Friday, October 30, 2009

150,000 Hits & Rising

I hadn't seen this goal since the night itself back in 1985 when my brother & I were part of a swaying, raucous, cascading Kop. Must have travelled a good ten feet down the old terrace when Molby's rocket hit the back of the net. Memories are made of this: .

Oldham Hall Street's Sage Advice

These are dark times for journalism. The web has pulverised beyond recognition what was once a secure business model; the dead tree press could once control not just the dissemination of news, but the news agenda itself. No more. Blogs (guilty, m'lud!), Facebook & Twitter have changed all that.
It's not exactly a bowl of cherries at the BBC either. Whilst the likes of the Daily Mail won't be happy until the Beeb ceases to exist & we have to rely on the likes of said rag & a Foxed Sky News, some of the Corporation's travails have been self-inflicted.
So who will step forward to dispense some words of wisdom to Auntie?
The Oldham Echo.
Yes, the Oldham Echo (
The editorial applauds the recent decision to cut the number of senior management staff & reduce the wage bill. It goes on helpfully:
"Now, we suggest, it's time for director general Mark Thompson to turn his attentions to the broadcaster's planning strategy.
"The ECHO still values the BBC as a trustworthy brand and reliable provider of news and information, but its role as a public service broadcaster needs to extend to providing more content which is simply not assessed on a commercial basis."
The Echo editorial refers to "reality" TV & the usual Saturday evening fodder, stating that the commercial & cable channels should produce such output, not the BBC. It concludes reproachfully:
"The BBC, through the licence fee, is provided with so much public money but, in return, it isn't providing the public with enough quality."
Ah, yes, quite right. Quality, that's the key consideration, isn't it?
Moreover, the Oldham Echo should be commended for highlighting the need for quality in the media; indeed, a case in point was provided by its editorial earlier this week which reminded us of the truly cerebral concerns we should think of: ( ).
It may hearten the aesthetes & classicists on Oldham Hall Street to know that the Beeb's more considered & challenging output is gaining a new audience ( ).
It's nice to know that the Oldham Echo's "truth project" & "positivity programme", now a year old ( ) are yielding a burgeoning consciousness of higher thoughts.
Of course, let us not forget that Oldham Hall Street once tried its hand at broadcasting via its Channel One network. It was a true beacon of public service broadcasting, focusing on those aspects of cultural discourse normally the preserve of Radios 3 & 4.
Here's an example: .
Peerless, simply peerless.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hotel Reservation

I rather suspect that when the weather improves in the spring of next year, another group hug may be called for down at the waterfront. Just a short carbuncle away from One Parked Here Without Our Say-So, the new Hilton Hotel is taking shape as the new addition to the waterfront's Botoxification. And, guess what, Oldham Hall Street is very much on board to ask the hard, searching questions that a news organisation should ask; their reporters will be on hand to buttonhole those behind this latest scene of civic disfigurement in Paxmanesque fashion.
Don't believe me, do you?
Thought not. OK, OK, here's the squalid reality, both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo print pretty much the same PR blurb which seeks to convince the gullible that hotel rooms costing in excess of £800 per night lie at the heart of a city's, erm, renaissance ( & ).
Featuring a small picture of the view afforded by the most expensive suite in the hotel, the Echo version swoons:
"This is the view that will cost visitors to Liverpool £859 a night.
"The Presidential Suite - described by Hilton Liverpool's general manager Marcus Magee as the hotel's 'piece de resistance' - will be the most expensive room in the city when the hotel opens its doors on November 17.
"Guests who want that extra luxury will be able to get an extra package that will include butler service and a provision of a top of the range car."
What immaculate timing, just perfect for the end of Liverpool's year of the environment ( ).
The PR piece, which would look just right in its natural habitat of glossy brochures, & which Wayne has already held up for some well-warranted derision ( ), goes on to enthuse brightly:
"The 215-room hotel, built on the site of the old Customs house and overlooking Chavasse Park, has been designed to reflect the city's trading and maritime history."
Ah, yes, the port's importance to the city, how could anyone forget that....which is why they've built the hotel on the site not just of the old Customs house (a real architectural gem long since sadly lost), but also the original dock system briefly uncovered by Channel 4's Time Team during The Big Dig. Oh, & could we finally dispense with the risible piece of fiction which contends that the small elevated patch of greenery adjacent to One Parked Here Without Our Say-So is Chavasse Park? Why? Because, you see, it isn't. Chavasse Park was bulldozed away & lost while Oldham Hall Street proclaimed a bright new dawn for the waterfront.
Think that's bad enough for squandering as well as misrepresenting the port's past?
Think again:
"The importance of cotton is captured in the Pima bar - named after the high-grade American cotton - with cotton displayed in glass wall panels. The lights also resemble cotton buds."
All involved in this farrago of deception, self-congratulation & sanitised local history seem to display a crass ignorance worthy of an aggressive ale-head in Concert Square at 3am.
The cotton trade was bound up with the slave trade. Fact. I wonder if the hotel will mention that? While the monstrosity that will be the new museum at the Pier Head appears to include a section holding all Scousers, past & present, responsible for the worst chapter in the port's history, the Hilton will go in entirely the opposite direction, lauding a trade which necessarily involved the enslavement of human beings ( )
There may no longer be "six in a bed by the old Pier Head", as the "Liverpool Town" song put it, but the theme & pattern of missed chances & squalid circumstances still apply.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Last Post?

