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LL Liverpool Life






February 17, 2021




MY COVID BATTLE > Surgeon talks about his brush with death

> National Museums Liverpool set for the John Moores painting prize: 20-21



4 Williamson Art Gallery closure row 5 Rise in fostering interest 6 Seal of approval for HS2 construction 7 ‘The best B&B on Merseyside’ 8 Is it stumps-up for cricket tea? 9 Wrexham FC takeover 10 Mission to Mars 11 Miss Liverpool: Role Model






12&13 LGBTQ+ history month 14 Covid vaccine trial 15 Surgeon’s ‘near death’ Covid experience 16 Acne and face masks 17 Bakery business in lockdown




18&19 LJMU art auction 20&21 Prestigious painting prize shortlist 22&23 Live theatre set to return

Liverpool Life returns with our third issue this year, bursting with diverse and interesting stories. Our reporters have gathered a huge variety of content this week despite the difficult lockdown restrictions. Calum Snell investigates the increase in interest for fostering and speaks to Karen Walley from Liverpool Fostering Sevices. Although in the current climate

A week packed full of stories we are unable to enjoy short stays away, The Hedi B&B in Southport has been named Merseyside’s best, reports Ben Haslam-Roberts. Our own Emily Ash explains how a small Welsh football club found itself associated with Hollywood A-lister Ryan Reynolds. Bringing us into the Life section, Nathan Sartain speaks to a surgeon

who had a near-death experience, while Jess Beckett tells us how to get rid of the scourge of mask acne. Rounding off this issue in the arts section, Shannon Garner brings event-lovers some hope as she speaks to Rob Fennah about the return of live theatre in Liverpool. Liv Houghton, production team



Coucil budget cuts threaten Wirral’s ‘cultural oasis’ By DANIELLE NORTON


ne of Wirral’s most popular tourist attractions is in danger of being closed in the face of looming council budget cuts, after serving Wirral for 92 years. It has been a place for people to see a range of beautiful and historically important artefacts that are a part of its permanent collection. The Williamson also hosts exciting and accessible guest exhibitions of contemporary artists. There is also a café, shop and second-hand bookshop and the venue is used for concerts in the summer. Tackling the pandemic has cost the Wirral Borough Council millions of pounds and a huge loss of income, leading to a £40m shortfall. The government is allowing the council to effectively borrow £24m, but the £16m funding gap has led to the council looking at ways to save money. One of these options is the closing of the museum service, which includes the Williamson. A petition has been started on change.org by Corinne Whitham who wrote in the description that “to close the Williamson would deprive many people on the Wirral access to the arts”. Oxton councillor, Allan Brame said; “However dire the Council’s financial situation is, to close the Williamson is simply unthinkable. At some point, before too long, we will be returning to some form of normality. “The Williamson is a much loved cultural and social oasis. Over 11,000 people have signed the online petition to save the Williamson and if, when the pandemic is over, they find the Williamson has been has been closed, councillors will not be forgiven. My Liberal Democrat councillors will not be forgiven. “My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will be seeking alternative ways of funding the budget gap and will be urging other parties to support us in keeping the Williamson for future generations to enjoy.” By Tuesday evening the petition had received 13,000 signatures


Outside Oxton’s Williamson Art Gallery - Image Wikicommons

and was ready to be presented to Wirral Borough Council this week. The petition and the possible closure of the Williamson has generated interest on social media, with users expressing their support and talking about the memories they have of the gallery. One Wirral user said, “I have just read of the proposed closure of this wonderful establishment. I am horrified and hope that it will not be closed.” Another user from Derby wrote: “A priceless gem of a place. I can hardly believe it’s entered anyone’s mind to close it. A real asset to tourism in Wirral and Liverpool and an inspiration for young people. Perhaps more should be made of it by the local council and reap the benefits.” The group Williamson and Priory Friends has advised its supporters to complete the council’s online con-

sultation form and write to their own councillors objecting to the closure of the Williamson. The council’s loss of income is down to services not being used, such as leisure facilities being closed for most of the year, and there has also been no income from car parking charges. The council has also planned a cost-saving reorganisation of several services, but this could not be achieved because officers were

involved in the response to coronavirus. Wirral-based Out of The Blue Jazz Orchestra has recorded a song to support the campaign and has been sending it to local radio stations, such as BBC Radio Merseyside, to raise awareness of the campaign. Williamson Art Gallery and Museum said that they are unable to comment on the situation until the council’s political leadership consider all proposals at the same time.

To close the Williamson is simply unthinkable!


More and more children are finding families within the region due to changing lifestyles

Bids to help fostering hit record numbers Liverpool City Council’s Fostering Service has received a record number of enquiries so far this year – believed to be because of changes in people’s circumstances due to the Covid-19 pandemic. CALUM


SNELL reports

n January alone, there were more than 100 expressions of interest in looking after a child in Liverpool. This is thought to be a result of more people working flexibly, such as from home, which means they are now able to consider potentially supporting a young person. More foster carers are always needed as recent figures indicate that there are more than 1,500 young people in care across the city. Liverpool City Council Fostering Service is the first port of call for when children come into care. Although there are a lot of foster care agencies within the city, the Liverpool Fostering Service are ultimately responsible for finding homes for children and young people who need foster carers. Karen Walley of Liverpool Fostering Services told Liverpool Life: “The ethos for us is always the welfare of the children and putting the children first. “Because of the pandemic, it has changed people’s lives with regards to what they want to do with the future. And if they’ve always wanted to foster, then maybe they’re taking this as the opportunity to make that first step. “The whole lockdown has meant that a lot of families have become more flexible with their lives, it could

be that they’ve re-assessed what they want to do – or even just become more aware of the effect the pandemic has had, with more children and young people than ever needing caring homes with foster carers. “For a lot of people, circumstances have changed with regards to working reduced hours or being furloughed. "Life has changed for a lot of people and we’re hopeful that it may have opened the door to fostering for some who have always wanted to do it but haven’t had the opportunity before.” Karen pointed out that becoming a foster carer isn’t usually a quick decision, but that Liverpool fostering service is there to share information and support people through the application process.


