Liverpool culture vulture

Mon 17 – Sun 23 June 2019

Art and Culture: Liverpool

A city reborn

I first went to Liverpool in the 80s and I had never seen so many boarded up shops. Since then, it has gone through a massive renaissance. Indeed, the city is a great example of how a place in downward spiral can reinvigorate itself. Art has been the city’s saviour with things on an upward curve since it was the European City of Culture in 2008.

It is a great place for a city break with so much to see and experience. Train journey up was fine, just over 2 hours. We paid just £15 each for an upgrade and it made the journey a bit more fun. There was a lot we wanted to do in the weekend so we hit the ground running and went straight to Tate Liverpool to see the Keith Haring exhibition.

Keith Haring at Tate Liverpool

Haring’s frenetic hip-hop ‘stick man’ artwork is very distinctive. In many ways it screams art of the early 80s. And as a person with AIDS, his concern with featuring this in his art pushed it right into the centre of LGBT culture. This is a beautiful exhibition that summarises his brilliant but tragically short career. Born in 1958 and dead due to AIDS by 1990. 🙁

The whole exhibition oozes of that amazing period. Where punk had torn things up, conservatism was resurgent but under attack, and recession condemned us all to poverty but without the staggering in your face unfair distribution of wealth as is so stronger today. Ordinary people could afford to live in New York and London whilst quaint things like student grants and unemployment benefit still existed.

It was both a tragic and a great time to be alive. The main thing I took from the exhibition (apart from Haring’s simple genius artistic ability) was his mastery of the throwaway society – making graffiti and putting art on everyday objects. Plus also the anger and irreverence of his work. He didn’t care about shocking. That was what the early 80s was like, a wonderfully creative time.

The exhibition does have a ghost which is simply where his brilliance would have gone had he not died? Perhaps to irrelevancy and bling aka Andy Warhol. But his later art also suggests moving towards a new detail and horror in the manner of Hieronymous Bosch.

The Cavern Club and Cilla

Saturday and we did a quick whizz through the Cavern Quarter to absorb the atmosphere before the area got packed. We did actually pop back that evening when it was chocca full of people drinking. Great to see the actual entrance to the Cavern where The Beatles performed 262 times in the early 60s as well as the statue to Cilla Black who was actually a coat check girl at the club. Dave went to visit her grave later that day which he found very moving.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Museum of Liverpool

The big thing on Saturday (a beautiful warm and sunny day) was me and Dave spending time at the Museum of Liverpool. No dingy municipal place this. Rather an exciting modern big building with a spiral staircase that reminded me of the Guggenheim in New York.

Great exhibitions on the city throughout the building which is well done because its history actually doesn’t really come alive until the eighteenth century and then much of the twentieth century is about decline. But great stuff on how the city has changed and the communities within it. Particularly impressive were the photos of the city after the Blitz and the massive Catholic cathedral proposed to be built before the war.

Hair peace, bed peace

On the top floor is a temporary exhibition on the life of John and Yoko. It is a beautifully under-stated presentation of all the key moments in their life together including the bed protests, his ‘wild weekend’, their fight for US green cards, and his murder.

It gave me a greater insight into what had happened as well as being thoroughly entertaining – surely the point of all museums? Indeed, John came over as quite domineering of Yoko against the myths that were put around at the time with her as a kind of ‘scarlet woman’ who had enticed him.

The Walker Gallery

Sunday was really split into two parts. Morning and most of the daytime was spent at the Walker Gallery. This is a brilliant art gallery with a collection built up during the time when Liverpool was a rich port at the centre of the British Empire. Some wonderful old masters as well as a good modern British collection.

I basically spent the whole day here looking at the different pieces of art and chilling in the cafe. Particulary impressive was the early European art built up by a nineteenth century lawyer, Roscoe. Stunning art from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that herald the end of the dark ages and the beginning of the Renaissance.

