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by Phil Thornton



I want! I need! I have!  

That’s the existentialist tag-line for The Met Quarter, the latest addition to Liverpool’s  ’all-new-look-no-poor-people’ Capital Of Culture theme park; a place where nice, non-scouse people with money to spend can come and shop and sip coffee and visit museums and eat pasta in the street without having their precious leisure time ruined by men in black trackies demanding money with menaces. A place where multi-national corporations can invest without risking share holder dividends as militant trade unionists and socialist councillors who deliberately drive companies to the wall out of political spite.


No, The Met Quarter sounds much funkier, more 21st Century, more - hey, metro-politan - than plain old, run-down ‘Whitechapel.’ Now, I’m no mathematical genius (infact I got an ungraded in my GCE) but how many quarters can a city have? I reckon you have to call a halt at four or face the risk of looking innumerate. It’s an old ‘regeneration’ trick of course re-branding formerly derelict and seedy areas of town and hoping the new name will erase former prejudices.


In Manchester , they re-named the trendily scummy area around Oldham and Newton Street , the Northern Quarter. The difference being that The Northern Quarter is still as trendily scummy now as it was when Afflecks Palace became a cultural magnet during the late 80s. In Liverpool, they tried a similar trick with the Liverpool Palace and tried to turn the Slater Street/Wood Street area into a mini-Manny. It failed but this didn’t stop em. No, they just came back with ever more preposterous re-branding ideas for weed infested ghettoes like Duke Street and called it The East Village or Ropewalks, even though these ’villages’ were just a few back streets with a few tarted up alehouses and shiny new shop fronts. When Warrington has a ’cultural quarter’ you know things have gone too far.


Urban Splash have made millions from the re-generation game. Perhaps it’s ironic that they began with the restoration of the Liverpool Palace and now a decade and a half on, are paid vast amounts to re-energise and re-brand whole swathes of our inner cities. Urban Splash bought cheap and sold expensive. They presented a polished, groovy, young alternative to the discredited, brutalist  urban planners of the 60s. But tarting up old Victorian buildings and placing clothes shops, record shops, cafes and bars in them and attempting to cure generations of economic and social decline in places like East Manchester and Salford isn’t so easy. Re-branding patches of Salford grasslands with twee names like Chimneypots Park doesn’t make em any the less grim. Similarly Miles Platting is not a nicer place to live just because Tom Bloxham and his chums have attempted to colonise the area with “creatives.”


The recent double murder shoot out in Langworthy proved that it takes much more than cosy, marketing brochures talking up the Lowry Centre to change an area. They tried this in Liverpool during the 80s when good old Cantril Farm was reb-branded as Stockbridge Village . It almost sounded like a rural idyll but ’village’ or Farm it was not. It was just Canny and full of smack and poverty, same as ever. It’s the old Windscale idea; if you change the name to Sellafield, then maybe no-one will notice the three eyed fish floating up the estuary. Call the new Man City stadium Eastlands and pretend it’s the Stadio Del Alpi or the Nou Camp.


Recently that modern metro-sexual genius Wayne Hemingway has been all over the TV and radio with his radical ideas for transforming towns with bad reps such as Skelmersdale. Wayne used to sell shoes in London for a living but now he’s like Jamie Oliver or someone; they should give them a series together; The Cook and The Cobbler and they can talk cobblers to each other and patronise the population by stating the fucking obvious and dressing it up as social insight. Wayne could say “People would be happier if they lived in nicer homes and there wasn’t as much crime and poverty’ and Jamie could join in’ and if they ate a better diet and used fresh vegetables instead of tins’ and they’d both get their dicks sucked by pretty young clipboard hippies from New Labour’s ’Bright Ideas’ think-tank and suddenly we’d all stop doing drugs and committing crime and moaning about how shit things are and we’d live in a Wayne and Jamie dream world where Tom Bloxham built all the houses and provided all the funky bars and restaurants to drink and eat at. In this Blairite New Albion paradise, lions would lie with lambs and Mancs would cuddle up to scousers and everything would be right with the world. We’d all live in Nu-UK and Trevor Beattie would do all the adverts and James Brown from Loaded would be minister of Fun and we’d all listen to Moyles and Evans and watch Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton. It’ll be ace, honest.





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