The arrival of the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool once again put the city’s ability to host and stage sporting events on the world stage. With an opening ceremony and dedicated fan park produced by Culture Liverpool, how do culture and sport interlink?
When you think of the city of Liverpool there are a number of things that might come to mind — as a proud scouser one would hope you may think of our unique Heritage, our UNESCO waterfront status, global influence on the film and television scene and unrivalled musical taste as the home of four likely lads who broke the international stage with their unique, endearing and lovable accents.
It may be exceedingly rare but the Liverpudlian twang is as instantly recognisable as our Liverbirds on the waterfront and the chants across the football terraces as identifying features of this city’s culture. For Liverpool is not just a UNESCO recognised city for its music and heritage, but was recognised in 2017 as the UK’s Greatest Sporting City — a title which will not be a shock to fans of not one, but two premier league teams within the city boundaries.
This rich sporting history is much deeper than it’s footballing prowess however, whether you’re a blue or a red is one of the first questions anyone will ask you in Liverpool (answer wisely) but extends to the city’s incredible production of elite athletes, boxers, snooker players, cricketers, golfers, water sports players and of course, footballing legends.
As a city often on the world stage for its home grown talents in sport — think Beth Tweddle, John Conteh, Natasha Jonas, Tony Bellew, David Devine, Lora Turnham to name just a few.
The city is no stranger to hosting and staging major international sporting events including BBC Sports Personality, Aintree Grand National, Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon as well as hosting the Olympic Torch relay in 2012 and it’s neighbouring boroughs of Sefton and Knowsley hosting the Paralympic Torch relay the same year.
This year, the city’s sporting culture has once again attracted all eyes once more as we showcased our sporting prowess with another successful Aintree Grand National, we showed how football parades are done with more than 750,000 people lining the city streets to welcome home Liverpool Football Club with their Champions League title before hosting the Vitality Netball World Cup and a dedicated fan park for everyone to enjoy a summer of sport on home city soil.
With sell out games hosted in the M&S Bank Arena, Culture Liverpool produced an opening ceremony that showcased the city’s culture to viewers around the world, broadcast to a fan park bursting at the seams with local and international spectators. As much a part of our cultural DNA as our accents, sport in Liverpool and the rest of the world is a universal element of all cultures and one which crosses boundaries, languages and demographics to create inclusion, positivity and inspire those in attendance.
One may question, what does sport have to do with culture? How can the two possibly be linked? Culture Liverpool embodies the answer to this and demonstrates this through the city’s sporting culture.
Used in many different ways culture can refer to a mass culture, a minority culture, corporate culture, popular culture, youth culture or sporting culture, for example. Traditionally, one may think of a cultured person being someone who is familiar in works of art, literature, traditional subjects of theatre or music. However, this is not entirely true — a culture can also refer to the collective customs and a way of life, a range of identifying traits, shared meanings, common understanding. It is this shared commonality that makes Liverpool the cultural home of sport.
Sport, by its very nature, embodies traits and characteristics that are admirable, desirable and inspiring to others both young and old regardless of ability. Sporting stars illustrate commitment to a cause, teamwork, fairness, optimism, dignity and drive — elements which form part of our human rights to desire. Sporting success has the power to unite, reinvigorate, inspire and bring people together regardless of situation, background or environment.
The Vitality Netball World Cup hosted in Liverpool this month witnessed a legion of fans from around the world land in Liverpool to support their country overspilling into the fan park which was bursting at the seams as bagpipes played for Scotland and Australian fans danced alongside South African followers. This fandom, generations of families and friends reuniting after decades because of the event tell stories. This team like tribalism, story telling, the power of the colours and branding of your team while all showing support in one city, being together with unanimous applause in support for one another — if this is not a cultural format, then what is?
Sport in Liverpool is a fundamental element of the culture, whether it’s children kicking a football about down a back lane to an international Netball Tournament with players from around the world — it is a fundamental part of life in the city. It defines relationships between friends, siblings and strangers. The regularity of attending weekly football matches as a fan or a player enable families and individuals to benefit from routine and stability. Attending coaching sessions in boxing, karate or gymnastics enable an opportunities for comradeship, physical exertion and positive mental health. Attending racing courses enables visitors from all demographic backgrounds to chance their luck — the race of the horse doesn’t discriminate against postcode.
When ones culture is a set of mutually shared beliefs, a commonality, a cause to unite, sport has the ability to overcome battles of racism, homophobia, gender, economy and societal background — it has the power to bring people together of all backgrounds, of all accents for a common cause and belief. It is this unifying power, the united status so commonly referred to as “Scouse and proud” which makes Liverpool the home of sport and why sport is a defining element of our culture.
Jennifer Caine, Marketing Manager, Culture Liverpool