Lockdown Zine / July 2020

Special edition Lockdown Zine issue of Bido Lito! magazine. Featuring original writing, photography and illustration produced in the months of UK lockdown, 2020.

Special edition Lockdown Zine issue of Bido Lito! magazine. Featuring original writing, photography and illustration produced in the months of UK lockdown, 2020.


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It’s probably<br />

the question I’ve<br />

asked myself<br />

most over the course of the last three months. Yet I still don’t find myself with a clear answer or universally applicable point of view. If there’s<br />

been one silver lining to lockdown, it’s been its ability to raise these questions of importance, to shine a light on what we do need and what<br />

we don’t. Ultimately, what is truly essential? For that I think we all now have a better understanding.<br />

If the past three months have been punctuated by questions of importance, then the answers have often been displayed in adaptation.<br />

So many of Liverpool’s communities put forward creative solutions for those suffering from the virus in a physical and mental capacity.<br />

Generosity has been the key theme. This we’ve observed in people making charitable donations, shopping for those shielding at home,<br />

picking up prescriptions, producing home-made PPE when supply chains collapsed, enduring endless family quizzes over Zoom.<br />

Communities have grown tighter. Neighbourliness has shone through closed front doors, socially distanced only in a literal sense.<br />

As lockdown is eased, there will still be little relief in the cultural sector. There has been adaptation here too – online streams and<br />

panel discussions, guided tours of museums, newly released music produced in bedrooms – but the former picture of culture in Liverpool<br />

still seems far from returning. The financial repercussions of the virus are still yet to fully bite. Just when will we see live music again? The<br />

consumption of culture isn’t solely observation. It requires participation. Whether standing at the back of a gig arms folded, joyously spilling<br />

onto the stage, viewing the complementary curation of artists within a gallery – being there matters. Being part of it matters. Culture is<br />

reactive. The experiment needs the added material of the observational participant for it to realise its full energy. The digital sphere is a great<br />

leveller for accessibility, but can it convey every possible message and emotion? For this, setting and context are equally essential.<br />

At Bido Lito! there’ll always be a bias for the tangible, as you’d expect. But I’d like to think it’s not without reason. Having something<br />

to hold, to be with, part of, is an unrivalled launch pad for communication and sharing of ideas. Within this zine, collating writing and<br />

photography from the last three months, I hope that there’s the offer of ideas, of adaptation and community resilience. And ultimately, you,<br />

the person holding this zine in your hands, are the reason that it exists. Without your support throughout lockdown Bido Lito! would be in a<br />

much worse position than we’re in now. For that, myself and the rest of the team cannot be thankful enough.<br />

It is an understatement to say I initially found it tough to find the pulse of Liverpool’s new music and creative culture via the lens of a<br />

laptop screen while sat on a dining chair in a makeshift office. But your faith in the magazine, supporting us to continue doing what we do,<br />

gave us the energy to look that little bit closer, adapt and overcome the initial limitations. In the end I’ve come to observe the resounding<br />

potential of Liverpool’s communities thriving from postcode to postcode and within the digital sphere.<br />

As the cover would elude to with its array of envelopes, the work in this zine is all about communication and staying in touch. Not just<br />

with one another, but staying in touch with ourselves, the city, what we deem right and wrong. Staying in touch with our hopes for the<br />

future and what we can change.<br />

<strong>Lockdown</strong> meant a cruel separation from what Bido Lito! knows and loves, but it has only made our hearts grow fonder. With your<br />

continued support, we’ll continue to communicate the ideas of this resolutely creative city – even if that means keeping two metres distance,<br />

for now. !<br />

Elliot Ryder / @elliot_ryder<br />

Editor<br />

Bido Lito! <strong>Lockdown</strong> <strong>Zine</strong><br />

Locating the noise in a quiet city<br />

Liverpool, March - June <strong>2020</strong><br />

Editor<br />

Elliot Ryder - elliot@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Design<br />

Mark McKellier - mark@andmark.co.uk<br />

Cover Artwork<br />

Aisling Woodward<br />

Back Cover Artwork<br />

Hannah Blackman-Kurz<br />

Executive Publisher<br />

Sam Turner - sam@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Founding Editor<br />

Craig Pennington - craig@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Founding Editor<br />

Christopher Torpey - chris@bidolito.co.uk<br />

Digital Media Manager<br />

Brit Williams - brit@bidolito.co.uk<br />


In the first weeks of lockdown, Cath<br />

Holland questioned the ‘we’re all in this<br />

together’ rhetoric of Covid-austerity<br />

by looking at the social impacts of the<br />

pandemic through the lens of those on<br />

the borderline of poverty – the many<br />

who’re working night and day to keep<br />

the country afloat.<br />

Not long ago you’d have had the piss ripped out of you<br />

something chronic for marching briskly about Birkenhead with<br />

a paper mask covering your face. And yet, now, a solid third of<br />

people I see out and about look like anxious surgeons – from<br />

the neck up, anyway – while picking up milk or stretching legs for statepermitted<br />

exercise.<br />

In mere days, public life changed beyond recognition. We’ve all become<br />

obsessed by the remarkably quaint British pastime of walking. But on the<br />

flipside, the big supermarket in town has crash barriers and security guards.<br />

Once through the door it’s impossible to avoid a voice over the Tannoy<br />

insisting “we’re all in this together”. Shuffling around the shop playing a bad<br />

game of dodgems with fellow shoppers, as we all observe the two metre<br />

social distance rule, the insistence is made more times than I can count. I<br />

wonder if the person repeating it actually believes what she’s saying?<br />

Boris Johnson booking an 8.30pm telly slot addressing the nation<br />

– patriotic punch to the chest there – dropping in Your Country Needs<br />

You sentiments, was a shock to the system. His father, Stanley, goes one<br />

further when commenting that his son “almost took one for the team” after<br />

Johnson’s stay in ICU. The notions of us all enlisting, metaphorically of<br />

course, to help with the war effort by staying at home brings with it Second<br />

World War psychology, when the public’s iron front gates and railings were<br />

removed to help make munitions. Mystery hangs over what happened<br />

with much of that harvested iron. Over a million tonnes were collected by<br />

September 1944, and still rumours persist that as much as three quarters<br />

were discarded and left to rust. A generation’s front gates vanished.<br />

Now we’re in coronavirus lockdown, those old sentiments from 70<br />

years hence return, and get cranked up to 11. BBC News runs a short,<br />

cheery item about shelf stackers and cleaners and elevates them via the<br />



use of bold language to “minimum wage heroes” and members of a “hidden<br />

army”. Their fellow low-paid – the delivery drivers bringing online food<br />

orders, care assistants – are all key and essential workers now. The phrase<br />

‘key worker’ has a nice ring to it. It was days ago when we viewed these<br />

women and men as unskilled, low-skilled at best, with pay levels to match.<br />

With cleaners getting 15 minutes of fame, it feels like we’re all in it together<br />

and at the same time it absolutely bloody well does not.<br />

The next item on the news is trauma at its most middle class: lighthearted<br />

advice on how to, somehow, survive the pandemic without access<br />

to the services of a hairdresser. At this point, the stay-at-home guidelines<br />

are starting to emphasise the fractures and the inequality we have across<br />

Merseyside and beyond. As the days progress, the divide gets bigger and<br />

it’s showing itself more. When lockdown first happened, people nodded at<br />

strangers in the street and wished them a good morning/afternoon, like in<br />

the 1950s. That doesn’t happen anymore; it’s more a “keep your distance”<br />

and “where the hell are you going in that car?”.<br />

The absence of free school meals during school closures means poorer<br />

children may miss out on significant daily nutrition. Even as I’m writing<br />

this, the government still hasn’t announced its plans for those eligible for<br />

free meals [Ed: Instead, it is Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford<br />

who has donated his money and time to help fill the void of free school<br />

meals, further lobbying the government for their reinstatement while<br />

schools remain shut]. Wirral Council has introduced a voucher scheme in<br />

the meantime. Parents can buy food with<br />

the vouchers in local supermarkets to feed<br />

their children, a bridging of the gap the<br />

government should have predicted. The<br />

queue lengths outside different supermarkets<br />

vary; with lower-priced ones there is<br />

invariably a wait due to more people needing<br />

food, and the one-in, one-out policy to<br />

prevent overcrowding and virus transmission,<br />

but with the more expensive stores it’s a case<br />

of just walking in. Being poor is exhausting, it<br />

takes more effort just to live.<br />

To be kind is something we’re all meant<br />

to think more about doing and it is true<br />

there is a lot of kindness about. Yet in these<br />

lockdown times, much like Christmas, we<br />

give our comfortable lives a smug glaze as we conduct our social lives<br />

online. It’s easy to mock this new, weird, mad shit world. I myself was ready<br />

to comment on Facebook that just because technology allows anyone to<br />

perform online gigs it doesn’t necessarily mean they should. Stopped<br />

myself just in time, though it hurt and my fingers itched to type it out. They<br />

still do. It’s killing me. Giving thanks for being able to write it here, in a more<br />

formal setting.<br />

The comedians are out in force on Facebook, though, sharing a picture<br />

of an idyllic sunny beach scene with a palm tree and beautiful blue and<br />

thinking they’re hilarious writing “with less travel, less pollution and less<br />

human activity the earth is healing and recovering. This was Birkenhead<br />

this morning”. Birkenhead is replaced with whatever working-class town or<br />

area with high levels of poverty is near to the poster geographically. Near,<br />

but not too near. Because poverty stinks and if you get it in your nostrils<br />

it’s getting too close for comfort. Reflect on your loss of personal freedoms<br />

if you want, but remember this: donating to foodbanks is a kind move if<br />

you can afford it, but it doesn’t absolve the giver of sneery sins. Punching<br />

up in humour is fun and a great British tradition – there I go again – but<br />

downwards, not so much.<br />

As my own world shrinks, living on my own with two heroically loyal<br />

cats, more books than I’ll ever read and a library of albums to enjoy, plus<br />

“After we’ve lashed our<br />

face masks in the bin,<br />

key workers are going<br />

to need way more than<br />

a blink and you’ll miss it<br />

package on the ten o’clock<br />

news as a reward”<br />

so much to write about, I still find myself obsessively searching out any<br />

sort of greenery. The plants in my own garden seem to be trolling me, any<br />

budding spring leaves and flowers on a go slow, so I make do with the<br />

grass verge at the top of my street, the clutter of council-planted daffodils<br />

on the main road or the long hike up to the park. Green shoots of optimism<br />

were mentioned on the news, though it’s a couple of days since anyone<br />

mentioned those.<br />

Access to green spaces, pretty flowers, having a full belly and the<br />

ability to work from home is more than a privilege. Key workers don’t<br />

have all this. They go to work on terrible pay and risk their health to boot.<br />

