WENT to a great gig on Wednesday night. Bryan May, Gerry Marsden, Rita Tushingham and Allison Steadman all turned out. Yes, it was the annual Graduation Dinner at Liverpool John Moores University and while Bryan May is the Chancellor, the rest are, like myself, Fellows of the University. As are the Dali Lama, Bill Bryson, Stevie G and John Timpson, founder of the shoe shop chain.
My own Fellowship dates from 1993, but this week I was elevated to become an Ambassador Fellow, only the second such to be granted and something neither the Dali Lama nor Stevie G have yet to attain, by the way. And I got a new hat.
However, levity aside, I am really very proud to receive this additional honour from LJMU, especially at the same ceremony as Chrissie Maher who, in 1971, founded the UK’s first community newspaper, The Tuebrook Bugle.
The news and features were written by local people in their own particular style and became a model for many others across the UK. Most have died away now, although the spirit can still be found in things like Scottie Press and the recent newspaper for young people in Anfield and Breckfield as part of the Biennial’s “On the Street” project.
Perhaps the place for such projects is now on the web, but Chrissie’s own story, from impoverished uneducated background to starting The Bugle and then eventually the Plain English campaign is yet another Scouse story of inspiration and individual aspiration.
The power of the individual seeing something that needed doing and just getting on with it; dragging officialdom behind in their wake so aptly demonstrated in 1994 when Chrissie pointed out that the NHS then had a 229-word definition: for a bed.
The Plain English Campaign is now recognised globally as the foremost advocacy agency for trying to abolish legalese and bureaucratic gobbledegook. Or, put another way, making things easier and clearer to understand.
Above all, though, Chrissie was an early advocate of the sort of community action that the Big Society is trying to promote. Proof once again that whenever anything radical happens, or is planned, it has usually already happened in Liverpool.
BY NOW, we and the rest of the UK will know which city is to be the first UK City of Culture, in 2013. And yes, no doubt, the decision will have been obvious. To some. To others, misjudged. But overall, in the unanimous view of the Independent Advisory Panel, well deserved.
By now, we will have heard and seen that announcement, live on BBC1. Live, once again, from Liverpool. The inspiration for the whole project coming from the “best ever” European Capital of Culture: Liverpool. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? And, sorry Glasgow, but life and the media spotlight moves on – although, how well you have used it. Perhaps underlining, as in Liverpool, the value of such an award? A year in which another city will soon take centre stage. A year like no other.
And by now I will be glad the secret is finally out, for this has been a curious time. Knowing the outcome but not being able to tell. Avoiding the trick questions. Watching for the mundane detail that may reveal the location. And ever thankful for all those years protecting the character and story details of Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks. The same responses have served me well. Wait and see. Just keep watching.
Postscript: Campaign for plain English? When lawyers are paid by the word: what chance have we got?