Scousers have it over the Mancs, a story I love to tell my friends and colleagues over the last thirty years living up on Merseyside. As discussed in previous blogs, my progression through the education system took the long route with a number of repeated years. Whilst many people heading into their third decade of life would be finishing off their higher education, finding employment and planning to start families, I was just getting ready to start a degree course.
Going back to February’s blog, I was establishing a healthy social life at Portsmouth Art School, for the first time since being at my ‘special needs’ school three years earlier. However, as much as I was enjoying life in the city, this was always going to be a ‘stop gap’ to something more further a-field. My ambition was to become an architect and be the next Sir Norman Foster. I also wanted to live and study in a big city, perhaps up north a few hundred miles away from boring Winchester.
Portsmouth was the first step on the way to this goal, and served this purpose really well. The next step was to find a suitable location and establishment that met my needs to gain the qualification to enable me to pursue my chosen career path. By my very nature, I’m a planner and like to go into things fully prepared. This was no exception, but with a little twist. My course at Portsmouth was two years, first a Foundation year with lots of tasters of different genre’s in the fields of art and design, the second year being a chance to specialise and achieve a BTech Diploma. In the first year Summer Term 1988 as it would happen there was a special offer for holders of ‘Young Person’s Rail Cards’, you could travel anywhere in the country for either a fiver or a tenner. Great opportunity to check out some of the cities and establishments that took my fancy to study, top of my ‘Wish list’ was Liverpool.
There were many reasons to why I was drawn to this city, part personal and part things I had read and seen in the media or more to the point chose to ignore. My first exposure of the city was probably watching Liverpool and Everton play in the European club finals in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This was the time before we had live football on every other day, although sadly in my opinion not on Freeview. There was to my memory living down south not a case of supporting an English team in Europe, because they were your club was an arch rival. I’m sure Evertonians and Manc’s in those days as in today, it was any other team bar Liverpool. Anyway I would be an avid fan of the English side for that particular final during this afore mentioned period, and more than any club Liverpool would be leading the English dominance. More about my football connections with the red side of Merseyside in next month’s blog…
The other two factors that attracted me to Liverpool both go hand and hand with the city as per afore mentioned, were music and politics. I seem to remember around 1982/3 I had my first exposure to the Beatles, I think it was to do with Radio One marking twenty years since their first hit ‘Love Me Do’. Ever since as young kid I always loved a boogie, especially to Rock and Roll. The rifts of this track got my feet tinkling so to speak, as did the other early Beatles singles. A very cliché reason for wanting to go and experience college life in the city, but none the less played it part in my journey in this direction. Since my musical tastes have broaden considerably and I’ve come to appreciate many other great musical recording artists from the city, such as ‘Echo and the Bunny Men’, ‘The Las’ and ‘Ian McNabb’. As well as meeting many talented unsung musical geniuses living in the area, have come to play important parts in my life. Again more of this to come in future blogs…
The third and probably the most important and personal factor to Liverpool’s draw to me, is the rich social politics and history of the city. My first awareness of politics was in the 70’s going with my parents to the local polling station whilst they voted. Both put a cross by Labour. Then when Thatcher came to power in 79’, although to be honest her policies would not affect us as a family a great deal, my parent’s reaction to this was not positive. Certainly from my Mum’s side that came from her dad, my Grandpa who was originally from Merseyside (later resided near Bath, Sommerset in my lifetime). I remember as a teenager having long heavy conversations with him about the evils of this right wing government and the misery their policies were having on places such as Merseyside. Living in Winchester during the 80’s without these family influences, I would probably think everything was ‘picture perfect’ under the Tories. As discussed in previous blogs, many of my peers at the town’s sixth form were typical ‘Yuppies’ coming from rich backgrounds and probably experienced great opportunities in the City of London gambling the nation’s wealth to further their pursuit of wealth. In hindsight I can see this was one of the reasons why I struggled so much socially living in Winchester and why I feel so much at home on Merseyside.
Going back to my first visit to Liverpool, taking advantage of afore mentioned Young Persons’ Rail Card offer it was love at first sight. I did my research and found out the date of the Polytechnic open day. University was not an option, felt I was not good enough and poly would give me a better chance of higher education i.e. a degree course. Quite ironic four years later, the government decided to convert all polys in to universities. Looking back in my opinion bit of an insult, as it’s something now I’m very proud of attending a poly. Anyway to my first visit to the city it was a beautiful sunny May 88’ day when I arrived at Liverpool Lime Street. When I got off the train it was like feeling at home straight away, even though I had never set foot in Liverpool before then. This is a feeling that has never gone away, every time I come back from visiting family down south over the last thirty one years.
Arguably everything I’ve mentioned about my reasons for choosing Merseyside could well be applied to Manchester – great football, musical and left wing political heritage. On paper when I was short listing polytechnics for my application form, Manchester came above Liverpool. However, at the end of the day I’m ruled by my heart and Liverpool took it. And I’ve never regretted this decision since the day I made it. As for becoming a fully-fledged architect this has never really quite happened, but has never left my passion so to speak.
Coming up in next month’s blog, two very different events five days apart, thirty years ago…