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The Laz Word... on Liverpool being radical (again)

City's new Free University sticks two fingers up at the system. But will we be seen as a joke?, asks Larry Neild

Written by . Published on September 5th 2011.

The Laz Word... on Liverpool being radical (again)

LIVERPOOL is a city of radicals. It says so on hundreds of lamp-posts across the city, so it must be true.

In the 1960s and 1970s, we were radical for our amazing ability to stand up for the workers, walking out at the drop of a flat cap.  Now there’s hardly ever a strike in Liverpool, mainly of course because virtually all of the big factories and manufacturers have gone.

Why can’t Liverpool, for once,
be radical by being ordinary?

In the 1980s Liverpool decided it wasn’t going to pushed around by some upstart woman Prime Minister called Margaret Thatcher. So, aided and abetted by the Militant Tendency, Liverpool became something of a people’s republic. It’s a wonder we didn’t start to issue official Scouse passports and place checkpoints on the East Lancs.

Thirty years on, the legacy created by what was considered a delinquent authority is still affecting Liverpool’s image. True, it has improved. But the city is still on parole, watched by London power brokers masquerading as probation officers.

The dust has started to settle, so what better time than to create a new dust storm - by being radical again.

This time it’s a protest against student tuition fees with the setting up of a Free University of Liverpool (FUL), no relation to the red-brick one in Brownlow Hill.

It seems, if the Guardian is to be believed, that this enterprise is partly aimed at protesting against the Coalition Government’s imposition of sky-high student fees, and partly owing to long standing dissatisfaction with the way higher education in England is structured. 

In Scarlet Pimpernel fashion, the activists behind the idea are acting as “Lone Tutors”, masking their identity, apparently, to avoid conflict with the establishments currently employing them. But their numbers involve artists and other creative thinkers.

The Committee, as the founders are collectively known, are said to be willing to offer their time and skills voluntarily, with the FUL funded by donations which range from gifts of secondhand books to stock a radical library.

The FUL will start with a six-month foundation course, with October (Red October!)  earmarked as a starting date for the 15 students enrolled.

The aim is to move to a BA course next year in cultural praxis. None of that Latin stuff for the Free University of Liverpool. It’s mission statement, bold as brass, spits out the philosophy:  "belief in the strength of intervention, the necessity of interruption and the efficacy of interference in the powers that seek to privatise and instrumentalise education".

Politically, socially and sometimes culturally, Liverpool has dearly paid the price for turning around and shouting to the world ....  ‘F@&% yous’.

This School for Scousers risks being seen as a novelty, allowing academia to poke fun at laughable Liverpool.

Radical becomes a badge of honourRadical becomes a badge of honourIf the ‘Committee’ had the courage of its convictions, and if they are so disillusioned with the state of things as they are, shouldn’t they consider packing in their jobs and throwing everything into their radical uni?

What about the first intake of students who are radicalised by the teachings and mantras of a free university whose aims are to challenge the status quo.

Moreover, why can’t Liverpool, for once, be radical by being ordinary? Why not let other cities fight the battles that need to be fought so we can continue to recover from the wounds and scars of previous conflicts?

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AnonymousSeptember 5th 2011.


When the workers of Liverpool are paid at the same level as workers elsewhere, perhaps then they can afford to be normal?

People don't strike for a laugh, it is unpaid, it is a break in employment that affects your pension and is very definitely the very last resort.

With expressions like 'School for Scousers' who needs the Murdoch press to insult the city?

Rusty SpikeSeptember 8th 2011.

Perhaps, Las dear old sausage, Liverpool isn't ordinary...isn't that what all the tourism bods keep banging on about. And hey, does anyone recall the radical and wonderfully illuminating Liverpool Free Press from thirty years or so ago? It cocked a snook at the establishment, rattled the Echo and Post management because it dared to print the stories they were scared to mention, AND was largely 'staffed' by lads and lasses who worked for those establishment papers in the city - and their identities were 'masked', using your term. If we take your premise, Laz, they didn't have 'the courage of their convictions' either - but then conviction seems a very appropriate word in both cases, I would wager. And as for a "School for Scousers"...come on Laz, that's a bit underhand and quite unfair, come to that. Ordinary? That's the country of boring, grey people. Liverpool's often anarchic character has been forged out its fabulous racial, and radical, mix - a melange of cultures and peoples from many lands and nationalities: of wild Celts, sailors and slaves, the dispossessed, the lost, the travellers, those seeking a new life, a new world through the port - and finding that Liverpool was actually it. Fair play to the Free University of Liverpool. Laus Deus Semper.

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