This is not the time for awards, Liverpool. And yes, that includes Livercool. Whatever skills Downtown Liverpool possesses, it’s not names, is it? Livercool Awards and Sexy Networking are the sort of names your intern comes up with and someone has to gently remind him that, if he wants a job in marketing, he’s gonna have to stop looking at MTV Cribs for inspiration. Because, maybe one day, someone from the real world might come to these awards (that’s not MTV’s Real World, by the way) and sort of feel sorry, awkward and embarrassed for us.

No, Liverpool, this is a time to return our test papers for them to be stamped: could do better.

I type this from a Baltic triangle studio without serviceable broadband – the digital and creative hub that’s obviously still off limits to Joe Anderson’s sat-nav (anyone seen him around these parts recently?) Where three of our friends’ businesses have either collapsed or drastically downsized in the past few months – yet some are still being promoted by Liverpool Council as city success stories, to try and muster up stories for next year’s IFB.

Yes there are people doing well. But that’s a distraction to the real story – and the real story really doesn’t require the loan of a red carpet from Bogans.

I type this three months after we’d taken a look at the Visit Liverpool website, and told our Cabinet Member for Culture and Tourism how bad it was: filled with errors, restaurant entries written by the restaurants themselves (which is, er, against Visit England guidelines: regional tourism websites should be impartial), only for us to be told that Wendy hadn’t actually ever looked at the site. It’s not her job.

It might not be. But, then, it’s not ours either. But have a look at this listing for the London Carriage Works. And count the mistakes. There are plenty more entries as bad, or worse, than this (many are just out and out advertorials, with Red Hot Buffet getting better treatment than LCW). Hope Street Hotel deserves better. Liverpool deserves better.

The site’s still a shitstorm. But Wendy’s been promoted, and we’re still waiting for someone to get back to us. Ah well, there’s another job we won’t get. It’ll probably go to a website that can’t write anything other than funding application forms.

Look, I know the good people from LEP are under the kosh – but if the two of us can make a website in our spare time, I’m sure an entire team can knock something up that doesn’t look like a sixth form project.

Take a look at Manchester, Bristol, heck, even Kent – sites that do their citizens proud, and use English like a native – and you sort of weep that you’re still here. Well, I do. This is the city that failed in its bid to get superfast broadband, failed to get millions for cycle lanes, and failed to get HS2. And the winner is?

I type this after the Liverpool Music Awards wins some sort of trophy. Some might think I have a personal vendetta against its award winning creator. I don’t. I have an issue with it claiming £35,000£23,000 from our cash-strapped Council to stage a red carpet show (Joe Anderson’s call – taken over the heads of Culture Liverpool). The sort of event that attracts ‘businessmen’, fresh out of prison, to our friend’s table: people who spend the night trying to recruit new staff ‘without a prison record’.

Is that the best use of public funding? How many new businesses could have benefitted from even a £1,000 boost to, say, open a shop to compete with Geraud’s soon-to-be-released shanty town?

We need to shout about ourselves, not to ourselves. We need to get Natalie McCool in front of the playlist panel for Radio 2: not playing for Margi Clarke and assorted ex members of Frankie Goes To Hollywood over Coq au van at St George’s Hall. And that, I’m afraid, requires a deeper kind of thinking.

Because awards just aren’t a clever idea – apart from sucking up funding, they’ve done nothing for this city.

What if all the money generated by the Downtown Awards, the Juice FM awards, the Liverpool Lifestyle Awards and the rest of the sorry lot was focussed on getting the city to be really award-winning? What if every business that paid hundreds of quid for a table and a bad goodie bag ploughed it into a new kind of event: an expo to give the city’s struggling talent a real chance to shine?

It’ll never happen, because – as I’ve written before – the awards shows are a revenue-generating extension for the event’s organisers. Just as those who sign up for the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival do awfully well at the Liverpool Food and Drink Awards (hosted by the same events company.)

But imagine this:

Next year, we don’t hold a single award show. Instead, we work together – we bury our mealy mouthed differences, we stop working in silos (and I stopped having a dig at Downtown Liverpool), and we start hatching a plan. The people that run these awards are shrewd business people, and the city needs them. They know how to part people with cash. And the city needs that, too.

So why aren’t they coming up with something fucking creative instead of endlessly feeding back validation to their members? How can that ever elevate us beyond the mediocre?

