Mersey News Live 1:12 February 23 2022

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MNL

Mersey News Live FROM THE HEART OF THE CITY February 23-March 1

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CELEBRATING JAMAICAN ARTS CITY HOISTS THE PURPLE FLAG ONCE AGAIN WALKING YOUR WAY TO MENTAL WELLBEING

THE WRITE STUFF THIS WEEK

ARTS

LIFESTYLE


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CONTENTS THIS WEEK

12 & 13

20 & 21

3 Purple Flag Liverpool 4 Walk for Mental Health 5 Is it the time to ease Covid restrictions? 7 Women’s Wednesday 8&9 Welcome to the Vegan Festival

LIFE & ARTS 10 11 12 13 14&15

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Pancake Day Exhibition at FACT Author Robert plays it by the book Russian Ballet comes to Liverpool Jamaican Art Festival

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his week in Mersey News Live magazine, Harley Mullen discusses Liverpool’s purple flag status for the city’s superb evening and nighttime economy. She looks at how Liverpool has achieved the status as well as what it means for the city. I speak to Michael Mann, who is hoping to help those struggling with mental health issues through exercise and a unique experience. Meanwhile, Louise Lemoine disccuses whether now is the right time to lift Covid restrictions. Amna Akram

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Liverpool’s Purple Letter Day turns the spotlight on Women’s Wednesday, an organisation that has the aim of empowering marginalised women across the city. Maia Noden writes about Ellesmere Port’s exciting new vegan festival. We also look forward to Pancake Day where we show you the best places to get your pancake fix as well as look at the best pancake toppings! Emma Dukes takes a look at the new ‘Let The Song Hold Us’

exhibition taking part in Liverpool’s FACT, while we also caught up with Robert Graham ahead of the release of his new novel. Radvile Sakenaite looks forward to a historic visit to Liverpool from the Russian State ballet of Siberia and finally, we delve into “Jamiaca Making”, the North West’s first ever Jamaican Art Festival Joe Waddell Lifestyle Reporter


THIS WEEK

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THIS WEEK

Liverpool wins national night-time award ‘Purple Flag’ for 12th year in a row. HARLEY MULLEN looks back at the changes the city has made to secure the flag once again.

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ity bosses will be painting the town purple after picking up a top award for Liverpool’s night-time

economy. The Liverpool night life scene has once again been recognised as ‘impressive’ after picking up its 12th Purple Flag award. Purple Flag award aims to raise the standard and broaden the appeal of town and city centres in the evening and night-time. The accolade comes after the city was recognised as a hot spot for spiking incidents late last year. In response to the rise in spiking and other violent incidents, the council has secured almost £270,000 funding to tackle violence against women and girls. This will pay for extra CCTV monitoring on the streets and ‘by-stander training’ for transport and bar staff. To receive the award, areas must demonstrate their ability to provide a wide range of entertainment whilst also prioritising the safety and wellbeing of visitors and residents. Liverpool’s history of receiving the award began in 2010 with the city proving its evening economy was safe and well-managed. Several factors were taken into consideration including policing, stewarding and messaging within bars, restaurants, shops, car parks, theatres, signage and public transport – and how they were responding and adapting to Covid-19 guidelines. Following this Liverpool was specifically praised for its impressive use of outdoor space and its partnership working during the pandemic.

Liverpool flies the flag for night time economy

The provision of safe spaces and crime initiatives were also amongst Liverpool’s positive points along with engagement and partnership with residents. The council’s innovative ‘Without Walls’ programme was commended by assessors. The programme allowed hospitality venues to bring ‘the inside out’ and make use of outdoor spaces to keep visitors safe without compromising on their experience. Dana Heard, Events manager at Camp & Furnace and nominee for the Tourism Young Person of the year award said:” Liverpool has always been an eclectic city full of culture and entertainment even whilst dealing with the catastrophic effects of COVID 19.

“Liverpool has always been an eclectic city full of culture and entertainment” The city powered forward and made sure their residents were still able to enjoy themselves safely and it is an honour to win the Purple Flag for the 12th year in a row. She added: “This is down to the hard work of our council, police and local businesses and really proves the resilience of the city. I’m sure in the upcoming year Liverpool will continue to develop and improve creating impressive and safe experiences for its residents.”

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Photos of Liverpool in the dark taken by Harley Mullen

ouncillor Abdul Qadir, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, said:“To retain Purple Flag status is great news for Liverpool and sends out a strong message that we have a safe and vibrant city centre. “It’s a great recognition of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure visitors of all ages can enjoy our amazing cultural offer – but we never rest on our laurels – standards have to be maintained at all times.” The previous year has seen many changes introduced to make Liverpool a safer city including a LGBTQ+ ‘You’re Safe Here’ accreditation scheme. This scheme ensures that staff in the hospitality sector are trained and know what to do in the event of a transphobic or homophobic incident.

