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Liverpool\'s Culture Bid

By The Drum, Administrator

June 26, 2003 | 9 min read

Since Culture Minister Tessa Jowell announced that Liverpool would be the European Capital of Culture in 2008, screeds of text have been written about the city that spawned The Beatles, The Liver Birds and Cilla Black.

However, not much has been penned about the team behind the successful bid document, the people who pulled together the reams of information on what the city has, and will have, to offer in 2008, and the design team that created the comprehensive, yet easy-to-read, 80-page bid document that persuaded the judging panel to hand the prestigious honour to the city and bring Liverpool’s “The World In One City” strapline to life over the next five years.

Liverpool-based marketing communications consultancy Finch was appointed, towards the end of 2001, by the Liverpool Culture Company, established by Liverpool City Council in order to manage the bid, to handle the design and production of the official bid document and all support marketing collateral.

The appointment came after a four-way pitch and also after the official Liverpool European Capital of Culture bid logo had been created by Steve Deer of a consultancy called Titanium.

The team at Finch consisted of joint managing director Tim Crutchley, account director Hilary Johnson, account manager Norah Kelly, print and production manager Phil Gibson and senior designer Richard White, all of whom worked closely with the Liverpool Culture Company’s chief executive Sir Bob Scott, creative director Sue Woodward and all of the cultural sector supporters of the bid.

The creative brief handed to Finch was to consider document size and format, legibility and clarity, ease of navigation, photographic content and the final presentation of the document.

The Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the government department that would ultimately decide the Capital of Culture 2008, had set each bidding city 11 questions that would have to be comprehensively answered within the pages of the initial bid document.

Therefore, at the initial meeting between Finch and the members of the Liverpool Culture Company in October 2001, discussion centred around the format that the document should take in order to cover all of these important issues.

The overall look and feel of the bid document was also top of the agenda, and this took into consideration the final audience of the document, ie, the judges, who were all very busy people, so it was decided that great care should be taken to ensure that the document was as digestible as possible.

Crutchley says: “We had no specific guidelines on the format that the document should take, so it really was up to all of us working on the document to create what we thought would best serve the purpose.

“We knew that the size of the type would be very important because the judging panel was made up of busy people and also people of all ages. Therefore, cleanliness and simplicity were paramount to ensure that the information was as legible as possible.”

At this initial meeting photography was also discussed and it was decided that a mixture of both old and new shots would need to be sourced for inclusion.

“The document had to get across the breadth of the cultural offer, so the pictures and photographs were very important as we had to communicate the cultural diversity of the city through them,” says Crutchley.

A month later, at the end of November 2001, all of the relevant departments of Liverpool City Council and the Liverpool Culture Company met with the Finch bid team to discuss their individual input into each of the sections of the document that would aim to fulfil the 11 criteria set down by the DCMS.

At this meeting guidelines were set as to the narrative content required for each section, photography and the length of the answers.

This liaison became an ongoing process as photography that illustrated the culture of the city was sourced from local and regional photographers. According to Crutchley, there was a great response as photographers looked to become part of the bid. At this stage local printers were also contacted and discussion took place with regard to use of paper stock.

In January 2002 it was time for Finch to present its proposed document to the Liverpool Culture Company; this included full mock-ups of what would become the final bid document to be presented to the DCMS panel.

“Here we persuaded the Culture Company to go with a larger size,” says Crutchley, “whilst keeping a tight framework to work within, to keep the document looking vibrant and professional.

“The official bid logo was blue in colour so the colour of the bid document is a follow-on from that and we think it also looks very professional in navy blue and sends out the right message. After all, this was never meant to be a glitzy brochure about Liverpool, it is a response to a detailed brief.”

The Bid Document Structure

Page 1: An introduction to Liverpool by Peter Toyne, chairman of the Culture Company, and Councillor Mike Story, leader of Liverpool City Council.

Page 2: A 3-D map of Liverpool city centre, showing all landmarks and proposed development areas.

Page 3: Executive summary of all 11 questions. All questions were then explained in much greater depth in each of the following sections.

Page 4: Contents Page.

The Bid Document’s Main Body

Each section within the document’s main body started with a tabbed page, which showed the DCMS questions and quotes from famous Liverpudlians, including Willy Russell and Sir Paul McCartney.

Then followed a page that was on textured stock to sum up the answers to the specific 11 DCMS questions, differentiating the specific answer to the question from the rest of the document. The pages that followed then went into detail about the question, showing relevant case studies, which were all highlighted to stand out from the main body of the text.

The response to each of the 11 questions was authored by a different person/council department, during January/February 2002. Therefore, the Finch bid team was in constant liaison with the relevant author.

However, as this was very much a working document, often new copy was supplied to override previous text. Because of this, careful and precise management was essential to ensure that the up-to-date copy was placed into the document correctly, which often necessitated hour-by-hour contact with all authors.

A presentation box also had to be sourced, tailor made to fit the bid document, presentation video and the gift of “Liverpool, The First 1,000 Years”, a book telling the story of Liverpool and its colourful history, to ensure that the document was presented in a quality and professional way.

As the strict 28 March deadline loomed, the month was spent closely scrutinising each and every section. Every department of the bid team, both at Finch and the Liverpool Culture Company, was involved in sense checking, with changes being fed back to the agency to make relevant amends.

Finch also liaised closely with its print partners to ensure that the final product would meet quality standards and not suffer due to the tight deadlines of the project. Before it went to print, the entire document was proof read to ensure grammar, spelling and sense were correct and consistent throughout the whole document, particularly as there had been numerous different authors.

And so 28 March arrived, the document was delivered to the DCMS, Liverpool was shortlisted to be the European Capital of Culture 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history.

However, despite the hours of work put into the actual bid document, both Crutchley and Liverpool Culture Company’s creative director and Granada Group director of regional affairs, Sue Woodward, who previously worked on Manchester’s successful bid for the Commonwealth Games, say that the people of Liverpool played as much of a part in the city’s bid success and will go on to play a huge part when 2008 comes.

Woodward says: “I became involved with the Liverpool bid in January. Liverpool had already been shortlisted after Finch had created a fantastic document. After that, though, there was still a lot to do. We had visits from the judges to manage and then they gave a list of detailed questions, around 100, that we had to respond to. They ranged from the event schedule to the financial structure of the event. We had to get the answers to these questions pulled together and present a final document of five to six pages of narrative.

“I worked closely with Tim and the team at Finch to create a classy, clean yet sassy, final document that really contained the essence of the Liverpool bid. Finch used a range of pictures and images, and so ended up producing a document that was about 15 pages in length, but still within the criteria. Finch worked day and night on the document.

“What we now have to do is make sure that the people of Liverpool get involved with this event. After all, they were very much involved in us winning the bid.”

Crutchley adds: “The Liverpool people were very open when the judges came to visit the city. The judges immersed themselves in the city and its culture because the people of Liverpool really embraced them.

“There is a large element that feels that the people of the city won this for us. Great architecture is one thing, but that does not necessarily mean you have got culture. I suppose it is down to how you define the word culture anyway, and that is a whole debate in itself.”

So, just what will the accolade mean to Liverpool?

Crutchley says: “What this will do is put Liverpool right back on the map, make people sit up and think about the city for a different set of reasons and not hold on to the old image of Liverpool of ten or 15 years ago. This could really transform the city and create a wealth of jobs for people here in Liverpool.

“The Capital of Culture is the biggest marketing challenge the city has had for years in terms of inward investment and tourism. There will be some exacting projects on the table in the next couple of years and we hope to be involved in them.”

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