Can we live for a year without Gary Millar live-tweeting who the Marketing Comms Personality of the Year is? Or who the Property Personality of the Year is (Signature Living, of course. Not those gangsters who run those other places). I know I can.

I’d say we all have a duty – right now – not to backslap our mates and get pissed on thin Prosecco, not to bar our competitors from our festivals because they tweeted something nasty (that probably hit home) once. Not to fawn and play safe – but to engage with our critics, to take a long, hard look at ourselves, and to admit it: we’re none of us as good as we could be. We could all benefit from a little more constructive criticism far more than we could a cheap resin award.

And let’s face it, Dave from (the great) Apposing really doesn’t need any more awards. He’s doing fine. Why don’t we see if we can get some more like him, eh?

We know, from the explorations we’ve done for SevenStreets and Almanac, that there is a complete parallel city to the usual suspects sitting on those chairs draped in what look like shrouds with a sash at the awards ceremonies. There are people doing amazing world class, mind-bogglingly brilliant work – some will be in the next issue, actually.

But they refuse to play the air-kissing game. Instead, they’re engaging with the world: you know, the one we used to reach out to – and making Liverpool a place that really is cool. Yeah, we know, obviously not as cool as Downtown’s Financial Advisor of the year. Just cool in the way that saving thousands of babies’ lives in sub-Saharan Africa is cool, or the way that finding out what the Universe is made of is cool (and, in doing so, discovering a new way to treat cancer). That sort of cool.

If we drop the awards, commit to a series of cross-party talks next year, work together, wean ourselves off the circle-jerk congratulatory piss-ups, it’s entirely possible that in a couple of years we might actually start seeing some new names on awards lists. And, perish the thought, they might actually be for awards ceremonies (whisper it) not actually held in Liverpool.

57 Responses to “Why Liverpool Doesn’t Deserve An Awards Show”

  1. asenseofplace

    Well said David. I won’t even pay to get into the likes of the Food Festival, never mind take part in it. And I know from my own ranting that many in the ‘parallel city’ have had more than enough of all this self-seeking gentrification that’s doing Liverpool no good whatsoever. A show of being busy and extraordinary isn’t the same thing as being busy and extraordinary. It just looks good for the next funding application and the next round of crawling to corporate sponsors so you can limp on for yet one more year

  2. Stephanie

    Completely agree with all of this, I’ve had the misfortune of attending these backslapping events in the past and it’s less about celebrating any talent and more about rewarding the biggest donation/client of the event organisers.

    Everyone loves a party and a reason to celebrate but meaningless circle jerks aren’t really achieving much positive.

    And sexy networking is such a misnomer.

  3. I’ve been saying it for a while, Liverpool is far too insular, reminds me of the local shop for local people from league of gentleman. It’s down to this I believe the talent drain to the likes of Manchester, Leeds and London exists.

    If the “establishment” is not going to do the things discussed here, then we should, there are a number of great businesses in this city, if we get together we can make things happen, positive things that bring real outside attention to this city and it’s businesses.

  4. I don’t really care if businesses want to throw some of their marketing budget at awards ceremonies like the Food & Drink awards, it’s just another form of advertising. The Music Awards, however, are exploitative, hypocritical and a waste of money.

  5. forthaven

    Great article I was shocked at the ticket prices for the liverpool music awards. As an admin on liverpool bands we distanced ourselves from it this year opting instead to continue our support at grass roots level. Also what you said about sticking together I totally agree with as a music producer..u may have heard the name forthaven about? Ill be talking about my approach on dave monks next two shows. Can I ask what is your opinion on the git awards… this year I think its being free for the first time…. i think get into this at least seeks and pushes new music reguarly which is good. keep up the good writing anf yes I hope that a more cohesive scene emerges next year. J

  6. david_lloyd

    we support the GIT award. It takes not a penny in funding, it comes from a very different place, creatively. Its winner gets national recognition, because industry recognises it’s not a cynical career move by its organiser. Cheers guys. Will listen in.

  7. Littorial

    Fairly spot on criticism of the likes of Downtown Liverpool. The continual rise of that organisation and its presence in council funded junkets one after another and soon the IFB is something remarkable and horrible to watch.