hris and Amanda became foster carers with Liverpool Fostering Service in March 2020, initially part-time to fit around work commitments, and care for a teenage boy. The couple both work full-time and wanted to be involved in helping children who have been through trauma and helping get their lives back on track. Thanks to an increase in flexible working due to the pandemic, the young person has been able to stay

with them. Chris and Amanda spoke to Liverpool Life and shared their thoughts on the potential impact lockdown has had on fostering. “Lockdown has definitely changed our experience of fostering,” they said. “What we’ve seen during lockdown is a large focus on mental health and social factors. "I wouldn’t be surprised if more people have been thinking about these things and ways in which they can help and the role they can play in that.” “I think the high number of enquiries are to do with the working from home – it’s much easier to be flexible from home than from work, I guess. That’s the major contributing factor in my opinion”, said Chris. “I guess the usual challenges of lockdown have been tricky, such as not being able to do the things you would normally do with a young

person. "It’s hard because the three of us are at home all the time. In terms of getting to know each other, it can be really helpful, but it is important to be mindful and give the young person space because there isn’t anywhere else for them to go, but it helped with us getting to know each other. “It’s frustrating for the young person as there’s only so many things you can do at home – but we’re finding ways around that. “We’re very much looking forward to when we can go out and show him things we think he’ll enjoy. “It’s the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done, and we are very grateful for all the help we have received from the Liverpool Fostering Service” Liverpool Fostering service is 100 per cent non-profit. The more foster carers that come forward, the more children can be supported in their local community.

“The pandemic has changed people’s lives with regards to what they want to do with the future and if they’ve always wanted to foster, then maybe they’re taking this as the opportunity to make that first step.”



Advance of HS2 divides opinion As the Government’s plans get underway, BETH GAVAGHAN takes a look at both sides of the argument


he new High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line has been given the seal of approval to be built from the West Midlands

to Crewe. Some people are welcoming the change which they claim will improve connectivity for the North- and for Merseyside in particular - while others are worried about the potential repercussions of the service. Councillor Ian Courts and WMCA portfolio lead for Environment at the West Midlands Combined Authority said: “HS2 can also play a key role in achieving our climate change targets. One of our next steps is to develop our strategy with Government to show how HS2 can deliver improvements to our local transport network, support our climate change ambitions and further develop our green economy.” However, promises of environmental benefits have been disputed over by groups resisting HS2 who are worried that the repercussions could be damaging for the CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission levels which will occur from building the line. Chair of the Stop HS2 campaign Penny Gaines at HS2 Rebellion said: “Most of the people that we talk to don’t disagree with high-speed railways, but they do disagree with HS2 in particular… You can have them

Photo credit: Unsplash 6

at different speeds, and they went for the very fastest one which has a whole load of knock-on effects. “If you go faster, you need more energy... And the more environmental damage you cause because you’ve got to go through environmentally sensitive sites rather than around them. So there’s absolutely no environmental case for HS2 whatsoever.” She also added that there was a concern for the wildlife that would be impacted by areas providing homes for different species: “The Woodland Trust say that 108 woodlands are going to be disrupted. And the UK generally is one of the least wooded parts of Europe. So we really need to preserve what But other groups in the North have been lobbying for this change and campaigning for an HS2 line to be made accessible in Liverpool. 20 Miles More is an organisation which welcomes the initiative and has been fighting for better connectivity to the Liverpool City Region for a while. They said that HS2 would free up much-needed capacity on local and regional services across the North, easing overcrowding on commuter routes and taking the pressure off motorways. The Liverpool City Region also argue that such rail lines can enhance the delivery of their plan to achieve jobs and growth, and said that

Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Shutterstock improved transport to the city will “improve business connectivity, the ability to capture tourist market

growth, support freight capacity and the economic renewal of Liverpool City Centre.”


Regular visitors like the Elliott family voted for the Heidi

B&B goes from sinking ship to crest of the wave BEN ROBERTS-HASLAM takes a closer look at an awardwinning bed and breakfast


family-run bed & breakfast in Southport has been named the best in Merseyside. The Heidi B&B, in Bold Street, Southport, won the title of Merseyside B&B of the year at the 2020 UK Enterprise Awards, after being nominated by guests. Michelle and Alastair Michie have owned the seaside B&B for the last five years and have turned a sinking ship into a place that would be full all summer. The couple moved from Manchester to take over the rundown pit stop and transformed it into an award-winning stay-cation that now rivals the Bliss hotel that sits on the Marine Lake. Michelle told Liverpool Life: “It’s amazing really. We couldn’t have done it without our guests, although, unfortunately, we haven’t got any at the moment. If it wasn’t for the guests, and the people we have in,

these awards wouldn’t be possible. “It’s amazing that someone put us forward for it, especially in this time when we’ve had minimal guests though the door this year. I think it’s eight weeks that we’ve been open this year; it has been a hard year.” The devoted mother and hostess talked of the effects Covid has had on the B&B. This time last year the Heidi would be gearing up for yet another busy summer, but due to the global pandemic that has shaken hospitality and tourism across the world, it near enough ruined the chances of a busy summer last year. She said: “Pre-Covid we would be pretty full every weekend. Bed and breakfasts usually make their money from between April and October so between those months you’re fairly busy. “Every year we’ve had new guests come and they have continued to come to us and I think if you can maintain a repeat customer database, it’s always better. It’s easier for us because we know what to expect and it’s easier for the guests because they

feel at home. I’ve had a year off; I won’t know what to do when I get back to it.” The former Mancunian turned Sandgrounder is also very aware of the struggles that Southport faces as a tourist destination. With the closure of the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre and the recent closure of the Genting Casino, the draw to the seaside town is being further limited. Michelle, however, refuses to see all the negatives and is hopeful for

the future: “You look on Facebook and social media and some people really slate it, saying it’s not what it used to be, which is fair enough, but a lot of towns aren’t what they used to be, with online shopping and places closing down. “You will always have things like homelessness on the streets wherever you go. When you come to Southport you have the lovely Marine Lake, you’ve got places to walk, things to see and as an outsider coming in it’s actually very nice.”