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Taking steps to defeat the mental health stigma While Liverpool grapples with its mental health problem, JOE WADDELL meets a Merseyside man who has his own ideas on what we can do to help those who are struggling

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f it wasn’t for my dad - my hero - I’d be either dead or still in my bedroom right now.” That’s the frank admission of Michael Mann from Maghull, who is trying to overcome the stigma surrounding men’s mental health using the power of walking. Michael says he owes his life to his dad for forcing him to get out of the house, and he says he wants to be able to do the same for others. More people are willing to talk about their experiences and that can only be a good thing, but Michael, 25, has taken it upon himself to try and help the cause even further – by getting out into the fresh air and taking a regular hike. “It’s not the most grandiose idea really, I know that had I had something like this when my mental health was on the floor, I would have felt a lot better in myself,” said Michael of his new initiative, a scheme which sees him, and other like-minded individuals taking walks through the Merseyside countryside and simply chat about whatever they feel comfortable chatting about.

“It started off really just my dad forcing me to get myself out of the house to be honest. I’d had it tough for a few years beforehand; there was times I physically couldn’t force myself about of bed. My anxiety was that bad I was hallucinating at times, and I couldn’t even breathe. Eventually I gave in to my dad and we walked down the Liverpool Leeds canal. Before we knew it we’d walked about 20 miles.

The Walk for Mental Health has new members joining every week from a variety of backgrounds

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Michael’s struggle with his mental health is an all-too familiar issue across Merseyside. Liverpool City Council estimated that there were over 66,000 people in Liverpool living with a mental health condition in 2018 and it is expected that that number has increased “significantly” in the wake of Covid-19. One of the newest members of the walking club, Joseph Brown said he thinks Michael is an inspiration. “He’s amazing. He’s been through so much, he found something that helped him, and he shouted about it til people would listen. Now there’s about ten of us and counting, we’ll be a proper entourage soon!” The Walk for Mental Health which Michael spread the word about by posting flyers in pubs across Maghull now meets every Sunday at the Great Mogul Inn Maghull station. They will decide on a route for the day over a cup of coffee and enjoy an afternoon

hose walks saved my life; it wasn’t just the exercise it was the conversations I’d have with him. Sometimes he couldn’t make it, so I’d go on my own and it was fine, but I always found it best to have someone with me. That’s why I set this thing up. “It didn’t help instantly to be fair, there were plenty of days after I went out with my dad that time were I still felt grim. The thing was though, I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t really explain it, I just knew that if I kept getting myself out there, bit by bit I could start to improve,” Michael said.

“ The Liverpool-Leeds canal is one of several places that the Walk for Mental Health takes place in Maghull and beyond 4

of talking and walking. Michael added: “It’s not always Maghull, but that takes a bit of planning in advance. We’ve gone down to the beach a couple of times. “The location isn’t important, what’s important is sticking together, finding a place where you feel like you belong and can find a use for yourself. “That’s what I think anyway the lads might see it differently.” Michael hopes that other people across the country have had similar ideas and hopes that his group continues to grow as they try to heal themselves of their own issues and help break down stigma around mental health. What started off as walking partners have now become close friends for Michael, this is what he hopes can happen across the board if more people get themselves involved.

The location isn’t important, what’s important is sticking together, finding a place where you feel like you belong and can find a use for yourself


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Photo by Roman Grachev via Unsplash

Living with the New Normal LOUISE LEMOINE reports on the effects the end of restrictions will have on the city

Lockdown protests last year in Liverpool. Photo by Louise Lemoine

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he Prime Minister has unveiled his “Living with Covid” plans, and in the coming days, all remaining Covid restrictions will end across England. Some of the changes confirmed will hit the poorest and most vulnerable in Liverpool hardest. From tomorrow, one of the biggest changes will be that there will no longer be a legal requirement to self-isolate. Instead, the government has advised the public to ‘Exercise personal responsibility.’ Choosing to stay at home if they have Covid or if they suspect they do. They will then have to take a lateral flow test on the fifth and sixth day of their illness. If both tests are negative, and there are no signs of infection, they should resume their day-to-day life. For unvaccinated adults who come into close contact with someone who has tested positive, the requirement to isolate ends too. As well as the requirement for vaccinated adults and children to isolate if they are in contact with a positive case. Contact tracing will also be coming to an end. For some, this raises worries about what they should do if they catch the virus or come into contact with someone who is positive. MNL spoke to Marie Spencer, from Croxteth, who is classed as extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 due to her lung cancer diagnosis. Marie, 58, has spent the last two years isolating for her own safety as she is at significantly higher risk of becoming infected with the virus, respiratory infections are harder to fight off and the treatment she receives has left her with a suppressed

