June 08, 2008

Liverpool and the Media

The Strange Case of Liverpool and the Media

I can remember the first time that I ventured onto Merseyside. It was the last day of September in 2000 and I was on a footballing pilgrimage to Goodison Park to see my beloved Ipswich play Everton. Till that moment when I emerged from Moorfields station between the Dynasty-like office blocks, I only knew about Liverpool in terms of The Farm, Cilla Black and The Beatles.

It may have helped that Ipswich beat Everton that day, but I fell in love with Liverpool that day, and that passion has never diminished during the last eight years. I have still never been to a place like Liverpool which has an intoxicated aura of history, passion and humour. Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham and Manchester are not in the same league but I would argue that Liverpool has always had a worse press.

My knowledge of Merseyside is particularly based around the city’s football grounds. Both Goodison Park and Anfield are stadiums that should be visited by any fan who cares about the national game. After a pie in an operative along

County Road through the back streets to Goodison, teaches you what the football match day experience should be like.

Every time I think of Anfield, the hairs stand on the back of my neck. The Kop has an atmosphere even when the whole stadium is empty; a pretty impressive achievement for what in basic form is a large bank of seats. “You’ll never walk alone does it for me” every time!

I could go on.

I could talk about the museums, the beautiful cathedrals that have a mystical air or the greensward beside the Mersey at Aigburth where I was sunburnt to ashes. I love visiting Liverpool but what is it with your city that attracts such negative media coverage?

Even the programmes that are currently being transmitted to celebrate the European Capital of Culture this year are not exactly fulsome in their praise. I can not profess to be a scouser, and I have been told that my view of Liverpool is slightly romanticised, but the city is not quite being painted how I have seen it.

Alexi Sayle’s Liverpool was another interesting documentary that discussed Liverpool in this historic year for the city. I accept that this presenter knows more about the area than I do. He was brought up in the site of the Liver Building; not in a 1970s maternity hospital in West Colchester. I also have to understand that this city is not all about Yellow Submarines, Ferries across the Mersey, Penny Lanes, The Liver Birds, Stevie G, and Neville Southall. For a programme that I believed could offer an interesting and positive insight into the city, I left feeling slight depressed. Had I missed the point of the documentary?

I accept that Liverpool has had a difficult history over the last thirty years, and this series had to cover those episodes. The decline of the docks, the strikes at the Halewood plant on Merseyside, the inner city riots of the early eighties, and city politics in the mid 1980s were all covered in detail. Sayle walked around a Toxteth that looked as if not much rebuilding had occurred since 1981, and discussed the complex issues whilst living in Liverpool in the 1970s. It was a sobering analysis, but I wonder whether anything positive had happened on Merseyside since July 1981.

It is weird that Liverpool’s achievements are never discussed with any reverence. Arguably Manchester has had a much better press. When I lived in the North West, local news was often covering Manchester’s achievements, whilst Liverpool was saved for the quirky asides and the ‘and finally’ features. This coverage was a disservice to the city, and the national coverage is arguably not better. I want to see coverage of Liverpool in a positive light that paints the people of Merseyside as a positive and passionate group of people; not a weird collective of hyperactive bods who seem obsessed with the fortunes of Liverpool at the expense of everything else

Can Liverpool look forward to the future with confidence? I believe that it can and to a large extent, the process has started. The city can flourish further to a larger extent then just redeveloping the old docks, and building new football stadiums. I am counting down the days until my next visit.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    I disagree that Liverpool is the best city in the north west, you’d have to go a long way to find a city more atmospheric than Manchester. I’ve only been to Liverpool a couple of times and the last occasion was when I visited the university with my son. We were being shown around on an open day and I have an enduring picture in my mind of the halls of residence with all the plastic bags hanging outside the windows. I remember we were told that these were makeshift fridges. He eventually went to university at Bristol (he was not put off by the person who interviewed him telling him that it was where people came to commit suicide by flinging themselves off Clifton suspension bridge) where there were a few makeshift fridges but not anything like the scale they had at Liverpool. We didn’t have a lot of time to look around Liverpool and although I thought the prevailing atmosphere was friendly I didn’t think it had a patch on Manchester. I know what you mean about “You’ll never walk alone” though it always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as well.

    08 Jun 2008, 19:19

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