“The Magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England”: A Love Letter to Liverpool

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“The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England. We are global and we have learned to tolerate and respect each other’s traditions. As such, we are a national asset.” – Margaret Simey, political activist, 1999

There is something special about Liverpool.

The North has been a place of poignant philosophy, fierce industry and radical politics for centuries: just look to Manchester’s fundamental role in the first wave feminism movement, proud home to Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. Despite often overlooked and underestimated by London-centric politicians and media, Londoners are leaving the capital in droves to seek new homes in Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle, citing better qualities of life.

Liverpool football fans, May 2007 holding a banner that reads ‘We’re not English We Are Scouse’. [Image: Andy Teebay/Propaganda]

Yet it is Liverpool that stands out, not ashamed of being a thorn in England’s side but proud of it – and rightly so. As orders initially went out to fly the flag for Prince Andrew’s sixtieth birthday, Liverpool council outright refused it in light of the Prince’s close friendship and association with now-deceased paedophile billionaire, Jeffrey Epstein.

A beautiful summary of the city’s psyche is captured by Jamie Bowman exploring Liverpool’s connection with psychedelia: “There’s a certain magnetism about that [Liverpool’s] open-minded outlook that attracts waifs and strays, wanderers looking for a journey of discovery.”

Yet it is Liverpool that stands out, not ashamed of being a thorn in England’s side but proud of it – and rightly so

Indeed, that discovery can be seen in the city’s diversity from boasting a wealth of Irish migration and culture to being home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. Liverpool made news after the Toxteth riots in the 1980s, an eruption of protest against the injustices the city’s black communities were facing on a daily basis.

Whether born in Liverpool or arriving there, there’s a long history of welcoming the wanderers of the world.

A typical case highlighting Liverpool’s character is the birth of the Granby Residents Association, created in 1993 to prevent demolition in the once derelict area.

The derelict district has been transformed by a community effort into a beautiful and iconic art display and market. [Image: James Maloney/Liverpool Echo]

Residents were able to stop the demolitions in the 1990s and, since 2011, the community has won various contracts that has seen grants awarded to local community trusts that have renovated homes and shops in the area. Walk the Four Streets and you’ll see what it looks like when a community comes together and refuses to be pushed out: regular thriving markets of Bangladeshi, Somali, Persian and Scouse traders sell side by side, jewellery, food, Hindi art and more.

Regular thriving markets of Bangladeshi, Somali, Persian and Scouse traders sell side by side, jewellery, food, Hindi art and more

Granby’s success is typical of a city that refuses to accept the narrative often pushed it on it. Liverpool’s incredible success of almost banning Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid newspaper has been decades-long, kickstarted by The Sun’s appalling classist, hateful lies regarding the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989.

Across the city flyers and stickers are proudly displayed in bars, cafés, shop windows, taxis and bus stops; radical bookshop News from Nowhere on Bold Street will happily sell you “don’t buy the sun” badges and t-shirts. The boycott forever honours the victims of Hillsborough and, in recent years, also represents Liverpool’s rejection of Conservativism and the Tory Party.

From Thatcher’s attempts to engineer a “managed decline” of Liverpool to current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, senior Conservatives have underestimated and attempted to bully Liverpool for decades.

‘Don’t Buy The Sun’ boycott fever runs through the city since the tragic deaths of the 96 in the Hillsborough tragedy. [Image: Anfield Road.]

Johnson was editor of an article published in The Spectator in 2004 that insulted scousers, labelling the city’s residents as possessing “a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche” that leads to “see[ing themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status, yet at the same time they wallow in it.”  Johnson has since refused to apologise for the comments and in good old Liverpudlian fashion, scousers haven’t forgotten.

Senior Conservatives have underestimated and attempted to bully Liverpool for decades

In contrast to what Boris thinks, Liverpool doesn’t resent its victim status because it isn’t a victim. It’s a proud city and that pride could indeed be repackaged and labelled as a flaw if one had a political agenda to demonise Liverpool.