With the Oldham Echo now established as a morning red-top, it's inevitable that its sickly sister the Daily Ghost, limping along on a horribly thin sub 10,000 circulation figure, will be coldly scrutinsed for its relevance & viability in the Trinity Mirror empire.
The word from many newsagents in the city is that they've been informed it won't be for this world much longer, an early 2010 closure being widely expected.

Anatomy Of A Meltdown

Given the company they keep & the contacts they have to maintain, financial journalists can speak fluent jargon without realising that they alienate most people. Credit, therefore, to Gillian Tett ( ), assistant editor of the Financial Times, for delivering an account of the banking crisis which, if anything, engaged & involved her audience at the Bluecoat on Saturday afternoon.
Basing her account on her recently published book*, she related the tale as one of risk-taking gone mad, spurred on by a combination of hubris & denial on the part of a fairly small group of young bankers in the early 90s. Explaining in plain English the meaning of terms such as Credit Default Swaps & CDOs, Tett calmly, yet damningly laid bare the decisions taken over the course of a decade or more which ultimately led to last year's meltdown & what many would regard as socialism for the rich in the ensuing bail-outs.
Tett outlined three stages of the period when bankers were feted as masters of the universe: innovation (devising the "bundling" of debt to be shared & thus lessened for those concerned), perversion (the continuation of such practices in spite of the fact they couldn't continue) & disaster (when the banks on both sides of the Atlantic, with the exception of Lehman Brothers, looked to the taxpayer for relief, & got it, when the proverbial hit the fan).
In stark terms, Tett assessed the global outlook in the light of last year's crash & expressed her amazement when answering questions later that the issue of bankers' bonuses hadn't engendered anywhere near the same level of outrage caused by MP's expenses. She's spot-on; the expenses issue rightly remains a hot issue. However, what was & is being perpetrated on the world's markets affects the average person in a way which still hasn't been grasped.
Given her position at the FT, Tett was never going to present the sequence of events as a damning indictment of capitalism. That said, however, she did not demur when several in the audience raised the issues of accountability (or the complete absence of it), regulation & even nationalisation of the banks.
I look forward to reading the book.

* "Fool's Gold", Gillian Tett, published by Little, Brown, 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Striking Out Against The Stereotypes

Recommended reading: a piece by Peter Lazenby, NUJ rep at the Yorkshire Post, on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages, putting the case for the postal workers ( ).
Lazenby, whom I met during the Writing on the Wall festival in Liverpool earlier this year, summarises the real cause of the dispute, a macho management which isn't content just to administer a business, but also to rub the staff's noses in the brown matter. He also tackles the myth of the average union member as strike-happy:
"Working people do not take strike action lightly. They do so when every other door has been slammed in their faces. Striking is an act of desperation. It isn't fun. It's hard. It's financially punishing. At Christmas it's going to be even harder on the strikers and their families than on people whose delivery from Amazon is late, and even for the little old lady whose Christmas card won't be delivered."
Unsurprisingly, Lazenby's piece has attracted the usual comments from those who excoriate the postal staff. One wonders what such individuals would do if faced with a management equally bone-headed or worse at their workplace. Perhaps they already do work in an environment under such managers & meekly keep their heads down while berating those who have the temerity to stand up & be counted. It wouldn't surprise me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oldham Echo: Fight Arranger-Round Two