‘Living with the virus feels a bit like living in constant fear for me’

immune system. Marie spoke about her concerns following the announcement that restrictions will soon be coming to an end. She said: “I know people are tired, I am too, but for people like me it’s a scary time.” She spoke about an online Liverpool cancer support group she belongs to and how they feel about the changes: “Some of them are angry about it, they feel like people should do the right stuff still, like wear masks, get jabbed and tested.” She added: “But I think this life can’t go on forever. I just feel forgotten about and not really supported by this government.”

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arie also spoke about the loneliness that dealing with cancer as well as having to shield from family members can bring: “I live alone, but I have a big family who want to see me so I’m lucky in a way. I’ve been so worried though, I don’t have people round. Sometimes I feel like I’m facing my condition alone.” She spoke about how the support group she belongs to helps her through her tough times and encourages others to find similar groups because: “People shouldn’t have to face this alone.” She also spoke about the announcement that tests will no longer be free. Saying: “I think it’s wrong that they’re making people pay, most of the people ‘round here are working people, so it’s not right to make them choose keeping people safe or paying (their) bills.” Some of the exceptions to the cost of testing will be free symptomatic and asymptomatic tests for NHS patients and for care homes.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will set out who will be eligible for free tests, but it is expected to be limited to people aged 80 and over or those who are immunocompromised. Furthermore, the ending of restrictions only applies to England, the rest of the U.K. is set to make its own decisions based on the data they have for their areas. Doctors’ union, the British Medi- Photo by MediaKit Ltd cal Association, said that the plans via Unsplash fail to protect those who are most at the public will end in England from risk from Covid. 1st of April. Opposition parties also said the Most people will have to pay for Prime Minister’s blueprint was lateral flow and PCR tests. Now, it moving too fast, and they voiced is unclear as to how much a test will concerns over the scaling back of cost. However, The I newspaper has free testing. reported that people will have to pay Chris Hopson Chief Executive of between £2 and £5 per individual NHS Providers said it was right for LFT (Lateral flow test) or around ministers to make decisions about £20 for a pack of seven. our next steps but felt Monday’s Although it seems the government plans “Can’t simply be a celebration intends to keep prices low, statistiabout the removal of restrictions.” cally, people living in deprivation Adding further pressure, the are more likely to live in larger £500 payment for people on lower households. Costs can quickly rack incomes who are forced to isolate up when forking out for tests for a will end too. large household. From 24th of March, statutory sick pay and employment support ndoubtedly causing more allowance will only be paid after anxiety around whether four and seven days of absence. to get tested at all, with Many feel this will put pressure the added pressures of the costs of on the poorest in our communities. living rising and the loss of support In 2019, Liverpool City Council for those forced to isolate, the end published data suggesting that of restrictions is causing tensions Liverpool is the: “Third most across the city. deprived local authority (out of 317 Moreover, concerns have been English local authorities).” Over raised that the effects the end of the last two years, many have found restrictions will have on our cities’ themselves out of work faced with vulnerable and elderly. the challenges of the pandemic and Liverpool and the rest of England people across the city are facing will be waiting tentatively to see the hardships. effects the end of restrictions will Additionally, free testing kits for have on our communities.

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LIFE

LIFE

The faces behind the team Images: Women’s Wednesday

Women’s Wednesday creates space to celebrate together AMNA AKRAM speaks to the people behind the new female-led organisation in Liverpool that is empowering and celebrating marginalised genders As one night or day of not going out to raise awareness on an issue as serious as spiking is not going to make a significant difference in helping solve the issue. Just a few weeks ago the organisation had its second event in a small venue Melodic Distraction - a radio station and music scene platforming young and upcoming musicians in Liverpool. It was a chance for the founders to mingle with firstcomers and build up for the big event on Tuesday 15th February dedicated to Singles Awareness Day.   Megan said: “It was great to be able to speak to people and just have chats with them afterwards to get feedback on what we could do next, it’s been a good little run up to doing a big event and we made a sense of community which you can’t easily do in big spaces, so it was really intimate.”

charities and organisations to help play a role in raising awareness on the daily issues that women go through which are not often heard or portrayed in the media. They have a future partnership set in stone with RASA Merseyside (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support) which is a professional counselling and support service that exists to improve the mental and physical well-being of individuals impacted by sexual violence.

