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Halfway through Culture year

Queen Mandy gathers her subjects at FACT to debate the highs and lows of 08. Ben Patey joins the throng

Published on June 5th 2008.

Halfway through Culture year

SEEING as Her Maj doesn't really have the time to sit down for a cup of tea and a good natter when she visits, it was off to FACT this week to meet the self-proclaimed Queen of Culture 2008, Mandy Romero.

The occasion? To chew the fat at a tenantspin culture and commentary event, now that we have reached the halfway point of Culture year. The host? Well, it was Queen Mandy herself.

One lady genuinely offered the privet beheading of Ringo as her cultural highlight of 2008.

Tenantspin is a Liverpool based community TV channel. It is managed by FACT, city-wide tenants and Arena Housing, and it explores issues around contemporary ways of living and ways of seeing.

In the past, the group has examined issues such as community arts, gun crime and even Bold Street.

June seemed like the perfect point for an assessment of Liverpool 08 thus far, starting with some of tenantspin's video footage.

“Precious Cargo,” being airlifted onto St George’s Hall, basketball tricksters at Otterspool Hub Festival, the McCartney gig, the reopening of Bluecoat and posh frocked people lording it up at the Viennese Ball in which Claire Sweeney declared, “You’d never believe it’s Liverpool.”

Then it was over to Miss Romero – a formidable lady if ever I saw one - who instructed everyone in the room to give their highlights of the year so far.

The suggestions that followed ranged and included the recent Streets Ahead festival as well as Liverpool Sound week which culminated in Macca’s Anfield concert. Praise also came in for The Long Walk and a special commendation for Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the youth orchestra.

One gentleman was very enthusiastic about handsome conductor Vasily Petrenko, who many say was the best thing about the 08 opener at the Arena noting that the average Phil audience age had come down since his arrival. The influx of younger women clearly made him very happy.

After a brief discussion around the topic of event diversity, one lady genuinely offered the privet beheading of Ringo as her cultural highlight of 08. After all, that showed Liverpool’s “real” multiplicity as well as giving a more straightforward meaning to grassroots culture, so to speak.

The debate on the whole was all rather positive. It wasn’t set up to be a pessimistic look at what has gone wrong. Let’s face it. There have been numerous hiccups but a lot of these occurred before Culture year even started. The Big Dig and the uprooting of Sefton Park wasn’t open for debate but rather a look at the cultural activity brought into the city.

Whilst everyone appeared happy with most of what they’d seen, there were still misgivings, the main ones being a lack of funding for grassroots events and a shortage of things for the youth of the city to get involved in. There were also question marks over marketing. What’s going on and where and, more importantly, how do people get involved?

The debate ended with the general public in the room remaining optimistic but not stupid. The real work would commence at the end of Culture year. Only then and in the years to come could we really see how successful Liverpool has been as 2008’s European Capital of Culture.

And so to Mandy to end the debate. But as she tried to wrap up proceedings, one lady by the name of Mavis butted in, pointed at a picture in the Philharmonic programme, and insisted that the Vasily looked exactly like Norman Wisdom. With that eye-sight perhaps she also thought that Mandy Romero was actually the Queen...

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