It’s amazing ... we couldn’t have done it without our guests

” 7


Time to call time on Tea? One of England’s most ancient sports could be set to drop an age-old tradition, as JACK PLAYLE reports


he gentle knock of leather on willow;, the sleepy applause from postprandial snoozers, the picnics on the village green, the sunshine and subtle breeze - village cricket is more than just a game. It’s a social necessity that, in its own way, seems to hold a mirror up to English society. Fundamental to any cricket match, has always been the cricket tea. Served halfway through a game it often acts as a saving grace for cricketers facing first-ball ducks and dropped catches. But now a Sunday league in Lancashire has voted to scrap the much-loved custom ahead of the new 2021 season making the reality for modern-day players, look far less idyllic. With the number of volunteers willing to focus on catering declining, and the onus tending to fall on hardpressed match managers, whose main priority is to ensure that each side has 11 fit and able players to provide a suitable contest. Match teas have

been scrapped in the West Lancashire Sunday Cricket League, after clubs voted 16-14, in favor of ridding the sport of its historic ritual. The decision comes after teas were suspended as a precautionary measure during the Covid-19 outbreak last season, when comments from the prime minister, Boris Johnson, singled out the social aspect as one of the main reasons for why the recreational game couldn’t take place in April, May and June. Instead, players were encouraged to bring their own food when the sport resumed in July, and with many clubs facing cash-flow issues in the wake of the pandemic, the opportunity to offload the financial burden of creating a cricket tea - has become too appealing. Tim Wynn, a spokesperson for Farnworth CC, who supported the decision, said: “I think the idea of having someone who is usually female, prepare a tea for 24 men is outdated. As a club, we don’t see why those who still want to embrace

the tradition, can’t still do that. The move is just a way of removing unnecessary stress on the people who run everything else. I think for most clubs it is more of an inconvenience nowadays, than anything else.” Wynn also addressed the fact that removing cricket teas - would ultimately help reduce the length of time it takes to play a cricket match. An influence that ennobles the novelty of cricket’s unwinding nature. But too, seems to be ‘outdated’, after figures released by Sport England showed participation in cricket was down 12% in the last four years, due to most dropouts saying they just don’t have enough time to play the game. He said: “I think it will also encourage new players as well. For too long cricket has had the stigma of cucumber sandwiches and just a little bit of cricket on the side. Times have changed, and it’s time for cricket to do the same.” But the fabled match tea will not vanish from all village greens in West

Soon to be a thing of the past? Cricket feasts like these could be consigned to history


Lancashire, although home sides will no longer be expected to provide food for all playing participants during match intervals. Haydock Cricket Club has insisted that it will not stop them from carrying on the game’s quintessential tradition. Colin Spiby, batsmen for Haydock CC who opposed the vote, said: “We are disappointed that teas are being dropped from the Sunday league. For us, they’re an essential part of the day’s play that actually brings out a lot of banter and inspires a healthy team spirit. “There’s no other sport that gets both teams sat around the same table talking to one another. I think to lose that social element of the game is really sad.” And yet the consensus in West Lancashire is that cricket, like the upper classes and standards in general, is in permanent decline. So, perhaps it’s time to take the cucumber sanwiches and jam tarts in the game, out of the game. Even if they don’t go away for good.


Field of dreams

Hopefully it’ll get them to want to play, get them more involved



ootball fans across the globe have had their attention drawn to a small Welsh football club for all the right reasons. Wrexham FC, an historical club which up until recently had fallen into hard times, caught the attention of two A-list celebrities, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, who have now completed their official takeover of the fifth-tier club, bringing a touch of Hollywood magic to North Wales. They have announced that they have big plans for the club going forward, with a mission to “always beat Chester”. They have also announced that they will be looking at getting the women’s teams kickstarted in the future. Most recently they said that they will be giving wages lost from employees on furlough back to them. This means that those who received 80% of their wages in the government scheme will now get their full pay. Sian Smith, a local football coach

in Wrexham, thinks that it’ll have a positive impact on the local young girls as well as the boys. She says: “Hopefully it’ll get them to want to want to play, get them more involved.” She did however have some concerns for current local teams if it takes off: “They have a Wrexham Centre of excellence for them, so that’s like an academy but there is no girls sector.” Ms. Smith, however, remains positive: “It might affect us to start off with but them they might help the other clubs in Wrexham.” There is no doubt that the takeover has positively affected the town. Ms Smith sums it with three words: “It sure has!” Finally, for anyone wanting to raise a glass to celebrate the club’s good fortune, it has produced its own limited edition “The Takeover” Aviation Gin with a special Wrexham FC logo on it rather than the iconic black and white label. The gin sold out in a few short hours and they are currently working on making it available for pre-order again.

Under new management: The Racecourse ground in Wrexham (above) and a tweet from the club promoting their partnership with Aviation Gin (below, right)

Reynolds and McElhenney’s faces projected on a building in Wrexham to celebrate the takeover



Mars missions to solve riddle By DAVID DIANGIENDA


he newest missions to Mars have been welcomed by a Liverpool astrophysics expert for providing more information about the mysterious and intriguing planet. Scientists from the United Arab Emirates made history as a probe was launched to the atmosphere of planet Mars and took its first pictures of the red planet last week. The satellite, which cost £160m, aims to provide pictures of the Martian atmosphere by studying the daily and seasonal changes on the planet. This isn’t the only mission to Mars to be taking place at the moment, as the United States and China are launching separate missions in the coming weeks. Andrew Newsam, lecturer in Liverpool John Moores University’s Astrophysics Department, said: “The main thing they are looking at actually while they are there is the atmosphere of Mars and studying things like if water vapour is there.” He also spoke about the challenges facing those who are looking to land on Mars in the near future. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, has made no secret of his plans to go on the planet in the future, though Andrew questioned, how long people will survive on the planet. “We probably know enough that we can keep people alive for a while. We know a fair amount about very small bits of Mars, we know a fair bit about the global weather pattens and we know things like the weather composition,” he said. “We have been studying Mars properly and in detail for significantly less than 100 years. (Elon Musk) wants to set up a colony and that has to be self-sustaining and we don’t know how to do that as there is not enough


information.” News of the space missions coincided with Women In Science day, an event aiming to celebrate the works and the achievements of women who are in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineer, Mathematics) industries across the world and who provide an inspiration to the next generation of girls. Andrew believes there is still work to be done on improving diversity and equality in the science industries. “It’s improving, it’s hasn’t improved enough,” he said “It’s not just women, basically the vast majority of scientists that you will meet are like me, they are white, male and middle class. And so that’s a big problem, I like my job and I’m glad I’m doing but it doesn’t mean that you have to look like me to do this job. “It’s not just the case that we need more women, or we need more people from ethnic backgrounds, or we need more people from working-class backgrounds or anything like that. What we need is for everybody to come along and find the best career for them.”