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lthough Women’s Wednesday has had such success. The team does worry about the possible online abuse that they could face by

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he Galentine’s night at camp and furnace had an incredible line-up of Liverpool’s best female Dj’s including, Miggs, Zima, Maisie Hill, Beccs Vernon and Girls Don’t Sync. Tickets were £6 per person and £1 of the proceeds went to Liverpool Women’s Hospital. When asked why Abbie said: “The women’s hospital has done so much for our community especially after the terrorist incident that happened last year, and we just want to give back really that’s what is most important.” Women’s Wednesday is not only aiming to host fun events, but the team will also be collaborating with

gaining a large following on the Instagram account: @womens_ wednesday_lvp. This is because many female-led organisations in the past have faced intense scrutiny. At the end of the day what is most important to the team is a positive outlook and fighting for a more inclusvie and diverse space. The not-for-profit organisation is encouraging marginalised genders to spread the word and celebrate with friends. Women’s Wednesday recent Instagram post is calling on for local DJ artists, musicians and independent business owners to join forces with the team for future events.

We’ve had so much support from people recently it’s nice to see that powerful women are being celebrated

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omen’s Wednesday may be a new organisation, but it has built up an enviable reputation for empowering marginalised genders across the city in a short space of time.   The non-profit group hosts events to create a safe space for women, LGBTQIA+ and non-binary communities to come together and enjoy each other’s company without having to worry about being harmed. The organisation was founded in November 2021, by friends Megan Green, Abbie Nesbitt, Gina Chroma, and Patricias Molkova who saw a gap in the entertainments and events industry on the Merseyside that desperately needed to be addressed.   After going on nights out and gigs they realised there was very little space for women to come together and celebrate their friendships - as well as the rise in spiking issues which stopped many from enjoying the music scene. Co-founder Gina highlighted how frustrating it was to constantly check whether she or her friends had been injected or not: “It was when we all got together going to raves and being like oh let me check your back, let me check your drink and make sure you do this, it’s just stuff like that and constantly having to do those little things as women- why don’t we have the right to enjoy our nights out.” Women’s Wednesday’s main aim is to let women know that there is a safe space in which they can get together throughout the year.


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Vegan brownies, Photo by: Mandy, VeganFest spokesman

Fun as first jumbo-sized Vegan Fest comes to town

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he village of Whitby welcomed VeganFest with open arms last weekend. The festival had many stores and stands offering a range of vegan foods, body cleansers, and more! Despite the strong winds the event still went ahead and exceeded expectations! Mandy, spokesperson for VeganFest and the Artisan Network, believed the storms affected the turn out - however it was not stopping anything. She said, “Yes of course the storm did impact the event as on most of our VeganFests we embrace the outdoors with areas to relax, listen to music and shop with your dog.” VeganFest has been running infrequently for around three years aiming to showcase their amazing vegan alternatives, as Mary said: “VeganFest is a specialist event. It is a great opportunity to choose gifts & sample foods that have not involved the use of any animal, for example no feathers or fur, no silk or wool. VeganFest showcases chefs that produce all the foods you love but with a twist!” Just a short drive from the UK’s biggest retail outlet the vegan festival was located near Cheshire Oaks. To enjoy the extra special food and beau-

By MAIA NODEN

tifully crafted gifts everyone headed down to the villages club between 11am-4pm.

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ast Sunday, organisers Mary and her husband Larry, had a celebration of the fabulous food stalls and the unique handcrafted items as small independent businesses got creative with their vegan products! The event ran smoothly, and people experienced an enjoyable day as Mary said: “We were delighted with the warmth and positivity shown towards our first Ellesmere Port VeganFest, we welcomed many families, friends & individuals, these included those who follow a plant-based lifestyle and those who received a leaflet, saw the banners and were just curious to see what the event was all about.” There was a variety of handmade dairy free cheese, porkless pies, quiches, cakes, doughnuts, egg custards, lemon curds, chocolate, fudge and much more. Local Hayley Rudland, who went to the festival, said: “The weather

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did impact it slightly with the winds and floods but overall, a good array of stalls.” The events have previously been hosted in Mellor, Parbold, Burscough and Ormskirk, which brought a lot of attention. But there is no need to panic if you have missed this one, VeganFest plans to make a dazzling return in Summer. VeganFest is hoping to be back in the pretty village of Whitby in August.

Vegan drinks, Photo by: Hayley Rudland.

