‘How Do They Do It?’ – A Way To Broaden Horizons?

Liverpool’s physical location and economic situation make it difficult for some local people to know much about what’s happening elsewhere. This is turn results in difficulties in determining locally which new ideas for the city are good, and which less so. The proposed ‘How Do They Do It?’ programme could help here… but only if those who are able to do so actively support the idea.
There was a letter in the Liverpool Daily Post of 10 February, in which local commentator John Elcock writes of his concern that we in Liverpool should not reject everything that’s new in the city. He refers to his sadness about the ‘growing culture of parochialism in a city that used to trade ideas with the world.’
John’s letter is specifically about proposed new architectural designs in Liverpool; but I fear his remarks might also apply to other parts of our cultural and civic life.
Liverpool pride
I came to live in Liverpool 35 years ago this week, having never before had the opportunity to visit this city. There was plenty to be proud of for Liverpool’s citizens – its University, its Royal Orchestra, its fine Cathedrals, Theatres and Museums, its wonderful architecture; and of course the conviction of those who lived here that there could never be a better place to be.
Pride in one’s city is a fine thing, and fundamentally necessary for well-being and future success. But, unexamined, it can also be an obstacle to progress. Despite the ravages of the 1980s, we still have our flagship centres of learning and culture and our wonderful buildings; but somehow their backdrop is now more self-defensive, more openly unaccommodating of new ideas and of the give-and-take of modern life.
And Liverpool parochialism?
Many people in Liverpool do not even know about the lives of their neighbours at the other end of their own city, let alone those down the road in Manchester, Birmingham, London or perhaps further afield. Perhaps in previous times this knowledge was less essential; but now, when our young people do know about the opportunities elsewhere, many decide to leave Liverpool for pastures new.
This is a serious issue of opportunity and of cost. It is a legacy of comfort zone living, being unable to move beyond one’s own boundaries because of lack of money, lack of knowledge of what to do or where to go to find out new things, small opportunity to see why comparing our own and others’ experience might be useful. The cost of such tight horizons is sometimes difficulty, as John Elcock suggests, in being able to judge which new ideas for Liverpool are ‘right’, and which ‘wrong’.
Opportunities to compare and learn
I don’t write these observations to criticise, but rather to suggest a new opportunity and a way forward. For several years there have been proposals for a civic and educational programme based in Liverpool and called ‘How Do They Do It?’.
The idea would be to support small groups of young and older people together, as they visit other places, as guests of that town or city, to see what has been achieved (public service, enterprise, architecture and culture, whatever…) and how it was done. This would then be reported back in whatever way to our own people in Liverpool. Likewise, citizens of other places could – and indeed through the European Capital of Culture programme will – come as our guests to see what we in Liverpool do exceptionally well, and to report it back to their own neighbours and fellow townspeople.
Travel these days is easy, few towns and cities, whether in Britain or in continental Europe, cannot find a way to welcome guests who come in goodwill to learn together. Which businesses, schools and colleges, residents associations, religious organisations, individuals or whoever, can join us in making this ambition to share experience, with all the benefits it would bring to ourselves and others, a reality?

Posted on February 14, 2006, in Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Liverpool And Merseyside, People And Places, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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