Yesterday (25/03/14) I took part in the BBC World Service and BBC Radio Merseyside programme World Have Your Say which was broadcast live from the Museum of Liverpool. The main topic of discussion was “Is Liverpool a global city?” It’s on the BBC i-player until 31 March.
I expressed the opinion that many people in other parts of the UK have a negative perception of Liverpool and that the city would benefit from a civic pride campaign. Many of the civic leaders present, including Mayor Joe Anderson, took exception to my remarks and accused me of talking the city down.
The reality is that, even if it’s undeserved, Liverpool does have an image problem. In a Daily Telegraph article last month the Liverpool born cultural commentator Stephen Bailey wrote that “When Steven Gerrard makes a lugubrious appearance on television after another famous victory, but looking as though his family has just been wiped out in a freak accident, he does reveal something of the victim-culture moaner of Merseyside.”
Ask anyone elsewhere in the UK about Liverpool and the image that will probably come to mind is Harry Enfield’s Scousers. Of course Enfield’s comic characters, funny as they are, are no more representative of Liverpool than Rab C Nesbitt is of Glasgow. Wonderful cultural attractions such as the newly refurbished Everyman Theatre and Tate Liverpool give the city much to be proud of. But I still feel that Liverpool has an image problem which it needs to address.
Other cities have successfully used civic pride campaigns to correct negative perceptions. The best example is probably the I Love New York campaign which began in 1977 and did so much to change how the world views that city. Closer to home, the 1980s Glasgow’s Miles Better initiative helped to rid the city of its out-dated “No Mean City” image. On a personal level, I implemented the SoStevenage campaign which enabled the residents and businesses in England’s first New Town to feel more positive about their community.
If Liverpool really does have ambitions to be a Global City, it needs to put a concentrated effort into challenging the negative perceptions of the city which the rest of the country holds.