Page last updated at 22:07 GMT, Friday, 11 January 2008

Liverpool gets the party started

By Natalie Hancock
BBC News, Liverpool

St George's Hall
Crowds saw St George's Hall lit up for the concert
No-one was sure of the line-up and the running order was shrouded in secrecy.

But people from across Merseyside and the world turned out in their thousands for the opening show to kick-start Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture.

The cold weather did not put people off and coats, hats and scarves were worn - along with flashing neon bunny ears.

Hours before the opening, thousands were already crowding into the city centre's St George's Plateau to ensure a good spot in front of the huge stage.

It began with the master of ceremonies announcing that "Liverpool was, is and always will be nothing less than the centre of the creative universe".

As 2008 lit the sky in a firework on top of St George's Hall acrobats dressed as workers, symbolising the city's recent regeneration, ushered in a container of precious cargo which boasted a selection of the city's artistic community.

The electricity in the atmosphere was catching and people were turning round and casting a nervous grin at their neighbour or to ask if they had any idea about what was in the show.

One thing Scousers know how to do, is how to throw a party
Vicki Nicholson, from Wavertree

But they all agreed that whatever they were about to see they would not miss it.

Carol Gilmartin, 63, works in Boots in Huyton. She said: "I wouldn't miss it for the world.

"Customers were coming in the shop today and talking about it. I told the other girls at work that I'd definitely be down - it's excellent."

Vicki Nicholson, from Wavertree Liverpool, said: "One thing Scousers know how to do, is how to throw a party."

She was joined by boyfriend John Gerrard and 11-year-old daughter Amy.

"We came down early to get a good spot, we really wanted to see Ringo but this whole thing is brilliant and it's got to be good for the city.

"We were in Cork for their culture party in 2005 and this tops it, but we would say that." What they were treated to was a musical extravaganza.

Ringo stars

A lone guitarist played from the summit of the Wellington Column

Ringo Starr opened the show with a drum solo which was met with a roar of appreciation by the crowd.

Later on he also whipped up the frenzied crowd with his new single Liverpool 8.

In between, community choirs serenaded and soothed the crowd before Liverpool chart sensation The Wombats stirred the masses again with an energetic version of their single Let's Dance to Joy Division.

Tracey Hotty, 25, from Rhyl, north Wales, was in Liverpool on a shopping trip and had not planned on coming but was glad she did.

Sinead and Haroon
Roof-top gigs and stuff and people on wires the lights everything - it's quality
Haroon, from Speke, Liverpool

"The atmosphere's infecting everyone. It's so exciting. Everyone was crowing around talking and laughing so we thought we'd stay on.

"I really love the city, it's sound."

For some people it was about more than just the show.

Steven Moonie, 36, from Mossley Hill, Liverpool, brought his nine-year-old daughter Sophie along.

"I want to show her what Liverpool is all about, what the city means. She should know her heritage."

Sinead, 17, from Huyton and boyfriend Haroon, 23, were there to watch her cousin sing in one of the choirs.

Haroon said he was initially sceptical but had changed his mind.

"Roof-top gigs and stuff and people on wires the lights everything - it's quality. The city has never seen anything like this before."

There were aerial artists, pyrotechnics, video displays and performers new and a little older.

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