In Praise of…………. International Liverpool

Caledonia

Have you any idea how many people I drank with from different nations in the Caledonia Pub on Saturday night? Well to be frank neither have I. It all got a bit blurred towards the end! But let me tell you about the event anyway.
Actually it was a birthday Party for one of my neighbours Jonathan Aasgard. John is a Norwegian and is the principal cellist at the RLPO. His wife Georgina isn’t quite as foreign as Jonathan because she comes from France and they are in the EU. Their children speak Scouse! Sometimes it is English with a Scouse accent, sometimes Norwegian with a Scouse accent and sometimes French with a Scouse accent!
As you might expect at such an event it had plenty of Norwegians and French people there. Embarrassingly they all spoke impeccable English as if it was their native tongue. Some of them like Jonathan and Georgina have had the temerity to live in the UK but most came in for the occasion. But they weren’t the only foreigners there. The Phil has a fair number of people from other countries in their ranks. Jonathan and Georgina sent their children to Greenbank School a school with a large number of people from ethnic backgrounds. Some of their childrens friend’s parents were there. I spent a large part of the evening talking about Africa with someone born in Ghana but who lived in Nigeria until he was 17 when he came here. He now has a really posh job in the City where he provides services in business interruption planning to companies world-wide.
I also spoke to people from Kenya, China, Japan, America and Poland in the pub that night. I don’t know whether they were actually at the Party because from 10 p.m. it was all just one big Party. Despite the language I used earlier there was not one ‘foreigner’ in the building. What you had was a cosmopolitan group of people from around the globe, many of whom had chosen to live in our city, and who were very comfortable in each other’s company. They did not ask, “Where are you from” and judge them on that basis. They came together because of what they were. People with an international outlook; people with a good education who feel it important to commit back to the community that they live in; people who want to recognise the realities of the world we live in not try and retreat to an unattainable golden past which never really was!
I was proud to be in their company. I was proud that some of them had decided to make their home in my city when they could have had the choice of living anywhere in the World. I was pleased that the evening itself was a marvellous example of the international language of music. Well you didn’t think a Party involving a couple of Phil players wouldn’t have music did you?! In fact you couldn’t have afforded tickets for the ringside seats at the occasion that Erica and I were privileged to occupy last Saturday.
The Caledonia Pub itself was superb. I must have driven past it zillions of times but have never gone in. This is a mistake I will not allow to happen in future. A friendly community led pub with a decent cellar and helpful staff. Just the sort of place that keeps old chaps like me happy (although I didn’t notice the dominos!)
A shiver came down my spine when, just for a few minutes, I thought of Nigel Farage and his motley UKIP crew. It might have buggered the evening up but it would have been nice just for a few minutes for some of them to have come and seen the positives of people from different races and different countries being together and enjoying each other’s company. These are people like most immigrants who contribute to our city and our Country.
Immigration has a price and a value. In the short term it can create difficulties in specific areas with specific services. In the long term it creates opportunities for our nation in commerce, manufacturing and trade that enables us a country to remain competitive. If you are concerned that we are losing our ‘Britishness’ do not look at the people who come to our Country. They have the so-called ‘British’ virtues of respect for law, decency and fair play hard wired into them I see that every time I do a citizenship ceremony.
The bigger threat to our way of life comes from international business practices and international television. I was appalled to hear a group of British children with an American accent rather than a Scouse or Scottish one. They learned their accent from crap US telly programmes and crap Disney programmes and films. If you are concerned at our balance of payments look at the tide of Plastic rubbish we import from the US!
As usual I have rambled a bit so let’s go back to the Caledonia last Saturday night. Let’s just see if we can bottle the self-confident camaraderie of those many-nationed performers who were here in our City helping us directly or indirectly face the future with panache and vitality. I wonder what is happening there next Saturday!

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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