Some people just don't know when to stop, do they? To take a typically cringeworthy pun employed by the Oldham Echo in relation to Flo Clucas' "Long & Winding Road" suggestion from Whitechapel to Matthew Street [more of A Short Walk Round The Corner, if you ask me], it simply isn't possible for some to Let It Be [sorry].
David Bartlett clearly wishes to resurrect the playground spat between Liverpool & Southampton ( ):
"I have been criticised in some quarters for responding to Gareth Lewis from the Southern Daily Echo after he suggested that Liverpool wanted to steal Southampton's cruise trade.
"I wrote a defence of Liverpool and pointed out Liverpool's achievements compared to Southampton.
"This was taken as me acting as some sort of stirrer or agent provocateur in the so-called 'cruise wars' between Liverpool and Southampton."
Criticism from "some quarters", David? I presume you're referring to this blog & Wayne's, whose response to your post decisively disabuses you of any illusion that your comments command unanimous local assent ( ).
Furthermore, what you posted could hardly be described as "a defence of Liverpool", the "achievements" you cite relating to football (irrelevant to the matter in hand) &, yes, of course, The Beatles (equally irrelevant to this topic). Instead, it reminded me of a playground rant from a peeved primary school pupil, as I noted at the time ( ).
In addition, I did not accuse you of being a "stirrer or agent provacateur", I levelled that charge at your employer on Oldham Hall Street, & given the enthusiasm with which both the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo have returned to this story recently, I see no reason to withdraw it.
You can hardly be surprised that a local columnist in Southampton has reacted by trotting out all the old Scouse stereotypes, nor should you feign offence taken at it; every town & city has its local propagandists whose egos are in inverse proportion to their IQ, Southampton is no exception.
In Liverpool's case, David, they tend to be fellow employees of yours.
You conclude your post by asking:
"So what form should a response take?"
The answer, David, is that there should be no response, as Ronnie de Ramper comments on your post. Acknowledge the fact that Oldham Hall Street deliberately engineered a confrontation via its reporting & headlines when the issue first arose, & augmented it with pathetically parochial editorials once the flames had been kindled.
It would be refreshing if Oldham Hall Street posed some pertinent journalistic enquiries on the role of Peel Holdings & held its record up to a sufficiently rigorous level of scrutiny. How about it, David?
Or are you just going to Let It Be?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Message Marred

Despite her naive middle-class outlook, there was something quite laudable about Martha Lane Fox's interview with Jonathan Charles on the BBC Hardtalk programme about her role as a "champion of digital inclusion", a tag she acknowledged as clumsy ( ).
She was entirely right to stress that the future is increasingly online, but that a dangerous digital divide is opening up between those with web access & those without.
It was therefore regrettable that she referred to "unpleasant areas" & "horrible council estates" towards the end of her interview. Delivering those phrases in a cut-glass voice, it reeked of naked class prejudice & potentially undermined her message about digital inclusion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A New Liverpool Sound

Given Oldham Hall Street's wish to wallow in nostalgia for a band which split up 40 years ago, it's up to others to highlight the fact that there is a healthy & vibrant music scene in Liverpool, unencumbered by gratuitous mentions of you-know-who.
One of the unexpected gems I came across at the bombed-out church on August Bank Holiday Monday was a short acoustic set by The Mono LPs. They were far more entertaining & original than the entire dreary procession of "tribute" acts around Matthew Street itself. Enjoy: .
Disclaimer: Following recent articles in the press about bloggers & product plugging, I would like to state that I am not a band member, nor am I their manager. In fact, I don't even know them.

Believe It Or Not, This Band Came From Liverpool

Culture year was great, wasn't it? We had the Beatles, erm, the Phil, the Everyman, erm the Beatles, the Playhouse, erm, the Beatles........oh, yes, Macca's gig at Anfield, you know, the one which was meant to be at the Salthouse Dock with the dock drained of water & the fish humanely stunned by the city council before they realised it wasn't feasible, a conclusion arrived at via a six-figure "feasibility" study.

Well, now the council have realised that we don't celebrate the Beatles enough in Liverpool. After all, you have to admit that a casual stroll around the city centre wouldn't even indicate that they came from here. Would it? ( ).

Marc Waddington's article is typically sketchy with the word "could" being used in such a way as to mean "will" to the casual peruser, a tried & tested trick on Oldham Hall Street. It also goes over Beatle history in Liverpool (just in case anyone is still in the dark about the group's local origins).

Waddington's piece breathlessly gasps:

"Councillors will discuss the possibility of teaming up with record label Apple and Peter Blake, the artist responsible for the front cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

You can imagine the reaction in Apple's offices as they receive yet another cringe-inducing approach from the council, can't you? A sigh, a few comments to the effect that these people need to start living in the twenty-first century & a patronising reply which trots out the old cliches about the 60s.

The gimmick, sorry, idea will take the form of a motion at the city council tomorrow, proposed by deputy council leader Flo Clucas. Yes, the same Flo Clucas who remarked back in 2005 that the demolition of Ringo Starr's birthplace in Madryn Street, alongside that of the other houses in the neighbourhood down in the Dingle, was justified because he spent only the first few years of his life there. Besides, the Lib Dems wanted to indulge in a little social cleansing to preserve their ruinous grip on the city.

