I really enjoy this time of the year. Writing this in April with May on our doorstep, I can sense that there’s a real zing in the air that makes everything feel more alive. Maybe it’s because it’s the business end of the football season that it feels more exciting, a risk-reward time of year that speaks of the possibilities and hope that spring brings. Or maybe it’s just because I get the chance to watch a match in the sun without the prospect of getting soaked. It’s a fine line – maybe I need a VAR call to decide it.
May is traditionally a breathless month in this region, with so much action taking place across the breadth of the cultural spectrum. It’s a period when you just have to marvel at the ingenuity and hard work of the people who bring us large-scale events – such as LightNight, Sound City, Writing On The Wall and Smithdown Road Festival – and that’s on top of all of the promoters, galleries and venue owners who continue to do brilliant work in making sure we have a veritable feast of activities to gorge on all year round. Spring is also a good time to think about change. It’s a season of renewal, but it’s also a time to look at things afresh – and we should welcome the new outlook it brings. A change of perspective is always positive as it prevents us from getting too comfortable with the status quo.
Liverpool has been a city in constant flux since the turn of the millennium, accelerated by 2008 and all that, and is visually and emotionally a very different place to the one that signed off the 20th Century. This upwards turn has perhaps come a decade or so too late after years of stagnation, both forced and self-inflicted – but you can’t doubt that it’s a city on the up. The buzz in the air is palpable, a feeling that’s so attractive that it keeps tourists and day-trippers coming here in their droves. It’s hard to gauge what that experience is like to an outsider, but I’d like to think that it’s a blend of pride and acceptance, mixed with a ‘can-do’ attitude and an appetite for having a damn good party. This is a feeling that is intensified around sporting events, which capture the mood so intensely that they occasionally spill over into more, err, exuberant celebrations…
I was walking through the Albert Dock recently when I overheard some visitors to the city musing about where to visit next on their trip: “Shall we go to the Baltic Triangle or Ropewalks?” It’s a sign of Liverpool’s transformation that these two hubs of cultural activity, so commonplace to us, can be seen from the outside as attractive tourist destinations. Though I rarely use the name, Ropewalks is an area synonymous with Liverpool’s alternative, creative spirit, the seeds of which were planted by Urban Splash’s cultural development 25 years ago. In recent years the Baltic has dragged some of that focus away from Ropewalks, now playing home to festivals (Threshold, newcomer On The Corner and the returning Sound City) and various eating, drinking and brewing activities. The fact that both are now viewed as ‘hip’ locations is massively encouraging, and just shows the power of having an intriguing name to hang the ‘history collides with future’ narrative on. Let’s hope the same happens for the Fabric District over the coming years – you can read about the exciting plans for this zone at the boundary of Kensington, Everton and Islington in this issue.
One city centre designation that I’m not so sure about, however, is the Cavern Quarter. I first became aware of the Cavern Quarter as a name via an article in the Liverpool Echo in April, titled ‘Plan to sort out Mathew Street’. This is an area bounded by Victoria Street, North John Street, Lord Street and Stanley Street that is the centre of Beatles-related activity – and it now has its own development plan, the Cavern Quarter Strategic Regeneration Framework. This zone is currently seen by the council and its Beatles Legacy Group as an eyesore in the middle of the great Beatles cash cow, which is believed to contribute more than £80m to the city’s economy every year. This figure comes from a 2016 report commissioned by Liverpool City Council looking into the value of The Beatles’ legacy, which shows that this micro-industry supports over 2000 jobs, and helps to attract 800,000 visitors a year to The Cavern Club. The aim of the Cavern Quarter SRF is to make better use of the area synonymous with Merseybeat, which includes a much-needed makeover. Currently, unless you’re a Beatles-obsessed tourist, on a stag or hen do or lost, you wouldn’t venture down Mathew Street on a weekend. The word ‘eyesore’ doesn’t quite cover it.
Another point made in the SRF encourages “an enhanced and more coordinated Beatles tourism offer”. When you look at the numbers it’s difficult to find a fault with this plan – and I suppose it makes sense in a grand scheme of enhancing the city’s wider tourism offer. After the fantastic progress made in the past couple of decades, I’d hope that the SRF isn’t a path back towards the Mathew Street Festival (as some murmurings would suggest), as that would be a seriously retrograde move. The Merseyside region as a whole has always been at its best when it’s looking forwards and embracing change. And there’s room for a respectful repackaging of heritage within that.
We’re embracing the winds of change here at Bido Lito! too, with a slight re-structure of our operations meaning that we are now recruiting to fill three new roles. This issue marks our eighth year of publishing, and we’re keen to make sure that the magazine is still relevant and just as important to Liverpool’s amazing creative scene in another eight years. We believe that the addition of these roles – and the fresh perspectives of the people who take them up – will help us to continue to grow as a critical voice in Merseyside, and adapt to the changing demands of the publishing and creative sectors. If you agree with this and you’d like to join the team, head to bidolito.co.uk/jobs to apply.
Change has come to our team in another form this month, with this issue being the last one with Bethany Garrett in position as our Assistant Editor. Bethany has been with us since Issue 1, first as a valued contributor (and unofficial Maccabees Correspondent) and latterly as an even more valued member of the creative and editorial team. We’re all delighted that she is moving on to take up a fantastic new opportunity, and we’d like to say a huge thank you and good luck – your presence and Simpsons gifs will be sorely missed!