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Why did Liverpool win the bid for 2008 European Capital of Culture & how has it benefited the city?

The results of the bid were announced in 2003 It was a huge surprise to Liverpool who beat five other hopefuls - Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle-Gateshead and Oxford.

It was recognised that there was a greater sense that the whole city was involved in the bid and this gave Liverpool an edge over its rivals. Liverpool's waterfront and other key areas had already been inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2004 and this will have been an important factor too.

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Branding and Beatles?

Consider the impact and the importance of the Beatles who were all born in the city and during the Liverpool Beatles Walk we regularly ask visitors whether the Beatles were the extra ingredient to help Liverpool win their Capital of Culture bid.

Clever branding at that time reflecting Liverpool as a "World in one City" was a key and critical factor to the success of the bid. This branding has since been replaced by "it's Liverpool” which too has been a tremendous success.

Social and Economic

The social, economic and cultural impact of the European Capital of Culture year saw 9.7m visitors to the city, which was an increase of 34%, and generated £753.8m for the economy.

Time and Place?

Liverpool had post WW2 been largely forgotten with industry relocating to the east and with a Margaret Thatcher Conservative government, mass unemployment and public unrest in the UK in 1981, riots ensued. This was an important milestone and in 1984 Liverpool hosted an International Garden Festival which totally by surprise attracted 3.4m visitors,

Albert DockThe Albert Docks were then regenerated by the Merseyside Development Corporation however, although this was a partial success there was initially never enough at the Albert Dock complex to sustain visitors for a day.

Opposite the docks and a direct walking route to the city centre was a vast empty space created by the German Blitz in May 1940. There has never previously been the money to redevelop this site and European Capital of Culture coupled with Investment from the Duke of Westminster enabled this entire area to be beautifully redesigned and therefore 2008 saw the completion of a £1billion retail and leisure area called Liverpool ONE.

This development has joined the old and new city centres and the Albert Dock and Waterfront areas together and has significantly boosted the local economy and lifted Liverpool into the top five most popular retail destinations in the UK. Liverpool ONE is the largest open air shopping centre in the United Kingdom and the fifth largest overall. Each store was created by a different architect, therefore leading to quite stark differences between some buildings, this is one way in which Liverpool ONE differentiates itself from other shopping centres.

Spiders and Giants!

French performance art company La Machine brought their giant spider which was the highlight and even took a journey through one of Liverpool’s two road tunnels underneath the River Mersey.

La Machine’s Director; Francois Delarozière was born in 1963 in Marseille and studied there at the Ecole Beaux Arts. He has worked in theatrical-based productions for over 20 years, first designing theatre sets and interiors. In 1987 he met Jean-Luc Courcoult, the artistic director of the French street theatre company Royale de Luxe.

Consequently, Jean-Luc Courcoult from street art company Royale de Luxe brought the Giants to Liverpool in 2012. This "Sea Odyssey" (which were again giant puppets operated by French marionettes) resulted in an estimated 800,000 visitors to the city and an economic windfall of £32m.

The Giants returned in 2014 which coupled with Mersey River Festival and the Liverpool International Music Festival, brought visitors to the Liverpool City Region bringing another £55million into the region.

In January 2017 Jean Luc was picked up from Liverpool John Lennon Airport and its very much on the cards that the Giants are likely to return to Liverpool in 2018.

Rebirth of the Port of Liverpool

So many things continued to happen since 2008 a huge player in Liverpool is Peel Ports who own the waterfront on the Liverpool and Wirral sides of the River Mersey as well as the Manchester Ship Canal and Salford Quays.

2016 saw the opening of a brand new deep water port in Liverpool which enables the largest container ships in the world to load and unload in the river Mersey itself using the gigantic red cranes which are visible from many locations all around Liverpool City Region. Some of this freight is then loaded on to “Push Barges” and then transported up the River and by reusing the Manchester Ship Canal some of the freight can be kept off the road distribution network.