But back to today & the Bread & Circus tactic beloved by Bradley, Storey, Clucas & co. is wheeled out with Waddington's piece acting as the cheerleader:

"It is hoped the project would be completed by next May, the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' final album, Let It Be.

"In the run-up to the Capital of Culture year, some were keen to stress that Liverpool had more offer than just The Beatles.

"But Cllr Clucas said she believed there was more to be made of Liverpool's Beatle history.

"She added: 'From my point of view, The Beatles are big business, whatever you think about their music - which I happen to love.

" 'Look at the classic performers like Elvis Presley, and Graceland, his home in Memphis - their home towns exploit it to the full.' "

There's so much to get my teeth into here, it's a veritable feast. Firstly, the thought that anyone would want to make a meal of the band's worst album 40 years after it apologetically slipped out is bizarre; oh, & it wasn't the group's "final album", Abbey Road was recorded later.

Moreover, those of us who stressed that there was more to the city's culture than the Fabs were either ignored or derided throughout last year. As for Cllr Clucas' contention that the Beatles are "big business", it's telling that she puts this consideration ahead of their musical legacy. The Elvis Presley parallel is one which makes discerning observers here wince; the Matthew Street festival is bad enough, a mawkish, backward-looking nostalgia fest, it's well on the way to aping the Graceland "experience" & homage to the original Burger King.

Do such caveats & reservations permeate the thinking of the intellectuals who put together what passes for the editorial in the Oldham Echo? Put it this way, there's more chance of McCartney having a pint with Pete Best, Mark Chapman & Heather Mills in The Grapes ( ):

"IT'S a debate which Liverpool has with itself all the time - do we make too much or too little of The Beatles?"

And, of course, the Oldham Echo has never been reluctant to reflect such a debate in its pages. Has it?

The, erm, editorial goes on to trumpet: "We're not just talking about a good thing, but the biggest and best thing and biggest and best band to have ever come out of Liverpool."

Hang on, are we suddenly talking about Professor Chucklebutty & his Diddymen? Oh, sorry, my mistake:

"Critics may continue to carp and complain that Liverpool is living in the past. They may say we should now 'Let It Be'. "

See what they've done there? Clever, eh? Like I said, they're all intellectuals in the Oldham Echo editorial department.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Panoramic Port

Away from the civic disfigurement of the city's waterfront, it's sadly easy to overlook the view from the roof of the Anglican Cathedral; the climb up the steps is forgotten when you take in the truly breathtaking view from the top.
Kudos to those behind the Liverpool Photographer website ( ) for ascending the steps & providing this impressive time lapse film of the waterfront as evening arrives & the sun goes down ( ).
What's the betting on the council agreeing to the building of another bloody big skyscraper this time directly blocking the view from the cathedral roof?

It's All In The Letter

Dinosaurs due for extinction. A relic of a bygone age. A reminder of a dark past. All the usual phrases have been trotted out over the airwaves, in print & online about the postal workers in their dispute ( ).
Time for just a scintilla of the reality & reasons behind the dispute, courtesy of a postal worker who writes a letter in today's Guardian ( ):
"Why have I become a Mail Militant? Consider the fact that delivery office managers (DOMs) will get £8,000 each for making improvements in their office. Section managers, however, only receive £2,000 each. The postmen who have been 'encouraged' to help make things work will receive £0. As an added thank-you we will not be receiving a pay rise - a kind of 'stick and stick approach', as they can't afford carrots. In addition the chairman is to have £145,000 paid to top up his pension fund at a time when there is insufficient money available from the huge recently announced profits to alleviate the Royal Mail pension fund that is allegedly a little short. Obviously the £2m bonus he got in the past was insufficient."
There'll be a lot more black propaganda employed against the postal staff in the coming days & weeks, be assured of that. However, what won't be mentioned is the context in which staff feel that industrial action is their only option. That context begins to be conveyed in this letter.
Remember that the next time even the BBC talks of "misery" at the disruption of the mail service.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Blair For Bootle?

