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Capital of Culture: The closure

Did sparks fly for you on Saturday night? Vinny Lawrenson Woods brr-braves the cold at “Transition”

Published on January 12th 2009.

Capital of Culture: The closure

AFTER 12 months and 7,000 events, Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year came to an end on Saturday with the shockingly uninspired name for a closing ceremony, “Transition”.

Devised by Liverpool Culture Company, produced by Manchester's Walk the Plank and also dubbed The People's Celebration (aka “There will be fireworks and we need a crowd”), kicked off just after 6pm along Liverpool’s waterfront. Performers and musicians mingled in with the people as the Three Graces were lit up in red, green and purple.

Standing in front of one of the enormous 27 ft by 80ft cinema screens hanging from the near completed Museum of Liverpool the metaphor was obvious. If St George's Hall, backdrop for the opening ceremony, represented all that is good about Liverpool’s past, then the magnificent new Pier Head could only represent Liverpool’s continuing progress.

High above the expectant crowd on a very cold night, the big screens recounted the highlights of 2008. A video montage included La Machine, King Lear, Paul McCartney and even Liverpool One. As the film retold the story of 08, the European prize was passed over to the representatives of Linz, Austria and Vilnius, Lithuania, Capital of Culture cities for 09, in a structure that looked suspiciously like the one Ringo was performing in 12 months ago. There were also representatives from London 2012 to mark the launch of Britain's Cultural Olympiad, which bizarrely prompted an animated caricature of Boris Johnson to appear on the screen.

The shock of seeing Boris was soon forgotten as Pete Price and co encouraged the crowd to sing along to The Farm’s All Together Now. Tunes from other notable Liverpool bands The La’s, The Lightning Seeds, The Beatles, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and John Lennon continued to pull at the crowd’s heartstrings, and it worked. Civic pride was lifted as poet Roger McGough’s poignant verse engaged the audience and the fabulous fireworks lit up the sky above the Mersey with one of the best displays the city has seen.

By 7pm the waterfront celebration was over, but the festivities continued around the city with many venues opening until late. Local artists, musicians and performers made sure the fun continued into the night, and, like any other Saturday night in Liverpool, even if you could be at three places at once you would still miss something.

There were great performances from Duncan Stuart and SJ Downes at The Tate and The Suns and Steve Pilgrim at The Bluecoat. The night acted as a reminder that Liverpool truly is a cultural capital and does not need the accolade to do what it does best. Why not celebrate Liverpool’s art and culture with video highlights at the end of every year?

Now the Capital of Culture Year is now officially over and the themed Year of the Environment has started, Liverpool has an opportunity to maintain the tempo and enthusiasm.

To coin Roger McGough’s final words of the celebration: “To be continued.”

*This splendid picture of the waterfront on Saturday evening, above, was taken by Liverpool photographer Pete Carr. To see more of his workclick here

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

manxmanJanuary 12th 2009.

didnt go far enuff with the fireworks tho. the city didnt burn down.that would really have improved culture in the northwest of england.

John Lennon AirportJanuary 12th 2009.

Excellent, Professor.

Brendan BehindJanuary 12th 2009.

Hear hear, Professor! Mr. McCough's expresed a common feeling but very much in his own style.

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2009.

Can some one explain to me why thousands of people were directed by stewards to the albert dock and left to stand there for 45 mins in the freezing cold? We couldn't see any video or light display or hear any music. I wouldn't have bothered going if I'd known I'd only be able to see the fireworks. Another well organized Liverpool farce. Can I have a council tax refund?

TV KellyJanuary 12th 2009.

I didn't enjoy it at all. Mind you I didn't turn up. Still, I expect Uncle Phil enjoyed it.

DigJanuary 12th 2009.

An impression of Ringo without trying, or even knowing I suspect. Always looks & sounds like he has just woke up, 2 awful soaps, (slow motion) spokesperson for CoC. Indeed, an inspiration to us all I'm sure. Professor I salute you.

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2009.

if it burnt down think of the drugs fumes floating over the country!Liverpool aids capital of europe.

Hooray HenriJanuary 12th 2009.

I have a lot of sympathy for those who were directed to Albert Dock rather than the Pier Head. They must have felt let down. Even though I was able to see the screens I was left with the feeling that this was a recording. The only people who appeared live were the guys spinning discs above the new ferry terminal - and well done them - but everything else was disembodied. It badly needed someone to pull the whole thing together. Ringo may have been miming at the opening ceremony but at least he was there and we could see him, and he managed to get this poor soul to sing along with him. At the closing ceremony I would have settled for the Lord Mayor addressing us, in person, to confirm the huge success of 2008 and to thank us for our support, which was a key element.

William Topaz McGonigallJanuary 12th 2009.

Help ma boab!

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2009.

Unfortunately there is no room for the Lord Mayor these days now that the unaccountable and unelected Phil Redmond has taken over the show. It does not bode well, I fear.

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