Liverpool Irish Festival has long been supported by Liverpool City Council’s culture team. Culture Liverpool’s Culture and Arts Investment Programme subsidises our annual programme, along with 26 other organisations in Liverpool. Culture in Liverpool is hugely diverse, working regionally as well as setting international standards.
Kev McManus, wrote Ceilis, Jigs and Ballads: Irish Music in Liverpool (1994) while working at the Institute of Popular Music. He now works for Culture Liverpool as Head of UNESCO City of Music and reports to the Liverpool City Region Music Board. 2023 marks their five-year anniversary; so, who better to tell us how they’ve come on?
I’m delighted to have been given this opportunity to tell you about the Liverpool City Region Music Board. I know, the mention of a ‘board’ may already have made some of you switch off(!), but please bear with me. This is one of those boards that actually does stuff. In fact, it is -in many ways- seen as a role model for how other cities and city region’s should manage their music policy and delivery.
The Board came about after Culture Liverpool commissioned their first ever formal music strategy in 2018. Two key recommendations were the establishment of an independent music board and the creation of a Music Officer role. I was fortunate enough to be successful in earning the role, starting in late 2018, just as the Music Board was being pulled together.
The Music Board is accountable to the Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram. Steve’s a passionate lover and supporter of music; he’s also clear about how important the sector is for the City Region.
Liverpool’s Music Board is made up of individuals from across the sector; music businesses, artists, venue owners, festival promoters, music education, etc. Members are there not to represent themselves, or their business/organisation, but to use their experience and skills to benefit the sector as a whole across the city region.
The broad mission of the Music Board is to ‘support the sustainable growth of the music sector in the city region’. After consultation with sector, the Music Board settled on key priorities, including areas such as skills and talent development, underpinning the whole programme with a genuinely inclusive approach.
As a group, we know the sector moves quickly. To that end we’ve recently reviewed our priorities, running a series of consultation sessions at venues in each of the city region’s six boroughs.
We’ve used these sessions to highlight the work we’ve supported and delivered by the Music Board since 2019. As a Music Board, we were successful in our bid for Strategic Investment Funds (SIF) from the Combined Authority. We found out about this just as the first lock down started. We immediately sought and gained permission from the Combined Authority to repurpose £150,000 of the funds to set up a Covid emergency fund.
Responding quickly to the needs of the sector, we supported over 50 businesses! The grants we gave helped businesses to navigate those first few incredibly difficult months of lockdown.
As well as supporting skills and talent development programmes, we’ve also led on campaigns such as advocating for late night bus services. Our conversations with venues told us that many employed staff that struggled to get home late at night due to the scarcity and/or expense of taxis.
Club and gig goers told us the same thing. This brought up the issues of safety for those being left in the city centre late at night. Consequently, the Music Board worked closely with University of Liverpool to build an evidence base, supporting the case for night buses and both the Combined Authority and MerseyTravel have been responsive. We’re hopeful that a pilot of two weekend late night bus routes will be announced shortly.
When talking about Liverpool as a music city I always stress the diversity of our music offer. Festivals like the Liverpool Irish Festival are a key part of our amazing, all year-round rich musical offer. The incredible success of Eurovision, hosted by Liverpool on behalf of Ukraine earlier this year, demonstrated how important music is in this city. For me, music is part of the fabric of the city. We understand the importance of music and that is what makes us different: we are a real music city.
I’m sure that some of what makes Liverpool a unique music city is our status as a port. We’ve always welcomed people from all over the world to Liverpool. Their cultures and music help influence and shape the music that emerges from the city. My own view is that the Irish influence on Liverpool music is deep rooted and is still evident in music today.
I like many, many, others in Liverpool was brought up in an Irish household by my Irish parents. They came to Liverpool in the 1950s for economic reasons. I have an Irish passport and am proud of my Irish heritage. The city’s strong Irish connections are why the Liverpool Irish Festival has a special place in our rich musical calendar. As always, I’m looking forward to what is always a marvellous event with some memorable musical performances.
Kevin McManus, Head of UNESCO City of Music
For further details on the work of the Liverpool City Region Music Board visit www.lcrmusicboard.co.uk. Follow them on socials using: @lcrmusicboard
Also see www.liverpoolmusiccity.com for further details of what’s happening musically in Liverpool City Region.