    However, shysters like McKenna exist in every milieu. Liverpool’s issues are broader and wider than these pointless local events that as you say no one outside the city has heard of. After all he’s operating also out of Manchester, Leeds and somewhere called Downtown Lancashire, which is I believe Preston, as well.

    The London government depriving the city of broadband, of high speed rail, of – less importantly but still – cycle lanes. You have identified real issues there and blamed somehow Liverpool. As you say Liverpool bid for them, Liverpool wanted them but the UK government pumped the cash instead, just like with the BBC relocation and countless other game changing investments, into Manchester. If you wish to put forward an argument for why Liverpool somehow deserves to get dicked over again and again by the London government (which remember operates ‘locally’ out of regional office in Manchester) then please do so. Because that’s what’s happening.

    Gobshites like Frank McKenna aren’t very important in comparison.

  8. david_lloyd

    Our bids not only failed but, in the new cities allocation for second round funding for fibre optic, were actually submitted after the deadline. The blame doesn’t always lie in Whitehall, I’m afraid. There are, indeed, wider and more pressing issues. This was just a timely reposte to last night’s bunfight.

  9. david_lloyd

    £35,000 less funding, ticket price £150 cheaper, event open to all, regular support by Peter Guy on his blog (which he does without payment). Do I think the city needs it? I’m not sure. If it’s to have one, that’s the one it should have.

  10. Obviously somebody didn’t get nominated….

    But on a serious note

    You can’t begrudge people for success. Many of the businesses you slated were probably in your predicament 5 years ago.

    Also the nature of business is circle jerky and you are surprised BUSINESS awards of circlejerky?

    Working in the web industry I agree that the poor state of the Visit Liverpool website is inexcusable. Lets hope they clear this up so tourists aren’t herded en masse to excuses for restaurants.

  11. Gemma Well Made

    We’ve been running the studio for over a decade and haven’t ever had any complaints about the city we choose to work from. There is no council funding available for what we do and we’re far too stand offish and cool to ingratiate ourselves with the cheque signers anyway. I fear our epic eye rolls would blind us permanently.

    Liverpool is good because it’s cheap. We can charge less than our Southern competition and still turn a profit. Our clients (90% London based) haven’t ever expressed the slightest desire to enter our work into any award and neither have we.

    Clients are impressed primarily by a project that does what it’s supposed to and to a lesser extent, a bit of (good quality) press every now and again.

    The awards industry exists to keep table decorators and Moss Bross in business, it’s not a real business thing. They’re so insignificant in the day to day business of keeping your head above water that it’s quite possible to not notice them at all.

    Admitted, it’s frustrating that council money isn’t better spent elsewhere but so little of it actually filters into the pockets of small creative businesses anyway that we don’t miss what we’ve never had.

  12. Philip Stratford

    I really don’t know enough about any of this to make an informed comment, but it concerns me slightly that the apparent signs that the city is being recognised for doing so well which I pick up on might just be smoke and mirrors and that the creative and independent businesses which are so important may, in reality, be struggling rather than driving the city’s recovery.

  13. Gerry Proctor

    Thoughtful, provocative and spot-on. I really hope that your suggestion is taken forward and that our city can both take criticism as well as give it! Love the comments from everybody it shows that 7Streets creates the space for debate and conversation. Oh and Mayor Joe was in your place Wednesday having lunch in Unit 51 with Tarzan before heading over to Camp and Furnace for the launch of his new Institute for Public Policy and Practice!

  14. The self-congratulatory, award nomination/winning, back-patting amongst the organisations this article is talking about boils down to: “Everybody is special” is a nice way of saying nobody is.

  15. Uptown Girl

    >>>But they refuse to play the air-kissing game <<<

    so true. There has been lots of success in Liverpool this year that just isn't known or discussed. Ever heard of Qivox? Little startup in Chapel Street? sold earlier this year for $150m?

  16. Roy Jones

    Great…well said. I needed that as I have had a week getting very angry about Liverpool. (Had many weeks like this going back to the 80’s) when are the good guys going to be rewarded instead of the usual culprits – the inner clique of drinking buddies that have pissed their vision away ( if they ever had any). Lpool is great and could be so much better if they young talent was recognised. The IFB is another waste of cash, this event will not benefit the creative SMEs, only the big corporates that are already doing ok. What is to be done…?