Picture of interviewee Andrew Newsam

Hope Probe Image- Courtesy of Mohamed Bin Zayed’s Twitter

LLpodcast is here!




The Beautiful



he 18-year-old winner of Miss Liverpool 2021, Poppy Gerrard, is out to prove that models can be much, much more than meets the eye. Achieving high academic success at A level – she obtained four A*s – she wants to inspire young girls to chase their passions whilst also valuing things such as their education, and harbours aspirations of one day competing in the Miss World competition For now, though, she progresses to the Miss England competition, about which she says: “I’m so excited. I love modelling and representing my home city of Liverpool is so exciting. I hope to go on to maybe win Miss England and then to represent your country in Miss World would be just extraordinary.” Poppy won the ‘Miss Liverpool’ crown in December in what was described as a low-key event, with all other aspects of the competition taking place online due to current COVID restrictions. And the young model, who will study Maths at a Russell Group university in September, isn’t just someone who wishes to excel in these competitions on surface-level attractiveness. Poppy spends countless hours doing charity work, has previously been a golden buzzer act on Britain’s Got Talent as part of the dance group Mersey Girls and was invited to perform at Princess Eugenie’s wedding. “My family have always taught me to be a kind person, wherever you get to don’t forget where you came from, and to work hard and it’ll pay off. “I know that people see a pageant and think ‘Oh they’re just itsy girls’ but I wanted to prove that you can model and do those things. It’s better to be an all-rounder, not just about education, but also about using your platform in a positive way,” she says. Believing that staying grounded is hugely important, Poppy plans on giving back to Liverpool, the place she describes as “the best city,” with a charity fundraiser. Explaining her endeavour as a show with a “bit of everything,” the 18-year-old wants to showcase the best in dance, magic, music, and anything else you can think of in the hopes of raising people’s sprits during the third lockdown. Part of the proceeds will go to


Mandela 8, a local charity which she is excited to work with. With her local pride and unabating tenacity, Poppy Gerrard is changing perceptions on what it can mean to be a model, whilst also ensuring that she keeps her other plates spinning. “I think the most important thing is that you stay grounded, and that you always remember other people in your successes. “Anything I can do to get involved with campaigns, and to get girls involved with sport and education, it’s great. “I’m really grateful for the ‘Miss Liverpool’ title because I think it’s given me the platform to show other people about having intelligence and being a kind person.”

Photo © SiImon Peter

Fans team up to ta

© Rainbow Toffees

© Rainbow Toffees

© Rainbow Toffees

© Rainbow Toffees and PEXELS


Pictured, left, the Dixie Dean statue outside Goodison Park. Supporting the campaign by wearing rainbow beanies are Blues legends Kevin Ratcliffe, left, Peter Reid, above right, and Neville Southall

n Everton LGBT+ supporters group and Everton FC are teaming up with the Football vs Homophobia organisation in a bid to tackle homophobia in the sport. The Rainbow Toffees supporters group started five years ago and is currently run by Mike Homfray and social media coordinator and promoter Paul Hession. The organisation has had help from Everton legends and patrons Nevill, Southhall, Peter Reid and Kevin Ratcliffe alongside charity fundraiser and fan Speedo Mick. This month, the group is joining a webinar enabling the public to ask questions on issues surrounding homophobia in football. The event on February 25 isn’t live, but will be advertised beforehand so that people can send in questions to be asked on the evening. Members from The Rainbow Toffees, Football vs Homophobia and the LGBT+ Network at Everton will all be part of the panel. Mike Homfray said: “We thought it would be really good if we could have a zoom event where people can sort of listen and learn about the issues involved and why Rainbow Toffees is doing what it does and what Everton is trying to do and so on. “That’s what Football vs Homophobia is doing on a national level so hopefully it should be a really interesting event.”

Mike, who is also a sociology lecturer at the university of Liverpool, and teaches modules such as “Sexualities in society” and “Gender and sexuality in every life” explained: “There is so much history that people simply don’t know about. “So much went on that unless we draw attention to it now, it gets lost forever. I think now, we can look at the achievements that have been made, especially regarding LGB rights. I think in terms of trans rights there’s still a bit to go. “But in terms of LGB rights, we’ve seen enormous strides and enormous changes, and we must never take those for granted. It’s really important to know your history and to know the struggles that people went through to achieve these changes. They were huge.” “I’m 58, I remember a lot of them (homophobic mentalities.) I remember the response to HIV and AIDS. I remember the sheer level of homophobia when I was growing up, it was immense.” Although improvements in the law and mentalities have changed, Mike believes that there is still a long way to go. Young people today live in a better world, but even within his lifetime he is convinced two of his job losses were due to homophobia. “At the time there was no legislation I could’ve fallen back on anyway, it’s really difficult. The thing is that it’s often a very subtle thing,



(people) will find ways of getting rid of you and they’ll come up with some other reasons, but you know what the truth is. “Changing the law is never enough anyway because there are always ways that people will get around the law unfortunately. It’s important to change it, but let’s not pretend it’s going to change everything forever overnight. You’ve got to carry on working towards it. “I’d imagine there aren’t many gay people around who wouldn’t say something has happened in their lives which they will identify as being homophobia.”