Kind Hearts and Coronets at FACT

Vintage film classic with Sir Alec Guinness

Then in the afternoon, Dave and I went to FACT to see the vintage movie ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’. Dave loves old movies and I quite enjoy them. Indeed, there was nothing else more modern we wanted to see at the cinema or the theatre. FACT is a modern arts centre and often has on good exhibitions and an excellent cinema.

The film itself is a wonderful dark comedy made in 1949 reflecting on the cruelty of the British class system and someone digging themselves into a hole. Famously Sir Alec Guinness plays 9 different parts but the other actors and actresses are excellent with some brilliant characters created.

Reflections on our Liverpool weekend

Overall, a brilliant weekend away in a city I am incredibly fond of. Not only is the cultural aspect great but the food is also good. We ate lovely meals each day respectively French, Italian and Lebanese. My only criticism comes from a wonderfully London-based standpoint. People in Liverpool like to talk and sometimes that gets in the way of things being done fast as in the big bustling city of London. Personally I love London’s brusqueness and anonymity, but I know others hate that and adore the personal touch.

Books and Reading

‘Good Omens’ by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

One of those books I’ve had hanging about on my bookshelves for ages. I was inspired to read it by the fact I like both of the joint-authors (though I think the book is mainly credited to Gaiman now) and there is a much publicised television version of the book now – Netflix or Amazon Prime I think. Though I am not sure it is getting great reviews.

It’s a fun book as one would expect from these brilliant comedy writers, though comedy with a serious message. But the book was written in 1990 and it does feel a bit dated. Key ‘modern’ items feature such as cassette players in cars and ansaphones. But it’s also the fact that other brillaint comedic sci-fi / fantasy has come along such as the whole Discworld series by Pratchett and novels by Gaiman himself such as American Gods.

A William Blake angel

I did not actually realise but ‘Good Omens’ is in many ways simply a piss-take of the book and film ‘The Omen’. I remember this dominated popular culture at the time it was released which was the mid-late 70s. Though it is fascinating that this wind-up version came about 15 years later. But, ultimately, it is far more than just a humourous version of another book as shown by at the end it also twists into taking the piss, in a good way, out of Orwell’s ‘1984’.

red demon head with horns

Overall, this is brilliant humorous fantasy. But its horror / Armageddon angle feels overwhelmed by the modern horrors with live with in the likes of Trump, Putin, North Korea, and Climate Change. It’s not helped by a nostalgic view of childhood and England that wouldn’t be out of place in an Enid Blyton adventure. Kids are more likely to be worried about knives and debt these days rather than lemon sherbets and apples.

Health and Efficiency

Exercise was not to the fore last week as me and Dave were in Liverpool from Friday for our art and culture weekend.

  • Monday: Gym session, lots of focus on legs and upper body
  • Tuesday: Pilates – went back to the mat-based pilates session with the good teacher that I tried the week before. As good as previously though busier.
  • Wednesday: Yoga – a very good dynamic session building on the more gentle but taxing movements of the day before
  • Thursday: 5K jog-run which was one of my best ever with a time under 30 mins and every km stretch being under 6 mins. Very exciting as this suggests a 10K time of under an hour is possible. 🙂

Good news that INR is back within range. 🙂 Though because this has only just happened thus I need to return to get it checked within a month again. 🙁

Personal Development

Decent amount of language learning done and even a wee bit of coding practice. 🙂 Obviously there can always be more. Emails sort of under control though it is nice to not be too doctrinal on making sure you deal with them whilst you are have a break as we were with our Liverpool weekend.

The Week Ahead

  • Feeling a bit fat after the weekend away. So a week of lots of exercise though probably not sufficient time for a yoga session.
  • Will finish reading my current book and get through at least one more
  • Back to focusing on personal development. My sabbatical is ticking away and I want to know I have made the most of my time to improve myself.
  • My brother has put up a shelving unit for me so I am genuinely excited to sort through my book / DVD collection and put things in the ‘correct’ order 🙂
  • I’ve got a low cost osteopath appointment via THT on Wed to see if that will help my aching lower back

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