  17. benna harry

    Great writing as usual and very spot on with vocalising a lot of peoples thoughts and frustrations with the liverpool award ceremonies for one..many businesses or people nominated are frowned upon if they decline the offer of buying an overpriced table at one of these events. There is one boost to the economy though, the company that is actually making the cheap plastic awards must be doing a roaring trade!

  18. Miss Bugg

    I’m a marketing and PR professional and I can’t get arrested in Liverpool, so I’d laugh at the piss poor websites and entrenched views of those more interested in promoting themselves rather than the city, except, its my home, I’m proud of it, it want it to succeed, not be a gravy-train heading for the sidings.

  19. I contacted VisitLiverpool earlier in the year about some shocking website design on the heritage open days pages. They replied that it was meant to be like that and explained to me how I should read the information available (note: if you have to explain how to use it then your web design is shit!)

    Great article guys. Keep agitating for change.

  20. Ed Biggles

    What do you expect from a bunch of deluded, self aggrandising halfwit polticians who are completely incapable of strategic thinking – give us Manchesters Lees rather than Joe (wobbly bottom) Anderson! An excellent leader capable of Strategic thinikng. No wonder everything goes to Manchester..
    Previous administrations with their emphasis an knighthoods and cracked pavements needn’t preen themselves – they contributed to this mess

  21. david_lloyd

    interesting, Jen. Mind you, I feel sure the words. will be LEP’s responsibility. So it’s a bit of a car crash in design and content. Impressive. I think Trinity bought Ripple Effect for £8million. Bargain.

  22. You mean, no wonder why Manchester is *given* everything.

    Funnily however this was the case before Leese was leader and believe you me will be the case after he’s gone. Joe Anderson may not be the greatest but the situation was no different under previous leaders either. Unless your argument is that every leader of Manchester city council magically brilliant one after another for generations and Liverpool’s always just as perfectly awful?

    However, how this explains the BBC being forced into Manchester yes but the Salford, not Manchester local authority, the Imperial War Museum into Trafford, etc. Unless all Greater Manchester councils are also super amazingly brilliant in every possible way. Either this is becoming a little hard to believe or there is something else going on.

  23. Will Sampson

    Liverpool has been run as a fiefdom for the last 30 odd years,by militant, then the lib dems, now by uncle Joe. Until the citizens of the greatest city on earth and national government can kiss and make up Liverpool will always come second best to the cities at the other end of the East Lancs.
    Look at the reasons for the development of Ringway over Speke airport…
    ‘Air travel is for the rich.’
    Let us have a better future, so collectively, we all can witness the future it is worthy of.

  24. Saima Bashir

    I have just spent a weekend in Liverpool and like most folk I thought the visitliverpool website would be the best place to start. My friend and I found it useless. (which is still miles better than Glasgow). But now I have spent the weekend in Liverpool the website does not represent the city.

    When I found out that BILLIONS are/is being spent on the regeneration programme such as Liverpool 1 I wondered, why not spend that money spent on the beautiful/historic buidlings that Liverpool already has? So many ‘To Let’ signs. Why does the ‘nice’ paving stop at Church St? Might as well spruced up the surrounding area if there is that amont of money going. (To be honest it is the exact same situation in Glasgow/Glasgow City Council)

    I see so much potential in Liverpool and it seems a wee shame all the lovely shop fronts are covered in wooden and metal sheets.

    My only other regret is reading the SevenStreets Almanac on the train back to Glasgow (I lifted it along with others in one of the stores on Bold St) because that is the side of Liverpool I really wanted to see. Keep it up David.

  25. Saima Bashir

    No no, we did have such a great time! I think it was reading all the
    history about the docks/ships/LOR/working community/Second City of the
    Empire in the Liverpool Museum made us really sad when we walked back
    into city centre. The folk that we did meet were so friendly (and we
    both love the Scouse accent) and the first thing we discussed when we
    were leaving was our next trip back.
    Just read the article on the boarded up buildings, making me think who can I pester about the empty building in Glasgow! Well David, I f I can help in any way please let me know. 🙂

  26. While I agree that the IFB won’t necessarily help creative SMEs, something needs to be done to attract larger companies to the city. The brain drain after students finish university in this city is crazy. I’m not a fan of students and don’t want every other building to be halls, but some graduates need to able to stay in the city and find gainful employment in graduate positions. I (perhaps naively) believe that the IFB will attract larger companies to the city.

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