The comments on a post by David Bartlett regarding odds offered by Ladbrokes for a handful of local seats at the next election ( ) were suddenly enlivened by a contribution from Cressington Lib Dem councillor Paula Keaveney ( ).
In response to a gripe that the bookmaker wasn't offering odds on the Bootle constituency, Cllr Keaveney asked, "Wasn't there a rumour that Cherie Blair was going to be parachuted into Bootle [at the next election]?"
Cue a series of frenetic Facebook comments, astonished emails & urgent text & Twitter missives.
I phoned a couple of people whose antipathy to New Labour guaranteed a euphoric reaction to the very suggestion; the thought of a war criminal's wife & her minders being surrounded on Stanley Road by demonstrators was one they relished.
It's still a rumour. I spoke to a local Labour councillor today & raised the story with him. He rolled his eyes, said he knew nothing about it & declared that if there's any substance to the story, she'll be the candidate over his dead body.
Though hailing from Crosby ( ), Blair could be sold to the local party as a local girl made good (yes, I know) with the Oldham Echo weighing in on her behalf for good measure. There would, of course, be no shortage of local opposition to her candidacy, not least from Walton's Peter Kilfoyle ( ).
Counterbalancing such talk, however, is the financial factor; as a QC, Blair currently earns at least four times the basic salary of an MP. Given her penchant for the trappings of wealth, would she really wish to take a considerable salary reduction?
Fuelling the rumour is the knowledge that sitting MP Joe Benton has yet to declare his intentions, leading some in the local party to speculate that the 72 year-old will hang on until after the election & then call it quits, allowing local councillor Peter Dowd to be anointed (the verb is intentional, given the long-standing stranglehold the old Labour Catholic Right has had on the seat going back to Simon Mahon in the 60s & 70s), the minor inconvenience of a by-election notwithstanding.
What can be stated with any certainty is that if the rumour solidifies into reality, the media circus will descend on Bootle in a way never seen before & every step of her supposedly regal procession through the seat on to Westminster will be punctuated frequently by many who rightly view her as, at best, a shallow interloper.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Know Your Place

"People who send their children to private school have been so stigmatised that they have been made to feel their decision is 'tantamount to treason', a leading headteacher claimed last night.
"Andrew Grant, chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, said politicians and other critics of the fee-paying system should be grateful for the money parents are saving for the state sector.
"And he added that without them 'Britain would not have enough officers to lead its army.' "
( )

And they say the old class divisions no longer apply.
BTW, the conference is taking place in Liverpool. So, any mention of this in the Daily Ghost or Oldham Echo? (Surfs both wretched websites, groans at the c-list celeb/charidee "stories", navigates past obligatory "Merseypride" piece, notes Peel Holdings' puff-piece, sighs as Denise Fergus is wheeled out again to denounce a play she hasn't seen.........tumbleweed.)
Nope, not a dicky bird. Must have been mislaid on the news editor's desk, eh?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Hit The North

Boris Johnson's role as stand-up comic for the Tory faithful was faithfully reprised today for the blue-rinse brigade in Manchester ( ).
However, the best gag in his routine was unintended when he declared that if the Tories could win control of London, they could win any inner city in Britain. Yes, that's right, any inner city. Including Liverpool, to which the cycling bon viveur made the most indirect & fleeting of references.
Now, of course, we all know that although Johnson was Spectator editor at the time of the anti-Liverpool editorial (tastefully timed in the wake of Liverpool man Ken Bigley's murder in Iraq this time five years ago), it should be said that the scousers-are-self-pitying-thieves scrawl came courtesy of Simon Heffer, who wasn't even criticised by the now-London mayor for his, erm, thoughts.
It also brings to mind Geoffrey Howe's observation to his Tory cabinet colleagues in the wake of the Toxteth riots that government policy for areas like Merseyside should be one of "managed decline".
Incidentally, I couldn't help but notice that at the end of the Guardian's jarringly-edited video, the camera focuses on Cameron as, of all songs, "Shout to the Top", by the Style Council is played. Does Weller know about this?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Just A Word, Councillors

Just in case Mike Storey, Warren Bradley, or any one of the many talented, principled, visionary leaders of the city of Liverpool on the Lib Dem benches at the Town Hall ever feel tempted to respond in colourful terms to the Professor, Wayne or myself, don't.
Or we'll do what this enterprising & resourceful US blogger ( ) in Ohio did & reproduce said sentiments in loving detail: .
You have been warned.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


There's a measured take on the New Labour/Murdoch divorce from the Liverpool Culture Blog ( ), expressing unease at the invoking of Hillsborough as part of their spat.
Meanwhile, one blogger looks at a likely Cameron victory next year & notes that the Tories will take aim not just at the BBC, but Ofcom, too, hence Murdoch's switch; such a scenario could lead to a British version of Fox News over the airwaves ( ).
If it does come to pass, I say: Bring. It. On. Murdoch may think a UK version of his attack-dog channel will deliver the goods, but the reaction from the blogosphere will be just as swift, astringent & relentless as that seen in the US by sites like Huffington Post ( ), Raw Story ( ), Media Lens ( ) & Media Matters ( ).