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Being independent doesn’t mean being out to shock. Liverpool’s vein of independence is vital to its culture and identity but a culture of idiocy is making us the same as everyone else, says Laura Brown.

Independence in Liverpool once was finding a derelict warehouse and setting up a club culture on the qt that suddenly went global. It was watching what was happening in the corridors of power and snitching. It was a culture built on the psychology of Adrien Henri’s happenings, of having the right to voice a view and doing it articulately, persuasively, powerfully and often with a song.

Now we’re tweeting, instagramming, snapchatting, chucking it all in to become guerrilla filmmakers, spending more time online than off it, thinking we’re the story, but failing to come up with any original narrative outside pulled pork, posturing and sideburns.

So what happened? Where’s our real counter-culture spirit now? As we knock down historic building after historic building and turn it into student flats/apart-hotels and rentakit homogeneous developments where’s our corner of weird kids? Our samizdat spirit? Where are our real outliers and mavericks hiding?

When did we start mistaking anarchic chutzpah with Meat Liquor rip offs, networking-as-social-climbing and slactivism independence sloganeering? Want to sell more hotdogs by using a woman’s disability and ability to dislocate her jaw as a PR puff? Why not? What about banning girls from the clubhouse? Done. How about using death row as the inspiration for a diner? Why the fuck not?

Under a veil of independence these places play on the offensive to secure press coverage. I guess it’s the likely outcome when you have more PR agencies and marketing academies in a city centre than creative outlets, cinemas or galleries.

The problem is that these idiots (because idiots they are) dress up their independent status as a subversive counter culture when it’s anything but. They whip up a storm of publicity because that’s their social-media-buzzing objective. Not being independent.

It doesn’t make people think. It promotes offence. The “no girls aloud” story prompted the most vile and misogynist comments underneath it on the Echo’s Facebook page. They moderate as best they can but once you’ve seen it you’ve seen it. It appropriates a sexist and patriarchal language and culture that feeds into a community that believes online and offline are men’s spaces that women are being allowed to use. It’s walking through a gang of lads, one of them with their hands down their pants, and trying not to be scared. I’m sure the barber shop in question never thought of it that way. They probably never thought about it at all.

This Death Row Diner concept though, is both revolting – and drearily unoriginal at the same time.

Why wouldn’t you want to think of botched executions, of post-execution exoneration, or affronts to human dignity while you’re chomping down on a burger and cocktail?

Because let’s not forget what death row is – the cornfed cherry on the top of a racist, unjust justice system in the US. Oh, and do you want fries with that?

Being independent is about being informed. You can’t reject the mainstream narrative if you don’t understand it in the first.

Young people have to explore their own culture, of course they do, they have the internet when all we had was hanging outside the Palace and Probe on a Saturday before buying some lip gloss and heading to Chavasse Park with a butty from Quiggins cafe.

By just appropriating someone else’s independent culture (London’s, Brooklyn’s, Manchester’s) you’re not being independent, you’re as pulled as the pork.

And for Liverpool, sorry but it’s just not good enough.

  • Phil Cee

    I look at that diner and I am repulsed. Then I remember that I used to go to the Electric Chair in Manchester to hear the Unabombers. The comparison ends there however, ‘DRD’ looks proper bad.

  • Hatchu

    Electric Chair was simply always awesome. I do miss the Music Box days. Hard to take that it’s been 5 years since I last went. The best residents. Kelvin Brown is a lovely bloke. Anywho, Electric Chair began as an antidote to Manchester’s descent into violence and commercialism. It began in June 1995 and wanted to fill it with good positive people who loved music. Values which are sadly lost in this new restaurant. In fact, any values/substance in most of the new commercial ventures is lost. Purely just to get noticed.

  • TheUnOrigin

    ^This so much.^

  • TC

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of your points regarding PR culture & lack of originality, I really cannot understand the backlash of the death row branding. It just seems awfully similar to their motel & yardbird bars. The similarly named hoxton restaurant is considerably more offensive (and original) in that it’s menu consists of actual last meal requests. The main problem in Liverpool is that there are only a few outfits coming up with new bars/eateries and they seem to be recycling the same ideas. Most of the hipster scene is happy as long as there is a “new” one along every couple of months. Fine by me, the trendy scene shouldn’t be expected to cater for the counterculture. That should be left to those with passion for creating something progressive or alternative. Cahoots on Smithdown Road is a great example of musicians getting together and creating a cool place catering to their musical tastes, where you can have a drink in a comfort while a live band plays funk & soul just yards away with no separation from the audience (who sometimes even get involved). I’m sure there are other examples of independents doing it right.

    On a side note, why has everyone started using “narrative” as a journalistic term in the past six months?!

  • http://www.richmonddeli.co.uk Daniel Miller

    There is too much glorification of the macabre in much the same way as the vast majority blindly, and it must be said, blandly, accept 3rd rate food from McDonalds et al, as acceptable fare. Unfortunately the reality is that, with growth of a product one loses the care and individual attention that once personified the original concept. The lack of taste in the Death Row Diner is not dissimilar to the lack of taste in some other establishments – either the blandness of Subway or the utterly depressing fare available at Pound Bakery (albeit a necessity at the price) and competitors such as the utterly dreadful Eat (Shit) 4 Less. Speaking ass an independent, quality conscious food retailer inured by the tepid fare available at almost every alternate choice I find it depressing in the extreme. So, apart from any novelty value I am not sure quite what would draw people to eat in such a place – maybe many will indeed make it their last supper at this kind of establishment. Try the independents such as Delifonseca and my place (Richmond Deli (aka Clarke’s Meats), 7 Richmond Street – to be surprised that some of us still try to provide wholesome, how you want it, fresh food.

