BLOG: The Power of Public Service

There is a pretty well-rehearsed argument that the less you hear about city councils and public services, then the better they are doing.  

But that is to misunderstand what can happen when you fill public service roles with people that are ambitious, hardworking, creatively curious and who really, really love their city. 

Yesterday, the world watched in envy as an estimated 500,000 fans lined the streets for the LFC homecoming parade. Jurgen Klopp and his team rightfully took the adulation for their incredible feats this season, but like any good football team, all the groundwork was done beforehand. 

A core team of over 100 people made yesterday’s parade possible including Merseyside Police, the ambulance and fire services, Merseytravel, street cleaning teams, highways, safety experts and of course the Culture Liverpool team. Six weeks of work behind the scenes to create something safe, spectacular and which will live long in the memory. 

Only this group of people together could have done this – an event which is about much more than the football club. An event which is about what it means to be a city and what the role of public service is at moments like this – a facilitator of collective moments that transcend individual areas of responsibility or jobs – events that are just good for Liverpool. 

Yesterday followed hot on the heels of a month in which public sector colleagues’ work has been getting national recognition. 

For the past few years the Liverpool Film office has been working relentlessly to bring productions – Hollywood blockbusters and small budget TV shows – to the city. At the BAFTAs earlier in the month this was rewarded with four wins for productions that the Liverpool Film Office had either supported with funding, or helped make happen in the city. 

It’s an incredible validation from the most cut-throat of industries about the environment of quality which the Film Office have created in the past decade. 

A week later Culture Liverpool and our friends at BBC Radio Merseyside beat off huge competition to win the ARIA (the biggest award ceremony in the UK for radio) for best event coverage for our project ‘Liverpool Together’ that marked a year since the start of lockdown. 

A heart-breaking, funny and ultimately defiant piece of programming it carried the same DNA as the parade – a chance to mark something pivotal in the history of the city – but this time played out to an empty St George’s Hall as restrictions on gatherings were still in place. Watch it here

And then just last week, news that another project from last summer – Statues Redressed – has been nominated for a Broadcast award alongside our partners Sky Arts and Northern Town. 

This project saw us ask artists to ‘redress’ statues across the city as we began to move forward the public debate about the role of statues and commemoration in our city. It is a beautiful and incredibly important project, a world first and still creating ripples across the globe as other cities start to grapple with the darker parts of their past. 

Individually all of these moments of recognition are wonderful and deserved. But collectively they start to paint a picture of what role public service plays in this city – something far richer than the stereotypes we so often hear.

All of these projects only happened because of the people who drove them forward, and they could only do that because of the roles they find themselves in and the privilege that this brings.  

After such a bruising few years, it is important we hold onto the memory of yesterday. Not just as a celebration of sporting achievement but of a collective desire by the people of this city to come together, to stand shoulder to shoulder and to breathe new energy into the streets of this extraordinary city. 

It is this character that shapes the way we as public services have to work. To do the hard thing when it is the right thing, to try and always move forward and ultimately to do things that make this city a better place today than it was yesterday. 

Claire McColgan MBE

Director Culture Liverpool

Liverpool Waterfront