To find upcoming handmade markets, VeganFest date releases and trader information, visit the link below: www.artisannetwork.co.uk

Handmade items, Photo by: Mandy, VeganFest

If you wish to keep up to date with new date releases you can find information here: Www.Facebook.com/VeganFestNW


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Vegan bath fizzes, Photo by: Hayley Rudland.

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Vegan bags, Photo by: Mandy, VeganFest spokesman.

“Producing amazing flavours & dispelling the myth that vegans just eat lettuce!”

The stalls in the village hall, Photo by: Hayley Rudland.

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Vegan cakes, Photo by: Hayley Rudland.


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ent is the Christian holiday which celebrates the 40 days before the beginning of Easter and begins on Ash

Wednesday. Pancake Day, otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, is the holiday before Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent and in the past many people used to use this day to confess and be ‘shriven of their sins’. However, the holiday has since become a more popular and light-hearted celebration and is more commonly known as ‘pancake day’ – or in Liverpool, ‘Pancake Tuesday’. Many people enjoy this holiday and get involved by making, flipping and eating pancakes, of which can come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and flavours!

Dining out for Shrove Tuesday:

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he city is full of a variety of restaurants and bars to enjoy some of the finest foods while enjoying some quality time with friends or family, and in celebration of pancake day you can visit one of the cities favourite locations for a sweet or savoury pancake snack!

1.Moose Coffee, Liverpool

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ith three locations of the American inspired breakfast restaurant across Liverpool, you can take your pick on where to indulge in the finest pancake stacks this Shrove Tuesday. The classic American style pancakes are available, and with a choice of three different toppings to enjoy there is something for everyone to enjoy. Locations: Dale Street, Hope Street, Plaza 1821 (Princes Docks)

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hen many people think of dessert restaurants, Kaspas is one the first places that probably springs to mind. Despite the popular dessert shop being mostly known for their waffles and milkshake’s, the restaurant does offer crepes, which are very similar to traditional pancakes but thinner. So, if you prefer a lighter dessert then a crepe is the perfect style of pancake to enjoy on Tuesday and Kaspas offers a wide variety of toppings to suit the sweet or savoury fans’ tastebuds. Location: Crosshall Street, Liverpool

Photo Credit: Mae Mu on Unsplash

MNL reporter DANNIELLE JONES rounds up some of the places and things you can do across the city in celebration of Shrove Tuesday

How To Cr

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Sift the flour an d salt into a la rge mixing bo centre of the flo wl and create ur and break th a well in the e eggs into it. eggs into the flo Then begin w ur mixture and hisking the gradually add water mixture small quantitie , still whisking s of the milk/ and when all th like the consist e liquid has be ency of thin cr en added until eam. Now melt the butter in a pan, spooning 2 tbsp whisking it in and pouring th of it into the ba e rest into a bo tter and pan before crea wl to use it to ting each panc lubricate the ake and once heat down to m th e pa edium and begi n is really hot, n spooning arou turn the pan at a time. nd 2 tbsp of ba tter into the As soon as the batter hits the pan, tip it arou the base evenly nd from side to coated and on side to get ce golden, flip knife and cook the pancake ov the other side er with a (this will only slide it onto a take a few seco plate. nds) and then

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inally, if you want to have a more luxurious sweet treat lunch date then heavenly desserts is the place to go. With the choice of eating in or dining from home, you can experience one of their famous waffles or crepes to celebrate pancake day.

Or, for a new spin you can test out one of their ‘croffles’ a cross over between a croissant and a waffle, which are served with a topping of your choice like chocolate sauce or raspberries to mark shrove Tuesday with a twist. Why not give it a go? Location: Strand Street, Liverpool

PLUS!

eate The Pe rfect Panca kes From Hom e!

or those of yo u who love th e traditional pa pancakes which ncake day style are super fun to flip, this is Cause who do the recipe for esn’t love tryin you. g to pancake to ss on pancake Ingredients: day? 110g plain sifte d flour pinch of salt 2 eggs 200ml milk m ixed with 75m l water 50g butter

3.Heavenly Desserts, Liverpool

Photo Credit: Heavenly Desserts

Photo Credit: Moose Coffee

The day surrounding pancakes!

