The end of road for the Picket and its sister project the
Pinball Wizard recording studio came, after a year long campaign to save the
facilities, on 31st December 2004.
To see the whole thing end with the closure was very
distressing for my colleagues and I, and for many 'ordinary' people in
Liverpool and beyond. A big contrast with the emotions I experienced whilst
listening to the anouncement made by Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State at the
Department of Culture, Media and Sport, on BBC Radio Merseyside on the 4th June
2003. "The European Capital of Culture for 2008 is...Liverpool".
It felt great; it was good news for Liverpool. After
decades of negativity, riots, and mass unemployment in the 1980s, the media's
cruel stereotyping of 'Scousers', Thatcher's 'no such thing as society',
something positive what happening to my hometown.
I anticipated there would be some real investment put
into the Picket, to mirror the time, commitment and effort my colleagues and I
had devoted to making the facility a resource for the people of Liverpool. How
wrong I was...
The Picket's volunteers and staff created a professional
live music venue, a community access recording studio, the Liverpool Now
Festival, Dry Bar gigs for people under 18 and an open door advice service for
local bands and musicians. Local people felt that the Picket belonged to them.
This was backed up by the practical and financial support of many leading
figures in the music industry, from our patron (St.) Pete Townshend, Paul
McCartney, Yoko Ono, Joe Strummer, (RIP), John Peel, (RIP), Elvis Costello,
Billy Bragg, Neil Finn and Travis, to local artists such as Cast, Space, Pete
Wylie, Ian McNabb, Amsterdam, Shack, The Coral and many others. Year on year
the project was successful in attracting public subsidy from Liverpool City
Council, Arts Council of England, Youth Music, European Regional Development
Fund and the Foundation for Sport and Arts.
Our friends and contacts in the local and national music
industry helped us to obtain sponsorship and donations from the industry from
the likes of Marshall Amps, Premier Percussion, Zildijan cymbals, Richer
Sounds/Persula Foundation, Ad Lib Audio and Soundtracs. I believe this was
because the Picket delivered! I am not a "whingeing Scouse"', and so since the
closure and the experience of signing on the dole again, my colleagues and I
have worked- voluntarily for part of the time- to establish a new company, find
alternative premises, secure funding and resurrect the Picket.
The support of an experienced board of directors- former
marketing director at Cream Jayne Casey, arts professional Kevin McManus,
accountant David Moss, Youth Music co-ordinator Christine Spriggs, Liverpool
Community College director Pam Bann and author/music journalist Paul Du Noyer-
has provided us with experience and encouragement, which in turn has fuelled
our enthusiasm enabling us to carry on with the project.
As a consequence of the support of Liverpool City Council
and Northwest Development Agency, we have secured new premises in a building
near the River Mersey in an area that is becoming known as Liverpool's
'Independents District'. Liverpool City Council Leader Councillor Warren
Bradley is keen to see the Picket survive and is interested in the concept of
developing the Independents District as a cultural area for other indigenous
arts organisations. We have also received support from the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport- DCMS, and Liverpool MPs Louise Ellman, Peter Kilfoyle
and Maria Eagle.
Appropriately the Picket's Liverpool Now Festival from
April 17th -28th 2006 will be the first of many events to take place in our new
premises, "Creating the future out of the Now". An official opening of the
venue will take place on Saturday 27th May 2006 when you will see the new
Picket rise like a 'Phoenix from the Ashes'. The event will feature a
performance by the legendary Liverpool Art School band 'Deaf School'
Prices and availability for tickets for the opening event
will be released soon.
Philip Hayes, 7th April 2006.