Photography: Keith Ainsworth / arkimages.co.uk

Regular readers of our pink pages will recall our Liverpool, Music City? article published in the April 2017 edition of Bido Lito! Magazine. The piece argued the case for a new, collaborative approach to music policy in our city and the establishment of a Liverpool City Music Office with the agenda set by us, the Liverpool music community.

The article posed a set of far-reaching questions; what does music really mean to Liverpool in 2017? How is it valued? How healthy is Liverpool’s music ecology? Is Liverpool’s music tourism offer truly world-class and what role does new music play within it? Does Liverpool have a global music city outlook, in terms of its policies around noise, planning and the role of music in the built environment? How good are we at developing the next wave of artists in the city? Is Liverpool an international hub for music business? How joined-up is the city’s music industry and music education offer? Fundamentally, what is the future of music in our city? Who is protecting it and who is fighting for a future with music at the centre of the civic agenda?

Following on from the article, we hosted a public event at Constellations on 4th May, designed to bring the music community together to debate the topic. The event was conducted in partnership with LJMU, whose researchers archived the debate and are currently working on a report into the health of the Liverpool music ecosystem. The fact that just under 300 individuals attended the event and over 190 Liverpool music organisations were represented gives me real belief that a collective appetite exists to rethink the way we approach music in our city.

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The evening was a dynamic, opinionated and vibrant affair, with a wide range of opinions and inputs. The opening address from Pamela Schobeß of Berlin’s ClubCommission also provided great food for thought. Berlin is a city where the music community has come together and engaged in positive, collective action. They have lobbied the city to establish a collaborative understanding of the value their sector plays in making Berlin the international creative hotbed we see today. And they continue to work in partnership with the city to shape Berlin’s future.

As we are all too aware, open, transparent, democratic processes aren’t easy. They can be thorny, confrontational and impassioned. People care deeply about music in our city and this feeling was abundantly clear on 4th May. This needs to be embraced, harnessed and positively channelled. This first event at Constellations was merely the start, the establishment of a new dialogue. It is up to us now to move this agenda forwards, working towards a new, collaborative music future for our city.

The appetite for a new way of approaching music in our city exists both within the music community, as we saw at Constellations, but also within the city’s key institutions and within highly influential national organisations. We are now working within a collaborative academic structure, with support for the principle of an independent Liverpool City Music Office across LJMU, the University of Liverpool and LIPA. There is an opportunity for a new music future for our city.

In terms of the route forward from here, LJMU are currently working through the dataset collected from the conversations and debate on 4th May, compiling this with the survey responses submitted before and since the event at liverpoolmusiccity.co.uk. We are also hosting a roundtable at the Sound City+ conference in order to further build up the data, and we anticipate publication of LJMU’s findings in August.

"It is up to us now to move this agenda forwards, working towards a new, collaborative music future for our city" Craig G Pennington

If you would like to add your thoughts, opinions, ideas or observations on the current state of Liverpool’s music ecosystem, you can still access the survey at liverpoolmusiccity.co.uk. Please do log on and have your say. The publication of the LJMU report will provide the next step in this developing process and we will be communicating dates, actions and further events to this end in the coming months.

In the meantime, as was announced on 4th May, the Liverpool section of the UK Live Music Census is taking place between noon on Thursday 1st June and Friday 2nd June. A partnership of staff and student researchers from the University of Liverpool, LIPA and LJMU, working in association with the Liverpool music community, hope that the census will help measure live music’s value, discover what challenges it is facing, and inform policy to help it flourish. You can find out more about the national project at uklivemusiccensus.org.

During this 24-hour period, volunteers will go to every venue in town which is hosting live music, in order to gather data on the events. From opera to jazz to grime to folk, from busking to pubs to community centres to concert halls – if it’s happening, then the team at the Liverpool Live Music Census need to know about it. If you run a venue, promote in the city or would like to get involved and be a part of the team undertaking the research, please contact one of the team via facebook.com/livmusiccensus.

We genuinely believe that we can, in partnership and through collaboration, shape a new music future for our city. You too can be a part of that journey.

Finally, as we went to press, we learned with great sadness of the untimely passing of Jon Hall, one of our community’s most gentle and supportive souls. Jon was ever present in our musical family, manning the mixing desks of our city’s venues over many years. He will be sorely and deeply missed.

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