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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, October 05, 2002
    The city and the sea
     
    Funny girl, Kate Rusby. She stands there singing the sweetest of songs about a girl standing seven years at a quayside waving her lover off to sea and waiting for his return, and then goes into a banter about finding that, with age she's developing upper arm muscles. Distressing for her. She's a Barnsley lass who says that where she comes from they call this physical phenomenon 'Bingo Wings'. (Caused by years of holding bingo cards in the air claiming 'house'). And after all this hilarity she launches straight into another sorrowful song about lost love and longing.

    Paul and I were in St George's Hall, Bradford, to see her last night. An enjoyable flying visit across the Pennines. In her needlessly apologetic way Kate introduced one song about a sailor by saying, "Not much connection between Bradford and the sea..." but there I beg to differ because in my mongrel blood I am quarter-Yorkshire, my maternal grandparents being drawn away from the Bradford area to the then-bright lights of booming Liverpool at the turn of the last century. As so many were, either by the prospect of emigrating to start again in America or by Liverpool's commercial promises. Grandad Barker and his brother opened a shoe shop in Waterloo. As we drove through Shipley in the dark Paul asked me, "Do you feel at home now?" Well, maybe I could.

    Bradford's one of Liverpool's rivals for the International City of Culture 2008 bid. I don't know it well enough to comment on how serious a rival each is to the other. Their St George's Hall is a tidy Victorian theatre, great for a cosy gig like Kate's, but it hardly compares to the breathtaking Greco-Roman conceit which is our St George's Hall, considered one of the greatest neo-classical buildings in the world. If the judging was on architecture alone then surely we'd win hands down.

    But, 'city of culture' suggests a longer look at what's happening there now, among the people. And one thing Bradford has which Liverpool ought to but doesn't, is a vibrant multicultural life. Last night Bradford city centre had the beauty of celebration about it, shining and twinkling with all manner of colourful lights, draped around the major squares and thoroughfares in anticipation of Divali (Nov 4).