Mathew Street leaves me feeling far from festive
A youth urinating against a statue (yards from a portable toilet) near the tunnel stage of the Mathew Street Festival.
Now all the debris has been swept away, the beer cans removed and the vomit steam blasted from the pavements, it's time to begin the countdown to next year's Mathew Street Festival. Or is it?
Times are tight for the council, money-wise, and certain to get tighter. The outlay on the festival is one of the most costly single annual capital spends for the authority, costing the taxpayer £750,000 to stage. But, is it worth it?
From my point of view, no. For many people who live in the city centre - and many publicans, too - the approach of the last weekend in August is met with dread.
For city centre residents, having your front street resemble a scene from the last days of the Roman empire, even if only for two days, is bitter gall. It leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth to have to pay to subsidise making your own home a no-go area.
In fact, it's surely no coincidence that the first trouble I have ever known in my own apartment block happened in the early hours of Monday morning, and led me to have to forcibly eject a handful of scrotes from the corridor.
The landlords can complain all they want about how they have to shell out for doormen and plastic glasses, but these are the same landlords who can, in some cases, expect to pull in upwards of £20,000 a day during the festival - the profit margins increased by the profiteering that sees them add on average about 35p to a pint.
Which brings me to the issue: for all its talk of being "business friendly", is it really the responsibility of the council to blow a load of taxpayers' money on a few tribute bands when the benefits of the enterprise will be reaped largely by the Spar, Greggs and a few pubs and bars. Is it not the case that these are private sector companies? Are they not responsible for generating their own revenues and profits? Why the council should feel it is the taxpayer's duty to stimulate this economy is beyond me.
This year, the council asked businesses to contribute towards the cost of the festival. Some did, but most didn't. And those that did will have still turned a huge profit from the weekend. Why not just get them to pay for it entirely, or, failing that, cancel it?
Some people say calling the festival the Mathew Street Festival is a misnomer, that Mathew Street itself is but a small part of it. But I disagree. I think it's perfectly named, because for those two days, every other street in the city centre replicates the grim spectacle that is Mathew Street every other day of the year. Fights, throwing up, women screeching like seagulls, blokes shouting and balling. It's hard, when you see baffled tourists wandering up the street wondering whether they've arrived in Liverpool or Blackpool, not to wonder if we didn't miss a trick on Mathew Street.
If it were in any other country in the world, it would be a very different place: look at Elvis' Memphis, for example. We'd have tour guides in Beatles costumes, proper buskers, every individual bar or club themed. Instead, over successive years the council has allowed Mathew Street to lose most of what made it famous in the first place, to be replaced with cheap and nasty bars blaring out trance while touting two for one deals to stag and hen parties.
If tourism is so important to Liverpool, then something needs to be done about both the festival and Mathew Street itself. If I had come all the way from China to see where it all began, where the Beatles came from, then on the basis of the festival and this grotty street, I don't know what I'd make of the place.
But, we may find that when the local government finance review ends, the festival may be over for good.