On June 4th 2003 it was announced that Liverpool won the European capital of Culture bid for the year of 2008. In connection with this, I did an article for a local magazine, talking to three prominent members of Liverpool cultural life, about what this means to Liverpool

Capital of Culture

June 4th at 8:15 am it was, the time when the future of Liverpool was changed forever. When Liverpool was officially labeled the Capital of Culture for the year 2008. Filled with a mixed sense of fulfillment, relief and surprise, a few hundred people gathered in the Liverpool city hall in the evening, to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime moment. Haje Jan Kamps was there to speak to some of the guests.

Lord Mayor Ron Gould

Before the Lord Mayor had even said a single word, we could already tell. Standing before us was a man who was filled with so much joy that words hardly suffice. The Liverpool Echo came close with their headline this afternoon: "WE DID IT!". The Lord Mayor has a more articulate approximation to the same message: "Today has been an incredible day. Today means to us that Liverpool is now going to get a future that will be able to match its past. The fact that we won the title of Capital of Culture is nothing but a big Thank You to the people of Liverpool. We would never have won if it had not been for the people who populate our unbelievable city: They were vital to the effort leading up to, and eventually causing us to win this. I know that, and the judges certainly knew it. I spent some time with the judges, and they basically told me what I already knew. Because of the involvement of the hundreds of thousands of people out there, I am able to talk to you today".

Standing with the Mayor on the balcony of the City hall, I catch him looking out over the city, unable to hide his pride of what his city has been, is, and will become. "This is a fantastic day for Liverpool. I coined a phrase today: 'We have put the Live back in Liverpool'".

On a more personal level, the Lord Mayor was no less excited: "Personally, this means everything to me. I started working in the City council in 1974, and never, ever dreamt that I would be a councilor, thirty years later, when the Capital of Culture result would be in, announcing Liverpool as the winner. I say to everybody: I was born and bred in Liverpool. I could have moved away, but I didn’t, and I never will. This city has something special.", mr Gould finishes.

Christoph Grunenberg

Christoph knows a thing or two about Liverpool and its pulsating cultural life. As the director of the Liverpool Tate gallery of modern art, we wouldn’t expect any less. Of all the people we spoke to today, he was the one who seemed least surprised about the Capital of Culture title. But winning the title itself is not nearly enough: "This title is only the beginning, really. I think this is a tremendous success for Liverpool. However, the real success we will see at the end of 2008, and in the time beyond. The title means money, it means jobs, it means extra investments and tourism, but I think the most important thing is the change of the perception of the city. This is probably more important nationally than internationally. The battle of getting beyond the terribly deeply ingrained stereotypes has been going on for a while, and with the Capital of Culture title, I think Liverpool has a chance of winning that battle once and for all."

And right he is: Liverpool has seen a tremendous amount of development and change, but only the scousers themselves seem to know about it: "Getting people to come to the city, or even just getting people to hear about the city is a step in the right direction. Only that way people can find out what a great city it really is. The museums, the music – both classical and popular – how great the architectural heritage is: I think there will be a stable effect, a continuous motion of change, that by 2008 the image of Liverpool will be very different from the way it is today. We saw a similar change when Glasgow got the same title eighteen years ago, which I believe only shows how well we can benefit from this."

Eddie Berg

Eddie is the Executive director of the newly opened FACT picturehouse and art galleries. He feels very strongly about the newly gained title of Capital of Culture: "I have not even started thinking about what this is going to mean to the FACT – it is more about what it is going to mean to Liverpool as a city, and then what it means the different parts that make up the city. I think this is going to change the fortunes of the city forever: We are talking about an opportunity to have a new start in a way. The important thing is that we are going to see a complete change of perception about the people of Liverpool."

Eddie is, like most people, aware of the name Liverpool has gotten over the years. He feels that the reputation the city has to the outside world is far from justified, however: "This title will allow the people of Liverpool to show that the stereotypes are not true." Chances are that he is on to something; The icliverpool website’s poll shows that people believe that the one thing the Capital of Culture bid will have most impact on, is people’s pride in the city. "We have an opportunity to build an incredible cultural civic renaissance. It is a movement that has already hesitantly started in the city, and the title of Capital of Culture is only going to accelerate and deepen that progress."

The energetic FACT-helmsman believes that the reasons the judges chose Liverpool illustrate what is great about the city: "They said Liverpool had the best vision, the most passion, the most enthusiasm and the best commitment to its culture. I believe that the people of Liverpool are given the opportunity to share that vision and passion, which is why this is all so important. It will change how we see the world, but, more importantly, how the world sees us!"


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