Key workers on minimum wage are at the coalface, job roles expanded to<br />

accommodate the new circumstances, dealing with the public.<br />

We can all indulge in some black humour to get us through. I was<br />

always convinced that if the world was ending tomorrow, the Skeleton<br />

Records shop would still be stubbornly open selling rows of Hawkwind<br />

and ELO vinyl. Yet here we are, the door with the trippy skeleton painted<br />

on it locked right up. It’s a strange world indeed. Oxton Road, which boasts<br />

a new Lidl attracting the four-wheel drive families from the posh parts of<br />

Wirral, leads into Birkenhead town centre. It’s a length of social housing,<br />

empty boozers and independent shops that’ve been there for years. A<br />

lad bellows to a woman by the fruit and veg shop. He can’t get hold of<br />

his dealer, he laughs. He’s gonna dig out his old bongs and scrape off the<br />

residue and smoke or snort that. “Stay safe,” she laughs as well, keeping<br />

the distance between them way more than<br />

the law-abiding two metres.<br />

<strong>Lockdown</strong> is no fun for anyone, but life<br />

is grimmer for poor people. Will the world<br />

gain more empathy for the poor, I can’t help<br />

but ask myself? Universal Credit has taken<br />

on a new reputation, after all. A fortnight or a<br />

lifetime ago, depending how you view it, UC<br />

was all about avoiding sanctions and getting<br />

by. A million new Universal Credit claimants<br />

over the first two weeks of lockdown have<br />

discovered, or will discover, that the benefit<br />

isn’t enough to live on. Paid monthly to help<br />

people learn how to budget, because eating,<br />

clothing yourself, warming your home,<br />

keeping clean on the pitiful sum is doable<br />

if you’re thrifty, right? The world is learning, slowly, that claimants are not<br />

trousering fat wads, don’t drive Ferraris or spend thousands of pounds on<br />

Christmas presents for their kids. The Daily Mail, and just about everyone<br />

else, has been lying to you.<br />

Whether changes happen after this pandemic is over is food for<br />

thought. If cleaners and carers are heroes, then surely it follows that they<br />

look forward to secure futures, our newfound knowledge ensuring our<br />

support. Will zero hours contracts be a thing of the past? Will Universal<br />

Credit be ditched? Are we willing to pay for our online food deliveries so<br />

the driver who kept you fed during these (all together now) unprecedented<br />

times is financially secure, or make sure one’s weekly cleaner gets holiday,<br />

maternity, sick pay? Freshly delivered of shiny new key worker status they<br />

may be, but once this pandemic is over, will they revert back to unskilled,<br />

unseen? Will we let them? Because, if we really, honestly truly think they’re<br />

so valuable, after we’ve lashed our face masks in the bin and started talking<br />

to people again, they’re going to need way more than a blink and you’ll<br />

miss it package on the 10 o’clock news as a reward. !<br />

Words: Cath Holland / @cathholland01<br />

Illustration: Aisling Woodward / @aisling_bridget<br />


Over the course of the past three months, we continued to profile some of the best new<br />

artists in Merseyside who carried on offering their services in the face of uncertainty.<br />

<strong>Lockdown</strong> has been a contrasting period for creatives. While some have been able to thrive<br />

in isolation and greater afforded space, many others have had an opposite experience<br />

as a result of the socio-economic pressures of the pandemic. When the tightest social<br />

distancing measures were implemented, the livelihoods of many musicians, reliant on gigs<br />

and healthy touring schedules, were instantly cut off. Musicians and artists themselves have known<br />

the precarity of the industry structures they operated within prior to the pandemic. Yet, Covid-19<br />

and the ensuing lockdown brought a greater emphasis on the sheer lack of financial safety net and<br />

the largely transactional nature artists are used within society. The audiences were removed while<br />

the artists remained.<br />

Music was an essential service during lockdown. But artists were not simply able to be placed<br />

in a box and reemerge happily when playing crowds where reinstated. Like many professions that<br />

have rightly been recognised as essential and key to society, artists and musicians fall into the same<br />

bracket. We use musicians every day. Their companionship was unswerving during the heights of<br />

the pandemic, be that through access to their music, live streams or playlist curation. Artists and<br />

musicians truly are essential. !<br />

“Give your music its own name. That opens<br />

you up to a concept in your head, that you<br />

can build on what’s fully your own”<br />

Brad Stank<br />

“Music is a form of<br />

communication that<br />

goes beyond words. It is<br />

intimately linked to our<br />

basic humanity”<br />

Sola<br />

“I love the vastness of<br />

coming up with your<br />

own music. There are no<br />

rules or restrictions”<br />

Lucy Gaffney<br />

“Sometimes it’s not always necessary to follow the<br />

recipe. Throw things together and you might make<br />

something you don’t expect”<br />

James Madden, Seatbelts<br />


Photography from left to right:<br />

Sola (Sophia Carey / @sophiajcarey)<br />

Lucy Gaffney (Thom Southern)<br />

Seatbelts (Michael Kirkham / @MrKirks)<br />

Brad Stank (Daniel Longmore / @prettygrimphoto)<br />

Natalie McCool (Robin Clewley / robinclewley.co.uk)<br />

NAK (Rebecca Oliver / @ollie_606)<br />

Eli Smart (Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon)<br />

Ragz Nordset (Courtesy of Ragz Nordset)<br />

Doomshakalaka (Nick Duckett)<br />

For me, lockdown manifested as a<br />

beautiful dissonance; like everything<br />

is too still, and simultaneously<br />

wickedly intense. Perhaps a state not<br />

too uncommon for most artists”<br />

Ragz Nordset<br />

“Just being able to<br />

lean out for ideas, just<br />

by being open to the<br />

possibility of being<br />

inspired by something,<br />

it just becomes its own<br />

inspiration”<br />

Doomshakalaka<br />

“You’ve got to get used to the<br />

environment of sharing your deepest,<br />

darkest thoughts with somebody<br />

else. That’s the hardest thing”<br />

Natalie McCool<br />

“I’m going to be making music for<br />

a long time, in any scenario. It’s<br />

a comforting thing for me and I’ll<br />

always have that”<br />

Eli Smart<br />

“I feel like if my dad didn’t die, and I<br />

hadn’t experienced going to church<br />

and feeling the spiritual connection of<br />

the Afrobeat music, then I wouldn’t be<br />

making Afrobeat music today”<br />

NAK<br />


As lockdown and social distancing measures curtailed our usual activity, many of<br />

us found ourselves with more time to listen. Now is when we’ll know which voices<br />

we truly rely on for cultural navigation and information.<br />

up all frontline workers,” booms down the mic as a<br />

slick rewind pulls through the last track of the morning<br />

on Melodic Distraction Radio. The socially-charged<br />

“Big<br />

sign off, delivered with underlay of murky bassline and<br />

sporadic synthesiser most commonly found on grime instrumentals, isn’t<br />

your average public service announcement in a time of crisis. Nor is it the<br />

usual offering of chirpy music and current affairs chatter on your average<br />

breakfast show. For a start it’s much closer to midday than the first spritely<br />

pips of Radio 4’s agenda-setting Today programme. But this is no barrier to<br />

the club-focussed selections setting the music-first agenda on MDR.<br />

The online radio station’s combination of spirited selections and<br />

spirit-raising conversation has watermarked its first month of live morning<br />

programming. Whereas the station previously broadcast each day from<br />

4pm in its Baltic Triangle studio, the programming team has added two<br />

live shows from 8am-12pm every weekday – all of which are broadcast<br />

from the living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens of the station’s radio show<br />


hosts. “We basically scaled [the setup] back,” explain station co-founder<br />

Josh Aitman and manager Nina Franklin, tuning into a steady connection on<br />

Google Hangouts. “People donated so much kit, close to 70 microphones,<br />

cables and audio interfaces,” Aitman adds. “As the lockdown was coming<br />

into effect, we’d been able to deliver equipment to our host’s doors and get<br />

them set up.”<br />

It’s not only the record collections of the hosts on show. The live<br />

streaming aspect of the programming brings the listener further into the<br />

room. Yesterday’s breakfast show was complete with its hosts, Tom Lye<br />

and James Binary, riffing off one another’s<br />

music choices in an attic bedroom.<br />

The station’s presenters, like many across<br />

commercial and BBC networks, have assumed<br />

the role of quasi-frontline workers since the<br />

nation went into lockdown. Tuning into radio<br />

has provided the only access to outside voices<br />

for many in isolation. Yet, musical connection<br />

isn’t merely enough on its own. The presence<br />

of steady human navigation is there to<br />

reinforce the emotive connection within the<br />

listener.<br />

On the more established local radio waves<br />

of the BBC, its role is typified by delivering<br />

the latest information and retaining high<br />

spirits for its listeners, albeit with fewer grime<br />

instrumentals. “We need to give trusted<br />

information,” says BBC Radio Merseyside editor Andrew Bowman. “In that<br />

sense, institutions have never been more important as being somewhere<br />

people can look to for information that’s well checked and well trusted.” But<br />

there’s an equal incentive to retain a familiar atmosphere that flattens the<br />

angular nature of information emerging from the crisis. “[It’s] important to<br />

be offering people a distraction, and being somewhere people can turn to<br />

in really hard times,” he says, speaking over the phone on a rare day in a<br />

usually busy office, where the workforce is operating on a skeletal level in<br />

line with social distancing measures.<br />

“We’re going to need<br />

the tastemakers, the<br />

navigators, these trusted<br />

voices more than ever,<br />

because it’s going to look<br />

a fuck of a mess when<br />

we’re on the other side<br />

and we start to rebuild”<br />

For MDR, forming a digital web of musical connection across<br />

Liverpool’s postcodes has been a key component of the programming,<br />

according to station manager Nina Franklin. “I stopped listening to albums<br />

and recorded mixes really quickly after lockdown,” she starts. “I wanted<br />

to hear somebody’s voice. Anything with a chat room integration and a<br />

comforting voice suddenly became really<br />

important.” Jovial phone-ins and song requests<br />

have also been a regular feature throughout<br />

the live programming, arguably a lifeline<br />

for many at home self-isolating, working or<br />

furloughed. “The current situation was the<br />

push that we needed to launch the morning<br />

schedule, but it was never intended to be in<br />

this format. It’s a strange and enjoyable thing<br />

to be doing at this time,” Franklin notes.<br />

As a nation we’re listening a lot more<br />

since the lockdown. Not just in terms of<br />

statistical figures – up by 18 per cent across<br />

BBC networks at the end of March – but in<br />

terms of a willingness to connect to other,<br />

trusted voices; seeking out a more personable<br />

and emotional connection with content being<br />

delivered. And this runs through both culture and information with many<br />

relying on daily briefings where the politicians don’t field the majority of<br />

questions. This, in an era when people were supposedly sick of listening to<br />

the experts.<br />

The nation shutting its front doors and staying home is an obvious<br />


marker for growth in listenership on radio. However, in parallel,<br />

streaming figures are down – as much as 8 per cent on Spotify. In this<br />

there are early signs that human voices are taking greater prevalence<br />

over algorithmic navigation as we find ourselves with greater time and<br />

space to listen.<br />

Melodic’s listening figures have gone “through the roof” according to<br />

Franklin. “We’re having thousands more people tuning in every week,”<br />

Aitman reinforces, “and this is live.” Given the challenging circumstances<br />

the results have come at an even greater surprise. “This has changed<br />

the game for us. Whether it’s the chatbox, or Facebook live, people are<br />

getting in touch more than before. Our listenership has increased by over<br />

100 per cent.”<br />

The online station has come good on its promise of providing a<br />

‘distraction’. As the virus has proliferated and news reports and briefings<br />

