I can’t say I wasn’t a bit nervous as I got off the 80 bus by the Philharmonic Hall and walked along to The Everyman. It was half five and, after a cloudless blue day, finally early winter arriving, it was already a black dark night. Will people come out to this?
Tom Lang who runs The Bistro and the food here has kindly and optimistically reserved the whole of Ev3, the third room for me and what I’m about to try and do.
With the dividing doors pulled across from the rest of the early evening Bistro it looks cosy, sparkly and welcoming. But will people come out to this?
The evening before, Deborah Aydon from The Everyman has been in encouraging touch and called me ‘a pioneer’. This is now worrying me more and more. Am I the kind of pioneer who wanders into a new place and sets up something no one else is interested in? Have I turned up too early? After a lifetime of gigs and turning up in places that had to be almost completely redesigned and rearranged in the luxuriant time I’d always allow myself, there’s nothing I can do here. What if I start pulling tables together and no one, or hardly anyone comes? I’ll look stupid, even if only to myself.
It’s seemed like such a good idea so far. To add an extra dimension to an increasingly popular blog and turn it into an occasional ‘live’ event. Not ‘live’ as in we tweet, write, photograph and broadcast it live. No, ‘live’ as in me and a group of the blog’s opinionated readers get together and have a conversation. Just to see where it takes us.
The blog covers all sorts of things I’m interested in. But as it determinedly focusses on Liverpool as its ‘sense of place’ then, I’ve thought – until now – a fair number of local people at least might be interested in coming out and getting together to talk. The idea has been enthusiastically retweeted and favourited. And as I’ve said, Deborah’s even called me ‘a pioneer’.
Maybe I shouldn’t have turned up at half five. I decide to go to the bar, that usually helps.
At which point, of course, the first couple of people arrive. If no one had arrived there would certainly not be a blog post about nothing happening. I’ve seen ‘Waiting for Godot’ and often think about it in those long uncertain minutes like hours before a gig becomes real.
And this one just has.
And in the end there are twelve of us. More than enough to pull a few tables together and sit around companionably, for two and a half hours, as it turns out. Mulling over life and death and putting several parts of the world to rights.
After getting to know the real names behind our Twitter and other personae (yes that’s ‘Streets of Liverpool’ photographer Jane MacNeil my hand is pointing at up there) we got on with what I’d planned before going to the places no one could plan.
We talked about my ‘A year to live’ posts, particularly the ’10 things I’ve learned’. And as I’d hoped, leaping straight in to mortality and the preciousness of time took us all to common places, common worries and dreams and deep doubts and disagreements. Before long veering off into all sorts, like:
- The alluring magic of monkey puzzle trees and how their pine cone-like nuts are edible (yes, my partner Sarah was there);
- The zen of being a postman (and this well beyond brilliant blog by Huddersfield’s own Kevin Boniface);
- How essential it is to have a shed of your own;
- True stories from housing in Everton in the 1970s;
- A wonderful piece of Latvian wisdom on never counting on a long future as in ‘I never buy green bananas’;
- And people genuinely did seem to enjoy having the space to talk about mortality, one of the greater ‘unsaids’ in our society.
I wrote nothing down at the time, no one took notes, Sarah took these few pictures. But it was something that could only truly be captured by being there.
People would go to the bar, come back, pick up from where the conversation was up to when they’d left and every now and then I’d interrupt and move us on to something else.
And I loved it. I do think it did what I’d thought it might. Added a whole extra dimension to this blog by leaving the ‘blogosphere’ altogether. Although apparently a ‘new’ thing, it was also a very, very old thing. A mixed group of people, of mixed opinions, getting together to talk, for the sheer pleasure of doing so. Political at times but non-partisan. Opinionated but never overbearing. And with disagreements greeted warmly as a fresh perspective.
I think it helped to have a starter subject. But we never did get to the end of my list of ’10 things’ – it was much more interesting than that!
And in the end? Everyone thought it would be a very good idea to do it again. In four weeks time, same place. I’ll pick us a different starter subject from something I will have written between now and then – and once again we’ll see where it takes us.
Several of us stayed, got food from the bar (mine a warming winter Tagine, and Sarah, Gammon, egg and chips) and talked on.
And at no point did anyone wonder about whether this place, this ‘new’ Everyman place worked or not? It was just there. Quietly supporting us with everything we needed to just be there and talk to each other. And as we finally put on our coats ready to leave, everyone wanted to come back and do it again.
Who’d have thought? Talking to each other, it’s the new thing.
Deep thanks to all of you who did in fact come out on a sparkly cold winter’s night. Be great to hear your own thoughts and reflections? To Deborah Aydon and Gemma Bodinetz of The Everyman for sparking off the idea and coming to say hello. And to Sarah and Bren for turning up first and early!
We’ll meet again, Everyman Bistro, Tuesday 2nd December. Follow me on Twitter @asenseofplace1 or follow me on here for updates.