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

    Sunday, May 22, 2005
    Tales of two cities
     
    Just after Heysel, twenty years ago, Ian Jack of the Sunday Times was sent to compare the two cities represented in that tragic European Cup final: Liverpool and Turin. Whilst his Turin was bright and civilised, Jack portrayed Liverpool as a terrible sign of post-industrial Britain's blight, in a style later utilised by Stanley Reynolds in that Guardian article entitled "The Museum of the Horrifying Example" which still rankles with me when I remember it today.

    In his article Jack suggested to Derek Hatton that perhaps the people of Liverpool cared about football too much, in the absence of anything else, and Hatton responded with typical sharpness: 'That's like asking if mice care too much about cheese...'

    Today, triggered by the upcoming Champions League final, The Observer published A Tale of Two Cities by Tim Adams, comparing Liverpool and Milan. The motive for writing was to comment on the changing fortunes of our city and to ponder whether we are now culturally and economically any closer to 'Europe' than we were twenty years ago. The answer is a qualified yes, qualified by concerns that it takes more than a few cappuciuno bars to turn a city's fortunes around, qualified by the cliched out-of-town journalistic prurience at the way our young people like to party, qualified by the observation that while Milan oozes confidence, our city leaders are still trying to convince us all that we ought to be confident too.

    Nevertheless it is quite incredible to see how far we've come; today Hatton says if you had told him in 1985 there would be cafes selling good Italian coffee in Duke Street he'd not have believed you. He's right; no-one would.

    It's quite a good article; Alan Bleasdale, still speaking for the people, gets my vote for best quote:

    Alan Bleasdale does not want to sound pessimistic about the future of his home town. 'Being awarded the city of culture has helped,' he says. 'But the acid test of all that will be if in 2009 you go round Bootle and Toxteth and see a marked improvement in the way of life there. If you do, then all the money and all the hype will have been worth it, but it can't just be about museums and art galleries and Yoko Ono opening exhibitions, and buy one tequila get one free.'