Back in the office after the trip to Liverpool. And what a trip it was! I got up there on time to make sure the cars were there, before the President and his entourage arrived. we drove to Liverpool and once we had all checked in and put our stuff in our rooms, a few of us headed down to Albert Dock. it was about 10.30 by this time, but still worth it – the regeneration that has gone on there is amazing. Still, it was quite a long walk, particularly in heels!
The next morning we headed over to the university for the honorary graduation ceremony. There was a journalist from the Liverpool Post and the Europe by Satellite team, so they got all the preparations. There was all the usual pomp of a graduation ceremony – in fact it was his honorary degree but also the graduation of the Masters and BA students from the Department of Social and Environmental Studies, so loads of politics students. After the ceremony was over, we walked to the Metropolitan (Catholic) cathedral and there were quite a few students doing their graduation photos over there – several came up and asked to have their picture taken with the President and one guys mother ran down the street to get him to sign the graduation book, saying how pleased the guy had been to have the President there for his graduation. Really nice to see people being so positive.
Once the ceremony was over the day got REALLY fun. First we headed off to the Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge for a very nice lunch. The day’s other honorary graduand was there, so I can now say that I have had lunch with Elvis Costello and Diana Krall! After lunch we headed down to the Liverpool Tate, where we were met by the Gallery’s Director and various luminaries from Liverpool’s City of Culture including Phil Redmond! We visited the Klimt Exhibition and then some of the 20th Century Art collection. All very impressive. I did lots of PR for Lewis’s book and in fact Phil Redmond had already bought it on the recommendation of the Chairman of the North West Arts Council, so Lewis has some heavyweight fans! After a cup of tea and a biscuit at the gallery while the President talked to the city leaders about the renaissance of Liverpool (and the role played by EU funding!), we did a short press point outside, then back in the cars and off to the airport. It was a great day all round. What really impressed me, and the President I think, was the way that the whole city has embraced the City of Culture – there was even a City of Culture prayer in the Cathedral! I was talking to the local media people and they were saying that the biggest thing it has done is made people elsewhere in the UK appreciate what Liverpool has to offer, and get beyond the “jolly scouser” or “scally” stereotypes. I guess it shows the link between culture and economic development – that there’s more to doing these thigns than pleasing the elite – it actually brings something to a city or region. Hopefully we can get that message through to some of the people in Brussels as well!