“Why should you never swerve your car to hit a Scouser on a bike…?” This is the beginning of a joke about Liverpool that I heard in the pub last week. I’ll tell you the punchIine shortly, but needless to say it is not complimentary of the city. Incidentally the joker had never actually been to the city but it seems that here in Britain it is fair game to poke fun at Liverpool and the city still takes a good verbal bashing from the peoples of other areas of England. So why was Liverpool named European capital of culture as recently as 2008? What is the culture of Liverpool? And what on earth is a Scouser?
As a major port, Liverpool boomed during the industrial revolution from international trade and immigration from Ireland. Lobscouse was the regional dish, a hearty Lamb Stew that was eaten by the Sailors and shipbuilders after a long day out in the cold dockyards and it is from this that the colloquial name for Liverpudlian’s (people from Liverpool) is derived, Scouser and the name of the accent, Scouse. By the 1980’s however the city’s heavy industries fell in to decline and in 1981 an area of Liverpool called Toxteth was the scene for some of the worst riots in England. For many Brits, it is from this era that Liverpool and Scousers still hold their reputations, hence the jokes and stereotypes suggesting that Liverpool is high on crime and with many deprived areas.
So why was Liverpool named European Capital of Culture? Well, Liverpool has bounced back from its eighties lows. Aesthetically, Liverpool has always been very appealing; it is home to a number of iconic landmarks, as the only city in Europe with not one, but two Christian cathedrals, an elegant 18th century town hall and the stunning riverside Liver Buildings. But in recent years this has only improved with the redevelopment of the cosmopolitan Albert Docks area, now home to trendy bars, boutique shops and popular museums and the addition of the “Liverpool One” commercial centre which offers some of the best shopping in the North of England.
But surely “culture” really lies within the people of a city and any city that has experienced the turbulent history that Liverpool has must have bundles of character. In fact Liverpool has given birth to a hugely disproportionate number of Britain‘s best-loved actors, comics and TV personalities not to mention a few singer/songwriters that you may have heard of: John, Paul, George and Ringo.
The Beatles, of course hailed from Liverpool and catapulted the city into the international Limelight with their Mersey Beat and Pop/Rock sounds. They were inspired by the city, it’s people and their humble surroundings such as Penny Lane, a quiet suburban street, and Strawberry Field, a local city orphanage. Indeed even the Cavern Club where the Beatles first performed together remains unassuming and fairly low-key. Today you will see a number of sculptures all over the city such as those of the Beatles themselves, the un-missable Yellow Submarine at Liverpool Airport and the, rather fittingly, little known statue of Eleanor Rigby sat alone on a bench tucked away on a quiet side street.
So if culture is about people then it is little wonder that Liverpool won city of culture in 2008; Scousers, are loyal and humble, abundant in personality and with unrivalled sense of humour even in hard times. So, the joke I heard goes: “You should never Swerve your car to hit a Scouser because the chances are that the bike is yours…”. However in reality this is an outdated view of this magnificent city – if you did knock a Scouser off his bike today he would probably get up, dust himself off, check your car wasn’t damaged and then offer to buy you a pint in the pub down the road. And if you don’t believe me, why not visit yourself!
Check out our blog from 2012 – 50 years of the Beatles.