Was Carrie Fisher really ‘a genius’?

‘People throw the word “genius” around a lot,’ said a talking head on BBC2 this week, ‘but she was a genius, truly.’ If it wasn’t for the heading on this column, I suspect it might have taken you a while to guess the unquestionable genius being referred to here. But then again, for Carrie Fisher: A Life in Ten Pictures, considered analysis and fear of hyperbole would only have got in the way. Not that this prevented the programme from being inadvertently revealing. Granted, if you wanted to know the full story of Fisher’s life – including the fact that she married Paul Simon – you’d have been better off

Before the Blitz: the dynamism of British architecture

Gavin Stamp was a prolific and unusually level-headed architectural writer and historian. Less emotional than Ian Nairn, pithier and more immediate than Nikolaus Pevsner (he knew both men), Stamp wrote definitive books on grand and humble subjects. These ranged from his hero Edwin Lutyens, to brutalism, to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s scarlet telephone boxes of 1935. The last he first defended in a piece for The Spectator 50 years later, which led to a campaign that saved a clutch of them. For Stamp, journalism and campaigning bled into one another. He co-founded the Thirties Society in 1979 – now the influential Twentieth Century Society – to save the era’s buildings.

Not everyone will miss Jurgen Klopp

So, farewell then Jurgen Klopp. What memories you will leave us. You were exuberant, passionate and unorthodox. You ran up and down the touchline, gesticulating manically. You had a nice, albeit cosmetically enhanced, smile. You could be charming and witty. You won. seven trophies in nine years for Liverpool, most significantly the Premier League title that ended an excruciating generation long wait and a sixth Champion’s League. Your place in the Pantheon is assured and things will be duller without you. But is your leaving really a ‘disaster’? From the press reaction it would appear that your tenure at Anfield was an unbroken period of glory and joy the imminent

How Liverpool soon outgrew the Beatles

‘If any journalist asks you about the Beatles because you’re from Liverpool, say you hate them and you don’t listen to that old crap.’ Such was the advice that the DJ Roger Eagle, promoter and founder of the legendary (and there really is no other word for it) Merseyside punk club Eric’s, dispensed to a young Ian Broudie in the late 1970s. Little could either have imagined that almost simultaneously John Lennon, over in New York in the Dakota Building, was busy demo-ing ‘Now and Then’. It was a song which would resurface as the final Beatles single and top the charts some 40-odd years later, aided by a form

The Eurovision effect: how Liverpool is changing its tune

Few British cities can rival the musical heritage of Liverpool – and as the Eurovision Song Contest arrives back in the UK after 25 years, Merseyside is getting ready for its moment in the spotlight. An extra 150,000 visitors are expected to descend on the city for the sell-out event this weekend. While the world’s eyes will be on the M&S Bank Arena for Saturday’s final, the Liverpool area will enjoy a whole week of club nights, raves, live screenings, concerts and after-parties. But it’s not just Eurovision that’s bringing a buzz to the UK’s fifth largest city: hot on the heels of that will be the relaunch of the

Shades of Tony Soprano: BBC1’s The Responder reviewed

Older readers may remember a time when people signalled their cultural superiority with the weird boast that they didn’t watch television. These days the same mistaken sense of superiority is more likely to rely on the equally weird one that they don’t watch terrestrial television. So now that the BBC and ITV find themselves in the historically improbable role of plucky underdogs, it’s pleasing to report that this week saw the launch of two terrific new terrestrial shows — one of which already looks set to be as good as anything on Netflix, Amazon or Disney+ (except for Get Back of course). The programme in question is The Responder. It

How Britain and France learned to live with terror

Emmanuel Macron told his people last summer they would have to learn to live with Covid. A year-and-a-half on, France is unrecognisable to the country it once was: Covid passports are in force and face masks remain mandatory in many places. The president of France is not alone among Western leaders in his uncompromising approach to the pandemic: Holland, Austria and Germany are re-imposing restrictions and Boris Johnson, who used the ‘learn to live with it’ line in July, has refused to rule out a Christmas lockdown. Yet while Europe’s presidents and prime ministers appear ready to go to any length to protect their people from this virus, their approach to another

Why aren’t we more horrified by the Liverpool bombing?