grown otherworldly by the day, the station’s<br />

light-hearted approach and commitment to<br />

following the musical tastes of its hosts has<br />

been a portal to momentary solace. However,<br />

to steer clear of the hard talk of exponential<br />

graphs and ventilators is not to assume an<br />

apathetic discourse. “We’re not frontline<br />

workers, and we don’t have any coronavirus<br />

expertise,” says Franklin, “but we do have<br />

loads of tunes. That’s what we can offer to<br />

people.” Most importantly of all, the voices at<br />

the heart of the programming remain sincere<br />

and informed on the music choices.<br />

Key to following a trusted navigator<br />

stems from understanding and sincerity. As<br />

an institution delivering news and curating<br />

culture, the BBC is a ubiquitous presence in<br />

many households with its raft of familiar and ‘trusted’ voices. For many,<br />

it remains the gold standard of news and analysis on national and local<br />

level – even while its sincerity will be questioned by some. Its radio<br />

stations are still the most listened to in the country, with the Today<br />

programme on Radio 4 drawing in just over seven million listeners each<br />

week.<br />

In recent years the broadcasting institution has found itself wedged<br />

in between an increasingly polarised political sphere. Up until the current<br />

pandemic, its very existence and use as non-partisan organisation was<br />

being brought into question by the Government. And yet, similarly to<br />

Melodic Distraction, the challenges have seen the institution come into<br />

its own as resource for listeners confined to their homes with a growing<br />

appetite for information.<br />

“The companionship of radio is different from most other media<br />

because we’re in people’s kitchens, people’s living rooms, people’s<br />

bedrooms,” says Bowman. “Often, if they are living on their own or not<br />

seeing family and friends as much, we’re a link to the outside world.”<br />

Bowman concedes that trust in journalism has been tested in<br />

recent years, but he stands by the “importance” of institutions like radio,<br />

magazines, newspapers and publishers to assume the role as trusted<br />

voices at a time when people are looking for leadership. “Journalists<br />

are there to tell stories and tell them in a truthful and accurate way,” he<br />

continues. “The current crisis has shown that we need quality journalism.<br />

We need that at a local level too.”<br />

“We’re not frontline<br />

workers, and we don’t<br />

have any coronavirus<br />

expertise, but we do have<br />

loads of tunes. That’s what<br />

we can offer to people”<br />

The local connection Bowman speaks of has seen a huge spike<br />

company and solace.”<br />

in engagement in the past four weeks,<br />

with 300,000 calls to the station’s Make A<br />

Difference teams – a virtual notice board where<br />

members of the public can ask for, or offer up,<br />

a range of help during the lockdown. All of<br />

this comes down to the connection with the<br />

voice according to Bowman. “It’s not OK to not<br />

have a local voice. I think the BBC has a unique<br />

position to provide that.”<br />

Speaking to The Guardian last month,<br />

professor Sophie Scott, director of the Institute<br />

of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, underscored<br />

the huge importance of voice familiarity. “From<br />

the moment we are born,” she stated, “we<br />

react differently to voices we know. We are<br />

calmed by them. It’s a profound connection. A<br />

familiar voice, one that we are fond of, is both<br />

But what exactly is in a trusted voice, and why does it matter now<br />

or in usual circumstances? Writing in The Observer, Alan Rusbridger<br />

opined: “In our isolation we are rediscovering community. In our<br />

confusion we are rethinking whom we trust… but what it amounts to is<br />

this: there is such a thing as society and we are all interdependent. And<br />

if it sometimes takes a grave crisis to remind ourselves of these truths,<br />

then this moment may well be historic for the possibilities of hope.”<br />

Climb to the top of Everton brow and Rusbridger’s thoughts are<br />

echoed more economically. Sprawled on a wall nearest the parks peak<br />

are the words “there is such a thing as society”. The graffiti makes a<br />


poignant point in its location. The views take in Scotland Road as far as<br />

Waterloo, past Liverpool’s modernised docks. To the right, monuments to<br />

social housing projects stand in line as they taper towards Everton Valley.<br />

Beyond the insincere cityscape, punctured by new builds held together by<br />

dirty funds, the riverside of L8 comes into sight with its terracotta-flecked<br />

terraces and community steeples. Every direction you look you can take<br />

in the existence of society. Even without the people present a shadow is<br />

still cast on empty streets by busy households. A drive for individualism,<br />

most forcefully pushed by Thatcher, is countered by the view on offer and<br />

the riposte on the wall. Without society the landscape wouldn’t be quiet.<br />

There’d be no trust in calls to stay at home.<br />

Radio is just one medium where we have seen societal bonds tighten<br />

in the ensuing lockdown. Faith in the BBC has grown. Those who dared<br />

to question the NHS now clutch at straws to lay blame at the exhausted<br />

hands and feet of medical professionals. But the role of cultural navigation<br />

remains just as important in retaining these societal bonds. As with Melodic<br />

Distraction, trusted voices remain at the heart.<br />

“On the other side of all this, we’ll say to ourselves, ‘We got into a<br />

bit of a mess here’. Not just in politics, but in cultural navigation too,”<br />

says Roger Hill, who has fronted the explorative Popular Music Show<br />

on BBC Merseyside for over 30 years. “We’ll be looking to those whose<br />

voices convince us – the curators. The person who shimmies together a<br />

characterised cluster of content. Just as John Peel was doing.”<br />

Hill’s comments take in the age of the influencer and the voices who’ve<br />

risen to prominence through social media. One glaring omission from the<br />

trusted voices cohort since the crisis gained pace is celebrities. Toe-curling<br />

renditions of Imagine and You’ll Never Walk Alone have been enough to<br />

see their stocks plummet at a similar rate to crude oil. For Hill, this has<br />

reopened the door for the trusted voices. Those at the heart of institutions,<br />

those strengthening society through the subtle rallying cry of radio<br />

broadcasting – even when music takes centre stage.<br />

“The crisis has increased our alertness,” Hill starts. “It hasn’t showed<br />

us that there are new, trusted voices per-se. If you look at the stars in the<br />

garden at night, in one sense you’d say they’re all the same brightness.<br />

But actually, some are brighter, some are more penetrating and visible, but<br />

we’ve never bothered to look at them long enough for quite some time.<br />

“Now, in isolation, we’re taking a moment to look a little bit longer and<br />

reacquaint ourselves,” he adds. “Through this we’re starting to see which<br />

voices among the masses offer the widest perspective and inform us, bring<br />

us something new. We were always capable to do this, but we didn’t have<br />

the motivation to do any hard looking.”<br />

Hill’s perspective is shared by Joel Hansen, editor of Scottie Press<br />

Newspaper, who has been zeroing in on the impact of the pandemic<br />

in North Liverpool. “People are feeling more and more detached from<br />

the world around them. Familiar platforms and institutions giving them<br />

comfort is more important than ever. That’s what Scottie Press is, even<br />

when outside of the current circumstances.” While the paper has moved<br />

to digital production for the time being, Hansen does not see it taking<br />

a reduced role as a trusted voice in the North Liverpool communities –<br />

something which it has offered for over 30 years. “We’re seeing figures<br />

and we’re hearing stories that might not be too close to home. Local<br />

press is able to take these stats and stories and relay them in a way<br />

that relates to a local community, with added first person accounts<br />

that people can resonate with.” In doing so, community connections<br />

are established and strengthened on the micro level, and if propagated<br />

enough, levels of trust in what we see and hear grow on a macro level.<br />

Taking a step back in isolation allows us to venture back to root of what<br />

we believe in.<br />

Back over at Melodic Distraction, Josh Aitman is at the controls for<br />

today’s full morning schedule. For the past four weeks the news has<br />

continued to grow more serious as signs of a peak in deaths haven’t fully<br />

materialised. With an extended lockdown, the country is in a different<br />

place to when it started. But at MDR, the focus hasn’t shifted. “We’re<br />

here with you, bringing the connection through music while we can’t<br />

be together,” he says into the mic. The resolute, uplifting attitude is<br />

likely of paramount importance to listeners at home placing trust in the<br />

music and the voice that’s guiding them through social distancing. It’s no<br />

less important than the authoritative voices standing either side of the<br />

politicians every day at 5pm briefings.<br />

Access to these voices is an essential public service, and one that<br />

spans all layers of society – from politics to culture. Now is the time when<br />

we’ll understand which voices we truly rely on – those we’ll need to be<br />

just as vocal once lockdown ends. As Hill puts it best: “We’re going to<br />

need the tastemakers, the navigators, these trusted voices more than<br />

ever, because it’s going to look a fuck of a mess when we’re on the other<br />

side and we start to rebuild.” !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder<br />

Illustration: Aisling Woodward / @aisling_bridget<br />

melodicdistraction.com/radio<br />

bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_radio_merseyside<br />

facebook.com/PopularMusicShow/<br />


Illustrations: Aisling Woodward / @aisling_bridget<br />

From exhibition managers to displaced students, Covid-19 and the requisite<br />

lockdown saw individuals having to take a step back and reflect on their<br />

relationship with work and their industry, their hobbies and futures. Perspectives<br />

was a regular feature in which we sought out the points of view of a range of<br />

people traversing isolation, detailing changes to their regular creative practices.<br />

“Being able to slow down our processes, integrate<br />

the content we are creating and re-engage with<br />

the artists with whom we were speaking (in a more<br />

open and experimental way) has been incredibly<br />

valuable. There has been space where we can<br />

look at what it is we should be doing, and how<br />

to best achieve that now, and in the near future.<br />

Across the sector, we constantly facilitate artwork<br />

about precarity, labour, neoliberalism and active<br />

suppression, and maybe this is the thing which<br />

forces us to confront how we perpetuate these<br />

very systems.”<br />

Lesley Taker is the exhibitions manager at FACT<br />

Liverpool.<br />

“I think everyone in the live touring industry<br />

is looking at what is happening here and<br />

realising that the only people who can make<br />

this whole industry more accountable,<br />

secure and professional for its members in<br />

the future are its members.”<br />

Doug Wood is a tour manager and runs<br />

Liverpool Band Vans.<br />

“Being a freelancer is generally precarious.<br />

There’s a lack of stability for creatives,<br />

and we often keep circling back round to<br />

the stupid notion that being a creative is a<br />

luxury and that we should be grateful when<br />

things that we do are funded, which is a<br />

toxic way of thinking. I believe creatives<br />

have an important role in society; lots<br />

of people have stable jobs that form the<br />

infrastructure around artists but the artists<br />

themselves (partly due to the nature of<br />

them working with multiple partners) never<br />

really get that stability.”<br />

Frances Disley is a visual artist.<br />


“The value of creativity seems to have been<br />

recognised during the crisis. Kids and adults are<br />

being encouraged to stay active and be creative<br />

during lockdown. It’s painfully ironic that creative<br />

subjects are disappearing from school curriculums.<br />

Let’s hope this is remembered when the crisis is over<br />

and things don’t just go back to normal.”<br />

Ali Johnson is the studio director at Dorothy.<br />

“The enduring power of music is something<br />

we often take for granted; it connects us to one<br />

another, moves us emotionally and soundtracks<br />

the milestones in our lives. In testing times, it is<br />

comforting to listen to old favourites and all the<br />

more exciting to hear fresh new sounds.”<br />

Conal Cunningham is a regular Bido Lito!<br />

contributor.<br />

“After University closed, everything seemed to go<br />

double speed. My housemates went back home, my<br />

friends started to isolate and shops closed. I avoided<br />

my mum’s calls. Going back home meant accepting<br />

it was over, accepting that this was my farewell. The<br />

unknown lay ahead as my future job was taken from<br />

me, the life I had created for myself in Liverpool had<br />

gone into lockdown and I was thrown into a reality that<br />

I never anticipated. A month after my goals aligned, I’m<br />

here, sat in my parents’ house, unable to contribute to<br />

rent. My graduation dress is hanging in the wardrobe.<br />

It’s likely to stay there.”<br />

Megan Walder is a regular Bido Lito! contributor.<br />

“As a long term self-employed worker, it was<br />

distressing at first to be left out of the government’s<br />

support scheme. Thankfully that seems to have been<br />

sorted out. It’s a really tough time for the live music<br />

and events industry, since it’s all about bringing groups<br />

of people together to jointly experience something.<br />

Going forward, I hope that this period will give people<br />

a chance to work out what is actually meaningful to<br />

them.”<br />

Luke Avery is a tour lighting designer and operator.<br />


Following the release of his latest book, Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadowplay,<br />

we spoke to screenwriter and author Jeff Young about Liverpool’s architectural<br />

trajectory and the uncertain future of stories swept aside by brazen regeneration.<br />

