Ten: then and now

It’s been some decade. When you look back to early 2009, it seems like another country out there. Definitely another time and another place. So, to mark our tenth birthday, Fiona looks at ten things that have happened in the decade since we started Wordscape.

1. Barack Hussein Obama II served as the 44th president of the United States, from 2009 to 2017. He was the US’s first black president, inaugurated on Tuesday 20 January 2009, merely two days before we got started. Serving two terms, he was responsible for the Affordable Healthcare Act in 2010, which made healthcare a fundamental right and stopped insurance companies discriminating on the grounds of age or health. He passed a raft of stimulus measures to shore up the US economy, after a sub-prime mortgage collapse (watch The Big Short if you haven’t seen it) caused the deepest recession since the Great Depression. He also began reforming the wolves of Wall Street and ended the war in Iraq, bringing the last US servicemen and women home in 2011. And then we all know what happened after. I was lucky enough to see Obama speak in Oslo last year. You can read that interview here…

2. Liverpool won a cup. The 2012 League Cup, to be precise. We’ve also reached the final of the Champion’s League; the final of the Europa League; the FA Cup final and the League Cup. Again. And we’ve finished runner up in the Premier League twice in that time. But we haven’t won anything else. We’ve had a thrilling, passionate, exhilarating ride with Jurgen Klopp, since he joined the club in October 2015. But we’re yet to win anything. Me, Andrew, Lucy and Jack all live in hope…

3. We launched Ethos magazine. Back in summer 2014, we created the City Tribune, to celebrate Liverpool’s less-seen business side for the arrival of the International Festival of Business. That caught the eye of Patrick Hurley over at SEN, who wanted us to work together on something for the social enterprise sector. We had other ideas. We weren’t really up for the idea of preaching to the converted – and Ethos was the result. Good stories about good businesses, innovation and sustainable stuff, all over the world. Accessible stories that show business as part of our everyday lives.

We launched online in summer 2015 and in print in February 2017, after a successful crowdfunding campaign. We’ve talked to Lego and Parley for the Oceans and the Eden Project and Ben and Jerry’s. And many many more amazing people. We’re putting together issue 09 together as we speak. How time flies.

4. Yep, Wordscape launched in the middle of a recession. Following several years of it, triggered by that sub-prime mortgage collapse in the US, the 2010 election in the UK resulted in a hung parliament. With no party commanding a majority, the Lib Dems propped up a Conservative government, and Nick Clegg and David Cameron swooned together in the Rose Garden at 10 Downing Street. The Tory’s flagship ‘austerity’ policy set about destroying the last vestiges of community Thatcher had missed… Funding for local government has seen a drastic 56% reduction between 2010/11 and 2019/20 – hitting the most vulnerable hardest. Libraries, community facilities, playgroups and children’s centres; mental health services… 

To top it all, Cameron decided to announce a public referendum about EU membership, to ‘settle the issue once and for all’, instead of standing up to his hard right Tory backbenchers. A nation feeling the pinch in terms of jobs, wages and cheap labour, concerned about the demise of the NHS, saw the chance for change and a narrow majority of voters plump for Brexit. We’re a nation divided, pitted north against south, town against city and old against young by people for whom it makes life easier to generalise. (Yeah, journalists. I know…) We’re currently due to leave in two months and one week. But we still don’t know what that actually means.    

5. As a few of the last points suggest, it’s also been a strongly-political decade, with movements like #MeToo and #Everydaysexism coming to the fore. Being a teenager in the ‘90s was optimistic; the course of history seemed to be moving in the right direction. The UK was a hotspot of vibrant creativity and doing OK economically and gender equality was pretty much a given. It seemed. We didn’t realise we were being paid less, and there were still weird and unsettling times in the workplace; harassment – and sexual assault – were still happening. We just didn’t, largely, talk about them. I didn’t identify as a feminist: it was a movement from another time and another class. It definitely wasn’t something we ever talked about at home, or at school. And, in all probability, that’s because we didn’t think we needed to. We’ve woken up a bit since. So good to see it back in public consciousness, and always fairly depressing to still be saying the same thing, over and over again.    

