Liverpool in danger of losing its World Heritage status

Find below a report making the case for Liverpool to retain its World Heritage Site (WHS) award. The city has been on the UNESCO WHS endangered list since 2012 due to the proposed construction of the Liverpool Waters project.

Many discussions have ensued over the years, with UNESCO agreeing to offer the city an extension back in 2018. However, by June 2021, a recommendation has been made for UNESCO to delete Liverpool from the WHS list. The final decision will be made in late July 2021.

Reflections on what is sustainable within urban World Heritage Sites are very valuable at this point. How can cities continue to develop and evolve while also protecting – and enhancing – their heritage?

  • You can find here a report produced by the Institute of Cultural Capital in 2013, about the complexity of arguing for the value of retaining World Heritage Site status in cities aspiring to progress with their urban developments. Back in 2013-2014, city leaders in Liverpool – and UNESCO representatives – failed to find sufficient nuance around the debate on ‘heritage’ and ‘development’, with many perceiving these as two opposing sides of the equation. At the ICC, we argued for more locally sensitive (as well as more aspirational) models of heritage assessment.
  • Find here the report produced this year (2021) by the Liverpool World Heritage Task Force. You can also read (below) the letter produced by Michael Parkinson, author of this new report .

Dear Colleague

As you will  know Liverpool has had World Heritage Site status since 2004 as ‘the supreme example of a commercial port at a time of Britain’s greatest global influence’. However, it is at risk of losing it at a meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee  this July.

Many key institutions  and partners in Liverpool are opposed to and determined to prevent the city losing this status. They believe it would be unfair and  harmful to Liverpool – as well as  to the wider UK heritage position. In particular the newly elected Mayor Joanne Anderson is calling for UNESCO to delay its decision so that Liverpool can properly present its case and it achievements to UNESCO and the wider world in the coming months. 

As part  of presenting that case the Mayor’s World Heritage Site Task Force which was set up in 2018 has prepared with  Liverpool City Council the attached  report – ‘Liverpool: A World Heritage City.’

We believe it demonstrates that Liverpool:

  • does take and has taken its heritage seriously 
  • has invested substantially in heritage already and plans to invest more in future
  • sees heritage  as crucial to its long term economic and social development
  • has and can balance the need to protect its heritage but also to deliver economic  prosperity to the many, still very deprived areas of the city

The report  calls for Liverpool, the UK government and UNESCO to work in partnership  to ensure the city retains its current valuable  and valued World Heritage Site status.

Please do feel free to share it with any  colleagues you think would value seeing it.

As a member of the Task Force involved  in preparing this report, I with my colleagues  would be very glad to hear your views of: the issues it  raises; the evidence it presents; the arguments it makes  and the solution it proposes.

Thanks for your support 

Best wishes 

Professor Michael Parkinson CBE

What Future for Festivals? Report

“We need festivals – now more than ever!” declares Salzburg Global report on the current state and what comes next for the beleaguered sector, post-pandemic


Find here access to the Final Report of the 2020 Salzburg Global Seminar , co-curated by our Director, Dr Beatriz Garcia, and dedicated to exploring the question: ‘What Future for Festivals’?

One hundred years ago at Schloss Leopoldskron, Max Reinhardt, Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal founded the world-renowned Salzburg Festival as a “Festival of Peace” to transform “the whole town into one stage.” To celebrate this centenary Salzburg Global Seminar originally scheduled the program What Future for Festivals? for March 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was postponed to October and subsequently moved online due to continuing travel restrictions and health regulations.

Little did we know while developing the session in 2019, just how compelling and urgent the question at the center of our program – what future for festivals? – would be. Few sectors have been hit as hard by the pandemic as the cultural sector, with festivals being particularly vulnerable to the fallout from the compounded global crises – not just COVID-19, but also the climate crisis, and worldwide social and economic upheaval.

We know that festivals of all types and sizes have energized communities since time immemorial. Rooted in rituals, stories and faiths, they have embodied local and indigenous cultures and celebrated deep bonds to nature, land and the seasons. Modern festivals range from intimate experiments to gigantic mega-events, showcasing ever more diverse creative practices, from the performing, visual, and traditional arts to photography, film, literature, street arts, food, light, design and ideas-based, future-focused, eco-inspired events.

Whatever their intended focus – creative innovation, activism, city branding, wellbeing, community building, pure entertainment – festivals have always spoken to fundamental human needs. They have allowed us to share in a density and intensity experience, revel in specialness beyond day-to-day routines, and join – as the German word “Festspiele” infers – in “celebration and play.”