On the first Saturday night of nationwide lockdown, Merseyside<br />

Police shared footage of mounted officers riding into an empty<br />

Concert Square. The scene in the video was vacuous.<br />

Gone was the ever-present thud of bass, the breaking of<br />

bottles, collective merriment and hedonism. The only perceptive sound<br />

was horseshoes on street cobbles stained with memories of years gone<br />

by. “Ghost Town”, was a two-word comment left below the video by JEFF<br />

YOUNG.<br />

The screenwriter and author’s aside was a simple observation, but<br />

also a nod towards his most recent book of the same name, Ghost Town: A<br />

Liverpool Shadowplay, released in February – a full month before Liverpool<br />

was in the grip of the pandemic.<br />

“A few people have said to me over the last few weeks, ‘Oh, what<br />

a prophetic title to choose’. But it was never intended to be any sort<br />

of prophecy for the situation we’re in,” says Young,<br />

talking over the phone from his home in<br />

Aigburth. “The footage is a desolation. A<br />

Wild West-style scene; the horse riding<br />

through the deserted town. Seeing a<br />

place that is normally so over-populated<br />

at that time of night so quiet is quite<br />

dystopian,” he adds.<br />

Where those images appeared<br />

ghostly for their momentary absence of<br />

human activity, Young’s book hinges on<br />

the essence of human connection to the<br />

city’s streets and buildings. These ‘ghosts’,<br />

which Young recalls, draw on his personal<br />

memories and the dreams of a city lost to<br />

redevelopment. For Young, the failure of<br />

the city’s architectural dreams are the most<br />

prevalent ghosts of all. “My fundamental<br />

belief is that architecture is nothing without<br />

humanity,” he continues, “and without<br />

humanity, it’s the absolute erasure of the city<br />

heartbeat.”<br />

The failure of Liverpool’s contemporary<br />

architectural trajectory was visibly clear prior<br />

to the pandemic. The removal of sincere<br />

human presence and interaction has dogged<br />

much of the city centre since the arrival of<br />

St John’s Precinct, Young notes. Further<br />

thoughtless planning followed at the turn<br />

of the millennium as Liverpool received its<br />

capitalist makeover. But these actualities only<br />

grow more apparent when the lens is widened,<br />

and the people are removed from the scene all<br />


together – as we saw over the first few weeks of the lockdown period. “The<br />

newer developments, such as that on Lime Street, are alienating. There’s a<br />

clear lack of empathy for the people in the city and the people who move<br />

through the city,” Young comments. “Taking the people out of the city, as is<br />

happening now, you see the only reason so much of the city centre exists<br />

is for commerce and consumerism. Maybe this current situation can be a<br />

wake-up call.”<br />

This drive for a consumerist central hub in<br />

Liverpool is perforated by towers offering short<br />

term rents and the ease of inner-city living. But<br />

as we’re drawn inside, these spaces become<br />

as isolated as Liverpool ONE, Lord Street and<br />

Church Street. The flats in the city centre are<br />

devoid of continuity and human energy. This<br />

is a far cry from the dreams of St Andrew’s<br />

Gardens, more commonly known as the Bullring,<br />

situated just off Brownlow Hill, a housing<br />

project built in the 1930s and now home to<br />

students. “One of the visions of the Bullring<br />

was that all neighbours would face the other<br />

neighbours. It’s a Viennese school of architecture<br />

design. It’s built so you can see one another<br />

and have contact,” says Young, commenting on how our failures to realise<br />

the buildings’ social potential has grown more prevalent as we continue<br />

mandatory isolation. “It’s community focussed, the opposite of alienation.<br />

It’s embracing,” he adds.<br />

Throughout the book, Young pores over similar stories pulled from<br />

locations built with its people in mind – lambasting those that do the<br />

opposite. As Young argues, architecture is integral to the social experience<br />

of society. Physical presence, accessibility, placement and fulfilling<br />

expectations for the needs of the landscape are all essential to ensuring<br />

that municipal dreams don’t become ghosts, haunting the hollow facades<br />

that come to whitewash the cityscape.<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder<br />

Writing on one of the prevailing themes of his book, Jeff Young warns of<br />

sleepwalking towards ‘city-death’.<br />

In 1948 the City Architect, Alfred Earnest Shennan, contributed to a<br />

book called Liverpool, Past, Present, Future published by the City Council.<br />

In his chapter devoted to The Future, Shennan wrote: “Can we of this<br />

generation evolve for our City the maximum of material and spiritual good,<br />

building on the achievements of our predecessors and conjuring phoenixlike<br />

a new city out of the enormous evil of the war?”<br />

Together with his fellow architects J.F. Smith and Gordon Hemm,<br />

Shennan made the case for a Utopian vision of the future metropolis,<br />

asking, “Shall we not aim at beauty, dignity, hygiene; speed and safety<br />

of movement; the general convenience and happiness of the people?”<br />

He saw an opportunity to create a dynamic new city, one that honoured<br />

and respected the past but also embraced the future with “impulse and<br />

momentum”.<br />

He had in mind a city of thrilling architecture and vibrant public spaces,<br />

rising from the rubble of the Blitz, designed and maintained by benevolent<br />

custodians, a place where the enfranchised masses felt themselves to be<br />

participants in its day to day life and in its future. Gordon Hemm’s artists<br />

impression of this Futuropolis is a science fiction cityscape straight out of<br />

60s TV cartoon The Jetsons. However, very little of this vision was realised,<br />

and arguably there hasn’t been a vision to compare to it since.<br />

One of Shennan’s finest achievements is the Art Deco Forum cinema<br />

“The city should be allowed<br />

to grow organically,<br />

an ever-changing,<br />

metaphysical project…<br />

where the vital memory of<br />

the past nurtures the pulse<br />

of the present and sustains<br />

the dynamic future”<br />

on Lime Street. This palace of dreams is now empty and gutted and these<br />

days it’s mainly used as a convenient place to hang an advertising billboard.<br />

A building that was once one of the heartbeats of the city, once the very<br />

embodiment of velocity and vision, has been treated with contempt.<br />

I have written about this street on numerous occasions, and the equally<br />

neglected – now demolished – Futurist cinema. Lime Street was once a<br />

place charged with the energy of its citizens; a vital artery pulsing with<br />

life. Walk down Lime Street today and the new<br />

development that replaced the Futurist looks like<br />

a cut-price kitchen unit, or some dubious type<br />

of packaging material, the sort used to wrap a<br />

cheap fridge. This was presumably someone’s<br />

bargain basement idea of ‘The Future’. It fails on<br />

almost every level.<br />

Nostalgia can be somewhat problematic,<br />

sepia-tinted and morbid if we ‘let it be’. But what<br />

if we re-imagine nostalgia and use it as a form<br />

of subversive divination that brings past, present<br />

and future together? Instead of discarding the<br />

past, we create an altered state where the<br />

invisible city of memory literally regenerates<br />

and takes its place within the city of today, an<br />

imaginative space where the barren consumer zones are re-wilded with<br />

vitality, playfulness and visionary energy. What if we reclaim the word<br />

‘regeneration’ from property developers and repurpose it with beating<br />

hearts and dreams?<br />

The American city activist Jane Jacobs believed that cities were “…<br />

composed of movement and change… The art form of the city… an intricate<br />

ballet in which the individual dancers all have distinctive parts which<br />

miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet<br />

of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and… is<br />

always replete with new improvisations.” This dance interprets the city as a<br />

place where human activity is of paramount importance. It moves the focus<br />

from top-down property, business and commerce interests and empowers<br />

the public realm with ‘the ballet of the sidewalk’. You will see this on Bold<br />

Street where the independent retailers, cafés and bars are buzzing with<br />

ideas and imagination. The art form of the city is in evidence.<br />

In the 1960s there came another future and its name was demolition.<br />

The wholesale destruction of the city’s very centre erased Liverpool’s<br />

magnificent market place and replaced it with the imaginative failure of St<br />

John’s Precinct. The city has never recovered from this. Go to any city in<br />

Europe and the importance and vibrancy of the market place at the centre<br />

of things is evident. Liverpool’s centre is diminished but this brutal erasure<br />

was once seen as The Future.<br />

There are at least two kinds of city-death; the first is demolition, which<br />

is not just a death of bricks, mortar and concrete but of the dream inside<br />

the building and the memories it contains. The lives lived within. The<br />

second kind of death is the type of ‘progress’ that proceeds blindly, and<br />

pays no heed to the first. It’s a mixture of entropy and amnesia; it often<br />

occupies contested spaces and it ignores storytelling.<br />

The city should be allowed to grow organically, like Balzac’s Human<br />

Comedy, an ever-changing, metaphysical project haunted and enhanced by<br />

ghost-memory, where the vital memory of the past nurtures the pulse of<br />

the present and sustains the dynamic future. Don’t erase – or exorcise – the<br />

ghosts. Let them live in the shadows, let them whisper their stories. !<br />

Words: Jeff Young / @jeffyoungwriter<br />

Photography: Graeme Shackleton<br />

Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadowplay by Jeff Young is out now via Little<br />

Toller Books.<br />


16<br />

With social distancing measures in place, photographer Marieke Macklon spent lockdown venturing into her<br />

subjects’ homes through the lens of FaceTime to capture this intimate and playful collection of portraits of<br />

Liverpool musicians.

