No apologies, this is a big blog post about a big subject. The continuing revival, reuse, regeneration and renewal of a large area of North Liverpool, down by the docks.
Having been involved in what’s going on down here for the last year or so I got myself invited to a corporate launch thing last Thursday morning. At which and after which people naturally started asking me what I thought of it all?
I said “I don’t know. It’s complicated. I’ll need to have a think about it and get back to you.”
So I’ve been for a think, a walk, the same thing, and here it all is. Me and Sarah meandering round the North Docks, TenStreets if you will, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.Our walk begins around the original Seven Streets from when the town was founded back in 1207. Past the Echo offices and the Passport office we reach the end of the Business District, as it calls itself, and the edge of the city centre. Then as we drop down towards the Dock Road and the river we actually enter a different kind of business district. One that’s always been more about making things and moving stuff around than wearing suits and talking politics in offices. Both essential, but utterly interdependent. Close enough to the centre of things to read the twenty to two clock on the Liver Buildings.
“I’d never realised how beautiful some of these buildings are” says Sarah.
But what surprised me and maybe shouldn’t have when I first re-acquainted myself with round here just over 3 years ago was how busy these streets are. Much emptiness and some ramshakleness sure, but also much surviving and even thriving industry. Here in these Ten, and more, Streets. Down Regent Street here is a mixture of long time and brand new industrial residents. Including Make Liverpool and Invisible Wind Factory, both much talked up at the corporate launch I’ll be telling you about. And both continuing the tradition round here of making things, as well as introducing new concepts to the area like ‘after-parties.’ We also arrive at the docks. Sarah here reading the permission Cream obtained for the temporary and big club structure they built here before Christmas, then took away again. All the land and docks on the other side of the wall are owned by Peel now. Clearly a key partner in whatever might happen round here.
And the dock wall itself was the cause of much discussion when we ran a Beautiful Ideas conference over at Make Liverpool last April. Much talk of extending rate relief and opening up access to the docklands to the local communities of street level entrepreneurs.
As well as considering the symbolism and politics of the wall I always scan it for left-over evidence of our much missed Overhead Railway. Demolished in 1957 but still here in the occasional stanchion and bits of rail. Precious. We arrive at the Bascule Bridge, the Stanley Dock and the Titanic hotel. Core parts of the corporate revival of round here. And we sit on the dockside in the warm February sunlight, eating our lunch happily in maritime and urban history, thinking about the future. Inside the hotel here was where the corporate TenStreets launch thing I went to took place last Thursday. Particularly involving Liverpool City Council, and Harcourt Developments who own the Titanic. Speakers included Mayor Joe Anderson and Liam Kelly From Make Liverpool. And the people there were a mixture of developers, politicians and doers.
The concept? ‘TenStreets’ is a branding of a loosely defined development area, mostly the Liverpool end of the North Docks, though there was also some talk of involving the Sefton end Atlantic Gateway in some way. Much talk of this being the beginning of an open conversation on what could work here, and of co-operation and community. All welcome and clearly well meant. By which you’ll probably know I’m about to be mildly critical!
Well it’s about the words. All over the big displays, the power point and the leaflets we were given. Like someone had cut up a Regeneration Thesaurus, thrown all the words up in the air, let them land in ten rough groupings (The Ten Ideas of TenStreets) and then printed them up as a concept. All perfectly fine but more or less meaningless, and definitely not inspirational, for me at least. Which this place definitely is.
The canal took 50 years to construct, around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. A reminder that large scale social and civil engineering can be a stop-start process, requiring many visions and revisions along the way.
Notice also the two youngsters behind me at the canal doorway here. We’ll be meeting them later on.Anyway, let’s just enjoy the magnificence of this place and its locks. An inspirational centrepiece for ‘TenStreets?’Later on we’ll come back to here and walk along there back into town.But for now we’ll set off briefly in the Leeds direction, having an idea as we go.The idea is this:
That over the next few months Sarah and I will walk to Leeds. It’s surprising the idea has never occurred to us before, but now it has. We’ll do it in stages, at weekends and in between Sarah’s sea kayaking adventures. But aim to have it done by summer this year. Blogging about it as we go of course.
Anyway, back to this walk. We get that the ‘TenStreets’ sort of ends around about the Titanic. But we know there’s somewhere a bit further along the Dock Road that’s very much part of the future thinking round here and was specifically referenced last Thursday by Joe Anderson. So we’re off along the canal, through the Vauxhall Co-Op Estate and down Boundary Street, to Bramley Moore Dock.
And more local enterprises. To Bramley Moore Dock.Last Thursday, in something between a wish and a hint, Joe Anderson talked about the Commonwealth Games and maybe his “own favourite football team” coming to the TenStreets area. Well this is where that would be. A vast space which is currently more dock than land. But is to let, from Peel. Transforming that would be a vast undertaking and could unbalance the whole TenStreets concept. But as has been said, the conversation’s only just beginning and Everton coming here is only between a hint and a wish anyway, isn’t it?
In fact a light Overhead Railway might be a good way of getting all those visitors to the match without flooding the area with unnecessary car parks? I get that an extra Northern Line station is planned. But a new Overhead, as I’ve long said, would be a huge and useful attraction.
Who enthusiastically explain to us both what they’ve been manufacturing out of found materials around the jetty here. Sarah tells them she’s a kayaker and both girls sadly report there used to be kayaks here – “That’s what this jetty is for” – and they’d like to see them back.
These two, and all the people who live round here are, of course, part of what will make ‘TenStreets’ work or not. How could it be otherwise?
Getting late in the afternoon now, time for us to walk back into town. We’re going to see ‘LaLa Land.’
Along the spur of the canal that used to go through the Tate & Lyle Refinery. All the way to Leeds Street.
And we did get to ‘LaLa Land’ on time, thanks for asking. A good story well told as we hope ‘TenStreets’ will one day be. So long as it’s really a creative conversation that leaves plenty of room for the people already living and working here to stay here, take part in shaping the place and then stay on to live and thrive here. And not merely be a clear out by the big developers once the creatives, the locals and their needs and ideas come to be seen as in the way of corporate progress. In the way of a future already set and lurking inside the corporate speak of last week? Perish the thought.
This North Docks, this ‘TenStreets’ is pure Liverpool and whatever is done it needs to retain that essence. That’s what people will be encouraged by, join in with, visit, buy from and treasure as its new future is created.
So yes, I didn’t like the corporate power point but that’s what happens at corporate events, for some reason. What matters most from now on is the quality of the listening and the conversations we all have as the mutual and sincere desire to do good things around the North Docks gets turned into a reality. Let’s, as was said on Thursday, get on with it.
More news and opinions on TenStreets from Angie Sammons of Liverpool Confidential who was also at the Launch.
Consultation details on the TenStreets Liverpool website, where you’ll notice that the consultation period is very short, given we’re told we’re just getting going here?