Some newish (and new to me) things

It’s taken me a while to write this, but I have been making some new inroads. For me, February began with Scoustroclub, the long-awaited dining club for getting this city’s emergent ‘foodie’ scene together over some good food. Others have blogged the event, here and here, so I’m just going to add my voice to theirs to say it was a great event, and Lunya fantastic hosts. They put together a thoughtful and interesting menu – terrific ingredients put together cleverly – made even better by an excellent set of wine pairings (although I suffered for it). I think it’s worth commenting that the meat and fish dishes were considerably more impressive and better thought through than the veggie ones, although I am very grateful to Peter for being considerate of this pesky pescetarian – I forget that these dietary peculiarities are less common up here, and was a bit shamed to be the only one in the room – particularly for bringing me delicious, juicy, lime-marinated crispy fried cod with pisto, in place of the Presa Iberica. The smoked anchovies were another highlight. I’m going to have to go to their deli. Soon.

I also enjoyed meeting some Twitter food types a bit more properly, and had loads of fun with (among others) @misscay, @rhub_custard, and @laurasbakery

Speaking of whom, another recent arrival in the city centre is Laura’s cafe in the home quarter. Tucked in a corner behind ludicrously expensive sofas, there is a counter piled with absurdly pretty creations with a creative, and constantly changing, selection of designs and flavours. And because she really values her customers, she makes sure we get good coffee as well as good cake, supplied by bold st coffee (who also trained up her staff). This is not to be underestimated.

Since then, I’ve been all swept up with Threshold Festival. Not strictly new, but in its second year, and with a feel of optimism and hope that’s all the more impressive given the venue closures, including that of its own, last year. But by some miracle of force and good will and determination, it went ahead, scrabbling its way into a handful of other venues and filling in the logistical holes left by CUC’s closure as best possible. It felt huge, ambitious and diverse. Maybe it was too ambitious. I can’t review the festival, as I was working as a volunteer throughout, providing info, answering questions, and selling some merchandise, to festival guests. Others have, though, here and here and here (and, doubtless, elsewhere). I did have an amazing experience, though, met loads of interesting and lovely people and learned a lot, and saw some great performers, artworks and spaces.

I loved helping to install Robyn Woolston’s ‘Smart Price’ piece, yarnbombing the area with @kazzer865 , and also have a list of bands to check out and look into. Camp and Furnace was the main venue, and though rather chilly, it’s a great space and has loads of potential. I hope all those positives outweigh the hitches, and this is something that comes back and keeps working.

Lastly, I’ve written all this on my return from the reboot of Liverpool’s Social Media Café. Again it’s a rerun rather than a strict new beginning, but it seems apt to include it here. Newness and the future are all the rage here, particularly in Adrian McEwan’s launch of his project It’s Liverpool 2020, which is an attempt at a grassroots vision of change. Democratising technology is pretty much what he is already actively trying to achieve through DoES Liverpool, but by inviting participants to articulate their visions, it creates a space for interesting ideas to emerge. I feel like I’m still learning Liverpool as it is now too much to start planning its future, but am interested to see what emerges.

On a more practical level, open street map is a project to create just that – a free, quality, open, editable (therefore hopefully always up to date) map of, well, everywhere, through GPS tracking, image tracing and such. And, more theoretically, Francis Irving talked about some of the ways of creating and using online communities as ‘nests’, and the challenges of making these popular, sustainable, and even profitable. This, and the ideas of Excapite he was drawing upon, spoke to my interest in online identities and inclusivity/exclusivity. It also ties into questions raised earlier this week at Threshold Festival’s industry discussion panels and at the State of the Arts conference in Manchester about creativitity and the commercial, which feel especially pressing at the moment…

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