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

    Saturday, September 13, 2008
    Is Dickie our dad?

    Jacob Epstein's Liverpool Resurgent which stands above the entrance to Lewis's department store on Renshaw Street. He's locally known as Dickie Lewis, and features in the line of a popular song which goes, 'We meet under a statue exceedingly bare, in my Liverpool home'. Lucy's mum was a bit disturbed that this massive statue will be in the sight-line of her and her four other female student flatmates as they eat their breakfasts each morning in Grand Central.

    Through a rendition of Mother Glasgow (see yesterday's blog) Doug's talk introduced the idea of the city as a nurturing parent to us, its children. He asked us to consider whether we might see our own cities in this way. So is Liverpool a mother to us, or a father?

    Epstein's sculpture was an attempt to personify the city, to offer a symbol of vigour at a time of post-war reconstruction. That it's mostly entered our culture as a gently ironic line in an already quite dated folk song, and has not featured at all, as far as I know, in any Capital of Culture events or promotions, suggests that we tend to regard Liverpool Resurgent as little more than something to fondly smile about. He clearly hasn't been embraced as an embodiment of our city, and in the dark days of the 1980s Liverpool Resurgent's confident posturing mocked us - Liverpool was naked then, but broken too. Dickie Lewis isn't our dad.

    So is there another sort of parental metaphor which might fit Liverpool? I find it easier to think of the city as a mother, but in Liverpool's case I think she may be that sort of mother who tries hard but is accepted by her offspring as actually being not that good at it. Her bad habits and inconsistencies get in the way of her keen attempts to nurture us well. She's unreliable, we have to mop up after her, but we're the fonder of her for all that.

    Or maybe Liverpool is more like one of those uncles who is always around the house, full of jokes and stories which fascinate the youngsters, a bloke so gifted and so entertaining that they can't get enough of him. But who, when the chips are down, is nowhere to be found (or is, if you look among the all-day drinkers lining the snug of a city-centre pub)... What do you think?

    Pic: Dave Wood, Liverpool Resurgent, from Liverpool Monuments website