Why care about culture?

Let me tell you about Maureen.  Maureen got in touch last week to thank me for presenting her with a ‘lifetime opportunity’ following her involvement as a volunteer when the much-loved giants returned to Liverpool for the last time in 2018.

Maureen was a volunteer for all three of the giants’ visits and summed up her feelings as an ‘unbelievable privilege’ that left her in ‘total awe every minute of every day of every visit to Liverpool.’

The genuine love Maureen has for Liverpool was clear and I was moved to hear about the positive impact volunteering had made on her life. But it is she that deserves the thanks.

I went on to learn that since Maureen’s retirement in 2008, she has generously given her time, energy and enthusiasm to several events and organisations in Liverpool such as the ‘A’ Team at Radio Merseyside and City Stars.

So many of us love attending the great events that are staged year-round it the city, but few of us think about the people working hard behind the scenes to ensure their smooth running. So thank you Maureen. We are very lucky to have you and the many other volunteers that make our world-class events the huge success that they are.

This prompted me to reflect further on 2018 and what a game-changing year it was for Liverpool. It’s hard to believe it marked an entire 10 years since we were awarded European Capital of Culture and our extraordinary cultural scene was brought before an international audience.

Looking back over those 10 years, the city’s cultural scene has gone from strength to strength. 2018 saw record numbers of visitors flocking to Liverpool as we sang, danced and celebrated this anniversary through a series of vibrant events. As a city of creators, musicians and artists, our rich and diverse community was reflected in the events we staged, from local, home-grown talent to global icons.

But we don’t just hold these events for their own sake. The benefits are far-reaching and despite the appalling hand we have been dealt by central government, I believe it is our responsibility to protect, preserve and champion this cultural legacy that is the beating heart and soul of our city.

Economically, the cultural events held in the city last year delivered an impressive boost of £85 million as we welcomed 2.2million visitors. This figure quadrupled the 2017 figure year and a ripple effect was felt throughout the city in our hotels, shops, restaurants and attractions.

35,000 people are now employed in Liverpool’s tourism and hospitality sector, and I’m sure you will have all heard the news last week that Liverpool is now the second fastest growing city in the country for jobs. Again, this is the economic benefit that comes from championing our cultural offering.

Showcasing these events also sets us on a national and international stage. The number of overseas visitors coming to Liverpool has risen by a quarter in just one year, 40million people alone watched the final giants spectacular on TV in the UK and on NBC America. From the giants to the round-the-world clipper race and our famous football teams, Liverpool is now synonymous with showcasing world-class events.

But the reason we put on cultural events runs deeper than the economic benefit alone – it is because people matter in a city like ours. They have a hugely positive impact on the communities of our city who support and get involved, an impact which stays with people long after the event has packed away. These events feed into our shared identity and offer opportunities to feel connected and inspired – because in Liverpool, culture is inclusive, vibrant and within reach of everyone.

I’ve always said that our greatest asset is our people and the one thing that stands out to all our visitors is the warm welcome they receive when they come to Liverpool. It’s what sets us apart from every other city in the world and is testimony to all of you. As we move forward in 2019, I’m excited by the countless new and returning events that will continue to position Liverpool as one of the most exciting cities, not only in the UK but across the globe.