Jane Davis: In Praise of Liverpool ’08

Is ’08 happening in Liverpool? Yes and yes, yes, yes. Taking the train home from London on a Friday night I see there are tourists heading to Lime Street reading guides to the city and our Capital of Culture events: young metropolitan couples staying with friends in Liverpool and planning to visit the galleries and clubs… and we make that journey in two and half hours now, thanks to the Virgin Pendolino. Liverpool ’08 is happening now. It began to feel it when the Tall Ships brought an amazing buzz to the city, the dock area teeming with visitors and locals alike. Wandering in the crowd you could feel that Liverpool still loves ships, they are part of us: we miss them. And this odd stirring to life feeling begins. For The Reader Organisation, ’08 has meant raising the game, making new working relationships, looking up.

We are about to deliver Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival (website details available soon) for the University of Liverpool. It’s an amazing festival programme to have got up and running in one year – congratulations to everyone but especially Renee – and we wouldn’t have done it without the University’s desire to make something wonderful for ’08 and willingness to put hard cash behind that desire.

Wirral Community Shakespeare wouldn’t have happened without ’08. This amazing event got started in January when our Get Into Reading project started a weekly Shakespeare reading group at The Lauries Community Centre in Birkenhead. We forged a partnership with the Aspire Trust who brought in the wonderful Aspire photographic artists Joan Evans and Michelle Molyneux, Assistant Director Mandy Reevers-Rowe and Music Director, Ceri Williams – all new colleagues and people we will want to work with again. We wouldn’t have made these connections without ’08. Photos of the rehearsals and show can be seen here.

It was an utter delight to me to see so many people from Get Into Reading playing a part in the final production. I saw Louise striding across the huge and verdant stage, looking as confident as a catwalk model, with that beautiful and elegant dog – of course The Reader Organisation’s Shakespeare has a dog in it! Of course! – and I listened enthralled as Portia Sugarev of the Get Into Reading Leasowe group said her lines, and as the washer women scene unfolded… and I thought: we wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for ’08.

Many, many thanks to all our supporters, financiers, friends and relations for getting this show on the road and big thanks to Starbucks, for keeping the cast, crew and production team going in coffee and cake. We needed those refreshments!

As we struck set and decamped from Birkenhead Park I had a conversation with Park Ranger Paul Davies about how we might develop a project for the young people who hang out in the park (and who didn’t cause us a jot of bother during show week) so as to get them involved in Wirral Community Shakespeare next year (oh yes… there will be a next year). Ranger Paul, a martial arts instructor, is about to play the Soporific Argentinian in the production of Moulin Rouge. Now there’s a skillset. Watch this space for news of the project.

Then last night I was in the packed Philharmonic Hall to stand and cheer Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker playing Wagner Prelude and Liebestod, Tristan and Isolde and Messiaen Turangalila Symphony. This was an electrifying performance – and in the case of the Messiaen of a work I’d never have been able to concentrate on as recorded music. The double basses were superbly violent and heavy, like bloody great rhinoceroi at one side of the platform, the man with cymbals breathtakingly wide armed and Sir Simon himself, utterly mesmerising, as life and power and intelligence flowed through his body, down his arms, and out of his fingertips (and hair!) to irradiate the entire hall and audience with a burning energy.

Live events, I thought, remembering last week’s production of The Winter’s Tale, are an altogether different order of experience. And here we are getting them, week in and week out, in Liverpool at the moment. Later this afternoon, to round off my week of eclectic experiences I’m going to go and seek out The Spider

Posted by Jane Davis

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