By Adam Walker, Economics Correspondent
On and off the pitch, there is a sense that Liverpool is undergoing a revival.
The port city, famed for innovation, industry and a certain musical export, was for centuries the economic powerhouse of Britain, home to a diverse population who fuelled the engine of the north. In the Shankly era the red side of the town enjoyed unparalleled football success, winning silverware at home and abroad. But its fortunes faded on the pitch as the town suffered an industrial demise off it, and things haven’t since been quite the same. Until now.
The success of Liverpool FC in the Premier League has been cause for celebration and tentative hope. The team sits at the top of the league table approaching its last four games of the season, with the blue half of the city still in with a good shout of a Champions League spot. As the city’s respective football teams march on under the wing of Rodgers and Martinez, the economy has also felt a resurgence. It has also seen the largest growth in small business start-ups following a recent government scheme, with 860 former benefit claimants starting their own enterprises. Furthermore, it will be hosting what is being referred to as the “Business Olympics” later in the year in order to reinvigorate areas of the UK economy that have not seen any benefits from London’s growth as well as encourage commercial cooperation between cities in the North West.
As the city remembers and mourns the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy on its 25th anniversary, the tragic deaths and political scandal that once cast a dark cloud over the city today unites it, as Anfield Stadium and its neighbouring Goodison Park dropped all rivalries in remembrance of those “who never came home”.
A Historic Trade and Power Hub
Liverpool became a vital part of the British economy in 1715 following the completion of the first commercial wet dock on the River Mersey. Thanks to trade in the West Indies and the Antarctic sealing industry, the city’s wealth grew exponentially and the waterfront became a hub of business activity. New commercial buildings were developed and in 1830 Liverpool and Manchester became the first cities to have an intercity rail link, facilitating trade and labour movement as populations grew rapidly.
The city made its name in shipbuilding and sea-trade and saw huge number of immigrants drawn to the city from Ireland, following the great famine, to Greek and Russian citizens who moved over to share in the city’s new wealth. Even today, Liverpool is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe, celebrated by its beautiful Chinatown area and gate, demonstrating a culture of acceptance and community that few other cities can match.
Through A Storm
However, following the great depression in the 1930s and World War 2 the city fell upon hard times as over half of the homes in the local metropolitan area were wiped out and 2,500 people killed following 80 airstrikes. The redevelopment of the urban area never really took off and much of what was built was hugely unpopular because of rushed planning from local government.
By the 1970s the shipping and manufacturing industries were in decline, Liverpool’s main commercial platforms were suffering from innovations in trading and business logistics meaning that the docks were left empty and quiet after over two centuries of trade. Employment rates increased in the 1980s to some of the top levels in the country, something that many towns at the time shared with it following the decline in UK manufacturing.
However, recent regeneration efforts and modernising of the city has resulted in boosted growth and economic recovery. The Liverpool One project has become one of the most successful retail ventures within the UK encouraging investment from multinationals such as Apple and Nike, as well as a vast array of local restaurants and bars. Regeneration spread to new business districts and the waterfront has been redeveloped into luxury apartment complexes. Even today Liverpool is a constantly changing city proving that it is still a heavyweight economy in the UK.
Never Walking Alone
I was raised in Liverpool alongside my brothers and, despite two of us currently living in London, we all share a very strong emotional tie to our home city, something that is true of all Scousers to this day. The Hillsborough service that took place this week serves as a great reminder to everyone outside of the city of how resilient and passionate we are. We move forward with strength and ambition but never forget the scars from our past that still hurt to this day.
If you take anything from this article then let it be that I recommend you go to Liverpool, if you haven’t already been, and experience a new city that has been constructed on the strong foundations of the old. Grab a drink in the Penny Lane Wine Bar, eat at the restaurants at the docks, walk in the cathedrals and generally get stuck in to a community brimming with love and friendliness.
Liverpool is sometimes remembered for the wrong reasons, whether they be the riots in the early 80s or the economic hardships that have plagued the city throughout the 20th century. Regardless of this, as Gerry Marsden would say, we walk on. Through the wind and the rain, with our heads held up high and with hope in our hearts.