Liverpool Culture Capital
By the time you read this, the champagne corks will have popped as Liverpool officially starts its tenure as European Capital of Culture 08.
The Liverpool 08 website toasts 4 June 2003, when the city won its culture bid, as ‘the day that changed Liverpool’. It says that, ‘At a stroke, national and international perceptions changed and the image of the city improved’.
Perhaps ‘at a stroke’ is pushing it. Just a year after Liverpool’s Culture success came The Sun’s belated full-page apology for its misjudged treatment of the Hillsborough tragedy. The exercise, to try and reacquaint the paper with any kind of readership in the city, fell on deaf ears.
And just a few months on, MP Boris Johnson was responsible for dragging up old stereotypes in the media, first through a misguided magazine article, then a bungled trip to the city to apologise.
But despite intermittent PR fauxs pas by those trying to win back the faith of Liverpudlians, the city has not been deterred from its Culture 08 plans. Now, as national attention turns to the city’s cultural heritage, Liverpool is in the throes of a new era.
In 2008, it can boast its own specialists of good publicity in the media, marketing and creative sectors.
Sarah Elderkin, development director of Liverpool and Manchester-based Design Initiative – which helps matchmake creatives and designers with the market – says there is a wealth of new talent in the city.
Through special portfolio sessions, the Design Initiative attempts to acquaint the budding creatives with a marketing structure. The popularity of these sessions, according to Elderkin, represents the strength of creative talent that exists in the city.
Throughout the industry, there’s been a marked lack of start-up activity. Not so in Liverpool, according to Elderkin. “Certainly in Liverpool we’re seeing a lot of designers and creatives coming to us wanting to start-up their own business. What they lack is a business plan, but there’s no doubt the talent is in the city and eager.”
Certainly, 2007 represented a big year for Liverpool’s media and marketing aspirations.
Liverpool Council continued its bid to readjust perceptions by tendering out its regeneration PR brief, scooped by the city’s Factory Communications. While details of the agency’s financial remuneration was closely guarded, there’s no doubting the profile kudos the account brings given Liverpool’s 08 status.
The Finch Partnership brought a big win to the city when it was appointed by budget fashion retailer Ethel Austin to administer its Autumn advertising campaign, an account the brand confirmed carried a £1m spend.
Clarity Creation arrived after outgrowing Liverpool’s longest-serving agency Paver Downes, with what it described as a “medium term plan.” The agency announced its strategy to be challenging for national and international contracts after a two-year period of growth.
Emap meanwhile, announced a bold move into the relatively uncharted territory of commercial talk radio with City Talk. The station’s launch is imminent, and many will be watching, guinea-pig like, to see if the format is a success. Indeed, Emap believes it’s sitting on a £20m goldmine as it looks to get blue-chip businesses advertising on its new station.
Now, everyone in Liverpool seems to be looking to the future. As part of the 08 celebrations, the city will play host to Design Show Liverpool, a joint venture between Momentus and Design Initiative.
The Design Show will run from 19-22 June and has already received 400 applications from potential exhibitors, with the rest of the month still left for entries.
“There’s a really good energy in Liverpool,” says Elderkin. “There’s a lot of activity across the design, creative and communications sectors and through events like The Design Show we’re trying to promote that,” she adds.
Also keeping Elderkin and Design Initative busy is the Futures project. Futures is Merseyside’s membership network for design professionals, which sports 50 member businesses and, says Elderkin, represents a huge pool of talent for the marketing and communications industry to tap into.
Developments are underway to grow Futures in 2008, hosting seminars from marketing industry professionals – Love’s Alistair Sim a recent participant – and to make the project more customer-facing to help scoop more contracts for its members.
Elderkin says that Futures, grouping members together as a network, is a way of getting the city’s talent noticed through strength in numbers.
But with so many eyes on Liverpool as the Capital of Culture, the city’s creative talent already has the best possible showcase. For Liverpool’s marketing, design and media folk, the Capital of Culture event represents the party to be seen at this year.