The Philharmonic is the embodiment of Merseyside: the home of beautiful music
I was pleased to read this week that Liverpool City Council has identified funding to help the city's historic Philharmonic Hall take its first step in securing £10m for its much needed refurbishment.
In today's economic climate local councillors have to make really touch spending decisions. Councillors across Merseyside have been put in a difficult situation, and handed some of the biggest cuts in Government funding for local councils.
We've taken bigger cuts than David Cameron's Oxfordshire and George Osborne's Cheshire, so balancing the books isn't easy. And then there's the police, and fire and rescue cuts. The list goes on.
In these tough times, some may want to criticise local councillors for spending any money at all on culture, when there are cuts being made to other services, such as those for vulnerable people. But this is a false argument. It's not an "either, or" - we need to find ways of supporting both.
The Phil is a huge part of Liverpool's, and our region's history, and it has a vital role in its future. Our visitor economy, which is growing, depends on investment. And that protects people's jobs. Our city has changed from the dirty, half-depressed place of my childhood, to a sparkling vision of interesting and wonderful things. We are attracting more people to come and live and work or have a business here, and the Phil, with the other cultural places on Hope Street, the riverside and in my part of Merseyside, are a huge part of that attraction.
The Philharmonic Hall is a beautiful building that plays host to the heart-skipped-a-beat-they're-so-talented Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. That's why the great and the good of the music world want to play there.
My granddad Peter McGovern was, as he describes in his song, In My Liverpool Home "born in Liverpool down by the docks,". It was a tough upbringing. He was a self-taught musician, who worked very hard by day and gigged by night.
It was a big deal when our family went to see him perform at the Philharmonic Hall, and one of my earliest memories is being there with him for a Spinners performance. For us, the Philharmonic was the embodiment of Merseyside: the home of beautiful music, proving that anyone, no matter where you came from, could not only come in and listen, but get up on that stage and sing.
You might not know this, but today the Phil works with some of Merseyside's children who might not expect to have the best of life chances, helping them make their journey into music just like my Granddad. Imagine what performing at the Philharmonic might do for their confidence, for their self-esteem? Wouldn't it make you feel like you could do anything?
If councillors want to show their support for the Phil and culture in our region, then I'm backing them. And in Parliament I'll be taking on the Government over its lack of support for the most vulnerable in our society. We can, and we should be supporting both.