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Taylor Swift Takes Liverpool

MEGAN EASTWOOD reports on the week-long celebration that was ‘Tay Day’ at the University of Liverpool


Taylor Swift.


Just that name alone is worth a million words; it can trigger hundreds of different talking points, different opinions and perspectives. And its worth is nearly 1.2 billion dollars.


Day 1: Tay Day, hosted by Amy Skjerseth and Sam Murray at the Yoko Ono Lennon Centre at The University of Liverpool was a day full of different opinions, talking points and perspectives. With 14 varying presentations, and 5 detailed and interactive exhibitions, it was a day Taylor-made for Swifties, all dressed in their best Swiftie attire for the occasion, both in and out of the academic world.





Whilst it was a day of appreciation and love, with bracelets being swapped and stories shared about fan-ship, the conference was also a safe space for some very valid critique, such as talks on Swift’s activism, or lack thereof, the parasocial relationships fans have with her, and the expectation of pop stars, and when they should or shouldn’t speak up on world issues. A very interesting take on Swift’s billionaire status ‘But she’s also a billionaire’ (by Eric Smialek, pictured above) dove deeper into how rash judgements can be made about her just because of her net worth, but often the same criticism is not afforded to billionaire men, such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. On a positive note, Imogen Aley’s paper (University of Cambridge) notes the importance of Student Union Swift Societies in terms of their community spirit and wellbeing. So, if you are a Swiftie, do think about joining the University of Chester’s Taylor Swift Society.



Some personal highlights were the idea of a Taylor Swift jukebox musical, brought to life by two undergraduate students from the University of Nottingham, Jess and Hermione, particularly evoking emotion during their rendition of ‘epiphany’ which featured the concept of an ‘invisible string’ in the form of a ballet dancer. Also, the panel which centred around Swift’s advocacy and relationship with different communities outside of her own, such as POC’s, LGBTQIA and those who ultimately are not also billionaires, and are just, for the most part, teenage girls. Finally, ‘Cowboy like me’ presented by James Barker which focused on Swift’s music and public persona post-country music. And of course, we were presenting too! Not a paper presentation, but an interactive exhibition, which showcases the work of Esther Humphries dissertation (she is still in disbelief to see her dissertation in this format touring the country) in collaboration with Helen West, which analyizes Swift’s accent shifts between her country and pop-style music. As a Swiftie and a linguist I am now excited to be joining the Swift Accent Shift Project for my own dissertation next year, as I will be diving deeper into the Taylor’s Versions to explore whether or not she uses Southern US accent features in her recreations, and what value they add if she does.


If you didn’t manage to make Tay Day, you can still catch Esther and Helen’s exhibition  at the Chester Festival of Ideas on the 4th of July, 12-4pm in Chester Town Hall. The exhibition is interactive, and we would love to hear your thoughts on Swifts accent, whether you are a mega fan, or just dabble in her music every now and then!


 



Day 2 of my Swiftie journey around Liverpool included the ‘Taylor Trail’ which was a collection of art exhibitions scattered around the city in honour of each of Swift’s 11 albums. A genius idea in my opinion, as along the trail, I found myself in corners of the city I had never seen before and popping into locally owned businesses to see how they had also prepared their shop windows for Taylor Swift. It is no wonder that this event has brought the city more than £10m over the course of 5 days, as they made sure every wall of the city had been well and truly ‘Swiftified.’ My favourite piece was ‘Betty’s Garden Piano’ (Folklore), in which a grand piano is adorned in green moss and could be played by anyone.


The big day: The Eras Tour.

Even on the walk to Anfield Stadium itself, the community that Swift’s music has created was abundantly present and was truly unbeatable. Every person within a 20-mile radius of the stadium had arms decorated in friendship bracelets, and ‘13’ written on their hands in sharpie pens (which I can confirm still hasn’t come off my hand.) The very moment the first lyrics to her grand opening “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” echoed around the stadium, it became electrified, and the energy didn’t waiver even once, throughout the 3-and-a-half-hour show. To make it even more perfect, a glimpse of summer finally came through for the evening. Of course, it wouldn’t be England without a tiny bit of rain, but it did nothing if not add to the drama of the song “Midnight Rain.” Even with all the criticisms one can share about Taylor Swift, we absolutely cannot deny her ability to put on a show; 11 outfit changes, over 30 songs, and she still manages to be every bit as energetic during the closing number, as she is in the opening.



Now it’s the come down from the ‘Swiftiest’ week ever seen in the UK. I, like many others, am still sat in the same £65 jumper I have lived in now since the night of the concert, friendship bracelets still around my wrist, and watching through every video I took for the 5th time. There is, of course, still a small bit of hope that her next tour is only round the corner. Not only was it amazing to see my favourite artist in concert, but truly inspiring to also see a whole city celebrate that artist, with people travelling from up and down the country. Undeniably, it was a monumental week for the city of Liverpool.




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