You know you’re getting on a bit when you don’t just remember a place, but its many past lives. Oh, such-and-such is re-opening again, you’ll mutter in passing. You remember it when it was X, and Y, and maybe even Z before that. There’s a certain pride in knowing you’ve got the years under your belt to know what you’re talking about, yet it’s twinned with the realisation it might all be downhill from here.
Case in point; it’ll be a long time before calling the old Neptune the Epstein Theatre seems like a normal thing to do. Then again, there’ll be scores of people from here on in who will never know it was ever anything else.
Places close and their eras become benchmark periods in Liverpool cultural history. Korova is likely to be the place us of a certain age will be telling their children we whooped it up in our (relative) youth; the kids will be agog we knew somewhere Arctic Monkeys went, and some entrepreneurial spark will reopen a place with the same name on a nearby site in 2028, Cavern and Eric’s style.
But 2011 has been an especially bumpy ride for city venues. Lots of closures, some shockingly unexpected; some new additions; and some interesting developments on the horizon. Que sera, sera, suppose, in this on-going ‘current climate’. But it’s odd that the places that have shut — and I could be wrong — seemed weighted with some sad sense of closure, of real changing times. Everything has its time and place, but I’m not sure that could really be said about the likes of A Foundation, or CUC, that were barely getting warmed up before the dough ran out. Losing Ceri Hand’s gallery to London was also a worry – would it be too dramatic to fear an 80s-style creative brain drain to the capital as times get tighter?
I remember gigs in the now-shut Masque as part of the programmes of exciting festivals that no longer exist. The Jacaranda, when it was cool purely because it was one of the only bars in town we knew when we started clubbing in the 90s. Some of the fantastical events staged in the A Foundation, exuding a kind of magic, imagination and edge, twinned with that amazing dreamlike quality the labyrinthine warehouse emanated was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
The sadly doomed-to-fail CUC will live on in my heart for many reasons but my favourite was meeting Holly Woodlawn in the crypt there, the star of Andy Warhol’s Trash, and legendary “and then he was a she” subject of Walk on the Wildside lyrical immortality. Talk about delivering the goods. She was probably the first transgender person I’d interviewed, and unsure as what she’d preferred to be called on a second mention, I hoped it wasn’t a faux pas to ask and make sure.
Never one to stick to the script, she gave one of the most fabulous American showbiz-y quotes you’d ever have the privilege of jotting down. “Oh,” she began. “I used to say, ‘if I’m wearing pants, call me a ‘he’. If I’m wearing a dress – CALL ME A LIMOUSINE!” I felt like Russell Harty.
At least the Everyman will be coming back (right), and its closure and rebuild are being handled with a devotion and admirable sensitivity we seldom, if ever have the liberty of being involved in in this city.
Places we love and lose stay dear to us, and especially when we’re young they become more than bricks and mortar but things that give us a little bit of a sense of self. Then you move into the next phase, and such is life. When these spaces reopen, with new names under new management as they invariably will, could any revival ever hold the same kind of fascination to compare with those heady days of discovery?
Maybe – like that final realisation that you don’t want to contaminate as much as the sole of your shoe by stepping into the ladies’ toilet at the Krazy House anymore, after five years of hovering over the seat, and a previous five of being so drunk in there you failed to notice the standards of hygiene in the first place – it’s all a part of growing up.
The reigns of the Jac, the Masque and the Greenland Street venues were all crammed with exciting and memorable times, and times move on. Without sounding like too much of a glib and obvious statement to conclude, here’s hoping that things yet to come will have the power and imagination to bring joy and inspire everyone as much their predecessors did. Happy new year.
Vicky is a journalist and PR, former culture reporter and acting arts editor for the Liverpool Daily Post, now running theatre website madeup.lv, and figuring out how to run an arts festival as part of the Independents Biennial team.
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