1 What to see
It’s not all about Beatles cash-ins or ferrying ‘cross the Mersey. In fact, Liverpool has long had a broad cultural offering, with many established galleries and museums being spruced up alongside newer attractions.
Take the World Museum, last year revamped to double the display space. It’s home to a pick ‘n’ mix of exhibitions from ancient Egypt to astronomy, via live creepie-crawlies and samurai suits. The Bluecoat Arts Centre, the city centre’s oldest building and premier arts space, re-opens next year after a £12.5m refit.
The city’s seafaring past is key to much of the redevelopment, and the docks area has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. Recently established, the UK’s first dedicated International Slavery Museum will now pay homage to the less noble
history of the business. Hear heart-rending tales of real slaves and experience life on a slave ship.
2 Where to be seen
The Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, completed in 2003, kick-started the revival of a former no-go area behind Bold Street. Its modern, silver facade houses cinema screens, multi-media galleries and a café, which is a mecca for the city’s arty types.
Around it now lies a thriving quarter of offices, flats, chic bars and eateries. Try Alma de Cuba, a converted Polish church on Seel Street where you can literally break bread and drink wine at the altar. The Albert Dock area is also hip and happening when night falls, with celeb hangouts such as Baby Cream and the Pan American Club housed in the converted shipping warehouses.
3 Dressed for success
With the city making such an effort to smarten itself up, the least you can do is follow suit. Luckily, you’re in just the right place. Consumerism is also getting a healthy boost from the cultural facelift, with new retail hotspots springing up all over.
Prime among these is the Met Quarter, which opened in 2005. This upmarket shopping centre has chaise longues in the foyer, and stores include Armani, Diesel and Hugo Boss, many of them flagship branches for the north-west. Nearby, Liverpool One is rising from the mammoth building project around Paradise Street. It promises to provide not just one distinctive new shopping district, but four.
4 Cultural construction
It’s boom town for the building trade, that’s for sure. The Liverpool One project, when completed in time for 2008, will house shops, apartments, offices, hotels and even a brand new park.
Weighing in at over £900m, it’s said to be the biggest retail and leisure development currently underway in Europe. There’s also a 10,000-seat arena taking shape by Albert Dock.
The city of culture celebrations are also intended to create a legacy for the future, so the redevelopment work is set to continue. With a brand new Museum of Liverpool scheduled to be ready by 2010, the city really is crafting itself a brand new image. Mention stereotypes at your peril.
In the ‘pool
What’s on the menu for 2008 Events and celebrations are ongoing as Liverpool slips noisily from its 800th birthday year into the city of culture year.
As for highlights, you might catch next year’s Turner Prize, which will be hosted and displayed outside London for the very first time.
Two month’s worth of public art and performance have been programmed by the directors of the Biennial, Liverpool’s international arts festival. Or how about the UK’s first major exhibition of Gustav Klimt or a Viennese-style ball with music from the renowned Liverpool Philharmonic? There’s also a literary festival plus, in a nod to the city’s shipping heritage, a huge maritime festival to coincide with the start of the Tall Ships Race. Full listings are found at www.liverpool08.com.