Back when the West was still pretending to fight the ‘war on terror’, Martin Amis made an observation about the enemy’s tactics: Suicide-mass murder is more than terrorism: it is horrorism. It is a maximum malevolence. The suicide-mass murderer asks his prospective victims to contemplate their fellow human being with a completely new order of execration. The horror was not long in going out of horrorism. Not that the acts themselves became any less horrific: self-detonation to take out a pop concert, nail-bomb seppuku against subway passengers. Rather, we stopped being horrified.  Of course, the initial spectacle continues to startle us, and we utter oaths while shaking our heads, but

Ian Acheson

What the Liverpool attack means for Britain

What’s happening in Liverpool? This morning police declared the detonation of a device in a taxi outside a large women’s hospital, and subsequent arrests of four people in the city, as a ‘terrorist incident’. It has just been announced that our terror threat level has been raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ meaning another attack is highly likely.  It appears the Liverpool incident involved a taxi passenger detonating an improvised explosive device outside the hospital, which was apparently its intended destination. The single passenger was killed as the car exploded and was engulfed in flames. The CCTV image is extraordinary, showing a blast of some force showering debris around. The taxi’s driver

Gus Carter

Terror threat level raised to ‘severe’

The Home Secretary Priti Patel has just announced that the terror threat level has been raised to ‘severe’ meaning that another attack is now considered ‘highly likely’. The move comes after yesterday’s explosion in Liverpool was declared to be a ‘terrorist incident’. Speaking after a Cobra meeting, Patel confirmed that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre had raised the threat level following the Liverpool attack.  The Home Secretary said that the decision had been taken because two terror attacks had been confirmed in the last month, the former being the murder of MP Sir David Amess. Patel told reporters:  The Prime Minister has this afternoon just chaired a Cobra meeting and I attended that meeting

Gus Carter

Liverpool terror attack: what we know so far

Britain has been subjected to another terror attack, just as the nation fell silent for yesterday’s annual Remembrance Sunday memorial. An explosion occurred in a taxi outside the Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday morning, killing the passenger and leaving the driver in hospital. Police have now confirmed that the incident is being treated as a terror attack.  Reports suggest that the driver, David Perry, noticed that his passenger had a device and locked himself in the car alongside the bomber. The as-yet-unnamed passenger was declared dead at the scene. Boris Johnson has hailed Mr Perry’s ‘incredible presence of mind and bravery’. He was discharged from hospital last night after receiving treatment for cuts and burns as

A tale of bitter brotherly rivalry

For early humans there was no distinction between spirit and matter. There was no idea of self; no barrier between consciousness and the world. Eventually, evolving self-consciousness and thought put a barrier between the two. Object was irrecoverably divorced from subject. Or so I’ve read somewhere. Something like that anyway. Very recently yet another barrier has been erected between human consciousness and the world in the form of the smart phone touch screen, putting us at not one but two removes from reality. No wonder everyone’s lost the plot. On Sunday, at the very forefront of the evolution of human consciousness, I took human evolution a step further by watching

Why Stonehenge doesn’t have to go the same way as Liverpool

It has not been a good month for the United Kingdom’s internationally important heritage sites. Stonehenge is teetering on the edge of losing its world heritage site status, with Unesco warning the UK government against a proposed £1.7b, two-mile long road tunnel near to the site. If so, it could go the same way as Liverpool, which lost its World Heritage Site status last week. In a city that boasts more Georgian buildings than Bath, the arguments have quickly polarised. In one corner, the developers and city authority decry the intransigence of Unesco and maintain that change is necessary to generate jobs and a thriving economy; and in the other,