ootball is very close to Mike’s heart, which is why he is determined to do his best in challenging the issues still rife in his beloved sport. He explained that although there has been some development in raising awareness many LGBT+ fans still feel that there are certain barriers in being fans, alongside fears of prejudice going to the grounds. “Football is still an environment where people who are gay don’t feel able to come out, and this is something which is always unique. In every other sport you have people who are openly gay playing rugby, tennis, cricket, swimming, but think of football though, nope.” “We’re still incredibly behind the times in terms of football. There’s

not one single openly gay player in the entirety of the premiership. Just on the law of averages, there’s absolutely no way that every player in the premiership is going to be straight, of course they’re not.” The university lecturer judges that the easiest way forward could be to encourage multiple football players to come forward at the same time, to lift off some of the weight and anxiety of coming out to the public. He also emphasised that although individual football clubs are slowly improving, major events such as the FA and Premiership are ignoring these issues. “When I look at the FA and premiership, I think they could be doing an awful lot more than they’re doing. Perhaps they just wish the subject would just go away and find it too much of a hot potato. “Time and time again, they’ve talked about putting an information video together. Things have been done, and then somewhere along the line, it never seems to materialise. Either it’s watered down so the effect of it is far less, or it simply doesn’t get made at all, or it get made and never gets distributed.” Football vs Homophobia will last all month. If you would like to get involved to help raise awareness or take part, information on the webinar can be found on either The Rainbow Toffees Everton LGBT Supporters group Facebook page, or on the Everton website.

ackle homophobia

What started out as The Gay Teachers Association nearly five decades ago, now has a whole month dedicated to its celebrations. By ANNA MICHAELIDES


GBT+ History Month which happens every February is a chance to celebrate the lives, experience and history of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in the UK. The overall aim is to promote equality and diversity to benefit everybody by raising awareness and advancing education around the topic. A month of events was first established in the UK in 2005 by Schools Out UK and is a time to reflect on how far the LGBT+ community have come throughout the years. The group started life as The Gay Teachers Association in 1974 in a bid to make schools a safe place for LGBT teachers, students and all other staff. Schools Out UK is currently the only organisation to support this goal on such a wide scale. One of the driving forces to make

a change was the introduction of Section 28 legislation in 1988 which stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. This may be something which, in the 21st century, we have started to move away from, but there is more work to be done. Sue Sanders, chair of the educational charity, said February was the month of choice because of the half term holiday and the hope the con-

cept would be picked up by libraries and museums where teachers and parents would see information, giving them the confidence to take it into schools and teach about it. Sue feels schools have “really hidden” the LGBT+ community. She said: “We really wanted to change the atmosphere around LGBT people and celebrate us. We had been victims for years and gone through hell.” She also said this month is a chance for businesses to show acceptance and value their LGBT+ staff and customers. This year’s theme ‘Body, Mind, Spirit’ is one which is likely to resonate with many of us in the current

climate. Since the coronavirus pandemic, looking after our mental health has been more important than ever. While the virus has had a massively negative impact on so many people’s lives, statistics show that disadvantaged and minority groups are the most adversely affected, which unfortunately includes the LGBT+ communities. LGBT+ people are more likely to suffer from poor mental health and experience domestic abuse. Body, mind and spirit are at the focus of the event to send a message about how important it is to keep them all in balance and to look after our mental health, as well as just physical. If you would like to donate to Schools Out UK (Charity number: 1156352), you can do so via PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/uk/ fundraiser/charity/128006

Events coming up in the North West this month which you can get involved in, for all other news and events visit: www.lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk Wednesday February 17th & 24th Pride on the Page Time: 12pm – 1pm, online event.

Monday February 22: Coming Out from Lockdown Time: 7pm – 8:30pm, online event.

Thursday February 25: Queer perspectives on St George and the Dragon

‘Explore this year’s theme ‘Body, Mind and Spirit’. We’ll look at and share stories and poems from the LGBT+ experience together, reading slowly and taking lots of pauses for discussion.’

Black Gay Ink present: Coming Out from Lockdown, launched in October 2020, offering a safe space for Black gay men to learn more about positive personal and professional development.

Dr Sam Riches discusses some of the ways that imagery of St George was used to enable discussion of gender and sexuality in late medieval European culture, and the impact that the rediscovery of this tradition is having on current reappraisals of the art and culture of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Wednesday February 17: Reading and Q&A session Time: 2pm – 3pm, online event. Damian Barr, Lancaster University alumnus and award-winning writer and broadcaster, to read from his debut novel ‘You will be safe here’.

Time: 1pm – 2:30pm, online event.

Wednesday February 24: Webinar ‘in Friday February 26: Stockport LGBT+ History and out, on and off: LGBT+ online Month 2021 – Poetry open mic night experiences’ Time: 4pm – 5pm, online event. Time: 6pm start, online event. Dr Megan Todd, Senior Lecturer in Social Science presents a webinar about the implications and risk of LGBT+ internet users.

LGBT+ Poet Laureate Trudy Howson hosts an evening of poetry talent. A chance for you to share your thoughts via Poetry.

Saturday February 27: The History of LGBT+ Rights in the UK Time: 7pm – 8pm, online event. A fun and interactive quiz by Lelmeducation looking at the history of LGBT+ people. Tickets for the event cost £5.98 and can be purchased via Event Bright.



Vaccine trial heroes out in full force to beat COVID By RYAN WYKES

of hours. The yearlong trials, conducted by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, are being run in conjuncture with similar trials in seven other British cities, including Birmingham and London. The aim of these trials is primarily to research the eligibility of a vaccination scheme using multiple vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca and Pfizer variants. The current government rollout requires both the initial vaccine and its subsequent booster to be the same. Dr Helen Hill, senior clinical research associate and chief of operations at the Covid vaccine trials, spoke to Liverpool Life about the ongoing research: “The first question we are trying to ask is if you give a mixed schedule, say a Pfizer followed by AstraZeneca, would be as effective. This would allow the Government to make decisions based on the availability of vaccines, for example if the AstraZeneca vaccine by Oxford were to be more readily available, it might mean that people are offered a booster with that rather than a Pfizer vaccine which might be delayed. “The second question from this study is whether we give the booster after one month or give it after three

months. After one month, at present, we have some data from the previous trials as well as giving the booster after a slightly longer period of time, but those trials were not to intentionally answer this question. “Doing the trial over 12 months is important as what we need to know is whether the vaccine schedule still protects, so we bring people back after those twelve months for blood samples to see, for example, if they still have an antibody response. As you know with the flu vaccine you’re vaccinated annually and there’s nothing to say at the moment how long these vaccines work for.” In Liverpool, 100 volunteers were needed for the trials, with over 800 people applying in just two days. “It’s a particularly popular study because everybody enlisted will get a primary vaccine and a booster.” Liverpool Life spoke to Glyn MÔn Hughes, a journalism lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University accepted for the trials, about his experience as a part of the study. “I just saw it on social media, and followed it all up. I am not sure that I was chosen over others, or how exactly they made the choices, but I do expect that they are looking for a wide range of ages as well as sexes and ethnicities. “I had to talk about medication I take, had my heart and lungs monitored, my liver felt, reflexes tested, sight and hearing tested, and then blood and urine samples taken

