Monday, 8 September 2008

The Stuff of Nightmares?

After a life-time working in the hard-bitten world of football journalism, it's perhaps understandable if my attitude to 'art' was coloured just a tad by the apres-match banter in the saloon bar of the Dog & Duck in Stockport. We weren't much for chewing over the merits of theatre, paintings, the cinema or sculpture in those days.

Nevertheless, there's always been a bit of Bill Blunt that's had a sneaky regard for culture. That's why I joined the throngs in Liverpool, last night, to watch the finale of La Machine's visit to the city.

Some have argued that around £1 million for a piece of street theatre was a waste of public money. I can't agree. There are worse abuses of public finance than this. The giant mechanical spider that made Liverpool its home for three days has drawn huge crowds, and sparked lively discussions amongst friends, neighbours and workmates for the whole of the period. Last night's musical and pyrotechnic ballet, as the creature moved through the streets to the mouth of the Birkenhead tunnel, was wondrous to behold.

My colleague on The Times, Donald Hulera, spent 24 hours in Liverpool covering the story, but skipped off before the grand finale, missing the best of the weather and the best of the show. Like so many cosmopolitan visitors to the north, he missed the point. Was it worth it? Donald couldn't decide.

The crowd that assembled to witness the spider's swansong was of all ages, and included youngsters who, after an evening watching La Princess parade through the streets, are likely to be much less traumatised next time they see a spider in the bath - after all, once you've seen the mother of all spiders, anything else pales into insignificance.

A good dousing of water is clearly the antidote to spiders - however big. There'll be quite a few less pigeons around Lime Street station for the next few weeks too, I'll bet. And that's got to be worth £1m of anyone's money.