The disgraceful decision to remove Liverpool’s heritage status

Unesco has cancelled the ‘World Heritage Status’ of the Necropolis at Memphis and the Giza Pyramid because a Radisson Blu hotel has been built in neighbouring Cairo. That’s not true, but for a similarly absurd reason Liverpool has been de-listed from heritage Valhalla by word-mincing bureaucrats. Not many Liverpudlians will care about this imbecilic and ignorant decision – Liverpool is the capital of itself and does not look to London, still less to Paris or Brussels. The tragedy here is not Merseyside’s status, but Unesco’s blindness. In recent years, Liverpool has demonstrated exactly the mixture of respect for the past and optimism for the future that all great cities need.

The questionable ethics of Operation Moonshot

Now that we seem to have two Covid-19 vaccines that work, do we really need Operation Moonshot, the government’s programme to test 10 million people a day by early next year? It’s a poignant question, not least because of the extraordinary sums which appear to have been committed to it: briefing documents leaked to the BMJ in September suggested that it could cost £100 billion, which is close to the annual NHS budget in England. What would be the point of testing the entire population of Britain once a week if the virus was being controlled by a vaccine? The cost aside, there is growing medical opinion against the idea.

Is the Liverpool mass-testing scheme a gimmick?

The revelation that both Pfizer and Modena have created seemingly effective and safe Covid vaccines that could be here by December is surely the first bit of good news 2020 has brought us. But we are, of course, nowhere near yet out of the woods. Even if a vaccine gets regulatory approval by early December, all our resources and logistics will have to be focused on procuring, delivering, and then monitoring its roll-out. Boris Johnson himself has urged caution about the Pfizer vaccine, saying ‘there is a long way before we have got this thing beat’. But while the PM is displaying a healthy degree of realism about the challenges

How strict will the new Covid restrictions be?

I have a few points to make about the new three tier system to be announced today for restricting our lives and businesses, to suppress Covid-19. 1) Last Wednesday, the government was so worried about the spread of coronavirus in the north of England that it was planning to impose new restrictions on places like Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle before announcing the three-tier framework. Because of opposition from city mayors and local authorities, that is now not going to happen. The three-tier framework will come first. 2) However, it is probable that there will be new restrictions announced today for Liverpool, if agreement with the Mayor Steve Rotheram is reached in

Portrait of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic – Britain’s oldest and ballsiest orchestra

Liverpool’s last ocean liner lies half a mile inland, on the crest of a hill. The Philharmonic Hall, home of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, sits between two cathedrals on Hope Street, its towers jutting over the city like twin prows. It’s an unavoidable metaphor: when you enter the Hall on a concert night, the first thing you see is a bronze memorial to the musicians of the Titanic. Everything about the Hall — the grand staircase; the long curving corridors; the art deco auditorium that looks like something from Alexander Korda’s Things to Come — suggests that you’re about to steam off on some fantastic voyage. I’ve heard concerts

Klopp’s childlike enthusiasm – and incalculable savviness

Where were we? Oh yes, Liverpool were running away with the Premier League and a mere three months later have sealed the deal. For Liverpool fans it must have seemed like the longest drum roll in history. A week ago the drum roll ended in an explosion of joy — too literal an explosion for some tastes — for those who worship at the temple of Anfield. Liverpool were champions of England for the first time in 30 years — and the wait for the first English manager to win the Premier League was extended for another year. That last fact must be one of the sorriest statistics in English

Liverpool University shouldn’t cancel William Gladstone

After the fall of the statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol, it was only a matter of time before attention turned, once again, to England’s other great slave-trading city of Empire, and the figures behind it. William Gladstone is one of Liverpool’s most famous sons. One of the great Liberal politicians of the age, he was prime minister on four separate occasions in the mid to late 1800s. There are a few reminders of this dotted across the city today, but the most notable are the halls of residence that bear his name, belonging to the University of Liverpool. The university has now announced that it will rename the