Claire McColgan MBE, Director of Culture Liverpool and Executive Director of The Good Business Festival, shares her hopes for our home city as Act One launches.
So, it’s the day of Act One of The Good Business Festival and I’m listening to the radio and there is the constant cloud of full lockdown looming and the desperation of businesses not knowing where to turn or who to turn to.
I have been isolating with my family – my daughter is a new student and has joined the thousands of others who have contracted the virus while embarking on a new chapter in her education.
When I came to Liverpool for freshers week in 1989, I fell in love with this city which felt like the most exciting place in the world, and it has been my home ever since. The late 1980s was a time when the city was economically at its lowest ebb. The city centre was half shut down, buildings lay empty and derelict and unemployment was rife – but as a 19-year-old, my eyes were blown away by it.
And then there came the saviour initiatives: the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund which saw millions of pounds of investment spent to fix something that never should have been broken in the first place.
And finally there came the light that was European Capital of Culture in 2008. It was an end game to work towards, and a scholarship to coalesce around.
It was the biggest regeneration programme in Europe – major capital schemes saw the birth of Liverpool ONE and the arena, the Big Dig took over the streets and caused a city conversation for eight years. It was a deadline we had to meet and for the first time in a long time there was a reason for investors to take a chance on the city…and it worked.
Now, in the dark tunnel of COVID-19, we need a new light to walk towards to reignite the city. Two years ago we were walking with giants on The Strand, students were arriving who thought – like I did all those years ago – that this is still the most exciting city in the world.
If we have learnt anything it’s that this region can pull together and make things happen. The Good Business Festival is exactly that. This incredible virtual gathering of some of the most impressive business leaders across the world kick starts a conversation that will enable change to happen and help us to not only look differently at the way we work, but also at how we treat each other in a way in which we can all build back stronger and better. Today, change will be at the forefront of everyone’s conversations and those values of good and hope will be a common thread that binds us all.