Ten years ago, Liverpool was on the edge of one of the biggest years in its history. The city’s year as European Capital of Culture was life-changing, not just for the city itself but for its cultural sector, for how the city was seen and for the sheer number of people coming to Liverpool to enjoy it. It’s estimated 2008 brought over £750m to Liverpool’s economy, with over 9m visitors.

We chart some of the biggest things that happened in ‘08, and how it all really is still happening in Liverpool.

Massive events

We can remember where we were when we first heard rumours that something big was coming to Liverpool’s streets in ‘08. Is it really, we can recall saying, going to be a huge spider? La Princesse was no ordinary spider though.

From the first time we saw her on the side of the old Concourse House by Lime Street, to when she sprayed us with water in Castle Street we were in love. And as she left Liverpool, slowly edging into the Queensway Tunnel, we were forever changed.

Liverpool has become known as the city for huge scale live events in the streets. Because spectacle doesn’t just happen behind closed doors, it can be brought to everyone on the pavements. The Little Girl Giant, the Grandma and who can forget Xolo the dog, the Three Queens, Sgt Pepper 50? And there will be more to come in 2018. We’re now a city of giants and huge events that light up the city streets.

Music in the parks

OK, music didn’t start in Liverpool in ‘08. We think there’s definitely four lads who were around before then. Liverpool music has always been legendary, but in ‘08 we made it even bigger by giving it a huge stage. Mathew Street Festival evolved into Liverpool International Music Festival and shifted to Sefton Park so that more could enjoy the free event.

Some of the biggest bands in the world have played the LIMF stage and it’s a huge part of welcoming new musicians to the city at the start of their careers. LIMF is now a staple of the UK music calendar and a champion for new music.

And there’s more. The very first Liverpool Sound City was in ‘08 and ten years later it’s not just one of the most well-respected music festivals in the UK, it’s one of the best. The Flaming Lips, Ed Sheeran, Bastille, Royal Blood have all graced the Sound City stage.

The pink pages of Bido Lito are one of the best ways to keep up to date with music in Liverpool and they’ve championed the city’s ambitious and blossoming music culture for a new generation. It’s a must read every month, now.

Before ‘08 we had music festivals like Liverpool Music Week, Liverpool Irish Festival, Africa Oye and more and they’ll continue post 2018 but we’ve seen new additions like Liverpool International festival of Psychedelia, Liverpool Pride (launched in 2010) and more.

The Echo Arena, launched in January 2008 with a glittering concert (we will always remember Pete Wylie from The Mighty Wah! in gold lame) and since then has welcomed some of world’s biggest bands to its stage. Liverpool is firmly on the stadium tour map.

Arts Festivals

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2008 was capital of culture, and we certainly put that front and centre. Alongside the ‘Big 8’, including The Philharmonic, Tate Liverpool, The Everyman and Playhouse, Unity, and FACT, we welcomed big names and exhibitions to wow even the most cynical of critics.

Yet alongside our world class galleries and arts centres we saw new and exciting cultural ideas. Open Culture was established in 2008 to create an arts community for every person in Liverpool with big free events. Can you remember what spring was like before LightNight, when our arts venues open their doors until late and events take over unusual spaces? What about the Winter and Summer Arts Markets, or the Snowflake Trail. The city comes alive with art throughout the year.

And it brings millions of people to Liverpool every year.

New spaces, new ideas

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A city’s geography changes in ten years. Of course it does, cities aren’t built to stay still. But the transformation that started in the build up to 2008 kickstarted a huge change in Liverpool that hasn’t stopped.

Liverpool ONE and the regeneration of the waterfront connected the city centre with the Albert Dock and the River Mersey in a way that hadn’t happened since the bustling docks of the early 20th century. The city welcomed cruise liners, who have spent a decade on the waves sailing into Liverpool.

The new Everyman Theatre didn’t just wow us when we saw it for the first time, it won a Stirling Prize for its architecture.

And the city has grown and expanded to fit all these new cultural ideas. In 2008, the Baltic Triangle was home to a few arts organisations like the CUC and Liverpool Biennial but plans were being hatched. Baltic Creative, now Cains Brewery Village and Northern Lights have evolved the old district of warehouses into one of the coolest spots in the UK. Camp and Furnace, Baltic Social, Black Lodge Brewery, District, all have helped create a brand new corner of the city for our creative and digital sector.

Liverpool on the big screen

Many say 2008 changed the view of Liverpool from those outside. And it certainly refreshed the confidence of the old Scouse identity. Some will say it never went away but you can’t deny people certainly see more of Liverpool than they used to.

Film and cinema blossomed during 2008. The city became a stage for film crews with shows like Peaky Blinders, movies like The Dark Knight, Fast & Furious 6, Captain America the First Avenger and Harry Potter all used corners of the city. Liverpool’s film industry received a boost with the news of a multi-million pound production studio to open.

Yet there’s another story, perhaps less known but equally important. 2008 led to a resurgence in the career of one of the world’s finest auteurs, the director Terence Davies. Born in Kensington and known for films like Distant Voices Still Lives, he hadn’t made a film in a decade when Hurricane Films (based in Liverpool) approached him. The result was the sublime Of Time in the City, one of three films commissioned in 2008 by Northwest Vision and Media and supported by Heritage Lottery. If it wasn’t for that we might not have had films like The Deep Blue Sea, Sunset Song and A Quiet Passion. One of the country’s finest film directors with a revived career and ability to get films funded and made.

The Business of Culture

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The transformation of Liverpool gave the city a chance to tell its story once again to people who might not have heard it. The swelling of its creative and digital sector welcomed old expats as well as new business to the city. The growth of the docks and investment in its regeneration, with plans like Liverpool2 saw a resurgence in the global brand of Liverpool.

The International Business Festival celebrates this and offers Liverpool a platform to talk to the world and invite it in. Liverpool was granted an opportunity with ‘08 which it seized with both hands to secure future investment.

What's to come

All that we're excited for in 2018 is just the very start of a new and ever-evolving journey for Liverpool.

365 days of non-stop and incredible art, culture, business, music and more is just the foundation to another 10 years+ of our city being able to bring the world exactly what its been waiting for. Be a part of it. 

For more information on Liverpool's incredible 2018 programme, visit here - though keep a look out, there's lots more to be announced.