  • Laura

    What an oddly structured article, someone is very angry about everything aren’t they!! “Being independent is about being informed” no its not but if there’s anything this article is it’s not informed, it just sounds like a mad woman hammering away on her keyboard and really unsure what her point is.
    This made me laugh “The “no girls aloud” story” i’m sure that Cheryl and the band are gutted about this.
    The only shocking truth here is how poor this blog is now, surprised she never called for it to be turned into a market actually.

  • Mike

    Rob Guttman is a silly unoriginal little man.

  • JD Moran

    I believe there have been more questionable ethics displayed by the people behind Death Row Diner over the years than the theme of their bars.

  • Tom Okker

    Yes, but does it have exposed brickwork and poor lighting? That seems to be a pre-requisite for any hipster eatery, these days.

  • Holier than thou

    Nothing like a free plug for your own establishment eh?

  • James

    What JD Moran says. Also, this isn’t edgy. The most offensive thing about this is that it’s just embarrassingly naff

  • JD Moran

    Wasn’t the “no girls aloud” story the one about Barber Barber supposedly banning women from their shop? I haven’t seen the article in question or the corresponding comments but the impression I am getting is that it’s more than just 5 pop stars that are being denigrated.

  • Gezza

    It’s such an awful cringeworthy idea. And it looks exactly the same as Motel and every other fucking bar in the city nowadays.

  • James

    Yep, what happened to originality? I guess with some bar owners it’s a case of get in, make cash, go bust, get out. Repeat to fade. Still it’s good to see the same gang trolling twitter and trying to shout out decent debate.

  • Ronan

    I hate the fact this ‘Death Row’ idea (which has been done in other cities before, so it’s hardly original) trivialises something very, very serious and troubling. It’s not really something to base a bloody diner on.

  • Ramsey Campbell

    “There is too much glorification of the macabre in much the same way as the vast majority blindly, and it must be said, blandly, accept 3rd rate food from McDonalds et al, as acceptable fare.” I’m not sure what comparison is being made here. I write horror and I also like good food, and buy from Edge’s.

  • Lana

    You should be happy things are happening and new businesses are opening in the city! What do you want – a city full of Mcdonalds and Nandos? If you don’t like it, don’t go. Simple! Stop bringing negativity to the city. We need less people like you.

  • Sunflowerbean

    WOW!! Had a coffee and read this…it’s like everything now unfortunately. Extremism of the macabre, sex, politics….Our conditioning to value ‘more’ as a reflection of our own worth has led us down the path of wasteful, consumeristic ignorance. We’re rapidly becoming parodies of our own humanity. And unless we stop being hypodermically fed by all this media saturated gluttony we’ll implode into nothingness just like the corrupt system that fuels us.

  • laura

    Yes it’s spelt allowed.

  • JD Moran

    Ah right, I get you. I take it the original story was headlined “No Girls Allowed” and this article has changed it to “No Girls Aloud”. Missed the point, my apologies.

  • Scouskraus

    It was particularly revolting to hear about this place on the same day as hearing that the latest attempt at a trendy Indian restaurant on Bold Street has a dish called Keema Therapy. I wonder if they might somehow be related?

  • Poppa Smurph

    You’re miles off there pal. The name of the dish in question was suggested by a friend of the owner who was in treatment for skin cancer at the time. For every dish sold a donation is made to Clatterbridge Cancer Charity. As for the ‘latest attempt at a trendy Indian restaurant’, why not try ‘the latest person courageous enough to give their passion to the world’? Like most independent operators a life has been put on hold, huge sacrifices made, (family) money invested, not to mention the sleepless nights and bouts of self doubt, simply due to a belief that what you want to create may just improve the way people in Liverpool eat/drink etc, as well as the fact you couldn’t look at yourself in the mirror without saying ‘I gave it a go’. Maybe do your research next time before joining the crew of the Good Ship Outrage.

  • Scouskraus

    Thanks for the explanation Poppa. I shall try the restaurant and am sure it will be great.

  • John Coffey

    Death Row Diner’s greatest sin is not branding but the brass neck of them calling themselves a “Diner” but requiring a reservation. Get over yourselves.

    And having sampled Manchester’s “independent culture” first hand I found it one of the most intimidating and depressing drug infested hell-holes this side of Hamsterdam. The only thing independent on those streets are the entrepreneurs standing in doorways peddling the latest plant foods and making vile sexist comments at passing women. Not something we should aspire to.

  • Ramsey Campbell

    Nothing like an answer from Mr Miller to my comment either.

  • http://www.richmonddeli.co.uk Daniel Miller

    Am I compelled to disagree or respond. I don”t believe so.

  • Ramsey Campbell

    You did, though. I wish you’d said more, since I was polite. I just don’t think the taste for the macabre and for bad fast food (which I deplore as much as you do) are comparable. After all, my field has been popular for centuries, whereas that kind of fast food has (I think) caught on only relatively recently.

  • http://www.richmonddeli.co.uk Daniel Miller

    Thanks