Photography: Marieke Macklon / @mariekemacklon First row: Tarek Musa, Sara Wolff, Rebekka Anstem; Second row: Eli Smart, Abby Meysenburg; Third row: Guro, Luis, Rich - All We Are<br />


Filmmaker and artist Amber Akaunu<br />

talks about the sacred act of getting<br />

afro hair done, a ritual captured in her<br />

work for BBC New Creatives.<br />

me nan’s” calls out a teenage girl as she closes<br />

the front door to her home behind her and walks down<br />

the street. Arriving at her grandmother’s house, she<br />

“Going<br />

changes into a pair of slippers, picks from a tray of<br />

potato snacks in the kitchen and moves into the warm hues of the living<br />

room where she greets her nan. The teenage girl places herself at the foot<br />

of her couch where her grandmother sits and begins to untie her hair,<br />

combing through a combination of water and oils. The scenes captured<br />

in the film is an intimate act that celebrates a central part of many black<br />

women’s lives.<br />

Created in partnership with BBC New Creatives and Arts Council<br />

England, Afro Hair Rituals is part of a collection<br />

of short films showcasing the brightest talents in<br />

new female directors. It captures the bond within a<br />

Liverpool family shared between a teenage girl and<br />

her grandmother as she carefully proceeds to style her<br />

granddaughter’s afro hair – a process which can take<br />

a number of hours.<br />

Created by local filmmaker, artist and illustrator<br />

AMBER AKAUNU, Afro Hair Rituals “was made with<br />

the intention of showing black women and girls just<br />

how beautiful their afro hair is,” she tells us, speaking<br />

over the phone during the early weeks of lockdown.<br />

“To have this hair is to have a connection to a<br />

community and to a history, a bond and a relationship to the past and the<br />

present.”<br />

Akaunu initially pitched the idea for the film to BBC New Creatives on<br />

the basis of her interest in afro hair, notably black women’s relationship<br />

with their hair: “Especially black northern women, because we are such<br />

a minority here,” she adds. But, as the film underscores with its gentle<br />

nuance and intimate cinematography, the process compiled into the<br />

sub four-minute production goes beyond the tactile act on display. The<br />

resulting short film offers an insight to the sacredness of afro hair and its<br />

embodiment of ancestry and a continuation of black culture.<br />

“The sacredness is definitely a mixture of my personal feeling and<br />

tradition,” Akaunu tells us. “The aim of the film was to uplift and show black<br />

women how amazing their afro hair is. I wanted to show it as a sacred ritual<br />

“The aim of the<br />

film was to uplift<br />

and show black<br />

women how<br />

amazing their<br />

afro hair is”<br />

as it’s something that has been passed down for generations, practised by<br />

ancestors hundreds of years ago who all went through the same process<br />

that the film displays.” The film, however, is not simply repurposing a<br />

historic account or recalling of nostalgia. The ritual, as she points out, is still<br />

firmly rooted in contemporary black culture. “Black people are still doing<br />

it today. We’re using the same techniques, some of the same products,”<br />

she continues. “I do a lot of my friends’ and family’s hair. It’s such a sacred<br />

moment where two people come together. You bond and grow together. It<br />

makes me feel more connected to history and the past.”<br />

Where the film focusses on the positive celebration of the ritual,<br />

Akaunu notes there still remains a sensitivity surrounding afro hair. The<br />

artist’s own experiences growing up in Liverpool featured consistent<br />

bullying for the appearance of her hair. She recalls anxieties over wearing<br />

her hair out in her youth due to vocal discrimination among predominantly<br />

white peers. “A friend even went as far as saying she wouldn’t play<br />

with me while I had my hair out,” she adds. “Still, today, we see people<br />

discriminated against for their hair. It still comes across as radical to<br />

perceive black hair as sacred and loving it despite what people think,” she<br />

explains. “But there are signs that people are wanting to embrace it more.”<br />

Akaunu continues: “There was a point in time where if you Googled<br />

beautiful hair, the results were a swathe of white women with long straight<br />

hair. Then if you typed in unprofessional hair, the results would show as<br />

black women with afro hair. That’s still common today. Having afro hair<br />

is seen as undesirable, not seen as beautiful, not seen as professional.<br />

The act of loving your hair is therefore radical.” For added context, and<br />

a resource used in research for Afro Hair Rituals, The Good Hair Study<br />

outlined in 2016 the ongoing discrimination black women faced due<br />

to their hair. Key findings from the study showed that one in five black<br />

(American) women felt social pressure to straighten their hair for work and<br />

that white (American) women, on average, showed explicit bias towards<br />

black women’s textured hair – which they rated as less beautiful and less<br />

professional than “smooth” hair.<br />

In the intervening years since the study, there have been signs of<br />

“progress” says Akaunu. Solange’s 2016 album A Seat At The Table<br />

brought the sacredness and imbued regality of Afro<br />

hair closer towards the mainstream on the song Don’t<br />

Touch My Hair, featuring the lyrics “Don’t touch my<br />

hair/ When it’s the feelings that I wear/ Don’t touch<br />

my soul/ When it’s the rhythm I know/ Don’t touch my<br />

crown.” A book under the same name by Irish writer<br />

Emma Dabiri has furthered the ubiquity for afro hair<br />

celebration closer to home, a personal-cum-political<br />

take on the history of black people’s hair. Even at the<br />

Oscars, an institution which has lagged behind in<br />

representation and celebration of black filmmakers,<br />

Hair Love, a story about a father who has to do his<br />

daughter’s afro hair for the first time, took home the<br />

award this year for best animated short film. “In California,” Akaunu adds,<br />

“it’s now illegal to discriminate against people based on their hair. I think it’s<br />

an interesting time to discuss hair.”<br />

These discussions surrounding race and hair which Akaunu mentions<br />

have been platformed by her other creative outlet, ROOT-ed (revolution<br />

of our time). Created in collaboration with friend and former Liverpool<br />

Hope University art school classmate Fauziya Johnson, ROOT-ed zine was<br />

created in response to the lack of diversity on their course, with no lecturers<br />

of colour and a “distinct lack of [black] representation in the curriculum”,<br />

as the pair wrote in Bido Lito! in September of 2018. The zine therefore<br />

provides a platform and safe space for artists and writers of colour based in<br />

the North West.<br />

Akaunu believes that both her and Fauziya Johnson have been received<br />


well by Liverpool’s arts community, but she cautions that the progression<br />

isn’t yet at its end goal. “The galleries are welcoming, but I think that’s just<br />

with us, as I think we have a bit of a platform. There are so many more<br />

black artists in the city than me and Fauziya. I don’t see all of us getting the<br />

same opportunities. There’s still a lot more that the galleries can be doing,<br />

and there remains a bit of tokenism involved.”<br />

Having initially run in print for its first nine issues, ROOT-ed has since<br />

transferred to online publishing during the Covid-19 pandemic, citing a<br />

drop in funding for the change. At the mention of this, our conversation<br />

naturally segues to the theme of their next issue: work. “We had it planned<br />

in ages ago, but right now the notion of work feels even more important,”<br />

says Akaunu, as we inevitably begin to chat about the effects of the<br />

pandemic. “People are losing their jobs, or they’re happy to work in really<br />

dangerous conditions. It’s going to be quite a historic moment, I think it’s<br />

important to continue with that topic.<br />

“I think people are beginning to realise that the NHS, care workers,<br />

people who work in supermarkets and run the local shop, they’re all<br />

essential,” Akaunu concludes as we round off our conversation. “Just recently,<br />

we were having this conversation about only essential workers being<br />

allowed into the country. Well, all the people who work in the shops that are<br />

providing people with essentials while at home – the nurses, all these types<br />

of jobs – they’re all essential. I think it’s interesting that the pandemic has<br />

kicked in so soon after the discussion regarding what is an essential worker. I<br />

think this will change a lot of what society sees as essential.” !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder<br />

Photography: Funke Alafiatayo<br />

@AmberAkaunu<br />

Afro Hair Rituals is available now on BBC iPlayer.<br />


Array: Aisling Woodward / @aisling_bridget<br />

Throughout lockdown<br />

we reached out to friends<br />

across the globe to find out<br />

how other creative scenes<br />

were being impacted by<br />

Covid-19. A record label<br />

professional in Istanbul, a venue<br />

manager in Eindhoven and singer in<br />

Cairo were among our correspondents<br />

giving us insight into how those working<br />

in arts and music were responding<br />

to an unprecedented hiatus.<br />

Across the features a picture<br />

was painted of a global arts<br />

scene wrestling with<br />

uncertainty, hopeful for the<br />

future and embracing<br />

new technologies.<br />

“It’s great to see institutions/labels/bands<br />

promoting each other, but I also feel like<br />

there’s something of a content overload.<br />

I’m concerned about the financial impact it<br />

will have on DIY and underground spaces,<br />

which are already pretty precarious to<br />

begin with. I do hope that when people<br />

are able to congregate together again, that<br />

there might be more of an interest in live<br />

music and an appreciation for community<br />

spaces.”<br />

Josh Frank is one half of China-based<br />

psych duo Gong Gong Gong. He spent<br />

lockdown in his hometown of Montréal.<br />

“I found that our team had to re-learn how<br />

to communicate and work together, while<br />

most of us are working from our homes.<br />

Our live streaming project The Isolation<br />

Sessions, is something most of us have<br />

never done before. There is a lot to learn. I<br />

really miss having a coffee and a talk. Or a<br />

group meeting in the flesh. I find that the<br />

forced new ways of communication is a<br />

complicating factor.”<br />

Robert Schaeffer runs the Effenaar<br />

venue in Eindhoven.<br />

“The centre where I am is stifling now,<br />

with the combination of super strict<br />

lockdown measures and the dense<br />

population. Most of my friends are trying<br />

to use the time productively, if they can.<br />

Hopefully something good artistically<br />

comes out of this for some of us.”<br />

Ry Vieira is a singer-songwriter in<br />

Barcelona<br />


“I want to stay positive and believe that a<br />

situation like this can change the cultural<br />

scene for the better. The way the art world<br />

has functioned before wasn’t sustainable<br />

at all. I’m sure that there are going to be<br />

cutbacks, hopefully also in the extensive<br />

travels that centre around biennales and<br />

festivals. Despite these potential silver<br />

linings, the economic backlash worries me<br />

a lot.”<br />

Léna Szirmay-Kalos is the artistic<br />

director of an interdisciplinary event<br />

series called Montag Modus and cofounder<br />

of the MMPraxis curatorial<br />

platform in Berlin.<br />

“I think people are already thirsty for<br />

cultural activities that they may have once<br />

taken for granted. I feel that once things<br />

open up again people will flood to them.<br />

However, no one knows when normality<br />

will indeed return and if it will return in the<br />

same format or an adjusted one.”<br />

Nadya Shanab is a singer-songwriter<br />

and runs her own label Hamzet Wasl<br />

Records in Cairo.<br />

“Tomorrow is blurred. Unfortunately, many<br />

places will not survive. But, also, new<br />

things will emerge from this chaos. A new<br />

way of thinking is super precious now and<br />

I hope Istanbul’s artists will be creative,<br />

adapt to the new reality and make new,<br />

fresh solutions.”<br />

Kornelia Binicewicz heads up the project<br />

Ladies On Records in Istanbul.<br />


By simply taking the city into their neighbourhoods, people did their part in the effort<br />

against the health crisis. Photographer Michael Kirkham spent lockdown documenting<br />

these smaller worlds thriving on the streets of Wavertree.<br />

The world is now an inherently smaller place. In the age of<br />

expansive globalisation, few will have predicted this would occur<br />

with such little notice. <strong>Lockdown</strong> seemed to arrive swift, but fewer<br />

will have known it didn’t come near swift enough.<br />

Beyond key workers, coming to terms with our smaller worlds will have<br />

been common for those confined to their homes. But while the tangible<br />

reaches of existence have contracted, the worlds which we locally share<br />

haven’t become deserted. With new, tighter perimeters applied to the dayto-day,<br />

our lives have become inversely more detailed. The localised lens<br />

through which we’ve viewed lockdown is a microscope of its own. The larger<br />

telescopic frame of the world beyond our streets is more pixelated than ever.<br />