There’s plenty of reasons for that pride: Liverpool was awarded Capital of Culture in 2008 and has been a key recipient of EU financial investment, possibly a reason as to Merseyside largely voted to remain in the European Union during the Brexit referendum.

In good old Liverpudlian fashion, scousers haven’t forgotten

In the wake of the General Election just before Christmas, the hashtag #ScouseNotEnglish began trending on Twitter as a defiant way of telling the rest of the country Liverpool doesn’t want to be associated with the new Tory majority Government. Why would it? The Conservative party has repeatedly shown its distaste for the city.

Another banner during Liverpool’s premier league match with Bournemouth, December 2019, reads ‘scousers hate tories’. [Image Propaganda-Photo.]

Just last month, activists and supporters held a “F**k the Tories” street rave in Liverpool city centre. A spokesperson for the gathering said: “We are just people who have lived our entire adult lives voiceless against countless Tory injustices. We are not going to meekly accept another five years.”

Liverpool city centre held an impromptu rave to protest against the Tories, Jan 2020. [Image: Twitter User.]

Liverpool doesn’t “meekly accept” anything – and that makes it dangerous to the establishment. Our current Government want, and need, its citizens to meekly accept what it does, relying on the British stiff upper lip and distaste for causing a fuss.

Liverpool doesn’t “meekly accept” anything – and that makes it dangerous to the establishment

Liverpool causes a fuss. Imagine if the rest of the UK followed its lead?

The Conservative Party has never liked Liverpool, so it’s no surprise Liverpool doesn’t like The Conservatives. Liverpool is a working-class melting pot of a city that refuses to shut up and put up. It is a city that is sure of itself, turning dirt into gold; from Thatcher’s attempts to render it obsolete in the 90s to Boris Johnson’s brazen contempt of it today.

Liverpool city centre pledge never to forget the 96 – and to protest Conservative injustice, Jan 2020. [Image: Twitter User.]

Liverpool is unapologetic, unashamed and revolutionary. It refuses to bend the knee to austerity, to the whipping up of hatred against immigrants and the vulnerable and it shouts about it – loudly.

Liverpool is a working-class melting pot of a city that refuses to shut up and put up

If Liverpool’s energy ignited across the UK’s towns, villages and cities, a socialist revolution would surely start. But the reality is that we are headlong into a hard-right agenda with nationalist and populist politics becoming the mainstream.

total eclipse of the sun in Liverpool
Liverpool promotes a ‘total eclipse of The Sun’. [Image: Mike Finn].

This week, our Prime Minister hired a staunch eugenics supporter and vociferous racist while refusing to say that calling black people less intelligent than white people is xenophobic. So any hope for other communities to take a leaf out of Liverpool’s brave stance remains bleak.

That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. As Liverpool has shown over the decades, you can take them on and win.

May the city always be a beacon of inspiration to the rest of us.

  • Superb article about my city of birth. I live in Liverpools twin city today. Glasgow. What this country needs to do, is follow what has happened in France. The world needs a revolution. Peace love and light. Xxx

    • Thanks Gerry! Really glad you enjoyed Xan’s article. We’d definitely like to write something similar regarding Glasgow’s history, so stay tuned!

  • Fantastic article. This why I love Liverpool; never give up! The U.K. proved so disappointing as a whole by voting in a party of privileged, misogynistic fascist bullies. I’m so happy that a city I called home for years never succumbed to the “me” culture adopted by so many of the population.

    • Thanks for your lovely comment, Kerry. Both Xan (the author of this article) and myself are originally from Merseyside and completely agree that Liverpool focuses more on ‘we’ instead of ‘me’.

  • Love this article. But just wanted to point out that at the same time as Manchester and the Pankhursts were campaigning for womens right to vote. Liverpool had Eleanor Rathbone a campaigning suffragist and instumental in the introduction of the Family Allowance.

    • Thanks for your comment Linda – I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of Eleanor Rathbone before reading your comment, so thanks for shedding light on her amazing work 🙂

  • Can you correct the spelling of Margaret Simey please- no N in her name. A great woman, wicked sense of humour, I had total respect for her.

