Phil Redmond CBE – Captain of Culture – Liverpool

Segueing neatly from the Museums Association Conference in Liverpool (Mon – Wed) to the Public Libraries Association Conference in Liverpool (Wed to Fri) a little further up the Mersey I was slightly dismayed to see Phil Redmond was again the keynote speaker.  Twice in 24 hours could be too much of a good thing.

I need not have worried.  Phil, Deputy Chair & Creative Director, Liverpool Culture Company, in the year of Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008 is an interesting, informative and accomplished speaker.  He spoke both times without notes and gave two quite different presentations using a common theme.  He made much of the fact that Liverpool and its wealth of cultural and far reaching world changing history had made him what he is today.  Today he spoke eloquently about how access to libraries after work progressed him, just a bloke from Huyton, from almost failed comprehensive boy to quantity surveyor, media entrepreneur, Professor and more. (After work access he wryly commented is probably less feasible in this age of 24/7 availability of other things).

Liverpool was founded on commerce, 10.5 miles of docks were built in 60 years to conquer trade. Some sniff at the fact that Liverpool’s early sons were the instigators of the slave trade, but conversely were also the early abolitionists.  Something he advised us we could explore in depth at the excellent International Slavery Museum part of the National Museums Liverpool group.  Interestingly the successful conquering of the world by trade has left a wonderful legacy of philanthropy and thus a heritage of museums, galleries and libraries that punch above their weight.  Commerce led to philanthropy, which in turn created now culture.   Now culture is more likely to drive commerce.  (The wheel is turning?)

It was a measure of how warm and inclusive Liverpool is, he told us, that as part of this year of culture a Beatles tribute band from Manchester could sell out several nights in a row at the fabulous new Arena and BT convention centre. It only took 25 years from first thinking about it to build it!  Worth the wait.  He is rightly proud that Liverpool is now the third most visited city in the UK after London and Edinburgh.

The week isn’t over yet and both conferences are still going strong. I am confident that many library and museum folk will take away  excellent insights and tips on what can be done for the future of our cultural heritage based on what they have learned here.

Watch this space for more on culture, museums and libraries in Liverpool.


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