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.