There would, no doubt, have been much popping of Champagne corks in chambers yesterday, as Liverpool Waters got the go ahead. The planning committee approved the £5.5 billion development after Peel, dismayed at the prospect of a public inquiry, threatened to take their toys home and scrap the plan completely.
Our council, dazzled by the big numbers, and seduced by the promise of regeneration, signed a deal that may or may not bring life to the northern docks. At some point. Eventually.
Our question is this: if they can be so accommodating to developers, why are they so intransigent to existing venues? Regeneration is regeneration. Static was an empty space – it’s been redeveloped. They mightn’t have a show home on Lord Street, or give out free chocolates to kids, but places like Static are our front line. If we don’t protect them, Peel might as well be given the keys to redevelop the whole city.
The city beneath our feet: that’s the real city, the city we live and work and drink and spend in, is struggling. We’re fighting for survival. Liverpool is Britain’s most deprived local authority, Knowsley and Liverpool both made the top five in a recent Experian poll of poverty across the nation, and public sector and arts cuts continue to cripple our quality of life, and turn the screws ever tighter on our beleaguered jobs market.
All this talk of jam tomorrow can never, and will never feed us today.
And yet, against this backdrop, perversely, Liverpool has never felt more alive. Hands up who thinks there’s more of a charge of electricity around our streets these days than even in our Capital of Culture year?
And who’s conducting that electricity?
We are. You are.
And one key cornerstone of that charge is the box of wonders that is Static.
And so we learned of yesterday’s news that the gallery is to cease its live music programme with a heavy (and silent) heart.
There would have been, no doubt, much slapping of backs when the council’s Cumulative Impacts scheme was, largely, passed: the scheme more or less puts the blocks on any new licenses being granted in certain nighttime economy zones (Councillor Munby, chief architect of the scheme, pushed for a citywide ban, but that was defeated).
Static, already in possession of a licence, wouldn’t have been affected by this latest development, but the Noise Abatement order it received – following complaints by local residents – did indeed reverberate throughout the venue. And its these shock waves that have led to this week’s announcement.
The only consensus reached at Static’s noise debate last month was that grown-up dialogue always beats blunt-edged abatement orders. Architect Doug Clelland was unequivocal: the Noise Abatement Notice should be revoked, he said, to instant applause.
It was a concord that came too late for Static. When it received its Notice from Liverpool City Council, requiring them to not allow any further ‘Loud Amplified Music’ in its city centre premises (let’s just stop and take that in for a second: ‘no more loud amplified music in its city centre premises’. If you’re looking for proof that this council’s priorities are screwed, that’s the only sentence you need ), the writing was on the wall. Effectively, they’d been tried and found guilty. And the sentence? The death of another music venue in the city.
As Static Director Paul Sullivan said at the time: “If a place like Static can’t hold music and experimental sound events within the remit of its license, then… there’s a danger that the city will become like any other and forever lose its edge.”
The genie is out of the bottle. We’ve lost so many music/arts venues over the past 12 months any talk of overreaction is, simply, denial. We have reached a crisis point: and – in SevenStreets’ view – now is the time to stand up and shout.
We’re good at talking the talk in Liverpool. The council spends thousands on glossy campaigns promoting our unique character, our musical bloodline, our indomitable spirit. No doubt our would-be mayors will sound bite these qualities too. We set up embassies in London to lure investors to our vibrant city. But what do we do when these enterprises – such as Static, occupying one of those post-industrial warehouses scattered liberally across the city – bring life back to our silent streets?
What we do is take an interventionist approach. And that’s not our opinion. It’s our council’s official line:
Speaking in ‘After Dark’ – the licenced premises’ trade magazine – Mike Cockburn, the Council’s City Centre Manager, talked of the city’s ‘Design Out Crime’ initiative, aimed at making the city centre a ‘safer place for everyone’.
“As part of this assertive strategy, the city has also come to realise that if it wants to continue its resurgence, it needs to adopt a more ‘interventionist’ approach,” he says.
In other words, slap a notice on a venue that offers employment, a platform for local talent, and a genuinely inclusive programme of events for city users and tourists, start-up businesses and creatives. In short: a hot house for the city’s future.
Ever since the Blue Angel shut its balcony, there’s been a nervousness in our night time economy.
And it’s not just Static. Ever since the Blue Angel shut its balcony, there’s been a nervousness in our night time economy. A fear of having too much fun, lest the council sides (as it inevitably does) with residents over those who want to actively consume our city.
There is a fear that we, as a cultural barometer, could be far too precious about stuff like this. What does the loss of a music venue really matter? Isn’t this all, in the Big Scheme Of Things just a load of hipsters moaning into their Staropramen?
Well, Liverpool City Council, and Liverpool City Sleepers, let’s remember where we came from.
We came from the underground cellars of the city. We came from the noisy, messy, chaotic and uncompromising sweat boxes of the side streets. It’s this petri dish of sound and culture that we’ve been exporting lucratively for the past fifty years. The Beatles, Erics, Cream, the Kazimier. And it’s why people flock here still. Like it or not, you’d better wake up and smell the Nurofen – making noise is what we’re bloody world class at. It’s our chief export. Silent office blocks ain’t. And we’re sick of apologising for it.
Nothing good will ever come out of the Hilton’s Playground. No salve to save our straitened economic times will ever be born from the (Trinity Mirror lauded) Desperate Scousewives brigade. No young kids will ever get a foot on the ladder working part time in the speculatively chucked up carcasses of our soulless city centre apartment blocks. It’s the bars, the venues, the performance spaces and the clubs that stoke the city’s engines. Tinker with it any more, Munby and Co, and the city’s death will be on your hands.
Peel might come and erect a glass and steel city to the north of Tithebarn Street. Fine. Let them. We approve.
But we are not artists’ impressions. We are not virtual reality walk-throughs. We are not projections on paper.
We are Liverpool. And our place is right here.
We make a noise because we’re alive.