Covid has silenced our city — but the sounds of humanity gives us hope…

In all honesty, this is the most surreal time of my life.

I have always been proud of the fact that I have played a role — a really small role — in this city’s cultural renaissance over the last twenty years.

I was passionate about fighting for the voices of communities to be heard, and from 2000 I was part of the team committed to ensuring this was a key element of our capital of culture bid.

And as a result — this city transformed. It’s a city full of artists, independent restaurants, the best small businesses and organisations in the country.

It’s a city where giants walk the streets, where buildings light up and come to life whether in celebration or commemoration. Liverpool is so lucky to have politicians — from all parties — who understand the value of culture and appreciate that we sometimes have to take risks to bring to life poetry and storytelling which is the envy of cities across the globe.

Our city events programmes is made up of festivals of all shapes and sizes which hold up a mirror to the world.

Cruise lines dock on our world heritage waterfront, filled with visitors who spill out on to our streets and spend time and money in our shops, our attractions, our bars and restaurants. Coach loads of people gasp at our architecture, and our children grow up and want to stay, or return, because it is exciting, quirky and individual. It’s Liverpool.

And in the blink of an eye, it’s as if the last 12 years haven’t happened.

We, along with arts and cultural organisations across the city, are taking the heart-breaking, decision to cancel events. Cruise liners are no longer sailing in to our city, and those streets filled with laughter, wonder, conversations and a real sense of togetherness and community are empty.

It feels like a new world. And a hard one at that.

My ethos has always been that this city has so many stories to tell and as a sector, we have done just this for well over a decade. And it’s just a bonus that on this journey we have inspired, enthralled and educated millions of people.

Pre 2008 we had a point to prove, and in many ways we’ve won that battle time and time again. The naysayers who thought culture was a ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity realised the power and impact it could have, not only on a city but on the people who lived and visited there. The evidence was there for all to see.

Right now there’s someone with a picture of a Little Girl Giant hanging on a wall, or a miniature superlambanana taking pride of place on a shelf, selfies on social media with incredible light installations or a music festival as a backdrop. It’s there for all to see, but it’s also in people’s hearts.

Culture is tangible. It makes a difference both economically and emotionally.

On my daily walk around Sefton Park my mind is whirring about what we can do next. Hearing flats and houses erupt with applause, cheering and music in a weekly celebration of our carers inspires me.

This city will thrive once again. Liverpool is after all the ultimate comeback kid. And what a comeback it will be.

We need to build on this outpouring of humanity and create something special not just for us, but for the next generation.

Already from this experience, I’ve learnt three things:

We need to laugh more.

When it’s safe, we need to create new, unforgettable moments where we can come together in theatres, bars, clubs, concert halls, galleries, parks or on our incredible waterfront.

We need to build on that Thursday night outpouring of humanity.

I have no doubt the streets will once again be filled with our stories, our laughter and our love told in innovative ways.

This city will thrive once again. Liverpool is after all the ultimate comeback kid. And what a comeback it will be.

Claire McColgan – Director of Culture, Liverpool City Council

Liverpool Waterfront