Liverpool Announces Plans for 2008 Year as European Culture Capital

Classic Arts News   Liverpool Announces Plans for 2008 Year as European Culture Capital
The Liverpool Culture Company has revealed plans for the year-long celebration that will take place when it becomes Europe's Capital of Culture in 2008.

One of the classical music high points of the year comes in June, when the Cologne Cathedral Choir, the choirs of Liverpool's two cathedrals and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir join to perform Benjamin Britten's War Requiem in Liverpool Cathedral.

Simon Rattle, a Liverpool native, will conduct the Berlin Philharmonic, of which he is chief conductor, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in the fall.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic will premiere commissions from composers including John Tavener, Brett Dean, Kenneth Hesketh and Michael Nyman. Nyman's new work will explore European soccer culture and Liverpool's contribution to it; it is also a memorial to the Hillsborough tragedy — the 1989 disaster in which 96 soccer fans were crushed to death in a stampede due to overcrowding in the stadium.

Also in 2008, the Merseyside Dance Initiative will showcase major UK companies under the mantle "British Dance: Edition 2008." Choreographer Akram Khan will premiere a new piece during a contemporary dance festival held during the year.

The European Capital of Culture project was launched in 1985. Liverpool's £30 million ($57 million) program is funded primarily by the Liverpool city council, the UK national government and the European Regional Development Fund, according to Bloomberg News.

The Liverpool Culture Company (LCC) has been without an artistic director since Robyn Archer (who joined in 2004 as a consultant) resigned in July for "personal reasons" and moved back to her native Australia. Speculation surrounding her departure suggested that personality clashes with senior staff and unhappiness over her early artistic choices — with some complaining that her tastes were too esoteric and others finding her programming too heavy with Australian artists — may have prompted her resignation.

While Archer was not replaced, last month the LCC appointed Michael Elliott, the chief executive of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, as a part-time advisor. (He departs the RLPO for his new assignment this month.)

Management has undergone other changes since Archer's resignation. According to an article last month in The Stage, the LCC's board of directors will be reduced in size to a maximum of 14 members, including three municipal council representatives. A new board will replace the company's current executive group and a new advisory panel, consisting of members of key organizations and funding partners, will also be instituted.

Kevin Fearon, chief executive of Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre, told The Stage that the changes will help diminish the belief that the company was out of touch with local arts organizations. "It will be good to have someone there like Michael who has been in Liverpool for several years and knows what it's like to run an organization here. It will make other arts organizations feel more part of what the Culture Company is doing," he said.

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