Humanscapes: St John’s Market

After John and Yoko’s brilliant ‘Double Fantasy’ in the week it’s another holiday for me and I’m having a day out in town looking for Kiara Mohamed and her IndyBiennial18 exhibition ‘Humanscapes.’ Finding Kiara is going to take a little time, so on the way let’s have a look around the Lime Street/St John’s Market end of town. I’m on holiday after all, so I’ve got loads of time.

First then, a look at that thing that’s getting built here. I get that it’s still under construction and from its name, The Lantern, I assume it’s going to light up when it’s finished? But really is this the best we can do? Is this somehow good enough for Liverpool?

Whatever the argument about the now gone Futurist, I accept that any city is a continuous debate which involves new buildings as well as old ones, and that all buildings are new at first. But this?

Maybe when it’s all finished and it lights up on a darkling winter’s afternoon I’ll understand, be glad and repent of my sceptical questioning on this August day?

Maybe.

Anyway, let’s walk on for a look round another new building, new in my lifetime anyway. Here’s the predecessor of today’s St John’s Market.

That went the way of old buildings in the “City of Change and Challenge” 1960s and was replaced by the current precinct of a building. Which has in turn had its ups and downs and recently had its market renovated by the City Council. This is my first visit since that.

The shops section of the building is good and busy on this early Saturday afternoon and that Ping Pong Parlour looks like a good idea. And yes, this is not home to the upmarket ‘How much is that!?’ boutiques of Liverpool One. It’s been a long time since there was a Habitat, for one, in here.

But all cities are, as I’ve said, a debate. And in here are the answers to the questions of Liverpool people about “Where can I shop for me and my family, on a budget, and still have a good time?”

See. It’s a popular place and there are a lot of people in here.

Not so many though once we approach the newly reopened market.

For some reason a decision’s been taken to separate the Food Hall from the rest of the market. To the benefit of neither as far as I can see.

Now I’m a big fan of cities and their markets and when I enter a bustling marketplace, like say Kirkgate in Leeds, I expect to find my senses full of the sights, smells and sounds of difference all jostling together. Of fresh meat, vegetables and fish mingling with the textiles, tools, clothes, wool and happy human conversations of a living place getting on with its trading day.

Not here. As you’ve seen, there are plenty of people not far away, but this place isn’t tempting them in. Not for the want of trying by the friendly people working in here. But the place isn’t working and the separation of the fresh food from everything else is just weird.

‘I can’t stay in here’ one market trader tells me. ‘Nothing I can do makes up for the fact that not enough people are coming through those doors that say ‘Market this way.’

Anyway, the non-food section of the market currently contains some spaces occupied by the IndyBiennial18 and so we finally find Kiara Mohamed and her ‘Humanscapes’ exhibition.

Kiara uses a drone camera to take these overviews of the places where we live our lives. And for a while we talk the whats wheres and the technicalities of doing what she does.

Then we talk wide and deeply for the best part of an hour about why she does this. The meaning and experiences behind her art. Some of her own story. Which she’s talked about recently at an IndyBiennial event in here, and is welcome to retell on this blog any time she chooses? But here’s some of it, thoughts behind this exhibition in Kiara’s own words as told to Art in Liverpool:

“When I am looking down at the Liverpool landscape through the drone I look at the Liverpool landscape. But I want you to look again – to look at the humanscape. Our love, our hate, our pain and our joy; they shape where we live, whether we know it or not.

We are a kaleidoscope of human experiences, messy, colliding in and out of each other’s lives, intertwined but yet separate. Do we know or care that forced marriage or female genital mutilation takes place in our communities? Do we speak up for those who do not have a voice? Do we remember the victims? Do we stand up for them? I want you to ask questions these questions, I want you to understand.

It is only through lighting the darkness and speaking of the unspoken can we raise awareness and do better for our communities. Let’s build bridges and tear down walls.’

Thank you Kiara, it was great to talk and to see what you do and why. Let’s build bridges and tear down walls, yes.

 

Time for another walk round, then lunch while I’m still in here from a friendly Italian couple in their café.

After lunch a quick look at one of the ‘Lost Castles’ being built all round the city region at the moment, this one in Williamson Square. Then across to newly reopened but not quite completed Lime Street station to pick up some train tickets.

Stopping on the way for a conversation with a Big Issue vendor where we both wonder whether an architect was actually involved in the design of the new student flats building he’s gazing up at? Neither of us think so.

Train tickets gathered for an adventure next week, I leave the station and wonder, not for the first time, about the contrast in views here for any new arriver to the city?

To the right, the elegance of St George’s Hall. And the left, well, St John’s Precinct and the awful screen that wraps around its multi-storey car park. As we’ve seen today, the precinct and its market have their charms and popularity. But that screen? Is it really the best we can do? Is it somehow good enough for Liverpool?

Lime Street, long ago in the 1950s.

Time to walk over by the market again and catch the 86 bus home from opposite Blackler’s ( a whole other place and story one day).

A good day’s holiday on the whole though. And particular thanks to Kiara Mohamed for the art and inspiration. Do go and see her exhibition, on until October. And while you’re there, have a look round St John’s Market and see what you think?

 

4 Replies to “Humanscapes: St John’s Market”

  1. Oh dear, what a pig’s ear they’ve made of Lime Street! And from what you say the market is a mess too, at least in the way stuff has been separated. I weep at how useless the Planners are in Liverpool. It’s all about Joe making money, though a lot of it in the city centre doesn’t seem to be working. And as for further afield, look at Calderstones and Oglet Shore. Grrr!

  2. “Any city is a continuous debate which involves new buildings as well as old ones.”

    Well put Ronnie. Cities need new buildings as well as old, especially dynamic ones like Liverpool. I found it fascinating to learn that the Albert Dock and Liver Building were considered ugly, crass and corprate by the likes of Picton and CH Riley when built. There’s been some great new buildings the last 10 – 15 years and even more restorations of things that had been in decay for decades. But also oh yes some terrible buildings. The old market was not brilliant, no Kirkgate as you say, but had some life and colour. How it could have been made so much worse is beyond me. It really is terrible. So much money wasted.

    While it was a nice old facade I was never passionate about the Futurist. Partially because I realised how totally ruined it was and partially because there’s so many more important buildings that need saving, from the Irish Centre to the Welsh cathedral, and so little money to go around. Not least the old ABC Forum across the road which is a far better building in many ways and often forgotten in the talk of Futurist. We’ll see if the developers keep their promise to restore the ABC, but their track record is not good. As for the new stuff on Lime Street. Hmmm, like you say, maybe it will look better finished. Maybe. But it seems like the worst of both worlds. A modern glass facade might have looked better. In having the pretty poor drawings of old Lime Street carved on it to try and appease some people, it’s ended up being the worst of both worlds I think, neither modern nor historic. And of course also done on the cheap. I fear until we get a Government that will allow serious public investment again, the city will be at the mercy of being picked over by developers.

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