Well, finally, life seems to be returning to normal. That dusty shelf in the Anfield trophy room is about to be wiped down ready to receive the long overdue silverware and, no doubt, the bust of Herr Klopp is being cast, yet, amongst them all will be a reminder, reinforced by HKs’ own open letter to Echo readers that around the special ones, are the quiet ones.
While Lennon & McCartney pushed our nostalgia and imaginations, it was left to the quiet Beatle, Harrison, to inject a dose of Scouse pragmatism. Reminding us that All Things Must Pass. Time moves on, things change, perspectives alter.
It is an irony often missed that during Liverpool’s time of both football and musical dominance, it was a time of decline. As the city’s fortunes slipped, a victim of geography and changing technology, it seemed as though the creative energy of its people was channelled toward its music and football, that too fuelled by an expanding media that paradoxically shrunk the world.
It was no longer just the port that provided a global gateway, imported and exported new ideas, influences and opportunities. Every child growing up in the city in the 1960s, 70s and 80s saw live images from New York, Madrid, Los Angeles or Rome, and was introduced to the idea of travelling for short breaks, as well as global fame on either a football pitch or stage. In short, while deprivation was rife at home, there was a bigger world beyond. Everyone could go down to the shores of the river and do what their ancestors did, and look out to the world.
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So, perhaps then, with that elusive trophy coming home at a time when we are slowly emerging from lockdown, it is an opportunity to revisit the region’s great cultural history and look at how we stimulate another wave of creativity to send round the world. Again technology will play its part, as in the new media age streaming removes both geographical and social distancing restrictions. And brings yet another paradox. A new global audience relying less on particular venues.
Gigabytes can replace gig-goers, as it is the content that is the attraction not, actually, the venue. Yes, the live experience is a part of it, but only attached to an excuse to do something with friends. That can be achieved round a BBQ or picnic dinner in a socially distanced bubble. True, real aficionados will always want to immerse themselves in the live event, but that begs the question as to why most big concerts and festivals have to erect large screens? For those at the back?
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Another thing to consider post-lockdown is why we have concert halls, theatres, galleries and museums in the first place. Not really so that the masses can enjoy access, as most are so small and with repeating audiences that they become, almost inevitably, the preserve of the privileged few, but mainly as a consequence of changing technology. From someone painting on a cave wall, perhaps asking, can you guess what it is yet, to travelling troubadours seeking food and lodging in return for their performing skills, to buildings that allowed greater and greater special effects, as well as higher returns per performance, to televised concerts, it has been technology that has brought the arts to the masses.
As we emerge blinking into a new plexiglass shaped world, one that will have the spectre of the virus stalking every potential interaction, we need to start thinking seriously about how we not just adapt to a new normal, but how we create it. The pandemic has created a new audience of tik-toking, zooming house party goers. We are in the streaming age now, so it is time to look at our cultural venues as Hollywood looks at its production studios: as the creative factories that churn out product for later distribution
Of course, as television knows, a live audience brings both vibrancy and creative energy to a performance and some venues will still be able to offer socially distanced live experiences, but with the aim of reaching technologically-distanced viewers and also, perhaps, recouping greater global revenues. Trials are underway locally, but The Old Vic in London is already into streaming. 1,000 tickets at up to £65. Imagine ramping that up to a Sky Sports level.
In doing that, remember that neither LFC or The Beatles became global brands by playing to the same crowd week-in and week-out in Liverpool. Nor going on the road to individual venues. It was the global media that built and projected their success.
We owe it to every child now facing a school regime of masks, social bubbles, hand scrubbing and an uncertain future that life will not always be like this. There will be hope.
And, with the summer approaching perhaps it is time to follow another Beatles coda and Come Together. To figure out how we continue to nurture, produce and project our culture into the streaming world ahead of us. How we not only re-purpose our existing cultural venues, perhaps pooling resources and sharing access, but also find a Nightingale response. Back to the days of wandering storytellers and troubadours and find spaces and places large enough to host drama, concerts and exhibitions.
Or, if the audience can’t or won’t travel, perhaps turn once again to technology and take the culture to them. A cultural caravan of music, dance, drama, poetry and performance. It could be anything from a few trucks in a field to a large circus tent, although, for sustainability, I would point everyone toward the temporary arena that is erected every August for the Edinburgh Tattoo. Seating nearly 9,000, with toilets and free ponchos in the rain, it offers a model for a safe outdoor and bespoke, blue toothed, wified, silent-discoed and socially-distanced environment that could prove a lifeline for our theatre and arts practitioners.
Above all, for the Class of 2020, we need to keep reminding them that, like that Premier League drought, All Things Must Pass. There will be a better future to look forward to.