Real Time Short Stories

Posts Tagged ‘liverpool university press

Wednesday 13th July sees the launch of the book, Liverpool: City of Radicals, edited by Professor John Belchem of Liverpool University, and Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director of the Bluecoat Arts Centre, published by Liverpool University Press. It’s a collection of essays exploring the city of Liverpool’s radical engagement with all aspects of political and cultural life over the last hundred years. My small contribution is to the final chapter, which sounds out various commentators about the role radicalism will play in the city’s future.

The book is part of a year-long programme of activities marking the centenary of three notable moments which points to the rambunctious personality of my adopted home town. The 1911 Transport Strike was so potent, the serving Home Secretary and future “Greatest ever Briton” poll-winner, Winston Churchill, sent in troops and ordered warships into the Mersey Estuary. The gallery walls at The Bluecoat played host to Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne, alongside local artists. July 1911 saw the opening of The Liver Building – an event that will be celebrated with the opening of the new Museum of Liverpool, and another Real Time Short Stories cameo appearance.

Here in the UK, we don’t have to look back one hundred years or necessarily restrict ourselves to the boundaries of Liverpool to find a sequence of seismic moments in our politics and culture. The sense of a curtain having been pulled back to reveal a tawdry mechanism is palpable is every expression of righteous revulsion and hypocritical cant that has been flying around the country. The satirist gripe about George W Bush’s Presidency was that he was so outlandishly awful, reality beat satire to the ludicrous punch every time. This week’s scenarios – of grieving families brutalised to fuel a news cycle, police cover-ups and politicians openly admitting to having been, as the phrase has it, pussy-whipped by the Murdoch empire over the last three decades – seem to have outstripped the conspiracy theorists. The extent to whether this is a sleepwalking kind of corruption that has just been allowed to build up or a high-octane level of corruption, to make the Borgias look like The Bachelors, will, we assume, become clearer over the coming weeks, days, hours.

The Bachelors

The Borgias

Meanwhile, the Real Time we try to capture in our writing goes through changes, in which enduring certainties become fragile and perhaps radical ideas that have been watered down or put away begin to resurface. It has been a jolt this week to hear a protest song by Billy Bragg, whose punk-tinged socialist folk anthems soundtracked my mid-1980s, and know that it was entirely topical:

And this brings us back to Liverpool. “The Scousers never buy The Sun” is a terrific pumped fist of a line and it’s certainly wading in a general truth, though it’s by no means immersed in it. The consumer boycott of The Sun and the late News Of The World in Liverpool, since those papers’ coverage of the Hillsbrough disaster of 1989, has been signficant enough to disturb the publishers ever since. However, there has been a certain amount of Scouse sanctimony about the rest of the country catching up with what we up here have known since 1989. The numbers involved would suggest that this is nit-picking but it is manifestly not the case that The Sun is never bought in Liverpool. This report from 2005 points to an increase in sales of the paper linked, with the symbolism dial turned up to 11, to the success of Liverpool FC, the distorted reporting of whose fans had led to the boycott.

This detail may not dent the sentiment of Bragg’s song, nor have immense bearing on either the unfolding events of all this paper talk or on the reputation Liverpool has earned for radicalism. It does, though, tell us something about the culture of dissent and that in turn should alert writers. Perhaps it tells us that the truth we’d like to believe is more potent than the truth that actually exists. Perhaps it tells us that when we have civic celebrations of radicalism, “radicalism” has no more meaning than “balloons”. Perhaps it indicates than there’s a difference between having an opinion and adopting a stance, between independence of mind and wearing a badge saying, “Free Thinker”.

What is beginning to seem clear is that this is one of those public moments that fix themselves within a writer’s private world. The writer, therefore, can do no other than absorb it all, and to peer into the cracks, to occupy a space between official, idealised and experienced realities in order to find what needs to be told.

Quick sandwich board moment to flag you over to my website, which has been slimmed down to act as a general portal to me on the web. Plenty still there so have a look!

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