As we work, think and exist within the confines of our postcode, the<br />

finer details of our immediate surroundings have stepped into a new clarity.<br />

Buildings seem to stand stiller and offer a closer look in the longer shadows<br />

of spring. Our daily heatmap of footsteps seems to be concerned with who<br />

and what is here, rather than there. We’ve probably<br />

never seen so much of our neighbours.<br />

It’s momentary frames like these that have<br />

become the subject of documentary photographer<br />

Michael Kirkham’s latest work: a series of photographs<br />

which show a city retreated into its streets, where<br />

seemingly every street has become a village.<br />

The collection of images, which were taken<br />

within a few miles radius of his home, mushroomed<br />

from late March and were initially just as a means<br />

of coping with lockdown. “When out with my<br />

camera in the last month, it was just a case of taking<br />

snapshots,” he says, “little things that caught my<br />

eye. Human interactions, moments that have been created by the pandemic,<br />

objects that have been left behind because of it.”<br />

Wind the clock back to mid-March and the streets around us painted<br />

a different picture to their current slowness. A tense atmosphere weighed<br />

in the air. Shops and restaurants teetered over calling for continued<br />

support or closing their doors for safety. Offices gradually morphed into<br />

living rooms. The notion of considerate British mannerisms lay in tatters as<br />

queues splintered and shop shelves were left hit as though by a swarm of<br />

locusts. “There was a bit of a vibe, a bit of panic” says Kirkham of his initial<br />

experience around Wavertree. “There was a certain edge to everything. You<br />

had people glancing in each other’s trolleys with expressions of ‘What do<br />

you even need those for?’ That sort of behaviour was at a sharp edge when<br />

the lockdown was about to arrive.”<br />

Once the lockdown solidified, the tension Kirkham notes relieved<br />

and streets brandished themselves clearer than ever before. There’s a<br />

palpable sense of acceptance in the stillness of his photographs of queues<br />

and vacated business. Our streets themselves bathed in an early spring,<br />

picturesque and unnerving, like pictures of the model towns used to test<br />

nuclear weapons. “It’s quite a strange and surreal situation when focusing<br />

the camera on the busier streets like Picton Road. It’s so quiet you can walk<br />

through the middle of it,” he says.<br />

The vacuous elements of Kirkhams’s photos are a common feature for<br />

most hubs of commerce. But it’s in the tighter streets where micro features of<br />

a new localised society come into greater focus. Away from shuttered shop<br />

fronts and supermarket queues, more front doors are being left ajar. Their<br />

communities are spilling out onto the streets at a safe distance, breaking with<br />

the closed off divide that bookends the normal working day.<br />

“During the first half of lockdown the weather was beautiful. We have<br />

a south-facing back yard, so we were spending a lot of time out there,”<br />

Kirkham says. “But everyone opposite, they were all out in the front; talking<br />

with each other, neighbours having drinks over the fence, children playing at<br />

a distance in the street.<br />

“I got to know a lot<br />

of my neighbours<br />

when I moved in,<br />

but since lockdown,<br />

I’ve gotten to know<br />

pretty much everyone<br />

on my street”<br />

“My street is quite friendly. I got to know a lot of my neighbours when<br />

I moved in,” he continues, “but since lockdown I’ve gotten to know pretty<br />

much everyone. Everyone is chatting away when they get the chance. A lot<br />

more people say hello. You get the sense that people in the local community<br />

feel like they’re all in the same boat.” Kirkham’s images<br />

show neighbours talking while perched on opposing<br />

pavements. In another, a group are playing makeshift<br />

tennis while wearing PPE. An image of The Edinburgh<br />

Pub, its proprietor adding a layer of varnish to its<br />

Victorian windows, could have been pulled from a<br />

sleepy Sunday in a rural town. “It’s mellowed a lot<br />

from the initial atmosphere, and I think you can see<br />

that in the series of images,” Kirkham replies. “It’s<br />

been nice – in a strange way, once you’re over the<br />

shock of having to queue for shops and struggling to<br />

buy things likes paracetamol and toilet paper.”<br />

For residential areas, unlike the city centre of<br />

Liverpool or its commercial thoroughfares, the presence of fewer people<br />

doesn’t brandish bare bones devoid of community. A quick look at the empty<br />

faces of Lord Street and Church Street tell you how much sincere community<br />

can be hinged on transactional commerce and marketing.<br />

But it’s not just in Wavertree where streets have become villages of<br />

their own. Walk to the riverside of L8 and peer down each of the sloping<br />

‘Bread Streets’ and you’ll see families perched on chairs outside their home,<br />

conversing with their neighbours on the other side of the road, children<br />

taking their turn to run the chalked hopscotch which lines the pavements<br />

running down to the river, where ever-clearer views of Welsh hills are<br />

seemingly in touching distance.<br />

By simply taking the city into their streets people are doing their part in<br />

the effort against the health crisis. All across Liverpool groups have come<br />

together while remaining at a distance. A community effort to match the<br />

mounting health risks has risen in tandem. While it doesn’t replace the huge<br />

losses of life and livelihoods that have occurred, perhaps there’s positives to<br />

be had in the conscious drive to replant our streets as collections of homes<br />

within a community. !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder<br />

Photography: Michael Kirkham / @Mrkirks<br />



John Johnson / @John.johno<br />

Bido Lito! stands in solidarity with those fighting<br />

racism and injustice. Bido Lito! stands in solidarity<br />

with the global Black Lives Matter movement.<br />

Over the past 10 years Bido Lito! has sought to<br />

broaden perspectives and reflect the diversity in<br />

Liverpool’s creative community. We have been nonracist<br />

and inclusive, but perhaps not clearly as antiracist<br />

as we could have been. We can do a lot more.<br />

We are conscious of the privilege the magazine<br />

brings and we will take the time to properly reflect<br />

on who this privilege is working for. We will do more.<br />

We all, as a majority white city, have in our<br />

power to educate ourselves on, understand<br />

better and oppose systemic racism at a local<br />

and global level. The privilege of this platform<br />

demands this as a minimum from us.<br />

The murder of George Floyd may have taken place<br />

on the streets of Minneapolis, but its effects can<br />

be strongly felt here on the streets of Liverpool.<br />

Racism and systemic racism is a Liverpool issue.<br />

A range of figures from within Liverpool’s<br />

creative community share their thoughts<br />

on the protests and momentum for real<br />

change spreading across the world.<br />

Outrage. That was my initial reaction to the murder of George Floyd. A<br />

black man was murdered in front of the world. Bless Darnella Frazier<br />

for really opening the world’s eyes to what has been happening to Black<br />

people for far too long.<br />

I feel empowered by the show of outrage and the way the Black<br />

Lives Matter movement has enabled people to mobilise and vocalise their<br />

opposition to injustice. The very fabric of this city was built on slavery and<br />

is ingrained in its culture, across all our major institutions and the city’s<br />

economy. Our largest Black festival, Africa Oyé, is under constant threat<br />

and pressure to become a ticketed event, yet there are major events in<br />

this city that have been funded without question. For far too long race and<br />

tackling racial injustice has been diluted and become hidden as part of<br />

the wider equalities agenda. It needs putting firmly back on the table and<br />

everyone needs to be accountable for action.<br />

Now is a time for action. A time for Black community led solutions<br />

and opportunity. I expect the many organisations and institutions who<br />

have made commitments to listen to what we are telling you and what<br />

we want. Then help us to do it, or act where appropriate for you to do so,<br />

based on what we are telling you and what we want. Actions speak far<br />

louder than words. I hope the many statements made around BLM were<br />

not made in vain. It’s good to look good, isn’t it, by saying the right thing?<br />

But it’s even better to do the right thing. I know what I want and I know<br />

our Black communities will also know what they want, and the countless<br />

Black individuals whose voices are ignored. But that requires a proper<br />

dialogue with the institutions and economic strategists in this city. Far too<br />

many times have our ideas been stolen, our music plagiarised, our images<br />

sexualised or used as mascots of racial negativity and mockery for the<br />

purpose of jam jars, cereal boxes or T-shirts. When the cultural sector reopens<br />

post-Covid, I want to see an end to the virus called racial hatred.<br />

Sonia Bassey MBE, chair of Africa Oyé and Mandela8<br />


Michael Kirkham / @MrKirks<br />

Michael Kirkham / @MrKirks<br />

When you look at your own organisations and lives, how many people of<br />

colour do you employ and are in your networks? If the answer to that is<br />

none or very few, then you need to do some work<br />

Is diversity just a word that pops up every so often when the reality<br />

of a situation for marginalised people is glaringly brought to light, or is it<br />

something that actually matters to you? Only you can answer that.<br />

Do you have an operational equal opportunities policy that you<br />

constantly refer to and adhere to? If not, why not? If yes, are you<br />

implementing it effectively?<br />

Has racism even been an issue to you until the modern day lynching of<br />

George Floyd or have you just reacted to it now? Please answer truthfully.<br />

Is proactivity towards equal opportunities for all on your list of priorities<br />

on a day to day basis? Is it an intrinsic part of your thinking and intention?<br />

If the answer to that is no, then you are a part of the systemic racism that I<br />

have been asked to talk about.<br />

People in positions of privilege need to look inwards and do some<br />

research themselves so that they have a true sense of responsibility to<br />

make honest, sustainable changes, if change is something that is genuinely<br />

cared about. Otherwise, questions [what are your views on systemic racism<br />

and slavery education?] are the same questions that I and other Black<br />

people – when we are actually included, remembered and respected –<br />

always get asked. When dealing with this issue, in order to avoid becoming<br />

an added part of the systemic racism that for us is a constant and for you is<br />

an unknown quantity, the changes have to come from you.<br />

Jennifer John, creative director, music mentor and manager of Sense of<br />

Sound Singers<br />

Systemic racism nationally is so subtle as an undercurrent that it’s<br />

almost impossible to notice, and it is difficult to demonstrate, and this<br />

is the challenge we face today. How can we shine a light on something<br />

that has become so ingrained in society that you either don’t see it, or<br />

have become apathetic or immune to it? Liverpool is a tolerant, open,<br />

welcoming city, but we have some more work to do on our respect and<br />

understanding for diversity. Ethnic minorities represent some of the<br />

biggest, oldest and most important cultures in the world.<br />

We have to teach British history better, especially in relation to<br />

the Empire, and colonial history, and make them part of our everyday<br />

knowledge and culture. I’ve always been impressed with the way Germany<br />

dealt with its Nazi past, and rather than trying to erase those chapters in<br />

their history, they have moved from collective guilt to European integration,<br />

virtually guaranteeing peace in Europe and preventing a return to<br />

widespread Nazism. Their past has been a history lesson, and we would do<br />

well to openly and honestly do the same.<br />

I don’t think Britain has truly moved on from the arrogance of our<br />

colonial history. Perhaps a more humble, collaborative approach to<br />

international relations, nationalism and our history would make our country<br />

