Today I want to tell you about something else that’s going to be happening in the former Georg Henry Lee building in the middle of Liverpool. Along with the now open Independents Biennial that I told you about the other day, in a few weeks time the much beloved building will also become Ed’s Place.
‘What’s that then?’ I can already hear you wondering.
Well that’s what the bulk of this blog post is about if you’d like to read on.
But in short it’s going to be one great big room in the former George Henry’s, the old Gifts Department in fact, where a whole load of us – including you if you want – will be able to dream, discuss, plan and debate what a greener and more vibrant future for our city centre would look like. Design sessions, talk sessions, displays, thoughts and stories of what might be possible, over the several weeks that we’ll have the use of part of the grand old building.
Fancy it? I do and that’s why I’m going to be one of the people taking part it it all.
There’s an organisation I really admire in Liverpool, called PLACED. Stands for PLACE EDUCATION. I’ve worked with them in the recent past and been friends with their founder Jo Harrop for a good long time.
Today just off Bold Street they launched their Better Places Together programme and their special new friend, Ed the camper van.
So a few words from Ed and Jo:
“PLACED is an award-winning social enterprise that engages and involves people of all ages and backgrounds in architecture, planning and design and enables them to shape their built environment.”
And Better Places Together?
“This is a project that will invite local people to explore ideas for how to improve spaces and places across the city.
We have refurbished a camper van, named Ed, which has become a unique, mobile workspace touring the city. We’ll be running mini-workshops, hands-on activities and facilitating discussion which tackles topics around the built environment.
From the city centre to further afield, we will be inviting you to join us. So we hope you can join the debate.”
Well the Pier Head’s bigger than it used to be when we’d come here for days out like this in the 1960s (wonderful photograph of exactly how it felt by Joe Neary). Back then the Albert Dock was behind a big wall and went completely unnoticed by me until its renovation in the mid 1980s.
A Saturday afternoon here, spent as a member of Homebaked Community Land Trust looking for inspiration, as we now near the end of our first, year long phase, doing the basic design of the new building that will eventually rise next to the Homebaked Community Bakery.This is a day of two architects, both at the centre of the picture here. Marianne Heaslip, of Urbed and long-time friend of all of us here, together with Toby Wallis of Architectural Emporium who have been working with us now since March last year.
Our collective brief today, in Toby’s words, we are:
“Looking for sustainable features of neighbouring buildings,
Looking at building materiality, aesthetics and durability,
And looking at old and new building junctions.”
Marianne’s particularly here for her environmental and energy advice and experience. So we spend a while discussing things like ‘green-washing’ and the corporate drivel that can often stand in for real considerations in actual contexts of what true sustainability might mean to particular groups of people in their real place.
Or ‘Seaport: A Life in a Book’This book came out originally in 1964 when I was ten years old. And though I had my adult-side library ticket by then it must have been a reference only book, as I have no memory of bringing it home. Instead I would sit in the North Liverpool library of my childhood and pore over it for hours. Fascinated by such a gorgeous book about the place that, even then, I considered myself lucky to have been born in. Much of which I hadn’t yet seen. My Liverpool was a Ribble bus to County Road and Stanley Park, near where I’d first lived, or all the way into town, with occasional rides on the ferry, back and forth, back and forth.
My parents, having lived through the war years in Vauxhall and Bootle next to the decimated docks, had been glad to move their little family out to the new northern suburbs where everything was new and life could only get better. And Maghull back then was a fascinating place to grow up in. Between our house and the library there was still a farm where you could watch the great big sow suckling her piglets. And the surrounding streets as they got built filled up with footballers from Everton and Liverpool who we would constantly pester for autographs. But also, of course, by 1964 the Beatles were among us and together with this book only added to my fasciation with the place I was actually from, my Liverpool.
So I would sit there in Maghull branch library, gazing at places I hadn’t yet seen and dreaming of finding them. Then over the decades that came I would find the book occasionally in the Liverpool libraries I by then lived near, and notice that in a way, the book and those early dreams were shaping my life.
Eventually a copy of the 1993 reprint of the book entered my life. The father of my partner Sarah, Frank Horton, was dying of lung cancer. And having seen how often I would look through ‘Seaport’ while visiting him, tenderly passed the book over to me, saying “I think it’ll be more use to you than me now.”
Having had a questioning but in the end celebratory look at St Georges Hall a few weeks ago, today Sarah and I have come for a sceptical look at another of Liverpool’s architectural gems, the Albert Dock.
Now before we start can I just say I do appreciate it. I’m glad it’s still here. In some ways its renovation in the mid 1980s was the one of the beginnings of a revived Liverpool. Before then I’d grown up barely aware it still existed. And I completely exempt the International Slavery Museum from everything I’m about to say. But beyond that, what exactly is the Albert Dock for?
We cross on the handsome bridge that now so successfully links the Dock to Liverpool One.
A great day this last Friday, 6th November, celebrating fifteen of the places that are lighting up the ways we live now, Granby 4 Streets proudly amongst them. Ann, Hazel and me at The Academy of Urbanism Awards for 2016.
Coucillor Ann O’Byrne, of course, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool, Hazel Tilley of Cairns Street, and me and Hazel both both Board members of the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust.