I was standing outside Evian Christ’s CONTAINER event a while back, chatting to an unnamed musician I had just met, when I was confronted with the ghost of my own adolescence in his words: “I hate the Liverpool music scene, there’s nothing cool happening here, except, like, this, obviously.” Despite being a native Scouser, he was more interested in the international world of rappers and producers which Evian Christ belongs to than the local gig circuit. He wished to move to London, to find his niche tastes reflected by the people and events available to him there. Another attendee, who had moved here from London just a few months ago, elegantly managed to insult his new city at the same time as praising the night’s event: “I feel like people here don’t even understand how cool this event actually is. And it’s free!? Like, if this was in London, there’d be celebrities here.” This infantilising interaction is a salient example of how wild the north-south divide truly is – we’re seen as cultural philistines, as if we don’t have access to the same internet as the rest of the Western world. Even if something ‘cool’ happens here, we are surely not savvy enough to know it, like Stormi Jenner at her first birthday party.
I’m not entirely unsympathetic to these perspectives; as a historically eccentric, gender nonconforming person and the daughter of first-generation Iranian immigrants, I’ve definitely felt the pain of enforced conformity in this city. Certainly, it is not a city overflowing with people who share my experiences and subsequent world views. Alienation breeds resentment; it is comforting to transform the pain of rejection into a sense of superiority, saying ‘fuck you’ to the social standards that have weakened you. The internet becomes a second home, a portal to perspectives which are soothingly unfamiliar. You begin to fantasise about moving someplace else – London, Berlin, New York – where you’ll meet ‘like-minded’ people. Finally, at long last, you’ll be properly and correctly appreciated.
In this month’s issue, we meet two such creatives who followed the Yellow Brick Road to London, but are now back home. Avant-garde designer Clara Cicely tells her own tale of moving to the Big Smoke in search of something she didn’t know she already had. Her extravagant clothes appear in Bido Lito!’s first fashion spread, shot in a symbolic location, Liverpool Lime Street. Caitlin Whittle gets the scoop on Kevin Le Grand, the fearlessly strange performance artist slowly but surely taking over the queer performance scene nationally after moving back and forth like a boomerang from London to Liverpool since she finished school. In recent years, Liverpool’s weirdos are beginning to establish their own cultural presence, actively making Liverpool the place to be for cutting-edge creatives instead of looking for that place somewhere else.
Liverpool may not be the most diverse place, but in many ways it provides an ideal environment for creative outliers to thrive. It’s relatively cheap, and the scene is small enough for connections to form organically without being claustrophobic. This is clear in the case of Yank Scally, this month’s cover artist; his debut album is a massive cross-genre collaboration that spans local artists to international producers. His experimental electronic creations are certainly different from what you might hear at most ‘singer-songwriter holds guitar’ music nights in the city, but as the bustling enthusiasm of Evian Christ’s crowd proved, there is a silent contingent of people hungry for something else. Munkey Junkey, another electronic producer on Merseyside, is another creative outlier on the scene who is beginning to meddle with a decades-old paradigm of what music in Liverpool looks and sounds like.
This city considers itself a bastion of political independence, not beholden to the whims of the rest of this country. Emerging from this landscape are a breed of artists who are just as irreverent in their attitude towards how things are usually done. We don’t need to compete with London, because what we have would be lost in the process of emulation: a great capacity for sincerity, and no regard for what’s ‘cool’ to anyone else.