“There has been a lot of goodwill from people wanting to contribute something to end the pandemic”

Photo © Hakan Nural on Unsplash


he Liverpool vaccine trial has entered its second week of testing after hundreds respond to calls for volunteers in a matter

as well as assessing breathing rate and blood-oxygen levels. That was a pretty thorough MOT. It was then decided that I was fit enough to have an injection which was either a live vaccine or a placebo. I do not know which I had. “I might have been given the Novavax vaccine. The company doing the trial is called Synexus and they

Glyn Môn Hughes, right: volunteered for vaccine trials © Glyn Môn Hughes

Photo © CDC on Unsplash


are based in Waterloo, in north Liverpool, though they are an international organisation and have clinics all over the world.” Asked why he volunteered for the trial, Glyn said: “I had never been part of a clinical trial and it was partly curiosity to see what happened and partly the feeling that I was doing something useful for other people.”


I was lucky to have survived Surgeon tells of his battle against virus By NATHAN SARTAIN


lmost ten years ago to the day, Marcus De Matas found himself interviewed for a book, titled ‘That Near Death Thing’, which sought to go in-depth about the dangers of the Isle of Man TT, allegedly one of the most dangerous races in the world. At the time he was a young surgeon, one tasked with a “mammoth operation” to perform on racer Conor Cummins, who found himself needing ligaments rebuilt and metal rods placing in his back. All whilst risking blindness, nipping an artery and, of course, death. Mr De Matas said to Mr. Cummins at the time that he had “only seen injuries like yours in a textbook”, something the orthopaedic specialist now elaborates on, and explains that he meant that the injuries were “subtle,” and could only have been “identified with the help of radiologists and a complete team approach.” This was Conor Cummins’ “near death thing” and a period in his life which left the patient “emotionally

dead”, Mr De Matas was quoted in the book as saying. But the reason Mr De Matas, a now experienced orthopaedic spinal surgeon at Aintree University Hospital and various other locations in Liverpool, is being interviewed now isn’t just to reminisce on his previous experiences. It is because, in the midst of a seemingly unwavering global pandemic, the 49-year-old has had his own “near death thing.” “My experience involved, in a matter of hours, (going) from being asymptomatic to having a significant pulmonary problem,” he says from his hospital bed, detailing his experience with COVID. “What transpired for me was a rapid deterioration in my personal position which required me to have specialist medication to alter the disease to prevent me falling into a life-threatening situation.”


e went on to say that the process took several days for him to get to that level of sickness and that, after a week of treatment, he ended up on an ITU ward. “Fortunately, the treatment that the

hospital gave me worked well and it reversed the life-threatening process to the extent that I’m now recovering and rehabilitating,” he says, but it’s clear even from a short conversation that he has been through the wringer. At times he’ll pause, sometimes for a few seconds, completely short of breath. At others he’ll cough with a scratching rasp. It’s not surprising though, given that the surgeon explains how his mortality was brought into question when he saw his results: rapidly decreasing oxygen levels and an increased need for fluids. “It was quite clear to me that there was a potential need for ventilation if I worsened from that position,” he outlines. “Let us say that I spoke to my brother, and various other people, and my affairs were all in order if something was to happen to me and I became unconscious. Although I didn’t anticipate it happening, I was clearly in the picture that this could be a terminal event.” If all goes well, Mr De Matas is due to be able to leave hospital in the next week or so, but his recovery is anything but clear-cut. After being hit hard by his illness, he finds himself

struggling to walk even 50 yards, just three weeks after he says he could walk around 15 or 20 miles in a day. Physiotherapists have said it will take a minimum of six to 12 weeks to return to any basic form of fitness, a timescale in which the surgeon hopes that he can return to performing a simple operation, aided by supporting staff. Yet, in spite of the struggles, and the daunting figures that at one point painted a bleakly clear picture, the spinal expert is adopting an optimistic outlook going forward in how he will handle his future treatment. “I am very enthusiastic that I should get back to fitness and practice again and hit a golf ball, walk in the park and do things with my kids that I could have done three weeks ago. “Unfortunately, to put it in perspective, I have been unlucky to have a severe form of the illness, but fortunate to have survived it.”

’ 15


The perils of ‘Maskne’ and how you can save your skin



lmost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all become fairly accustomed to wearing a face mask wherever we go. Although these masks are hugely important and beneficial, they don’t come without their own side effects, acne being a big one. Since mask wearing became compulsory, an overwhelming number of people noticed their skin breaking out in spots around the mouth, jaw and cheeks – basically all areas covered

by a mask and therefore the term ‘maskne’ was born. As annoying as these mask-caused breakouts can be, they are both treatable and preventable. Skincare specialist Rachel Hunter, who runs a beauty clinic in Allerton Road, Liverpool, said that she has noticed an increase in inflammatory acne concerns in the mask area in the past few months as people are seeking professional help. She said: “The humidity that is caused by hot breath being contained in the area causes an increase in sebum production, therefore leading to an increase of Propionibacteri-

Above and left, acne breakouts are common and painful, wearing masks may make the problem worse. Pictures © Chloe O’Connor um - acne bacteria which leads to breakouts.” So, even breathing is making us break out ... great! As annoying as this is there are several things that can be done to treat existing mascne and prevent further breakouts. Rachel Hunter recommends using a cleanser and preparations that contain salicylic acid as well as “the use of blue light emitted from a good LED face mask to limit bacteria

production.” Companies such as Boots, and Superdrug have added pages to their websites containing advice and recommending specific products to tackle the issue. These include: The Ordinary Niacinamide and Zinc serum (£5, Boots) and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (£9.99, Boots). Following Rachel’s advice you could also try the Cerave Salicylic Acid Cleanser (£12, Boots).

