City Of Cultcha Revizzed

Monday, December 7, 2009 16:47 | Filed in Books, Branding, Life, Oddities

Back in the day, when I was working for a Local Authority, I was very keen on NewcastleGateshead winning the bid to be City of Culture 2008. In some respects, I can already imagine the jaws dropping at the idea Newcastle and Gateshead are paragons of culture, but let’s face it, I remember Glasgow being city of culture, and since it was Liverpool what won it, I think we were firm contenders.

But — if the people from Glasgow and Liverpool will bear with me just a moment — that’s because we’ve all been brainwashed into mindlessly accepting that places outside London don’t do “culture”. It’s not all flat caps, whippets, curly perms and deep fried mars bars north of Watford, you know.

The key thing to remember is that culture isn’t just what Brian Sewell says it is. It doesn’t have to be trendy; it doesn’t particularly have to be modern, but it should look to entertain and inform, rather than just being something utilitarian. For example, the BALTIC art gallery on Tyneside may fit the Sewell culture definition of ‘culture’ or ‘art’ — indeed he famously claimed that it was too good to waste on Northerners, but that’s his definition (and somewhat bigoted viewpoint).

My definition would also include things like the Millenium Bridge, the Angel of the North, St Mary’s Visitors Centre which provides a lot of information about the history of Gateshead. History. Museums. Art Galleries. Learning. Theatre. Film. Things to see and do that don’t just involve shopping. That’s culture.

So anyway, at the time I was local-authority employed, I was very keen on the idea that NewcastleGateshead would win the bid: I’ve got a fierce pride in the region, as I think it’s got a lot to be proud of (not that Liverpool, Bristol and the other bidders don’t have, but I’m not from there, so I’m biased). And I was invited to attend an event as one of the representatives of my department to celebrate, should NewcastleGateshead win the bid.

Unfortunately, it went to Liverpool and so as well as finding that the area of which I was so proud had lost out in the chance to become European City of Culture 2008, I was also done out of a free party. Now that’s a double blow by anyone’s standards.

To be honest, I don’t really know much about what Liverpool did to celebrate being City of Culture: I know there was stuff on, various Scouse bloggers (scloggers?) wrote about it, and I read quite a bit of it. But that was nearly two years ago, and not much of it fired my imagination, possibly partly ‘cos I was still in a huff about the party I was conned out of.

caged superlambanana

But there was one thing which caught my imagination. The superlambananas. Basically, a series of sculptures, shaped — as you may indeed have guessed — somewhat like a cross between a lamb and a banana. Entirely ridiculous, they have no utility value whatsoever beyond being something odd and quirky to look at. And thus for my mind, a fitting way for Liverpool to celebrate its City of Culture status. (Photo credit “Haversack”)

There’s quite a variety of stuff tagged superlambanana on flickr, and Lady Bracknell’s editor chronicled them somewhat on her blog.

Yes, interesting, quirky: I’m sure you agree. However, you’re probably wondering what the relevance to something that happened in the middle of last year in a different city is as we’re approaching the end of this year. And it’s simple. I just received a copy of the book today, so that has very much reminded me of the whole thing and I’m having fun flicking through the pictures.

Also it gives me the opportunity to thank Lady Bracknell’s editor for sending me the copy that I won in a competition on her website. I am delighted to own such a work representing as it does the best of Britain today: things done simply because they are quirky and fun, despite it being plainly obvious that they do not have any purpose. So thanks very much Lady B.

But by my reckoning, Liverpool still owes me a free party…

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4 Comments to City Of Cultcha Revizzed

  1. Lady Bracknell's Editor says:

    December 7th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Extremely good of you not to have made much of the intolerable delay, I reckon. Yes, it really DOES take me that long to get parcels wrapped and posted, I’m afraid.

    Still, I’m very glad it’s arrived :-)

  2. Anthony says:

    December 8th, 2009 at 9:51 am

    You should come down one day. Liverpool has improved vastly in the last 3 years or so.

    It used to be a funny city. Quite small due to a whacking big river cutting the CBD (Geography A level in full effect) in half. The areas of the city were a bit disjointed and disparate. It was a bit grimy and dishevelled. It also missed some key facilities.

    Then Capital of Culture was announced, and money was poured in. The city had a focus. The massive Liverpool One shopping palace has tied the river to the rest of the city. Shops have been moved around so things are better arranged (high street in Liverpool One, more interesting boutique shops grouped together around Bold Street. We’ve finally got a proper arena to. And some much needed decent hotels.

    It’s finally a city that matches the pride of it’s people, and it’s kept better because of it.

    Some of the changes would have happened regardless off CoC, but it did give the city a kick up the arse to get everything done at once!

    The Superlambbananas were great. I always liked the original, even when it was unlovingly shunted around the city for 10 years.

    This year we have penguins dotted about the city. And a big wheel. I haven’t been to see them yet, but I hear they’re quite cool. (arf)

    But yeah you should come one day, I can honestly recommend as a great place to visit these days.

    (I should really blog on my own site rather than yours…)

  3. says:

    August 30th, 2011 at 10:21 pm


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  4. Aquiles says:

    September 3rd, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Si, I’ve added your name to Uniform’s Christmas card database, so fear not, you will not be fogtorten this year.Just joking, thanks for the blog mention and I owe you a beer and a big fat slice of my famous chocolate Guinness cake.

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