It feels surreal to be writing in these pages again. If you’d have said in March that we’d be able to return to print in August, I’d have been sceptical. Back then, it was painfully clear early-on that printing Bido Lito! would have to stop. What was more worrying were our fears of when, or if, there’d be an accepting climate for it to return. Even as I write this, the cultural landscape remains in a state of rubble. But those early stages were telling.
Like many in Liverpool, my life is unhealthily shaped by the footballing calendar. By the first weekend of March, I’d unscientifically assured myself that I’d see Liverpool play three more times at Anfield before there was any real worry of a lockdown and curtailment of the football season – similar to the prelude of the UK’s fate that was playing out in Northern Italy. The suggestion of seeing Liverpool play at home three more times was partly in line with the ‘two weeks behind’ narrative that was prevalent at the time, and partly because three more times was the required number to finally wrap up the Premier League. But in the space of seven days the situation changed at an alarming rate. By the time I’d glumly trudged from Anfield towards the train after watching Liverpool lose to Atletico Madrid, the focus of my disappointments was to massively change.
By 13th March, the government had been doing their utmost to foster a state of ease. Boris Johnson was still shaking hands with Covid-19 patients. Herd immunity was still bandied around on radio talk shows as though a sterile fiscal policy. Yet, from the morning of the 13th March all forthcoming football was to be cancelled for an initial six week period.
Perhaps ironically, it took the removal of football from my life for my head to click into gear regarding the severity of what was taking place nationally. The initial humour and intrigue of a fan dressed in a DIY hazmat suit, stood a few rows behind me on The Kop for the Atletico game, paled into a harrowing reality that was sat on the crest of coming weeks.
The severity of the moment set in. The night after I was struggling to see how Bido Lito! could continue as the cultural sector pulled down the shutters and gig after gig was cancelled. As the penny dropped internally, so did a guillotine cutting off the magazine from potential advertisers for the foreseeable. I’d have taken a glass-half-full outlook in that moment. But in the initial doom it resembled something more empty and shattered. The psychological impact of the virus would flare up in similar instances in the coming six months. As a magazine that is always looking ahead, it felt like the future was already written. I wasn’t certain of the significance of my profession in such a moment.
How much of a city can you see through a 13-inch screen or never-ending scroll function? That’s what I wrote in early May, eight weeks after the digital plunge we’d taken – issue 109 lost somewhere on the horizon. As it turns out, you can still see quite a lot of a city, its creativity and communities. They do not cease to exist when removed from their natural habitat. As I’ve noted previously, in our lockdown zine released in July, the early stages of lockdown were punctuated by adaptation, generosity and accessibility. Music may have been on hold for the most part, but everything that we produced on a weekly basis aimed to shine a light on the creativity that took on the health crisis locally. So much of this was arranged and organised via laptop screens and chatboxes, collaborative playlists and via community radio stations.
The online world was always created as a great equaliser. A realm in cyberspace that borrowed from the ideals of 1960s acid tests to sketch out the potential of a different reality, one free from the over-bearing corruption and control of the established order. Ultimately, the internet was designed to offer an alternative. Yet, rather than be a home to counter culture, the resulting weeks of lockdown saw the internet become home to culture en masse. Family occasions, escape, work, society in general rested on the online world for an essential line of communication and communality. It may have been far from the utopian vision that the late-stage hippies had hoped for the internet as a place to make the acid test become reality – with large corporations and callous algorithms governing much of what we can see – but there were strong indications that life can continue bound to micro and macro webs of community in the online sphere. In Liverpool, so much of what is good about the city raised its head above the parapet, with community groups and individuals leading the way where central government would not. Culturally, too, the landscape had never been so accessible and democratic. With online variants the main offering from artists and institutions, so many have never seen so much. But even with this static omniscience we attempted to acquire from our homes, there was still so much as a city we didn’t see or challenge until the days following the 25th May.
As Jennifer John wrote in Bido Lito! following the killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter was a long time coming. Not in a sense of momentum, but in the glaring systemic inequalities that had been consistently overlooked. It took the modern day lynching of a man on the streets of Minneapolis for people to look closer at was happening on streets of their own.
That initial doom and fear I’d harboured in the days leading into lockdown, the feeling of a future already being written; all that weighed insignificant when taking part in the protests that took place outside of St George’s Hall in the weeks that followed. Prior to the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, I’d felt I had a good handle on Liverpool’s role as an exporter of systemic racism, something still felt in street names and the necessity of an International Slavery Museum. But this is only the macro picture and far from comprehensive or contemporary. The legacy of chattel slavery is more subtle, more institutionalised. Its very nature will argue its non-existence. Look closer at Liverpool in general and it’s important to consider whether it stands as a destination for black artists, both musical and visual. Just how many stages are there across the city that aren’t predominantly filled by indie, psychedelia and rock ‘n’ roll? Why is it that The La’s one album is widely regarded as the defining sound of the city’s streets rather than The Real Thing’s 4 From 8? It is simply because one paints an alluring picture of white working-class existence, and the other displays a reality still felt in Liverpool’s minority black communities?
It’s important not to be lulled into the belief that Liverpool is a utopia of socialism, anti-racism and equality. This city leads the way in so many social movements, but we’re not yet at an end goal. In believing so, systemic issues will continue to proliferate quietly under the radar. More work needs to be done both institutionally and personally to confront systemic racism and the health crisis that is far from over.
Bido Lito! returning to print is joyous occasion personally and signifies a win in a 2020 characterised by upheaval. But, as ever, we’re looking forwards; the tangible aspect of the magazine isn’t what defines it. More so, it’s the open source nature of the ideas contained within that make this worthwhile and, I hope, a community asset. And thankfully these pages cannot yet be guarded by an algorithm, meaning each idea can be as democratically served as the next.
In many ways, through being cut off from the city our eyes were opened wider than before. It is my hope that this is reflected in this and our upcoming issues. Special thanks to all those who have supported Bido Lito! over the course of the last six months. Without you, this magazine wouldn’t be in your hands right now.