  • Love and agree with the above . The working class hugely lost their voice when Thatcher decimated union power . I’m glad and proud Liverpool can stand up and be counted !!

    • Thanks for your comment, Ian! Really pleased Xan’s article resonated with you, Liverpool is a great city.

  • I am from Manchester,I really wish we were along side Liverpool.The Tories are toxic fascists,sneering at the working class.And all those turncoats from Labour to Tory,are chickens.

    • Hi Mick, we’re actually planning on writing a similar piece on Manchester’s political history — there are many cities across the UK which have demonstrated great resilience and resistance to the Tories! Keep an eye out for our article on Manchester.

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  • Ok. LABOUR through and through! And our cory won’t tolerate anything, certainly injustice! Scouse and proud! But, the reasons the Tories hate Liverpool is because it was a Tory stronghold until the early 1970s! Please do research.

  • Absolutely agree with all that is written above, a wonderful article only wish the historical welsh influence in Liverpool especially from North Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Was acknowledged in these articles. The welsh fed, watered, protested, built, nurtured, developed iconic businesses of Liverpool, and more along with the Irish, Caribbean, Chinese, and others . Thanks for the articulate expression of a wonderful culture

    • good, interesting article. but mention could be made of the current Liverpool team and their manager. they are playing great football and the city is quite rightly immensely proud of them. there is a very strong connection with the fans and some comments from the socialist manager and their compassionate and socially aware players make them immensely likeable. i’m not a Liverpool fan (Partick Thistle is my team) but i have loved watching them for the last couple of years.

  • Fabulous Article THANK YOU born and bred in this fabulous City , and proud to be scouse . Was marching in the streets against Thatcher. You have captured the essence of us in this piece. We live in Canada at the moment and have tried to explain to our Canadian friend why we object to being called English, as we are not English we are scouse 🙂 THEY are ALL getting a link to this article 🙂 Rover Mersey in our veins and the Liver Birds in our hearts always. So PROUD of our city for it’s warmth , it’s community. LIVERPOOL is a FAMILY and we may not always get along every day with everyone LOL but will UNITE to protect each other. It’s a special place on the planet indeed . People who have never experienced this kind of energy are truly missing out.

  • Couldn’t agree more. Keep your independent spirit, Liverpool. It is a city of great creativity in art, architecture, literature, music and language. It is a crying shame other parts of the North have been hoodwinked by the deceit coming out of this Tory Government.

  • Very True, a concise valuation of the greatest city on earth, I was born in toxteth, with Irish ancestry, I am extremely proud of being a Scouser, being english (note the lack of a capital E); i am often perplexed at being considered as such, as the song says; “we don’t care what your name is boy, we’ll never turn you away” {ferry cross the Mersey- Gerry & the pacemakers}

  • OH my god what an excellent article. Well said let’s hope all cities unite against the Tories who only display a condescending and arrogant attitude towards the working classes and those north of the Watford Gap.

  • Liverpool gives so many of us hope. What an amazing city. My daughter did both her degrees here and my late husband and I loved our visits. As a 68 year old Socialist I’m constantly inspired by what solidarity can achieve!!

  • I love the people of Liverpool they are open friendly and honest. My daughter and her family stay down there and I visit often. It’s my home from home. Glasgow and Liverpool top class.

  • I’m a london born trainee scouser I’ve lived here for nearly three decades and all three of my kids were born here to their scouse mum all three identify as ‘scouse not english’ and I’m incredibly proud of them my 25 year old daughter even has a ‘I still hate thatcher mug’ and she wasnt even around in those dark years they not only never forget but they have a race memory that keeps the socialist vision of liverpool going in to the next generation

  • What a superb article, proud to call it my hometown. No matter what people say or throw at it we stand strong, tall and very proud.

  • Well written very honest article. My grandfather was a immigrant many years ago, a well loved and respected member of the community. We accept and support everyone regardless. Long may it last. I love Liverpool the city of my birth.

  • A superbly written piece which captures the soul of Liverpool and the narrative that will never change. …you do right by Liverpool … Liverpool will do right by you, if not all bets are off.