6. I started Wordscape on my own. I was still running Capsica at the time but, for a variety of reasons, needed something to move on to. I worked with the trusty team of freelancers I’d worked with in Liverpool for years – Ken, Deb, Guy, Judy. But it was hard work. Having worked together on the Tribune, I started working with Andrew on more stuff – we were full of ideas and producing some lovely work. I’d always won new work through word of mouth, and we continued to do so, with two of us chipping in colleagues, collaborators and new clients. A new team of super-talented, funny and excellent drinking partners came together: Lucy – who also became our Ethos editor – Jen, Allan, Jack, Lucy M and Louis, before Em turned up in 2017.

From a personal point of view, I met, and married, my husband Tom. Andrew has become a DAD! Lucy’s moving into her first house with her fella, aww, and Jack’s moved back from Canada. Lucy M didn’t even live in this chippy corner of the north west ten years ago. And Em – whilst moonlighting with us – got a first class degree. But, as increasingly happens as you get older, I’ve also seen friends lose parents and loved ones. You make some great memories, and some great things become simply memories.

7. Having talked about how divided this country feels right now, it’s hard to remember the glorious summer of 2012 and the London Olympics, when we felt at one as a nation. The sun shone and the medals glowed; Frank Cotterell Boyce penned and Danny Boyle directed a Love Letter to Britain, reminding us how amazing this country is with an opening ceremony that included a homage to the NHS, industrial revolution and James Bond. Andy Murray won two golds playing at Wimbledon in the tennis, propelling this l’il island to third in the medals table. Who knew we had it in us?!

So it’s devastating to see the division we’ve slumped to. If the Olympics shows you anything, it’s the power of some extraordinary people working really fucking hard to achieve their dreams. But, let’s face it, it’s also testament to the investment that takes: people need nurturing; they need money investing in them and they need people around them to believe in them and they pay it back a thousand times over. Shame we couldn’t quite do it for the rest of the country when they needed it.   

8. The way we work has been absolutely transformed in this last decade. Honestly, it’s almost unrecognisable. The iPhone was barely 18 months old when we launched – a pocket-sized mega computer, capable of so many billion more things than my first computer ever was. So tech skills are much heralded – but also, they’re not. I use almost all of the production skills I’ve honed over the years far less now, as there are whizzy apps and programmes to do all the hard work for you. Which has made those whizzy programmers top of the skills tree. But that’s brought a distinctly human element to our work: our ability to communicate and negotiate; empathise and question are the things that separate us from the rise of the machine. At work, in social media spaces, and especially in terms of fake news – which entered the popular lexicon in mid-2016 (the internet tells me…) 

9. And we’ve lost some legends. Celebrity deaths over the last decade have included some real shocks… David Bowie, George Michael, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Prince, Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, Jade Goody, Amy Winehouse and Gary Speed left us before their time. Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking and Steve Jobs left us having dramatically shaped the worlds around them.

10. The ebb and flow of the last nine points may sound like progress over the last ten years hasn’t been, exactly, progressive. But it has brought some truly great advances, too. The AIDS pandemic – responsible for killing over 30 million people since its discovery in the early ‘80s – was the prevailing bogeyman of my childhood (alongside the Cold War, IRA bombings and Bob from Twin Peaks). Yet the last decade has seen it become a treatable condition – though only one case has been cured, that is an astonishing advance and, with good treatment, patients can now expect normal lives and lifespans. Access to good treatment remains at the crux of the issue – in 2011, only 5m of the 12m affected had access to ‘good’ treatment.

And, if you’re wondering what made me think about that in my ramble through the 20 teens, it’s because I’ve spent the last few months rereading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series. And they are wonderful.

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