Photo Credit: @KaspasLiverpool on Instagram

2.Kaspas Desserts, Liverpool

LIFE

and vegan dairy free e ar h ic h cake w m home. yle of pan to create them fro rnative st ay w le p or an alte m si uick and here is a q

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ts: Ingredien sing flour -rai lf se g 5 2 1 ster sugar ca sp 2 tb er ing powd 1 tsp bak lt sa a pinch of se ilk/almond milk ya m 150ml so t illa extrac d ¼ tsp van er oil, for frying a bowl an ow d salt into act an 4tsp sunfl tr er ex d la w il and van baking po k , il a ar m g er e su v o th r, ying pan t the flou ined, add nce comb a large non-stick fr ound the pan Firstly, pu o d an ly ce ugh e ar mix thoro l smooth. Then pla of the oil and wip nti poons as te 2 and mix u two d t (around eat and ad . all amoun spread with medium h sh sm a ru b r u f o o tpro and ot, p with a hea the pan and once h ne side of the pan ancakes t st of the p to o re in e r te th at e Now, hea b adding ak e M re th . o f o ef ed b at s) il n co oo aining o m til evenly or re dessert sp n , u e te n th u o h o in of a sp e pan wit nd one m r the back reasing th e for arou er and cooking fo g k , ca ay an w p e ook each ipping ov in the sam C fl e. e, . m ac n ti rf w each the su en bro the batter pping on pale gold les are po fluffy and until bubb ute or until light, min a further Background Image: Sam Moqadam on Unsplash


ARTS

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ARTS

Radical art exhibition with a tech twist

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By EMMA DUKES

opular city centre art gallery and cinema, FACT, is opening a new, immersive exhibition next month. Let the Song Hold Us is the next instalment in Radical Ancestry, an exploration programme which looks at how history, biology and culture shape our ancestral history, and how technology can help us to explore who we are. This instalment follows Future Ages Will Wonder, an alternative museum of art, exploring science, technology, and society. Curated by Annie Jael Kwan, FAWW marked the beginning of Radical Ancestry. The exhibition opens on March 24 and is a collection of immersive artworks, centred around song and music as a form of communication and storytelling. The artists explore the ideas of hope, family and belonging, and what we inherit from our loved ones. Several different artists are to be featured, including internationally renowened artist, Korakrit Arunanondchai and new commissions by UK artists, such as Ebun Sodipo and Rae-Yen Song.

Works include Songs for Living by Korakrit Arunanondchai and Alex Gvojic, a new video installation that explores grief, transformation, and spiritual power. The collage/montage will explore how one heals following loss and ways to rebuild. London-based arist, Ebun Sodipo contributes a new interactive artwork created in collaboration with young LGBTQ+ people from Liverpool and across the UK. Taking the form of a series of constellations, Following the Gourd is named after an African-American folk song that helped people to journey from the enslaved southern states of America to the “free” north. Sodipo aims to share the experiences of black, trans individuals and create artwork that speaks to the body and uses imagination. Rae-Yen Song presents a new installation of objects and drawings, animated using sound and augmented reality to explore ancestral mythologies. • Let the Song Hold Us runs from March 24 to June 19 and is free to visit. To book a place for the opening night, visit Eventbrite and receive a free drink upon entry.

Image by Korakrit Arunanondchai & Alex Gvojic, Songs For Living (2021)

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Image by Emma Dukes


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Photos: Robert Graham

New novel hits all the right notes

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By BETH LINDOP

t was third time lucky for a Liverpool John Moores University lecturer whose latest novel is published tomorrow. Dr Robert Graham, who lectures on Creative Writing at LJMU, will see his book, ‘The Former Boy Wonder’, released by Lendal Press on Thursday February 24. The fictional tale follows the trials and tribulations of Manchester-based music journalist, Peter Duffy, who finds his life descending into crisis as he approaches 50. With his career flatlining and his marriage verging on the precarious, the prospect of a reunion with beguiling first love, Sanchia Page, could see Peter sacrifice everything that he holds dear. Speaking to MNL about the inspiration behind his book, Robert said: “It came out of two earlier novels. I had my first novel, Holy Joe, published in the mid noughties and then I set off and wrote a novel about a Belfast comedian, who went to London to make his fortune in the 1970s and joined another comedian to become a comedy double act. So, my agent tried to sell that but couldn’t. “I then I wrote another novel about a painter in Belfast, coming up to 50 and having problems. Again, my agent tried to sell it and couldn’t so, by 2010, I’d had two novels knocked back and then I had an idea of a way of taking elements of both of them

and writing a new novel and this began in 2012. “I really tried to dig my heels in with this one and I thought ‘Keep working until somebody takes it, no matter how long it takes’, so that’s what it came out of.” Whilst the novel is not autobiographical, there are some occupational parallels between Robert and his protagonist, with the 66-yearold having moved from his native Belfast to work as a music writer for now-defunct Manchester magazine City Life during the 1980s.

I thought, ‘Keep working until somebody takes it, no matter how long it takes’

Robert said. “I had the experience of coming to Manchester in my late twenties, and it was just more exciting than anywhere I’d lived before. I’d been brought up in Belfast, I’d lived in Lancaster, Norwich and Blackpool, and I kind of had a gut feeling that Manchester was where I wanted to be when I moved there.”

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e added: “I was involved in the music scene in Manchester in the mid-80s which quite an exciting era. Manchester, like Liverpool, is a big city for music.” ‘The Former Boy Wonder’, underpinned by the profound themes of midlife, first love and fatherhood, has been something of a labour of love for Robert, who is delighted that his brainchild is finally being released. He told MNL: “The novelist Stephen King said that, as a writer, you have to stick with it way, way after it makes sense to do so. “So, I did that, through nearly 40 editors and 30 agents knocking it back. It’s been a real saga of perseverance, so I’m really excited.” And that excitement is certainly justified if early reviews are anything to go by. Caroline Smailes, author of ‘The Drowning of Arthur Braxton’, calls the book “warm, funny and affecting… a page-turning delight”, while Horatio Clare, author of ‘Heavy Light’, says ‘The Former Boy Wonder’ is “a funny, sad and tender

‘The Former Boy Wonder’ chronicles the lecturer’s love affair with the music-mad city he now calls home. The story revisits some of Manchester’s most iconic musical haunts such as The Boardwalk, The Gallery and The Hardrock, which played host to stars like Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. “The setting is quite important,”

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story”. Meanwhile, the Costa Award-shortlisted author of ‘Ghost Town’ Jeff Young, says: “I kept picturing lipstick traces on a cigarette and hearing late-night records, the kind you play to conjure up a golden age. This wonder boy’s song brings a romantic’s past to life on the page and reveals the secret fears behind it.” When asked for his advice for aspiring novelists, Robert said: “I would say the greatest piece of advice is just to read everything you can. “You can’t write unless you read. You have to read comprehensively and exhaustively, with a huge hunger. So, if you want to be a writer, step one is reading. Everything comes out of reading.” Robert is set to launch his book at Didsbury’s Home Community Café on Friday March 4. The cafe is located in Emmanuel Church, 6 Barlow Moor Rd, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6TR.


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Snow Maiden takes centre stage in heart-warming performance

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iverpool Empire has been transformed into an enchanted land of frost to welcome the Russian state ballet of Siberia performing ‘The Snow Maiden’. Although the transformation was for one night only, the audience was left mesmerised and speechless. Formed in 1981, The Russian state ballet of Siberia is currently touring across the UK with a full company of professional ballet dancers as well as immensely skilled musicians. The company seek to transport their audience into a fairy-tale land with five magical theatre classics including Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Snow Maiden. The Snow Maiden is a Russian folk tale of a mystical figure who emerges from the land of snow and frost and roams the human world yearning to be part of it and searching for romance. But when she slowly starts catching feelings and encounters human contact and emotions her frozen magical heart starts to gradually

melt. After she’s found love and finally undergoes her emotional transformation, she simply just melts under the hot sun. The stage is decorated with a snow-covered landscape with switching backgrounds of colourful, rural Russian villages. The joyful locals are preparing for the arrival of spring where an entitled merchant chooses a wife for himself out of a line-up of elegant villagers.

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owever, he then heartlessly leaves her for the mysterious snow maiden. The ballerina who was playing the bride-to-be of the arrogant merchant who betrayed her danced with graceful sadness, but what stood out to me the most was her facial expressions. Her portrayal of heartache by the way she danced was exceptionally touching for me and although the snow girl ballerina was the main dancer, the heartbroken villager stood out to me the most. Sergei Bobrov’s choreography itself of the show wasn’t as spectacular

as I expected it to be considering the Russian ballet company’s reputation. However, they successfully managed to convey the emotion of every act to the audience through their physiognomy.

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nother significant thing that stood out to me was the costumes the ballerinas were wearing which displayed the stereotypical ‘Slavic’ feel. Every dress and costume were different, what I took notice of is that every villager girl was wearing different colour ribbons in their hair which brought the performance of preparing for the arrival of spring more to life. The bright colours had connotations of flowers and nature which contrasted with the land of snow and demonstrated the drastic difference between the ordinary village people and the supernatural snow girl.

It is clear that ‘The Snow Maiden’ isn’t as elegant as some better-known ballets. It doesn’t possess the theatrical energy of productions such as ‘The Nutcracker’ nor the gracefulness and poignancy of ‘Swan Lake’. But it does have a lot of potential and overall, I would describe it as a ballet for those who are just slowly dipping their toes into the world of ballet performances and for people who struggle to understand the storylines, ‘The Snow Maiden’ is easy to appreciate. Fellow audience member Georgia Thompson, 36, from Liverpool, said: “I thought the leading dancers were absolutely excellent and although this wasn’t among the greatest of ballets, the acting skills of the dancers made the performance a lot more engaging and every emotion was beautifully portrayed”.

Review by RADVILE SAKENAITE

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Photos and words: SASKIA FRYER

Jamaica’s making the most of cultural heritage

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new exhibition brings a colourful and vibrant depiction of post-independence Jamaican art and culture to

Liverpool. Jamaica Making: The Theresa Roberts Arts Collection features at the Victoria Gallery & Museum where they have put together more than 30 pieces of art which have been given to the gallery by Jamaican businesswoman, Theresa Roberts. The exhibition has been curated by Dr Emma Roberts, Associate Dean for Global Engagement at the Liverpool School of Art & Design and it comes at the right time as the country celebrates its 60th anniversary of independence. It’s one of the first Jamaican arts exhibitions in the Northwest and features artists, both new and old, in this exhibition to teach the world of the artistic talent in Jamaica. Her aim was to create a homely feel with the artwork being set up in a smaller room and on different walls so the public could move around and experience the way Theresa Roberts had all the artwork

displayed in her house. Dr Roberts told MNL how this exhibition came to fruition. She said: “I was asked by John Moores University to take some students to Jamaica in 2018 where we were based at the Edna Manley College of Arts. “We had a cultural experience where students were learning a lot about the art and making it themselves. There were amazing art galleries there and I realised how I knew absolutely nothing about the history there.” After having an eye-opening experience in Kingston, Jamaica learning about the impact of colonizers on the country, Dr Roberts returned to the UK and met Jamaican born artist, Edward Lucie Smith. This interaction led to her gaining the contact of Theresa Roberts where she found Theresa had a vast collection of Jamaican art where she allowed her to have access to all of it and use for this exhibition. Many of the pieces that Dr Roberts chose, show a range of history and political views of different artists in Jamaica.

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A common theme was female nudity being depicted through the art as a way of the artists reclaiming the female physique to not be objectified and seen as a sexual object, but rather admired for how it’s formed. Dr Roberts also wanted the public to learn about the challenges which Jamaica still face, as it is a country which has an issue of gangs, rape, and violence. She said: “There is a real aim of the exhibition, mainly to change stereotypes of Jamaica. “Before I went there myself, I thought of it as a typical honeymoon destination, a place for all-inclusive holidays but I didn’t think it would be so cultured and have such a complex history. “My main aim is for people to learn about Jamaica’s politics, history, the way that people think and the way that people may be worried about the patriarchal society.”

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heresa Roberts was also adamant in sharing Jamaican art more widely to support young Jamaican artists. Out of all the artwork displayed at the venue, there is one which stands out to Dr Roberts, it’s by artist Michael Hayden Elliott called Hole in the Wall. This sculpture is supposed to reflect Jamaica’s violent history, with one side of the image showing before colonial occupation and the other side showing the image after colonizers took over. Dr Robert’s said: “It’s showing us how Jamaica has been subject to all

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the colonial history. The indigenous people were the native Taino who were wiped out by colonizers who wanted to take over. “We’re seeing a hole in the wall as a portal back to the 1600’s just as colonizers arrived, on the other side we see contemporary Jamaica but still they can never erase the time that’s happened between the two.” Throughout her time in Jamaica, she noticed how there were many walls with holes in them, as many people in the country are in poverty, so the only way they could make money was by stealing bricks from the walls. They would then sell the bricks to people who needed the material for building houses. She said: “It reminds us how some Jamaicans are still suffering from the colonial past.” As well as curating the exhibition, she has also put education programmes in place to teach both young children and adults of Jamaica’s history, with the Liverpool Caribbean Centre also getting involved. You can also view one of the artists in residence, Desanna Watson’s 74-foot art installation which is being displayed at the Exhibition Research Lab in the John Lennon Building. Desanna is with LJMU until March 9 2022 giving talks and teaching others of the history of art in Jamaica. • You can view this exhibition until July 9 2022 for free at the Victoria Gallery & Museum. Address: Ashton St, Liverpool

It reminds us how some Jamaicans are still suffering from the colonial past.


Liverpool Lime Street station © Maia Noden

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Mersey Maritime Museum © Luke Pollitt


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