were wrong!
What the bid did in itself was to begin to change people’s perceptions of our city. Of course we are the city of ‘boys from the black stuff’ but we are also the city of 7 museums, of fine buildings,of the Phil, of a range of musical genres and above all a city of friendly, decent folk and much, much more. Whoops nearly forgot the footy teams!
A partnership had been created in Liverpool which delivered not only the bid but also L1, new arena and conference centre, renovation of our cultural quarter, new roads, new jobs, new opportunities and so much more. At one time more than £2.5billion of capital development was asking place in our city centre alone at the same time.
That success leads today’s successes. New hotels keep being built and keep being occupied at high levels. L1 is one of the most successful shopping areas in the Country and is apparently weathering this storm. Conference after conference of high spending delegates comes to Liverpool and then many return with their families having been entranced by our city.
I am writing this at Manchester Airport on my way to try and get a major meeting of Local government leaders from around the World to our city next year. I could not have even suggested this if we had not redeveloped the City and provided the families and hotels.
Liverpool has its problems still. Many in the city did not benefit from the new investment and new jobs. But we would be immeasurably poorer if that decision to bid had not been made and the opportunity to showcase our many virtues to the World.
Not everything has been successful for the city. It’s a longtime since the Reds have delivered silver. Perhaps we could get the old Storey/Henshaw combination back to bid for more European and national glory!