As a Drama & Creative Writing (soon-to-be) Graduate, I can’t help but feel people are just eagerly waiting for you to renounce your degree and denounce the arts altogether. As graduation dawns ever closer, more and more people seem to question you on the doom of your impending ‘future’:
“Do you know what you want to do with your life?”
Some of you will know the fallout of doing an arts related degree, when the questions are even more pervasive, if not downright cheeky, and usually asked by smarmy uncles at family parties:
“Are you sure you want to go down that route?” Why not get a nice graduate job at a bank?”
No. I am not in 27k worth of debt just to throw in the towel and get a ‘nice’, ‘safe’ or ‘proper’ job. I want to make a living in the field that I’ve dedicated three years of my life to.
The phrase ‘Liverpool Arts’ seems like an oxymoron at first. After all, tell anyone you want to make it within theatre in Liverpool and, however politely they may say it, all their answers seem to merge into the same response:
“Wouldn’t you be better moving to London for that?”
The question I ask back is simply “Why?”
The Liverpool arts scene is thriving. This isn’t a new development. The city has always been synonymous with culture. Even though we roll our eyes anytime someone mentions it, the city won European capital of culture back in 2008. The idea that Liverpool has nothing to offer when it comes to culture is ridiculous. The Young Everyman and Playhouse offer specific courses for theatre-makers to learn their craft; most of which are free. The Under 27 and Above Club (Soon to be Liverpool Arts Society) are helping likeminded creatives meet up with each other and letting them know that there is a support network to create art within Liverpool. The stage is there, TAKE IT!
A week ago, I seen the Under 27 and Above Club pose a question to their followers over Twitter: “Do you think Liverpool could cope with a similar festival to the Edinburgh Fringe?” This included a poll with either a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. As of the last time I checked, 95% had said Yes. Clearly there is a demand for a festival celebrating all Liverpool has to offer in terms of their culture. But the next question is, how do we achieve this? In my opinion, we need to invest in Liverpool’s cultural economy. We need to go out there and see all Liverpool has to offer. The Under 27 and Above Club is not just there to help further your own needs, it’s to help everyone. To get the support that we need, we need to be willing to give it back in kind.
For this festival to work, we have to prove how necessary it is. Liverpool already has a few festivals under its belt, LIMF (Liverpool International Music Festival), Liverpool Food & Drink Festival and Sound City to name but a few. However, these all happen in big outdoor spaces or stadiums. Furthermore, these all happen outside of the city, the city centre itself does not reap the economic benefits because everyone is so far out. There is no sense of mixing with Liverpool’s culture. The charm of the Edinburgh Fringe is the festival happens right in the nucleus of the city and the amount of work that happens outside of the expected venues: in the bars, pubs and street corners. Some may ask how can Liverpool accommodate such a thing? Has it been done before? Yes it has, for sixteen years in fact:
Liverpool Writing on the Wall (WoW) Festival (http://festival.writingonthewall.org.uk) is a literary festival based in our wonderful city. From the 1st to the 28th of May different events happen throughout the city, in venues such as The Black-E, Bluecoat, The Casa, Leaf Tea, Siren Café, District 61, to name but a few. This is a real mixed bag of literary talent with something for everyone, whether your interests are theatre, film, television, poetry, fiction, or anything in-between. There is even the chance to get published if that sort of thing floats your boat, with the festival running two competitions:
Events in particular that grabbed my eye are Hip Hop Shakespeare, The collected works of Dinesh Allirajah and Gender in the 21st Century. Before you sneer at the thought of ‘Hip-Hip Shakespeare’ and think to yourself people should just leave the bard well enough alone, have a look at this:
It’s a workshop led to examine rhyme and rhythm within Shakespeare through the use of hip hop, not some out-of-touch hack trying to make Shakespeare more ‘down with the kids’. Dinesh Allirajah was a poetry tutor at my University, he sadly passed away last year. Although never having been taught by the man, I had the pleasure of seeing one of his readings and he was as stunning a performer as he was a presence. This event is sure to be as poignant as it is stimulating. Finally, Gender in the 21st Century a topic that I have seen increasingly discussed recently and what it means to be ‘Transgender’. Led by Juno Dawson, formerly James, and The Vivienne, Liverpool’s very own UK Ambassador for RuPaul’s Drag Race, discuss gender identity in the 21st Century and ask the question: mainstream or minority?
What I am essentially trying to say is, if you want more investment in the arts in Liverpool, do the investing yourself. You will see the benefits. Show people that festivals such as Writing on the Wall are popular and successful. You will have more sway when you say Liverpool should have a fringe theatre festival. If we the ball rolling and our momentum will carry us on to a point where people finally stop saying “There’s nothing going on in Liverpool.” There is. And there is so much more to come.