Over the next two years, whoever is in the hot seat in Westminster will be spending their time and energy dismantling the relationship with Europe.
In Liverpool, we will be doing the exact opposite.
This is a city built on the exchange of products, ideas and ambitions with other nations – accepting and welcoming people from across the globe is in our DNA.
We are a city forged in multiculturalism before it was a government buzzword. Globally connected before twitter made that possible at the push of a button. A city which looks out to sea first, and inland second.
Today is the eve of the 8th Liverpool Biennial – an event which brings the best visual artists from around the world to showcase some of the most exciting new works in galleries, buildings and the streets of the city. It perfectly encapsulates what this city is all about – ambitious, welcoming, innovative. A European city in the most glorious sense of the word – in the way we act, feel, celebrate and behave.
The Biennial started a decade before we were the European Capital of Culture in 2008, the year which redefined us to the rest of the world and which kickstarted our renaissance. It was the ongoing support of Europe which paid for so many of the iconic buildings which have sprung up in the city and which help define who we are today to a global audience.
It was Europe which helped give us our swagger back when so many people in Britain were ready to give up on us. They empowered us. We owe them. We need them. We are them.
On Tuesday night I spoke at an event called Stand Together – a vigil attended by hundreds of people united in showing the communities and individuals from across the world who live, study and work here that Brexit makes no difference to the importance of the mix of backgrounds, nations, ideas and experiences of the people within this City. The images we used came from our cultural organisations across the city; the Arabic arts festival, the Irish festival, Africa Oye, 20 Stories high and others showed the breadth and depth of this city’s cultural soul.
In 2008 we talked about having the world in one city. In 2018 we’ll be rolling out the red carpet again and sharing our incredible welcome with as many people as we can. We want the spotlight to be fixed on Liverpool and the region as a leading European destination. We have already announced that the city will partner with Wirral on major events and cultural programming, and building up to 2018 we have a group of officers, led by Paula Williams from Knowsley, working across the region to ensure that every borough can showcase its own story. This is why I am so supportive of St Helens’ bid to host The Great Exhibition of the North. It is a perfect opportunity for a place, 150 years old that year to tell an incredible story to the rest of the world. We will do everything we can to make sure St Helens succeeds in its bid and just like in 2008 when every school in Liverpool took part in a game changing year in 2018 we will launch a creative education programme across the boroughs ensuring all our children have opportunities to show their talents
Last week might have been the end of an era for Britain in Europe, but we must make sure that for Liverpool City Region, it is the start of a new, more ambitious way in which we position ourselves in the world. Liverpool is a global city. It is a European city. It is our city and we must make sure we do all we can to keep it going from strength to strength, using the stories of our people to tell it to the world.
So welcome to the artists and visitors, thank you to the creators, the regeneration team in the city council and of course Sally Tallant and her brilliant team at Liverpool Biennial. It takes great determination to make these things happen and our city is richer because of it.
Joe Anderson, OBE
Mayor of Liverpool