progress much faster. Liverpool’s independence, openness, rejection of<br />

racism and the ‘Scouse before English’ identity suggests this city will really<br />

embrace the history of slavery and learn from it.<br />

Alok Nayak, CEO and Artistic Director at Milap, the Liverpool-based<br />

international Indian Arts And Culture company.<br />


Glyn Akroyd / @glynakroyd<br />

Michael Kirkham / @MrKirks<br />

As you get older, you become more aware of the subtleties of systemic<br />

racism. It’s when you look back you realise things people have said, the<br />

way they have acted that it’s not OK. We pick up on things like people<br />

saying ‘Where are you from?’ We respond with where in the UK, only for<br />

them to reply ‘No, where are you from?’ The idea that because you have<br />

brown or black skin, you’re not properly British. I think that’s something<br />

a lot of [the younger] generation will experience. You’re never British<br />

enough, it seems, people will always be digging deeper. When a Black<br />

person asks you the same thing, it’s in solidarity, but there’s always more<br />

to it for a white person.<br />

At university, systemic racism is subtle but not subtle, which is<br />

interesting because you really do find your people at university. You<br />

surround yourself with people like you and start to see how a lot of people<br />

around you aren’t the same. There’s always some guy who’ll counter<br />

everything in lectures and seminars, being Islamophobic, saying things<br />

against refugees. You see this explicit hate, and you become more aware of<br />

it. You also realise when you’re not speaking out. And you get annoyed with<br />

yourself for not saying something at the time and thinking about it after.<br />

But it’s also the subtleties that other people would never even<br />

observe in their own actions, such as lecturers confusing Black people<br />

for one another when we don’t look the same. That’s the hard part,<br />

because you don’t really have anyone to go to about it. It’s hard to go<br />

to a white face, a figure of authority, and complain about another white<br />

face saying something that was subtly racist, because they won’t really<br />

understand it. I think that’s a big thing at universities. A lot of BIPOC drop<br />

out of universities due to mental health. I think it’s because they don’t<br />

have the people in place to speak to that look like them. Universities are<br />

predominantly white institutions among academics with a predominantly<br />

white syllabus and reading list. That’s what makes it harder. You’ve already<br />

moved away you’re in a new environment and you have nobody to talk to,<br />

or to help raise or escalate an issue. That’s why a lot of the time you let it<br />

lie, but it still hurts you.<br />

It’s the places that people learn that need reform. That’s where people<br />

are being embedded in traits of systemic racism. It will take a lot of change<br />

to make that happen.<br />

Mia Thornton and Rachel Duncan, Go Off, Sis Podcast<br />

The debate around statues and street names is very, very important.<br />

In Liverpool, I don’t think we should just focus only on Penny Lane. In<br />

ongoing research, we are asking whether Penny Lane is linked to the<br />

slave trade, trying to establish if there is a clear link. Penny Lane is<br />

important because it is emblematic of Liverpool, it’s in the story of The<br />

Beatles and is internationally known, so I see why it is important. But I<br />

think it is dangerous to only focus on Penny Lane. A wider debate asking<br />

what is the significance of a statue in the public space? What is the<br />

significance of a street name? Why do we not use a number like in some<br />

countries – 5th Avenue, for example. What does it mean to celebrate<br />

somebody? Society needs to reflect on that.<br />

When you put emphasis on somebody and you give honour to a person<br />

from a particular time, you give honour to what they represented from that<br />

particular time – which is often economic value and apparent social value of<br />

this person. But, more than likely, at the time they were alive nobody was<br />

talking about ethical value, so the values agreed upon 200 years ago are<br />

not the same as now. So let’s consider that, not as a problem, but as part of<br />

progress.<br />

I think the debate is more complicated than simply to remove or to<br />

keep. It’s our past but removing the statue is not just removing the past.<br />

You can remove a statue but the past is still here. Understanding the past<br />

is better. Asking questions like ‘Why was this figure so popular?’. Answers<br />

will suggest the money they represented was the only value then, but is<br />

it acceptable that Edward Colston stayed in the middle of Bristol for 200<br />

years? The scandal is not removing the statue, the scandal is the fact that it<br />

was there for 200 years.<br />

I think the debate is not about a political decision, it’s about a societal<br />

decision. I think the discussion has to be open between groups of people<br />

like charities, organisations, the city council, historians, philosophers,<br />

academics, the public and the people who live in the area. There are<br />

traditionalists who have always lived with these statues, for example. Then<br />

we ask if they are comfortable with what this statue represents, or can we<br />

imagine a better person to be there, or can we imagine flowers in its place,<br />

or a tree?<br />

Jean-Francois Manicom, curator at the International Slavery Museum<br />


Portraits: Liam Jones / @Liamjonesphotie<br />

These portraits of care workers, taken by photographer and health and social worker<br />

Liam Jones and commissioned by St Helens based Heart Of Glass, provide a snapshot<br />

of those on the frontline of the pandemic – an essential role that Jones says “takes more<br />

than compassion”.<br />


Social distancing measures have provided<br />

greater room for us to consider the<br />

ownership of space. As society looks to<br />

reclaim its public realm from the pandemic,<br />

Laura Brown questions the equality and<br />

egalitarian credentials of Liverpool’s<br />

pavements and shared spaces.<br />

Public spaces, our pavements, squares, streets and parks will be of<br />

increasing importance as we begin to emerge from our homes and<br />

adjust to the outside again. Yet for our public spaces to work for<br />

everyone, they must be shared in an egalitarian way.<br />

Once we fully emerge from our homes, we are going to have to give<br />

each other space, allow each other to breathe. And what that will mean is<br />

recognising that we each have the same right to that public space. Yet, public<br />

space is not equal; certainly, access to public space is far from equal. We<br />

weaponise them because we bring into them the bias and prejudice we have in<br />

the rest of society.<br />

The most successful cities and places are built to serve the people who<br />

live and work in them. The last three months have turned cracks into chasms<br />

within the tears in our hegemonic society, making it evident the extent to which<br />

we need to be able to share space. Our public realm is active and it’s possible<br />

many did not realise how actively political our public spaces are. Public space<br />

is the place where we define our ownership; where we protest, where we<br />

rally; it is where we parade and celebrate. We talk of ‘taking to the streets’, the<br />

physicality of turning our individual presence into a tens, hundreds, thousands<br />

turns the street into a stage for a collective show of strength and identity.<br />

The visibility in itself is seen as a political act, because the public realm is<br />

increasingly privatised, increasingly part of our commercial state.<br />

Erecting a statue of a slave owner because you’re grateful for his fiscal<br />

contribution after his death two centuries ago is one thing; arguing he still<br />

has a place to be venerated in the public realm is another. Asking people, as<br />

you tell them that the public realm is equal, to be reminded through street<br />

names, through statues, through the names of buildings, of a multi-million<br />

pound industry that bought and sold their ancestors like cattle, is barbaric and<br />

heartless.<br />

Yet we are told our physical presence, our physical protest, is a threat, it<br />

disturbs the status quo. In <strong>2020</strong> we are told protest threatens public health<br />

during a pandemic. In 2011 it was civil disorder, fuelled by BlackBerrys. In 1981<br />

they said it was lawlessness. In fact, two things unite 1981, 2011 and <strong>2020</strong>;<br />

race and the police. One is about a lack of visibility and a lack of ownership of<br />

physical space, the other is the representation of the power that believes they<br />

own the space. We are literally fighting over control of the pavements.<br />


Civic pride, civic duty, civic responsibility, change depending on your<br />

perspective. Is it our duty to protect statues, or to tear them down? Can you<br />

support the removal of street names, but not graffiti calling them racist and<br />

covering their name? Is civic respect tied to one’s purse and power? Having<br />

one’s name on a building, a statue in a public square, a name adorning<br />

a street, is a patriarchal display of who is in power, who has control. It is<br />

rarely female, it is almost never black.<br />

In Vienna in the early 1990s, city officials wanted to use data to<br />

discover how people used their city. It would provide a foundation for their<br />

infrastructure and spend. Because this was pre-internet, they conducted<br />

interviews, with a survey on the street. The questions centred around how<br />

people travelled, what transport they used, what issues they had. Men<br />

wrote quickly and were done. Women wrote paragraph after paragraph.<br />

Women, they discovered, were more likely to use public transport, to<br />

walk and use pavements. Men, by contrast, walked from their front door<br />

to their car and from their car to their office. The<br />

“varied pattern of use”, how cities tend to assume<br />

their population uses pavements, wasn’t something<br />

they considered to be gendered. In 1992, Vienna<br />

established The Women’s Office and since then has<br />

supported 50 projects examining how to embolden<br />

the city, and its women, putting it at the forefront<br />

of urban development. In many UK cities when it<br />

begins to snow we’re still waiting for pavements to<br />

be gritted at the same time roads are. Cities here<br />

aren’t often built with equality in mind. It has taken a<br />

global pandemic for us to accelerate the cycle lanes<br />

that make a city such as ours as accessible on two<br />

wheels as four.<br />

In the past three months, using public space has been full of import<br />

and purpose. Every other person is a potential threat. It has also been fistgnawingly<br />

frustrating. Sharing space has not come naturally to many, and<br />

it seems as though the amount of space you feel you deserve to take, or are<br />

unwilling to cede, is linked to how important and significant you feel you<br />

are.<br />

Take the family of four who walks astride each other along the<br />

path, either unaware or unwilling to budge. In truth, they are illustrating<br />

their understanding and recognition of their place and worth to society.<br />

Society has told them they, with their whiteness and 2.4 children, are the<br />

backbone and most important social construct in the country. They are<br />

more important than the single woman who has to walk into the gutter to<br />

provide adequate space to pass. They’re certainly more important than the<br />

older man who’s stopped, two metres away, to let them pass because they<br />

won’t edge nearer together.<br />

You think that’s not true? <strong>2020</strong> is the year a British Prime Minister<br />

decided (again) who you could and could not have sex with, who defined<br />

what a household looked like, what a relationship looked like (married,<br />

living together). Only three months in, the government said couples who do<br />

not live together can share the same space again.<br />

To say spending three months inside has been hard is as self-evident<br />

as saying a cold beer is refreshing on a hot day. The outside, the public<br />

space we have, may be limited and it may feel like a relief. But it is there for<br />