Hotel Occupancies

Liverpool City Centre Hotel facts (As at March 2016)

  • 62 Hotels/aparthotels/gueshouses (Increse from 37 since 2008)
  • 6323 Bedrooms (Increse from 37 since 2008)
  • 2500 Hotel-related jobs in the City Centre (1000 of which have come since 2008)
  • £336 Million invested in 25 new & refurbishing, existing hotels snce 2008


There are now around 60,000 students studying in Liverpool's 3 universities and in particular in the case of Liverpool John Moores University this has had a considerable impact on the regeneration as their students live and study in the city centre so much available property and land has been bought up and converted to student accommodation. Professors are being head hunted internationally with lucrative salaries and relocation packages in an attempt to improve the rankings of Liverpool Universities. There are many other changes to the schools and brand new purpose built secondary schools and other excellent sixth form colleges with outstanding results for example Carmel College in St Helens. Liverpool City Region is certainly a highly sought after place to study.

Awards & Accolades

In 2013 Hope Street which joins both of Liverpool’s Cathedrals won the “Great Street Award” in the national urbanism awards. This is a superb Georgian Street with upmarket restaurants & hotels & is the site of the Beatles former schools and colleges.

2014 saw the newly reconstructed £28 million pound Everyman Theatre win the Stirling Prize for Architecture awarded by RIBA. Ironically it was the late James Stirling who was responsible for the original conversion of Liverpool Tate Gallery in the Albert Dock complex and it does make you wonder what he would think of Liverpool today!

In 2015 a regeneration scheme called ‘Granby 4 Streets” in Liverpool 8 (in the heart of the 1981 Toxteth riots & the birth place of Ringo Star) won the coveted Turner prize.

Museums & Attractions

2011 saw the opening of the UK’s newest National Museum. The Museum of Liverpool is the only Museum in England that is only about the city that it’s in! So you will only find exhibits of the sport, for example John Conteh & Boxing, the Grand National, Football, Entertainment with legends like Sir Ken Dodd, as well as the history of Liverpool and one of the original carriages from the Overhead Railway.

The Future

With confidence high and with ambitious plans for Liverpool’s waterfront and several new tall buildings due to be completed coupled with the completion of the new Mersey Gateway, the river crossing at Runcorn, Liverpool is a great place to invest or to relocate a business to.

There will be changes with the introduction of the new Metro Mayor which will consolidate transport, training and skills across a much wider region, but Liverpool will remain in its strongest ever position to compete with its rival the City of Manchester only 35 miles away.

It’s also strange that a city which has been politically left wing for many years, voted 58% in favour to remain in the EU yet on the very day that we have written this blog, Theresa May the UK Prime Minister has triggered article 50 paving the way for the UK to leave the European Union.

Brexit has had a positive effect on UK inbound tourism and Liverpool will profit from that too and the Cruise Market which already brings around 65 cruise calls to Liverpool each summer is also set to continue to grow, as will the reintroduction of Transatlantic crossings from Liverpool to New York.

Liverpool is also geographically placed extremely well to beneifit from the location of its port and a first class distribution network which can easlily cover the North West of England, the Midlands and North Wales. With new routes at Liverpool John Lennon Airport who themselves are continually looking for ways to consolidate reliable and sustainable truly international routes to the US, tourism will continue to grow.

Having recently visited Prague which is totally overrun by tourists and every possible tourist gimmick you imagine and more! Those who work in tourism might be very wise to heed an old saying “be careful what you wish for!” John Lennon might not have created the city we have today however, whether you like the Beatles or not you can not dispute the legacy they have left us, so come and visit Liverpool and explore the region with us we have lots of ideas on our website www.brilliantliverpooltours.com and we would love to share our city with you.

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Our Tour Guides are all local.
Some are qualified Blue Badge Guides, while others are qualified at level 3 skills for growth.
All are trained and insured. Using native bi-lingual speakers enable us to deliver tours & experiences that’s it’s not possible for others to create.

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