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John Belchem’s ‘Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History’ (1207-2007)

Prof John Belchem.(small) JPG.jpg For three years Professor John Belchem and his University of Liverpool colleagues worked on a scholarly publication to record Liverpool’s eight hundred years as a city (1207 – 2007). Academically impressive, the book offers vibrant testimony to the human actions and achievements behind the dry facts – just as those attending made the official launch of this publication, in the setting of Liverpool’s splendid Town Hall, such a warm and memorable occasion.
Town Hall chandeliers Img0157.JPGLiverpool Town Hall is always a spectacular venue in which to celebrate a special occasion. It reminds us vividly of what the City of Liverpool must have been like in its prime, and what indeed it could still be again.
Nowhere, then, could have been more appropriate as a location for the formal launch on 18th October 2006 of Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History, the University of Liverpool Press book edited by Professor John Belchem about the first eight hundred years of this sometimes infuriating and always fascinating city. Liverpool is on the verge of another momentous era in its long history, as 2007 and 2008 approach. (You can see just some of the many special aspects of Liverpool life and legacy in the books listed immediately below this article.)
Cllr Joan Lang (Mayor).JPG Liverpool 800 is an impressive publication which charts as honestly and openly as it can the ways in which Liverpool has progressed over the past eight centuries, from its ‘small beginnings’ in 1207. As the book’s back cover reminds us, Liverpool rose, not always by admirable means, to become one of the world’s greatest seaports, so that by 1907 it was the second city of the empire. But what happened thereafter resulted in a vastly different prospect for this enigmatic city. John Belchem’s book, in charting the rise, fall and we trust rise again of Liverpool, will I know be a big hit; and I hope it will also offer a focus for just how we can now move forward to a second period of success and (this time, benign) global influence.
New friends and old
Andrew Pearce.JPG Christina Clarke & John Vaughan.JPG <img alt="Peter Brown Img0151.JPG" src="; width="104" height="120" /
Not withstanding the importance of the occasion, one of the nicest things about the Liverpool 800 launch was much simpler than all this. It was, as on other similar occasions, an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.

In the course of the evening I chatted with many people, including the Lord Mayor, Councillor Joan Lang, with whom years ago I sat on the City Arts Festival Committee, as well as those stalwarts of Liverpool’s civic history, such as John Vaughan, a local historian, now retired from the University of Liverpool Libraries, Christina Clarke JP, a ceaseless advocate for the preservation of our built heritage, Dr Peter Brown, chairman of the Merseyside Civic Society, and Andrew Pearce, at one time an MEP for Merseyside and now chairman of the Liverpool Heritage Forum. Others with an impressive knowledge of our civic heritage whom I know from the Liverpool Echo Stop the Rot campaign were there too.
In the same room, also chatting happily with everyone assembled, were people such as Rodney Holmes of Grosvenor,
who is in charge of our huge new Paradise Project ‘Liverpool One’ commercial development, and others from the University of Liverpool, the Liverpool Culture Company and the City Council, all in their day jobs busily engaged in promoting our future prospects as a city.
Tom & Kate.JPG And then there were folk ‘from the community’ such as Tom Calderbank and his wife, who have worked so hard to raise the profile of places like Toxteth Town Hall and The Belvedere.
In all, a richly diverse assembly of people, with their varied focuses on the past and the future, to celebrate the richly diverse history of our city.
A history which brings us together
John Belchem.& book JPG.jpg I could go on, but lists are never complete and after a while inadvertent omissions start to become obvious. However one looks at it, this book launch was an event which brought together people from many parts of Liverpool.
But of course the main person on this occasion was the man who with his co-authors has seen it through from beginning to end, linking all these varied threads into one cohesive whole. John Belchem spoke to us about his book without notes and with much passion. It was good to see him so delighted with the interest in, and support for, his finally completed project.
A welcome message
John Belchem Img0154.JPG John’s theme when he addressed us was one to which we can all subscribe: History tells us, he said, that Liverpool has always thrived on celebration. The city’s fortunes prosper when, whatever the reason, there are parties and festivities to be had! The launch of Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History, in our fabulous Town Hall, was an excellent practice run for what we all hope will also be an outstandingly excellent couple of years for Liverpool, in 2007 and 2008.

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