Arts Council in Liverpool focused by Brighton

On Thursday there was debate in the House of Lords and it emerged through the “They Work for You” website. I get references from our local (Sussex) MPs and some of our local House of Lords representatives. One of them is Steve Bassam who I have known for many years, long before he became a Councillor and then he became the leader of our City and now he is in the House of Lords. So I get sent his statements whenever he speaks and the opening words from him on Thursday was

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and congratulate him on securing the debate. I wish him a speedy recovery from the ghastly Covid. I express our eternal gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for opening the discussion in his place so effectively, focusing as he did on Liverpool and its regeneration in the late 1970s, based on a culture-led platform, and for focusing so effectively on the plight of the ENO and the impact of the cuts on London’s cultural landscape.

So I looked up at the rest of the debate and the starting text came from Mike Storey who I have not been aware of in the past. However he is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and according to Wikipedia

He was City Councillor for the Liverpool ward of Wavertree from 2004 to 2011 and Leader of Liverpool City Council from 1998 to 2005. He was first elected to the Council in 1973, and became the youngest Chair of Education in the history of Liverpool from 1980 to 1983, during which time he was also Deputy Leader of the Council under Sir Trevor Jones.

So he was first elected when I was 13 and living in Crosby near Liverpool which is where I was born until I moved to Brighton in 1978. So this is Mike’s initial comments which are really interesting.

My Lords, I express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord McNally for securing this debate. I am sure that the House hopes that he will recover from Covid quickly. I also thank the Government Whips’ Office for being so understanding.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Liverpool city’s logo was “City of Change and Challenge”. It was very much the era of tearing down and starting again, not always for the better. During this period, the Everyman Theatre was born, embodied by the enormous talents of Martin Jenkins, subsequently to become a leading BBC drama producer, Terry Hands, later to become an associate of the RSC, and Peter James, who, after opening the new Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, went on to the Lyric Hammersmith. Those early days for the theatre were confined to Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The entire theatre personnel were always involved in final preparations for a production: sawing, laying wires, painting and everything needed for the opening night of a show.

Despite its burgeoning reputation, the theatre continued to lead a hand-to-mouth existence for several years before Arts Council funding made it secure. Its presence on Hope Street, along with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, led to a cultural renaissance of the area, which, thanks to Arts Council funding, has seen this once deprived community grow from strength to strength. It is now called the Georgian Quarter of the city and overflows with venues and restaurants. Importantly, it is a centre for the arts, because as well as the Everyman and the Philharmonic there is the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and the Unity Theatre—all thanks to the initial Arts Council funding. Art can and does regenerate communities.

In the 1970s, Prescot, a small town on Merseyside, saw huge job losses at the Pilkington glass manufacturer and British Insulated Callender’s Cables. Both major industries closed down and moved overseas. Over the years, Prescot has slowly declined. Now, it is the theatre that is coming to the rescue of the community, with the Shakespeare North Playhouse, the Prescot Shakespeare theatre of the north, having opened. Arts Council funding will be crucial as the theatre becomes part of the regeneration story of that community.

So I really enjoyed reading this – I hope other people will be interested in it even if they are not from Liverpool.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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