Our pick of products that may help

The Ordinary Niacinamide and Zinc Serum (£5 Boots) 16

Cerave Salicylic Acid Cleanser (£9.99 Boots)

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (£12 Boots)


he anniversary of UK’s first lockdown is approaching and as people reflect on how they’ve spent their time at home - home schooling, new hobbies, box sets binged on Netflix - for 21-yearold Neuby Spencer it will be how she ditched her home office during a pandemic to turn her passion for baking into a new local business. The young baking enthusiast, from Walton, used something that was once just a hobby to create her own catering business called Love at First Bite from her kitchen. Love at First Bite, which specialises in bespoke cakes, offers something for a wide range of customers including unique products like cake jars, keto-friendly cake pops and ‘cheestereggs’ – a cheesecake in an easter egg. Each item is custom made and fit for occasion, birthday cakes and the latest Valentine’s Day boxes are even available for personalisation to include names and messages. Neuby centres her business around her customers, making sure everything is hand delivered and can spend up to four hours hand baking and decorating one of her signature personalised birthday cakes, which cost around £50 - £60. Although creating these products can be very time consuming, Neuby said: “The end result always reminds me of why I started this business in the first place. “I enjoy seeing the pleasure on people’s faces when they receive my product. It allows me to es-

Keto Cake Pops

cape into a creative mind space and brings people’s visions into a reality. “It is always very humbling to hear that your product or service is greatly appreciated and because of this I don’t even feel like I’m working.” Love at First Bite measures customer satisfaction through the feedback given on their Facebook page,which Neuby describes as “always positive and encouraging”, much like the outlook she has about her current role as a business owner. However, much alike a large majority of businesses operating in lockdown Love at First Bite has faced challenges. In contrast to a lot of businesses being faced with closure in the pandemic, Neuby’s biggest obstacle was starting up. She explained: “Initially, getting the word about my business was challenging given that it was word of mouth before people came to approach me for business. “Hitting the correct market to sell was also challenging as I had to research what it was people were wanting during lockdown. “At times, it felt like it may never take off but through support from friends and family and lots of work be-

Baker Neuby Spencer



From sweet treats to sweet success

hind the scenes, it began to take off.” Since the very first sale of a selection of white chocolate marshmallow cake pops in July 2020, Love at First Bite now expects around 30-40 orders a week and has established itself on social media as a community with more than 900 members. The best part about running a lockdown business from home according to Neuby, is the “flexibility and being able to work as and when you can”.

“For me, this means that my motivation and determination to make this business a success increased greatly. “Being around my home comforts and around people who support me has meant that even through periods of self-doubt, I knew I could make it a success.” The success of the catering busness is ever growing, with plans for Love at First Bite to evolve from social media to its own website currently under way.

“It’s something that has brought me great pleasure, I find baking relaxing whilst also being able to challenge my mind running a business.”

Valentines Box

Signature Cake



The art of lockdown LL ARTS


uch like every other, the art industry has had to adapt to the difficulties coronavirus has presented and the forever changing society that we live in, consisting of coronavirus lockdowns, unpredictable tier systems, and even beans on Weetabix for breakfast… Like many professional creatives, artists are trying to survive and trying to make it in their industry. To provide a boost and a marketplace for new artists’ work, Caitlin Brown, 21, a History of Art and Museum Studies student at Liverpool John Moores University has set up an online auction named 12x12. The inspiration behind the auction came from Caitlin’s idea that if 12 artists created 12 pieces in the size 12x12, she could create a platform to showcase their work, whilst the artists could get experience in auctioning off their pieces and make some money at the same time. She

Untitled, by Faye Roberts 18

said she wanted to “include emerging artists who were either in university, coming out of university or those that went straight into practicing art without completing a degree”. Caitlin said: “It has been extremely hard for artists to find work during the pandemic with most of the opportunities being online and, even then, they are quite limited. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to organise this auction for emerging artists based not just in England, but everywhere.” The collection of pieces come from artists all over the world, including Caitlin, who lives in Curaçao. Some of the other artists are originally from and based in England, others are from Poland, Bulgaria, Amsterdam, Boston and the Isle of Man. All of the auction prices range from £25-£300, depending on which materials have been used combined with the amount of time it took the artists to work on the pieces. Each piece of art engulfs us and

The future is female, by Hannah Ellison

ROMY WILSON reports on a new online marketplace to help young artists sell their work

tells us a different story, Caitlin said that this is crucial when creating artwork. “It’s important for an artist to have a story, such as what themes are highlighted in their work, what is the personal connection to those themes, their inspirations and influences and how is all of that depicted in their work.” Faye Roberts, 19, a fine art student at LJMU, from Tranmere, is one of the artists featured in the auction, she focuses on capturing the beauty of the natural world. She said: “I regularly go on walks through inspiring landscapes, taking images of rusted fences and decaying trees. I explore gestural application and find love through bright colours.” Faye said that she has been more inspired during lockdown than ever before, and since she was furloughed last year she’s had more time than ever to create art. She said: “I have always loved abstract and contemporary painting, but never felt confident enough to give it a go. “Over the last couple of months, I have really pushed myself to experi-

ment more. I am now at a point with my art where I feel so comfortable with the content of the paintings I am creating.” Faye’s ambition is to become a fulltime artist. “I really cannot see myself doing anything else than making art. But it’s a hard industry to ‘make it’ in, you are constantly, subconsciously, comparing yourself to other artists wondering if you are good enough.” She added: “It is a constant cycle of experimentation and critiquing”. Another of the featured artists, Charlotte Halsall, 20, and also a History of Art student at LJMU, said even though she has more time to work on her art it is not easy. “It’s harder, because there’s nothing happening for me to be inspired about and if I was motivated, which I normally would be, I probably would create a lot more work.” Although she found it harder to be inspired with her own art she said that she found stimulation through watching and learning from other artists such as Grayson Perry. The artwork will be available to purchase when the auction goes live on March 10.



