‘Going live’ at The Everyman

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?

I arrive at The Everyman.

I arrive at The Everyman.

And go in.

And go in.

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.

I stick up my poster to let people know where I am and go in.

I stick up my poster to let people know where I am and go in.

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.

The gradual gathering happens.

The gradual gathering happens.

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.

As time passed and the conversation flowed.

As time passed and the conversation flowed.

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!

For me anyway, as you can see.

For me anyway, as you can see.

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.

And afterwards?

And afterwards?

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.

 

17 thoughts on “‘Going live’ at The Everyman

  1. lorrainejhull

    Sounds great Ronnie. I hope to be able to come to the December meet. Sorry to have missed last night but Paloma Faith was brilliant and had some advice that you may appreciate: always have an opinion and never wash your laundry at over 40 degrees!

    Reply
      1. Cathy Alderson

        Ronnie, I would have loved to have been there. Bravo for having the chutzpah to start it up.
        I’m newly post op at the moment, or would have been there for sure.
        Looking forward to your next one, when I’ll be fighting fit.
        So glad the turnout was good and it was a success!
        Cathy.

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        Thanks Cathy. Knew you were ‘laid low’ didn’t know it was ‘post op.’ Trust the recovery goes well and we’ll see you in four week’s time.

  2. Lenka http://artwondereveryday.blogspot.co.uk/

    “Sound mate!” – [Scousers Folklore]
    I mean – it is about last night – lovely-“non-partisan”-chatting – my impressions and about next time meeting.
    If I will be still alive…
    Maggie Smith’s character quotes, in relation to mortality – ” I don’t even buy green bananas”. haha. From wonderful film – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel –
    not my “Latvian wisdom” coz I am Lithuanian blond!

    What I am personally very interesting about is here:
    http://mindtheliverpool.icyboards.net/showthread.php?tid=367

    As you know everything – plz write about it!

    See you next time,
    I hope with my husband,
    Best wishes
    Lenka and Leon

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Sorry to have got Latvia, Lithuania and the films of Maggie Smith mixed up!

      And glad to hear you think I know everything! But I don’t think that could ever be true for any of us. Lovely pictures of the Notre Dame convent garden though.

      Reply
  3. stephen sullivan

    What a lovely evening.
    I felt at ease in the surroundings and especially with the people.
    Such a joy to explore real issues connecting us all in a shared atmosphere of trust and respect.
    I have been reflecting upon last night quite a lot today. The subjects covered and the willingness of people to be so honest & open about their lives & experiences, many being complete strangers prior to last night.

    One final thought. Ronnie’s blog brought us all together & gave birth to the “live blog” bit. I am proud to have been there. It gets a massive thumbs up from me.
    Thank you Ronnie!

    Stephen (@oplyst on twitter)

    Reply
  4. ladycatloversliverpoolleftovers

    I would so have loved to come to this meet-up, but was recovering from a dose of runny tummy so didn’t want to leave home. Might make it next month, it’s far enough from the dreaded C word thing that we might be able to take an evening off the preparations. Glad you had fun and it went well! Best wishes from Aigburth.

    Reply
  5. stephen sullivan

    …Just to clarify…. My post above suggests “I” gave birth to the “live blog” when in fact the “I” was a written in error. Twas’ of course meant to read “Ronnie’s blog gave birth to the live blog bit.”
    As much I’d like to I cannot claim credit where it’s not due ha

    Reply
  6. Ronnie Hughes Post author

    Also had this comment, on email, from someone else who came to the evening at The Everyman, photographer Pak Chan, which I’m posting on here with his agreement:

    “I think there was an interesting mix of people there last night. The venue was a bit ‘posh’ for me. Maybe you could rotate the venue (just a suggestion) with the Everyman being your main base.

    I particularly enjoy reading about your travels round Liverpool be it on foot (impressed by your long walks) or by bus – I was thinking that perhaps you could lead us on a walk one day?

    I first came across your blog when I was studying the history of Liverpool Chinatown last year with The Soundagents (don’t know if you know them) and came across the name Rathbone as one of the rich shipping merchants – you wrote about Eleanor Rathbone,I believe.”

    Reply
  7. Sarah Jane

    What a great idea and how brave you are to stick your neck out and organise it. I’m so glad it went well, and what a great venue for it. I feel like a social pariah at the moment as with a school age child and a baby I find myself only ever socialising with other parents, usually while the kids are in bed. Going ‘out out’ just seems a world away yet. Look forward to hearing about future meet ups.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thanks, it went really well. And I understand why you couldn’t be there.

      So treasure your baby while you can. They grow so quickly, then you’ll be able to ask someone else to look after them both for you while you come out for a few hours!

      In the meantime, vicarious participation through the blog. That’s why it’s a blog. Unlike a baby (ideally) it never sleeps.

      Reply
  8. Sally Hirst

    Well done Ronnie. I was reading the start, the bit where the people haven’t arrived, with trepidation. I was with you. I would have been feeling the same. So glad it worked. Sadly I’m not going ‘live’ with you for a while yet but I’m not giving up.

    Reply

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