Hailing from Manchester, you’d expect there to be some inherent rivalry with Liverpool ingrained in my being. The dissension can be traced right back to the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal, which was built by Mancunian merchants to avoid paying dues to the Liverpool dockyards for the export and import of their goods (a shady move on Manchester’s part), but the present-day beef has been further intensified by the rivalry on the football pitch.
Liverpool was a second home to me for many years. I went to university at Liverpool John Moores, and subsequently got my first full-time copywriting gig for an independent record label in the city. I lived and loved in Liverpool, and the city showed me great kindness at a time when being kind wasn’t cool.
Liverpool has had a long and turbulent history: it fell from grace during the years of Labour’s Militant tendency, and it squared up to Maggie’s Tory government, a fight which it would inevitably go on to lose. It has endured (and survived) a pummeling from both local and national governments, and the Toxteth riots of the early 80s pushed the city very close to its nadir.
But the city is hella resilient and has emerged from its complicated history with the garrulity and affability that only those from the north know how. Liverpool is a city of grand architectural gestures, and its rise to a cultural capital has been achieved by contributions from a diverse range of identities, from its vibrant music and arts scene to its rich cultural tapestry.
For the Isle of Man, however, Liverpool is our unofficial second city, the gatekeeper to our Island, so it’s no wonder that Liverpool and Mann share some striking similarities. Geographic proximity and strong historic travel links would be the apparent reason for this bond, allowing Scousers and Manxies to move freely between the two, courtesy of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, since 1830.
For most Manxies, their first-time off-Island was likely aboard the ferry to Liverpool. From day trips shopping with your mum to all night raving with your mates, Liverpool was the cultural Mecca, a shining jewel across the Irish Sea. It’s been a rite of passage for many a Manxie. The phoenix-esque regeneration of Liverpool to a flourishing cultural leader is evident for all visitors to see.
Once the epitome of day-shopping chic, St John’s Shopping Centre was the go-to destination where visiting Manxies could stock up on chunky belts and hair mascara. Steam Packet’s no luggage fees, however, meant that self-restraint was rarely exercised, so a chunky belt in every colour of the rainbow was the norm because, well, you just could. Thankfully, Liverpool’s shopping culture has been replaced by Liverpool ONE, and 90s sartorial choices have been replaced by common sense.
Concert Square was once the Holy Grail of Liverpool nightlife: if you weren’t sporting a Blue WKD moustache in Concert Square’s glorious 80s-themed bar, Rewind, were you really living? For the scenesters who were far too cool to be seen dead in Concert Square (and I include myself in that category), we had Korova, Heebie Jeebies, and Le Bateau, some truly alt-scene gems.
Liverpool’s nightlife has come on leaps and bounds since that of twenty years past. Just walking from the Docks to the centre of town has changed beyond recognition. A recent day-trip to Liverpool saw me barely make it to the centre of the city thanks to the calibre of bars and restaurants along the iconic waterfront where Manannan berths.
Liverpool will always hold a special place in the hearts of Islanders, and my niece’s generation is yet to experience the magic that your first big trip to Liverpool holds.
For me, like many Manxies, Liverpool will always be a second home. It’s the place where I lived out some of the most critical moments in my life and where some of my most influential and most treasured relationships were cultivated. I’m a very proud Mancunian at heart, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Liverpool.