“There is an<br />

opportunity for us<br />

to change how we<br />

perceive our public<br />

space and, in turn,<br />

how it sees us”<br />

each of us to share, not for those who perceive their importance to take up<br />

more room because they feel they deserve it.<br />

The idea of social cooperation, of fairness and of sharing, are going<br />

to become more important as we begin to take our first tentative steps<br />

outside and how we learn how to live alongside each other again. The<br />

public realm will look different when we begin to explore it. There is a new<br />

website, Love Your Liverpool, detailing how we need to be kind, patient<br />

and responsible, as the city slowly reopens. Keep left, socially distance,<br />

use the one way systems in place, only go in lifts with people of your own<br />

household. The guidance is much needed, helps with confidence (in truth<br />

seeing some kind of handholding is appreciated) because it is frightening.<br />

More spaces will be pedestrianised. Bold Street and Castle Street will<br />

have tables, chairs and, crucially, heaters spilling into the public realm to<br />

help restaurants and eateries make up for the space they will lose. We’ll<br />

have to learn to live on top of each other. We all own the space we use. It<br />

doesn’t belong to one or the other.<br />

It’s striking how much the idea of public space<br />

has changed in three months. Every decision made<br />

out of doors now feels fraught. I cannot imagine<br />

myself casually wandering down Bold Street,<br />

popping into Mattas to grab something for tea,<br />

thinking maybe I’ll have a quick browse in, well,<br />

anywhere. I’ve done it a thousand times.<br />

Outside won’t be carefree for the next few<br />

months. We won’t be pushing alongside each other<br />

to get anywhere. We won’t be in that mindless throb<br />

of a crowd. We won’t be able to see each other’s<br />

faces (please wear masks). How prepared are we to<br />

create a more equal public realm to help us cope with that? How ready is<br />

the public realm to be the place where we test ourselves back in society,<br />

how we define our new borders, our new responsibilities, the new ways we<br />

need to live and work?<br />

There is an opportunity for us to change how we perceive our public<br />

space and, in turn, how it sees us. Seismic events, like the one we are<br />

currently living through, tend to do two things: they make a change that<br />

was coming happen faster; and they bring an entirely unexpected change<br />

no one saw coming. We will use our public spaces differently, but it<br />

would be an important shift after this if we felt it was there for us all. The<br />

arguments over tourism, over students, is on hold for a while, so we have<br />

to talk amongst ourselves. We’ve talked a lot about who our city is for. Now<br />

it’s for us, all of us.<br />

If one thing has defined much of the discourse in Liverpool over the<br />

past decade and a half, it is the sense we have had little control over our<br />

public realm. Some has disappeared, some is, quite frankly, ugly. Sparse<br />

green spaces have gone, the purpose of buildings altered. Change will<br />

continue but perhaps we need to learn a new sense of empathy, of how to<br />

share and how to have equal voice in our public spaces. If we’re spending<br />

more time on our pavements, one of our biggest questions is how loud of a<br />

voice we’ll have over their existence. !<br />

Words: Laura Brown / @MsLaura_Brown<br />

Illustration: Aisling Woodward / @aisling_bridget<br />


Imagination and creativity will be an essential material in the rebuild when society<br />

begins to piece itself back together, says screenwriter and children’s author Frank<br />

Cottrell-Boyce.<br />

What does the future look like? It’s a question we’ve<br />

all put to ourselves in recent months, with varying<br />

degrees of intensity. Some will have simply been<br />

concerned with what the next day holds. Others will<br />

have stretched their thought potential far into the distance over the<br />

uncomfortable contours of the unknown.<br />

But, what happens when a vision of the future derails, elements of a<br />

collective idea pulled off course? Should our imagination work to put it back<br />

on the same track, or, alternatively, draw tracks<br />

anew?<br />

In the initial phases of<br />

lockdown, the former will<br />

have presented itself as the<br />

simplest option to retain<br />

a status quo. In 2008 it’s<br />

exactly what occurred<br />

following worldwide<br />

financial ruin; those<br />

wielding the most<br />

strength quickly reset the<br />

course. No other thought<br />

process was considered<br />

by those with hands<br />

on the levers of<br />

power. But,<br />

11 weeks<br />

on, a similar eventuality looks increasingly unattainable as we pick through<br />

the ruins of another global crisis. And so, it’s within our homes where the<br />

blueprints for the world outside are being redrafted. Our imagination is<br />

now the core material for a rebuild.<br />

For screenwriter and children’s author FRANK COTTRELL-BOYCE,<br />

these future-facing demands on the imagination aren’t unusual. Nor is the<br />

requirement to stay at home and dream of the world beyond it. “I yearn<br />

to be at home writing,” he puts it to me over the phone as we talk about<br />

the power of imagination to construct a new world in the face<br />

of adversity. But what does the future look like when it’s<br />

your occupation to imagine things, to coax possibilities<br />

in from the ether and present them as alluring<br />

experience?<br />

A vision of the future owes much to the<br />

imagination and creativity. The future, in essence,<br />

is a blank canvas: it requires collective imagination<br />

to shape its potential and offer an attainable<br />

realism. If there’s been any positive to this<br />

pandemic, it’s that it has brought greater clarity<br />

to see what works and what doesn’t. There’s<br />

been more space to think. The<br />

future remains a societal<br />

playscript in its most<br />

basic form. And this<br />

very playscript<br />

is currently<br />


open for rewriting. There’s space for each one of us, each community, to<br />

receive a credit.<br />

Over the course of a career spanning three decades, Cottrell-Boyce’s<br />

writing has served as a fitness trainer of the imagination glands, a creativity<br />

coach for the minds who’ll be writing about the future of tomorrow. Since<br />

lockdown was implemented, Cottrell-Boyce has continued his efforts to<br />

tune the imaginations of the future in an entirely new role, that of teacher.<br />

Much of his work since March has been in running online creative writing<br />

workshops via Instagram while schools remained shut. “I angled all of<br />

the lessons towards mental resilience,” he says. “Thinking of adventures<br />

that can still happen when you’re in the house; secret worlds, unexpected<br />

visitors.”<br />

In the initial days of lockdown, a common reaction would have been<br />

momentary stasis, creativity and artistry falling by the wayside. Flexing<br />

the imagination didn’t yet seem to fall under the essential category. But<br />

Cottrell-Boyce instead saw the opposite. “I think there’s a truism in the<br />

arts and drama that in situations like this, you arrive at societal breakdown,<br />

people eat each other and it’s all Lord Of The Flies,” he says, referring back<br />

to the anxieties delivered by the most palpable change in the British way of<br />

life since the second world war.<br />

“What we actually saw was community bonds getting stronger,<br />

celebrations of kindness, a recognition of who keeps society going, those<br />

who really keep it ticking over,” he replies. “The<br />

macro picture was positive even though there<br />

were large amounts of death. The story for me<br />

was people rising to the challenge.” It’s this<br />

reaction which the writer says owes much to<br />

creative thinking.<br />

“A real bugbear of mine is talking about<br />

creativity as though it is something artists do,”<br />

Cottrell-Boyce continues. “I think creativity is<br />

important across the board. It’s important to<br />

have creative engineers. Creative people within<br />

medicine. Above all, creative parents.”<br />

With tangible social existence limited<br />

by lockdown conditions, the coal fires of the<br />

imagination undoubtedly rested heavily on the<br />

digital sphere. But, in turn, these limitations led<br />

to discoveries within our own homes, Cottrell-<br />

Boyce argues. Similarly within our postcodes.<br />

“People slept where they live, but during the lockdown, they’ve<br />

rediscovered where they live,” he says when asked about ways to draw on<br />

the imagination as means of expanding the contours of the present. “[A<br />

key part of imagination] is exploring the things under your feet that you’ve<br />

often ignored and left.”<br />

“Life in front of you is amazing,” he adds. “That’s a very strengthening<br />

way of looking at things. It gives you resilience. They’re the things that are<br />

going to stop you falling apart in times like this.”<br />

Cottrell-Boyce’s fascination with the immediate world will be one<br />

shared by many through the stricter weeks of lockdown. With curbs on<br />

social gatherings, roving outdoors offered the most palpable freedoms<br />

from homes-turned-workplaces. Even the simplest walk around the<br />

neighbourhood suddenly became exotic, like being on holiday in another<br />

country. Senses were heightened, familiar sounds and sights presenting<br />

themselves sharper and more vibrant.<br />

As Cottrell-Boyce points out, training the imagination to build potential<br />

locally is no less enriching. With globalised ideas hampered for the coming<br />

year, it is locally where we’ll form the foundations of an adapted vision of<br />

the future. “When you talk about imagination and creativity, we have a<br />

huge challenge in front of us,” he says. “We have to reimagine how to live<br />

in cities, how to do culture, how to do live performance. Everything is up for<br />

grabs.”<br />

“When you talk about<br />

imagination and<br />

creativity, we have<br />

a huge challenge in<br />

front of us. We have to<br />

reimagine how to live in<br />

cities, health, how to do<br />

culture, how to do live<br />

performance. Everything<br />

is up for grabs”<br />

“We have a great British tradition of eccentric, explosive creativity that<br />

we often don’t count as creativity. Things like the industrial revolution,”<br />

he continues. “We’re good at rising to these challenges. We’ve got to<br />

reimagine everything. How to do food, community – all these things need<br />

to be revised. And I think we are capable of doing that.”<br />

Cottrell-Boyce has form in drawing positivity from the imagination<br />

when the nation is in a state of upheaval. The 2012 Olympic Games<br />

Opening Ceremony, for which he was one of the lead writers, offered a<br />

spirited glimpse of Britishness through the ages. What’s more, it was<br />

delivered at a time when national confidence was at its lowest. The<br />

coalition had been in government only two years and the country was in<br />

the stranglehold of austerity. Prior to the rare moments of sporting unity,<br />

the ceremony brought the world’s attention on the NHS and the marvel of<br />

its existence in a world increasingly driven by individualisation.<br />

“As a nation, there’s a lot we can point to that’s good. There’s been a<br />

huge amount of neighbourliness, a huge amount of good humour – many<br />

of the things that we celebrated in 2012 are definitely still there,” Cottrell-<br />

Boyce says when asked if he sees any parallels eight summers apart. “In<br />

spite of a fairly sustained campaign over the last five years to sow division<br />

and to get political power by creating binary choices and pitting one group<br />

against another, if we were to [hypothetically] do<br />

another ceremony this summer, I think the content<br />

would be different, but the feel would be the<br />

same.”<br />

lockdown, and its creative community selfdetermination,<br />

shouldn’t be forgotten.<br />

“One thing that’s crystallised is looking back<br />

and knowing we were absolutely right to put the<br />

NHS front and centre stage,” he adds. “It is [the<br />

NHS] that brings us together and unites us.”<br />

For Cottrell-Boyce, prior to the Dominic<br />

Cummings scandal – where Boris Johnson’s<br />

disrupter-in-chief flouted lockdown rules at the<br />

peak of the pandemic – there was a feeling of<br />

national unity that hadn’t been apparent since<br />

before the “referendum took place in 2016”. But<br />

the saga, waged in tabloids and Downing Street’s<br />

back garden, “completely broke the mood,” he<br />

says. But he is adamant that the reality of the<br />

“For me, walking on the beach in the morning in Crosby, built on the<br />

rubble of the Blitz, has been a fortifying metaphor,” he says. “[Prior to<br />

lockdown] I’d go on a big walk or run and look away from the rubble. But,<br />

when what you’ve got in front of you is all there is, you look at it a lot more<br />

closely.”<br />

“Those people who were caught up in the Blitz,” he continues, “they’re<br />

the people who built the National Health Service. They came out of that<br />

war, that pain, saying ‘this needs to have been for something’.”<br />

Creativity, imagination and community self-determination are the tools<br />

to change our social make up and build a future from apparent rubble.<br />

As Cottrell-Boyce says himself, everything is up for grabs, everything is<br />

up for change – politics, culture, social standing, the very way we live<br />

and connect with one another, who the systems of power are working<br />

for. It’s up to our collective imaginations to ensure the devastation of the<br />

past three months has been “for something”, a future worth celebrating<br />

generations down the line. !<br />

Words: Elliot Ryder<br />

Illustration: Nick Daly / @nickdalyart<br />


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