What Future for Festivals? Salzburg Global Seminar

What is the future of festivals as we look ahead to continuing travel constraints, unpredictable limitations on public events, and looming economic crises? And, even with COVID-19 vaccines now forthcoming in some parts of the world, how will both the festival landscape and festival goers themselves have changed in the interim? How will festivals adapt and cope with these altered circumstances? These and many other questions were at the center of our online discussions in October and November 2020.

This report and the accompanying series of thought-pieces authored by several program participants share reflections on the past year and insights on the challenging path ahead for festivals. While we identified even more questions than answers during our conversations, one thing is certain: we need festivals now more than ever. The coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharp relief that festivals are not just “nice to have” – we must have them to thrive and not just survive.

Human beings need to gather, to celebrate, they need their spirits to soar, to witness artistic genius, to feel chills and goosebumps run down their spines, to revel in the thrill of live performance and shared experience, to clap and be applauded, to amaze and be amazed, to laugh, shout, and be joyful together.

Without such experiences we may function, but we will not be truly alive.

What Future for Festivals? Salzburg Global Seminar

Cultureshock | Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme

As the UK prepares for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, it is worth revisiting this detailed study on Cultureshock, the North West cultural programme for the Machester 2002 Commonwealth Games. This work was the first detailed evaluation of a Commonwealth Games cultural programme and it set precedent for future Games editions, as well as providing Manchester cultural stakeholders with key arguments, data and recommendations that informed the establishment and successful launch of the Manchester International Festival.

This Study was commissioned by the main partners of Cultureshock, including the Arts Council of England and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The project was undertaken within the Centre for Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow. It was directed by Dr Beatriz Garcia (CCPR lead Research Fellow at the time), with contributions from Christine Hamilton (CCPR Director) and Carmen Bota (CCPR researcher).

Access the final report and summary reports here.

The main research strands and final outcomes are outlined below.

Research Framework

The Study involved an evaluation of Cultureshock, the Commonwealth Games North West Cultural Programme as well as the assessment of the eleven individual projects making up the cultural strand of the Spirit of Friendship Festival (SoF).

The main purpose of this project was to inform partners about:

  • appropriate mechanisms for future investment in International Arts and Cultural Programming
  • benefits/pitfalls of hosting a cultural programme across a region/city
  • the value of investment into research and development
  • future templates/models for the other major arts and sports events in this region or elsewhere in the UK

This work was separated in two main areas:

Strand 1: Study of Cultureshock and Spirit of Friendship structures of management and design rationale:

This involved the assessment of the suitability of the programmes’ working agendas (mission statements, programme design and contents) and an assessment of the effectiveness of the structures established to manage and implement them (team work, funding abilities, relationships).

Strand objectives:

  1. To assess the suitability of the programmes’ design format (ie. ‘strengths and weaknesses of the programme itself’ – mission statements and main contents)
  2. To assess the effectiveness of the programmes’ management and promotional structures (ie. ‘strengths and weaknesses of Cultureshock/SoF as a delivery mechanisms for an arts programme’)
  3. To assess the effectiveness of the programme’s community relations structure in relation to social inclusion (ie. ‘ Cultureshock/SoF’s ability to work with the arts as a tool for social inclusion’)

Strand 2: Study of Cultureshock and SoF immediate impacts and potential legacies:

This involved a measurement of how the programmes have affected their environment: from individual audiences to existing partners, the arts community and respective host locations in a broader sense. Here, it is of particular interest to consider the context in which Cultureshock and the Spirit of Friendship festival are located, that is, the celebration of a major international sporting event.

Strand objectives:

  1. To determine the impact of presenting a major arts programme alongside an international sporting event  
    • on event audiences: impacts on experience, perceptions, values
    • on key investors and local hosts: economic impacts
    • on arts groups and institutions: impacts on art form development
  2. To determine whether Cultureshock has changed people’s perceptions of the Commonwealth
  3. To determine the value and sustainability of the programmes’ International Partnerships
  4. To identify other potential legacies in the short, medium and/or long term

Research Outcomes

This study allowed identification of appropriate mechanisms for future investment in International Arts and Cultural Programming by assessing the effectiveness of the programme’s management and promotion structures, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the programme as a delivery mechanisms for the arts.

The benefits/pitfalls of hosting a cultural programme across a region/city emerged from the study of the opportunities and constraints presented to the programme and the measurement of resulting impacts on audiences, investors, the arts community and the host city and region in general. Relevant information also emerged from studying the ability of the programme to utilise the arts as a tool for social inclusion.

Evidence of the value of investment in research and development was provided throughout the process to undertake this project. The final report specifies the key benefits and challenges of the study and suggests alternative ways of undertaking research to gather information about aspects that have not been explored in this study

Information and recommendations about future templates/models for major arts and sports events in the North West or elsewhere in the UK were provided by a combination of all findings associated with the programme rationale, management and promotion structures and potential legacies