Posted by: keepfishing | June 5, 2008

What is Culture?


A couple of years ago, at the end of 2006, I was visiting some American friends who lived in Liverpool and spent a rather long and arduous debate on a bus about the validity of Liverpool being classified as the European Capital of Culture 2008. You see, each year, some group of people somewhere (I presume in the EU), choose a country that shall have the ‘honour’ of hosting a city of culture in a specific year and then cities within that country get to bid for the honour and some arbitrary panel eventually chooses the winner.


In the UK’s case, the bidding process for 2008 occured through 2003 and 2004, and after various laughable bids (such as Bradford and Norwich ) fell by the wayside in early rounds, it soon emerged that Newcastle and Liverpool were the only serious contenders. Public polls showed that Newcastle was the clear favourite, demonstrating a wide variety of ‘culture’, with a redeveloped Quayside that housed some spectacular architecture, novel bridges, a flour mill converted into an art gallery and a brand spanking new music centre that was all shiny and looked like something from Star Trek. Liverpool, on the other hand, had, well, the Beatles. Oh, and the Liver Building.

So the big day of the panel’s decision came, everyone waited with slightly baited breath, and finally, they announced Liverpool as the winner. Everyone was astonished, and the only explanation I could find was that Liverpool needed the promised investment that came as part of the prize more than Newcastle. Indeed, that was the only explanation I could find, until my lengthy discussion with my American friends, who’d grown rather attached to the land of Scouse.

And so, this diatribe has served to bring me to my point, the question of ‘culture’. Our bus discussion moved from a championing of our respective favourite cities to an argument about the very nature of ‘culture’, with no firm conclusions. So, in the nature of some recent posts, where I’ve asked some questions and got wonderfully wide and varied responses, I want to ask:

‘What is culture’??



  1. The sum of intentional human action.

  2. you are the king of vague yet deep questions.

  3. ahem, let me read from my honours dissertation…

    “a set of guidelines which individuals inherit as members of a particular society…which tells them how to view the world, how to experience it emotionally, and how to behave in it in relation to other people, to supernatural forces…and to the natural environment”

    Check out Kamsin’s response to Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s meme as she talks from a perspective living in Japan at the mo.

  4. This post reminded me of an advert that’s showing on the BBC at the moment for The Culture Show. Some views can be found here…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: