January 22, 2011

The Liverpool Embassy

A few weeks back I got to visit the Liverpool Town Hall for the first time for an event to announce that Liverpool is opening an embassy in London.

Yesterday saw the opening of the aforementioned embassy which, obviously, isn't a true embassy but some office space to allow big Liverpool companies and council officials a base from which to meet up with businesspeople and politicians in the capital.

I'm not entirely convinced of its value - mostly down to my disdain for "inward investment" as a regeneration tool - but from attending the event and hearing the leader of the council and the newly-appointed council business advisor speak about it I'm happy to give it the benefit of the doubt.

They seemed open to questions and criticism, and honest about what they want to achieve. They're trying something a bit different, and going to see how it works or if it works. The embassy is open for three months initially, and it ties into some of the promotion around the upcoming Liverpool Boat Show. Keeping it open for longer will depend on it proving its worth, and also on finding further funding from the private sector. The initial costs have been provided from money that last year paid for some of the junket to MIPIM and they are already signing up sponsors to help with that.

Press response to the launch has been mixed, with the Financial Times and Guardian providing fairly neutral factual reports.

The Telegraph, however, has a rather romantic and curious piece which, despite waxing poetic about the delights of Liverpool later in the article, also irks me somewhat. I think my irritation can be summed up in this paragraph from it:

"But an embassy is a redundant idea because Liverpool already has many eloquent ambassadors actively abroad (myself included). And the thing about these ambassadors is this. Liverpool inspires an intense, mawkish sentimentalism… coupled with an extreme desire to get away and never return. Its diasporised diplomats speak eloquently of the city’s intense romanticism while praying never to be required actually to live there again. Ever."

Although he is undoubtedly eloquent, someone who talks about how wonderful the city is whilst simultaneously claiming it's somewhere one would never want to live isn't someone that I want as my ambassador.

Liverpool is a great city - not just to hark back to, but to live in, to play in, to run a business in. If our current "ambassadors" aren't getting that across to the rest of the country or the world them maybe we do need our own embassy.

Posted by Adrian at January 22, 2011 02:36 PM | TrackBack

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