Projections, by Muskaan Khemani

Release and release, by Georgia Ingrey

Untitled, by Lauren Souras

It’s a constant cycle of experimentation and critiquing

Contemplation, by Charlotte Halsall



Details from the paintings: TOP LEFT: The Neanderthal Futures Infirmary by Robbie Bush. ABOVE: The Common by Kathryn Maple. LEFT: The Motherland by Steph Goodger. BELOW LEFT: March by Stephen Lee (all photos © respective artists) BELOW: The works on display in the Walker Art Gallery can be viewed on a virtual tour © Robin Clewley



Shortlisted artists, from left: Kathryn Maple, Steph Goodger, Stephen Lee and Michele Fletcher. BELOW: Robbie Bush

Eyes on the prize as top art line-up announced



he five nominees for one of the UK’s most prestigious painting prizes have been announced. The John Moores Painting Prize is taking place this year as part of Liverpool Biennial 2021, the largest festival of contemporary art in the UK. Whilst lockdown has caused people to stay in-doors unable to visit art museums, the competition offers established painters the chance to have their work showcased. The five shortlisted artists, each awarded £2,500, are Liverpool-born Robbie Bushe, Michele Fletcher, Steph Goodger, Stephen Lee and

Kathryn Maple. Robbie, who attended Edinburgh College of Art, was shortlisted for his work The Neanderthal Futures Infirmary, one of a series of four paintings which imagines an old Victorian hospital with a Neanderthal DNA extraction and cloning facility within a complex network of underground bunkers. The winner, who will receive the £25,000 prize, will be announced on March 4, when the inaugural winner of the Emerging Artist Prize will also be announced. The winning painting will be acquired by the Walker Art Gallery and join its world-class collection, while the artist will also have

a future solo display at the gallery. Virtual visitors to the exhibition will also be invited to vote for their favourite painting in the Visitors’ Choice Award, which awards the winning artist £2,020. The shortlisted projects will be exhibited alongside the 62 other paintings at the gallery until June 27. . A virtual tour of the exhibition is at www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ johnmoores until the gallery is able to re-open. The jury - which consists of Hurvin Anderson, Michelle Williams Gamaker, Alison Goldfrapp, Jennifer Higgie and Gu Wenda - judged and selected all of the works online be-

cause of Covid restrictions, which is the first time this has ever happened in the prize’s history. Previous winners of the prestigious prize include David Hockney in 1967, Peter Doig in 1993 and Jacqui Hallum in 2018. Sir Peter Blake, winner of the junior prize in 1961 and designer of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album sleeve, is patron of the Prize. • For more information visit the Liverpool Museums website on www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ johnmoores. You can also follow the prize on social media @JMPaintingPrize on Twitter or follow John Moores Painting Prize on Facebook.





Live theatre set to return 'more bold and glorious than ever' SHANNON GARNER speaks to Rob Fennah about leading the way with the first announced tour since the pandemic and how he believes it won’t be socially-distanced


he uncertainties about when events can resume and whether there will be restrictions in place following lockdown has made planning tours of any kind particularly challenging. Understandably, many people in the industry are nervous about taking the next step as everything for the future is currently uncertain. After being cut short last March after just three venues into a seventeen venue tour, the producers of the acclaimed stage production of Helen Forrester’s, By The Waters Of Liverpool have announced the continuation of their UK tour in Autumn 2021. All being well, the tour will open this September in Lancashire at the Lowther Pavilion and writer and co-producer Rob Fennah said it is going to be ‘bigger, bolder and more glorious than ever.” Co-producer Bill Elms added: “With the vaccine roll-out going so well, we can now see the light at the end of a dark tunnel for the theatre industry and we just hope people will feel safe enough to come back in their droves; embracing theatre and live performance more than ever before.” Fennah noted that it is a gamble but they were determined not to give up. He said: “When we launched By The Waters Of Liverpool last year, the response was so overwhelming we were determined not to let the pandemic get the better of us. We have a mantra when things get tough, don’t give up don’t give in!" Despite having losses to offset from the shortly cut 2020 tour and not benefitting from the Culture Recovery Fund, Fennah feels like he is playing a leading part in bringing back confidence to theatre: “The best way to do that isn’t talking about it - it’s doing it which means coming back with a bloody great tour.” He also noted that now was the best time to organise the continuation as tours take months of forward planning and venues can be booked up months in advance. He said: “If people don’t go for it now, there will be a lot of producers, actors and crew who haven’t planned to work, and so they’ll be sitting there for another year. It’s best to get your diary full now.” By September, Fennah predicts tha 'the pandemic will be a thing of the

past’ meaning that theatres can return in full with full audiences and no restrictions or safety measures that have been imposed over the multiple lockdowns since March 2020. He also added: “People will be queuing up to get back into theatres. Maybe a holiday first, then theatre! Everything is going to be back to normal a lot sooner than we think.”


y The Waters of Liverpool is a stunning period drama produced by Bill Elms and both produced and written by Rob Fennah. Set in the 1930’s, the play is an adaptation of Helen Forrester’s four-part biography after Helen’s father went bankrupt during the Depression. Touching on how the play came to be and on his relationship with the author, Fennah said: “I was given a book called Twopence To Cross The Mersey to read while I was waiting to go into a radio interview. In the book Helen referred to her father, a man who had lost his fortune during the Great Depression, as a ‘butterfly in the rain’, a beautiful image that inspired me to write a song of the same title for an album I was working on. “Helen got to hear the track, really liked it, and asked if she could use it when promoting her books around the world.” He also spoke about how he collaborated with Forrester artistically and adapted the best-selling volumes: “First and foremost, we got on. There was a picture taken on the day we

Top: 'When leather met tweed' and, above, Helen Forrester c. 1939 Opposite montage: Production images © Anthony Robling met; it's a lovely photograph and says everything about the friendship that was to follow. We referred to it as ‘when leather met tweed’. “ Once we’d got to know each other, I asked if I could have a go at adapting her book. She agreed, but on the strict understanding she had final approval. “During the writing process, she would tell me a lot more about the characters in her books and this really helped me bring them to life on stage. We had a lot of fun doing it.

"Although Helen is no longer with us, she is always in my thoughts. While I was writing By The Waters Of Liverpool, I imagined her looking over my shoulder to check if all the little details were correct and in order. It’s a real privilege to be entrusted with her most famous works.” By The Waters Of Liverpool will be visiting towns and cities across the UK. For more information and tickets visit http://www.bythewatersofliverpool.com.



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Waterloo in bloom © Shannon Garner

Profile for Steve Harrison

Liverpool Life 9:11 February 17 2021