From the archives 2004- Liverpool

Liverpool River Festival

Liverpool River Festival

This has been a hectic few months by Liverpool standards. On September 18th the port city’s biennial exhibition of contemporary art opened at several venues, the biggest show of its kind that Britain has ever seen.

Two months ago UNESCO declared a big chunk of the city to be a World Heritage site and declared Liverpool “the supreme example of a commercial port of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries”.

The area covered includes the architecture of the Waterfront, commercial and cultural districts including an area of warehouses, Pier Head and the historic docks.

That is a coup. Liverpool is only the second English city after Bath to get this honour. It has world-heritage status while Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and any part of London does not.

UNESCO have helped remind visitors, including the hundreds of thousands who come from Ireland, that Liverpool’s older heritage is just as interesting as the new Beatles memorabilia.

When you have toured the Cavern and the classy bars, you can turn to the neo-classical Walker Art Gallery, with its Corinthian columns and exceptional collection of high Victorian art or the Anglican cathedral, which celebrates its centenary this year, with its shimmering west window by Carl Edwards.

Even the classy modernist Catholic cathedral, unflatteringly nicknamed Paddy’s wigwam, enhances the city’s architectural heritage. The magnificent town hall was designed by John Wood and James Wyatt, two of Britain’s greatest 18th-century architects.

Te city also has a rich sporting heritage with rival football clubs Liverpool and Everton. Aintree racecourse, host to the Grand National. There are plans for a GBP10.5m cruise terminal, to be completed by 2005.

Three years after Cork becomes European capital of culture, Liverpool gets its turn in 2008 to showcase all the advantages that history, geography and generous dollops of public funds have given it.

As well as new museums and art galleries, the programme for 2008 includes an astronomy festival, arts events and jamborees to mark links with China and Africa since slave days.

All that should bring in, the city estimates, 1.7m extra visitors, 12,000 jobs and Stg2bn (Eu2,9 bn) in  investment. In the meantime, Liverpool’s aim is to encourage a more dynamic city centre. Get there early, because you get the sense that the party is really about to start.

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