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THE CAPITAL OF COLOUR; Cherie Blair launches international arts festival.

Byline: JOE RILEY Arts Editor

CHERIE Blair last night declared Liverpool's international arts biennial to be the Capital of Colour.

Performing the opening ceremony of the city's third worldwide visual arts festival, she told guests at Liverpool town hall: ``We want to tell everybody that we have created a truly international festival for a truly international city. ''

And she said: ``It's a case of operating at grass roots level and reaching out to the city.

``It's the communities which really make the place tick. ''

The prime minister's wife singled out particular praise for the council's creative communities scheme, which was spending pounds 2m bringing art and creativity to deprived areas.

In one case, pupils at Campion school in Everton had made a film entitled Here I Am, which would be part of the biennial.

``As a result, for the first time in its history, the school is going to have an A-level drama course, '' said Mrs Blair.

She said she was pleased to be back in Liverpool to mark her 50th birthday next Thursday.

``I grew up in Crosby during the '60s, where my first experience of the arts was Crosby Festival.

``At that time, with the Beatles, Liverpool was the centre of the universe.

``Now it is so fortunate for me to be here again and realise that the city is really buzzing once more.

``There have been times when we have lost that confidence.

``But we have it back again -- and boy, does it show. ''

Mrs Blair added that no other UK city parallelled Liverpool's eminence in the visual arts. She said she was looking forward to touring the biennial sites by special bus.

Liverpool council leader Mike Storey made his first public speech following the citywide display of Yoko Ono's controversial photographic images of female nudity.

``I made an early promise (to the biennial director Lewis Biggs) that we must trust the artists and realise that art can be challenging, '' he said. The work of more than 400 artists from four continents are featured in 50 sites across Liverpool as part of Britain's biggest visual arts showcase, running until November 28.

Among visitors to last night's opening was Sir Jeremy Isaacs, chairman of the UK judges for Liverpool's successful 2008 Capital of Culture prize.

``It's wonderful to be back, '' said Sir Jeremy. ``This time I'm here purely privately to enjoy myself and have a good look around. ''

CAPTION(S):

WELCOME: City council leader Mike Storey gives a Capital of Culture T-shirt to Cherie Blair Picture: ANDREW TEEBAY; VISIT: Sir Jeremy Isaacs
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 18, 2004
Words:424
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