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Liverpool’s reputation ‘still being influenced by Capital of Culture status’

Liverpool’s national and international reputation continues to be influenced by its 2008 European Capital of Culture status according to new research.

Findings by the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC) highlight changes including a “growth in national confidence and stronger appreciation of Liverpool as a desirable cultural centre”.

Dr Beatriz Garcia and her team at the ICC – a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University – carried out the ‘Impacts 18’ study.

Analysis of media coverage; assessment of the city’s cultural assets, its government and leadership; focus groups; and door-to-door surveys in selected representative neighbourhoods are said to show 2008 as a turning point for external narratives and the improvement of citizens’ sense of pride.

Dr Garcia says: “The way the city sees itself, and is seen by the rest of the country, has been transformed and sustained over more than a decade, with culture being seen unmistakeably at the heart of the city’s rebirth.

“Across different research streams and methodologies, data reveals an affirmation in local positive image, a growth in national confidence and stronger appreciation of Liverpool as a desirable cultural centre with a more promising future than was the case pre-2008.

“Liverpool has consolidated its position as a tourism destination, and is now the fifth most listed UK city for international visitors.

“Positive shifts in the city’s physical cultural and entertainment infrastructure, such as development of Liverpool ONE and the Arena and Convention Centre in 2008, and the opening of the Museum of Liverpool in 2011, have been complimented by intangible cultural heritage accolades such as the 2015 UNESCO Creative City of Music award.”

Discussions of Liverpool’s images and icons in the media are said to have doubled between 2010 and 2017, whereas the media focused largely on social issues such as crime when reporting on the city prior to the European Capital of Culture title being awarded.

‘Impacts 18’ also found a 50% growth in grassroots cultural initiatives throughout Liverpool’s inner-city between 2005 and 2018, as well as a diversification in focus to involve more education, employment and training, and greater emphasis on mental health, wellbeing and social inclusion.

Meanwhile assessments of official city documents and strategies pointed to an increased appreciation of the value of culture to Liverpool’s economy, planning and regeneration; and Liverpool residents were ‘unanimous’ in their positive memories of 2008.

A total of 44% of residents surveyed in four representative neighbourhoods felt the city is viewed positive, compared to the 27% who responded that way in 2007.

Ongoing challenges have been identified by the report though around cuts to funding and the impact of austerity; that a gap remains between the portrayed image of a diverse city and the ground level reality; a fear devolution could cause fragmentation and a lag between culture being referenced in strategy and its actual implementation and measurement.

The ‘Impacts 18’ findings will be presented as part of an international symposium in Liverpool on 18-19 October, with speakers including Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow, Tate director Maria Balshaw, Lord Michael Heseltine, Women of the World CEO Jude Kelly and Phil Redmond.