- Despite The Rain, Liverpool Shines Through.
LIVERPOOL on Wednesday 4 June awoke as normal, but something historic was to happen. Pessimistic views suggested that the title of European Capital of Culture was to be awarded to Newcastle or Birmingham and with even the BBC polls saying Liverpool had no chance, Liverpool’s bid team was downhearted. Even the overcast weather compounded the downbeat mood. News that a plane trailing a banner displaying,
“We’ve Got It”, had landed at Newcastle did nothing to inspire confidence. That was soon to change, as the result came through that morning that Liverpool had won. Hundreds of people slowly became aware. First disbelief and then an amazing roar of success and celebrations around the city. At one o’clock, Tessa Jowell and Sir Jeremy Isaacs arrived in the newly regenerated Liverpool Lime Street Station and the Lord Mayor, Councillor Ron Gould, Sir Bob Scott and the council leader, Mike Storey were there to greet them. Also on the station, was the chief executive, David Henshaw and local school children with homemade placards of celebration. All rounded off by the musical beat of a Military Band. After a quick walk amongst locals and tourists cheering them, the group set off to the Empire Theatre next door, where the world’s press were out in force. One BBC cameraman told me, “This is the largest number of national and international cameras I have ever seen for a press meeting.”
I have to say that even the Commonwealth Games could not compare to the sheer excitement and relief that was felt in the room. Sir Jeremy Isaacs said, “It was the fact Liverpool people were behind the bid and the fact that they contributed strongly that tipped the vote towards Liverpool.” After being in Liverpool that day, it made me proud of the city I was born in. The usually strong community spirit was very apparent. The formal hand over of the Prime Minister’s letter to the City, in which the official congratulations were expressed, was made. It read,
“Many congratulations for winning the UK’s nomination to be the 2008 European Capital of Culture. The independent panel were impressed by Liverpool’s vision, passion and enthusiasm. The commitment of the people of Liverpool was at heart of your bid and I’m sure that will continue to be a special part of your future. But the standard of all the bids was very high. Winning from such a strong field of competitors serves to underline how well you have done. Winning the nomination is just the start: I know that much work and energy is required to ensure a successful year-long festival and establish your city as a would class centre for culture. I wish you every success. Yours ever, Tony.”
Outside the aforementioned plane was circling above, sent to Liverpool by Newcastle with the words of congratulations and good luck. The posse of press and officials walked through a field of school children, bands, stilt walkers and more, assembled outside St George’s Hall. Bryan Gray, Chairman of the Northwest Development Agency issued the following statement
“The Northwest is today rightly proud of what the City of Liverpool has achieved. This is not the beginning of Liverpool’s renaissance; it is recognition of what the City has already delivered. The economic benefits of today’s announcement are considerable. An extra 1.7 million visitors will result in tourism contributing in excess of one billion pounds to Liverpool’s economy. This is not just fantastic news for Merseyside, the benefits will be felt across the Northwest and beyond.”
On leaving Tessa Jowell and Sir Jeremy Isaacs left behind a city partying. Celebrations moved around Liverpool and ended with a party in the Town Hall, with three hundred people from community and arts groups, sponsors and local businesses. All of them were involved in helping with the successful bid. Entertainment was being provided by jazz singer and pianist Christine Houghton, opera singer Rebecca Fox, the De Capo Dance Big Band and the Love and Joy Gospel Choir. The Kings Division Normandy Band sounded a fanfare and the official line was,
“It's party time in Liverpool tonight!”
here for photographs.