That Was the Year That Was


This was the poem that won me title of Liverpool People’s Poet in 2009, a title I cling to on the dubious grounds that the competition hasn’t been run since.  Interestingly, I was in Shanghai during 2010 for World Expo and found that a Chinese musician working on Liverpool’s pavilion at Expo had taken the final four lines of the poem and worked them into his own Liverpool rap.  Needless to say, I’m not expecting to retire on the royalties.


Ignoring a nation’s incredulous looks,

Jokes about stolen cars propped up on books,

Liverpool did what this city does best –

A year-long party with cultural zest.

In theatres and galleries, in schools and in bars

We put on a show: this culture was OURS.

A Scouse wedding, Phil called it, he may have been right –

It began with an opera, not a shell suit in sight.

With Scouse ingenuity the sky’s the limit,

We even found a rhyme for Gustav Klimit

(Whose rude bits were hidden from sensitive eyes);

For farmers we hosted the Turnip Prize.

So many highlights not to be missed:

Postlethwaite’s Lear with a modern day twist,

Ghosts in the Palm House, Shanks in his prime,

For luvvies a smidgeon old fashioned mime.

Lambs on our streets with bananas for tails,

Tall ships on our river, the wind in their sails;

Rock stars’ awards and all that baloney,

A DIY fairground – Sensazione!

Behind all the hype and the glitz and the schmalz

The city had balls (for a Viennese Waltz).

With One Step Forward, One Step Back

We welcomed home exiles like Cilla Black.

At Anfield Macca performed like the Boss

While Ringo sniggered with Jonathon Ross.

From schoolyards to shipyards the party went on.

Europe nil, Liverpool One.

And then, that Spider. Our Beauty. Our Beast,

Picking her way through historic streets

Overflowing with crowds in thrall to her grace;

But we chased her to Birkenhead, just in case…

A city of music, a city of light,

A city that knows how to party all night,

A city that’s edgy, creative and cool.

A world city. Our city. LIVERPOOL.

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Random poems, thoughts and blogs from Tony O'Neill