Lockdown has forced the city to coalesce around the contours of the digital sphere. When the city begins to reopen, and venues, bars, galleries and theatres unlock their doors, we should be prepared to take the changes of the past eight weeks with us.
How much of a city can you see through a 13-inch screen? How much of its culture can exist in a never-ending scroll function? When the lockdown came into effect, and laptops, phones and news reports became the only gateway to the world beyond our homes, it’s fair to say this frequently played on my mind. The pandemic quickly claimed every aspect of society. Putting our trust in a refracted view of the world was equally exciting and terrifying, like swimming for the first time without armbands. Just keep moving forward and stay afloat, I’d consistently remind myself in times of doubt.
Locally and nationally, venues, galleries and theatres were closed. Football was to stop instantly. Pubs, cafes and meeting places following suit. Seeing this, it was inevitable that Bido Lito! would have to cease printing. It felt as though the city the magazine exists to document was being cut off. The lowering of shutters ceremonially drew down the guillotine on countless stories, many of which were already looking ahead to April and the first stretch of summer activity. The will to adapt and search for vital signs of life in Liverpool’s creative community battled with the severity of the situation growing clearer with each passing day.
Close to eight weeks on and we still cannot see much of the former city through a 13-inch screen, or a restless scroll of the phone. Liverpool’s cultural institutions lay dormant. The final washes of reverb trapped in venues fade into the silence of the walls. Theatre’s ghost lights brightening a nightly spectral performance continue an extended stage run. Within galleries, does the art hanging on inaccessible walls retain its meaning? So much of the city lies incompatible with the contours of our new HD reality.
But while so much of city and its culture has changed around us, it hasn’t vacated. Rather, it’s been evicted, and naturally, its searched for a new home where available and found it online.
Looking back through the past seven weeks of Bido Lito!’s coverage – in contrast to rolling news reports and wayward leadership – it’s been uplifting to see a new city taking shape in the digital sphere. Established pockets of culture, although already partially present, have slotted into these contours with countless other new communities. Institutions have considered the accessibility of their art, and a consensus is maybe now starting to hit home that streams and social media likes don’t pay the bills for musicians.
Outside of culture, the ‘low skilled’ now rightly adorn the regal colours of ‘essential’. The levels of loss around us has underscored what we hold valuable, what we want to see protected. Bido Lito! has consistently searched for these stories of community self-determination and adaptation, with a continued emphasis on Liverpool’s new music soundtrack. It’s taken us thousands of miles to cities held in a worldwide lockdown, all in order to help draw into focus our own situation here in Liverpool, where figures across the creative community have shared their hopes and fears for what comes next. In taking ourselves away from Liverpool’s tangible offerings, we’ve probably never seen so much of the city and what its people generously contribute. Then main point of change is in how it is experienced. For however long, it cannot be experienced in the way we were used to. Not in the way Bido Lito! sought to reflect with each month’s issue. But this doesn’t mean it no longer exists.
Commenting on the impending closure of Parr Street Studios, in-house producers Chris Taylor and Rich Turvey approached the disappointment with a wry sense of hope that translates to much of the situation around us. “It’s people that make records,” said the pairing in a joint statement, “buildings don’t.” A wider look at the city and their assessment dispels the notion that we’re all treading water, holding on to memories of the tangible which may be contingent on a way of life that is seemingly no longer possible. The streets don’t define Liverpool, it’s the people who walk over them that do. They, or should I say we, are the city; its shape should always be dictated by its people. The same people that bring life and memories to venues, to galleries, to meeting spaces and inner-city parks.
For the time being, the city can still exist and grow in the digital sphere. Bido Lito! will continue to highlight its stories and the creativity of its artists. Only now more than ever we have to consider what tangible city we want to return to when safety permits. One dictated by build-at-any-cost redevelopment, or one driven by what we view as most valuable – the things that contribute to the quality of our existence?
Being honest with ourselves, the stages for creativity in the city will not look as they did for some time. Bido Lito! will not look and feel as it did, no matter how much the content retains the same commitment and energy. So much of Liverpool’s music scene and wider cultural offerings will look alien when able to tentatively leave its doors ajar in late summer and autumn. How will venues afford to remain in business when fewer gigs can take place? How will a crowd come together when there remain threats to health, even for those without underlying conditions? Art and its experience relies on losing inhibitions, discovering new ways of seeing. But I feel that this cannot be truly achieved, not while tangible community has to be viewed through translucent protection worn on our minds.
The last seven weeks have shown how quickly we can change. When the brightness transfers from laptop screens and phones to awakening lights in venues, bars, galleries and theatres, we should be prepared to bring these changes with us. Only then we can bring life back into these spaces.
Thank you to everyone who has supported Bido Lito! over the past seven weeks. Your support makes what we do possible.