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It’s refreshing, every now and again, to remind ourselves of all the brilliant, crazy, wonderful things that get cooked up around here. Sometimes the ratio of bad-news-to-good-news can feel a bit skewed, and we do cover a lot of the frustrating stuff, but only because we love Liverpool so. Bloody Much. And we want it to be the best city it can possibly be. So here’s a palette cleanser for us all – some of our favourite stuff from 2014, all things that make us incredibly proud we live in a region that pushes forward on its own bloody-minded terms. Here’s to an even better 2015.

All We Are

Liverpool spaffs out its fair share of brilliant pop bands, but All We Are are our current favourites. Lush, catchy wooze-pop done by a trio of LIPA alumni, they’re releasing their debut album in 2015 and we’re rather excited about them taking over the world (or at least the 6Music daytime playlist for a bit). Honourable mentions for Immix Ensemble, mixing it up with some audacious new commissions, and the generally wonderful Låpsley. Stealing Sheep and Outfit are also set to make comebacks in ’15. Hooray.

The Delicious Resurgence of Ropewalks

Maray LiverpoolRopewalks had a bit of a dodgy few years after the recession. With all the footfall going towards Liverpool One, Bold Street in particular struggled to reassert itself. This year, though, there’s been a rash of new food spots opening from Bold and Duke Street up towards the Georgian Quarter: Maray, Mowgli (read owner Nisha’s piece on its conception here), Slim’s Pork Chop Express and countless more all doing good things for an area of the city that’s, slowly but surely, finding its feet again.

Liverpool Music Week / Liverpool Psych Fest

Stepping up its game after a stint in festival rehab, Music Week showed that Liverpool can do ‘large-scale winter music festival’ exceptionally well, and with the best selection of buzzy local artists we’ve seen on a festival lineup. It’s been impressive watching the growth of Psych Fest, too – the fact a leftfield festival of this calibre is on our doorstep (helmed by the team at Harvest Sun) is wonderful – and for it to sell out, even more so. To now have the ever-expanding Sound City in spring and Psych Fest/Music Week in winter is an offer other northern cities can only drool at.

Constellations

Constellations-Bar-H-Miller-Bros-21-537x383Nobody’s managed to ruin the Baltic Triangle just yet (though we’ll be holding a prayer circle soon to ensure no more of those minging student flats start creeping in), and it was great to see Constellations – a sort of warehouse-bar-studio-arts space – open up to a big fanfare. The team behind it are passionate and super creative, so we’re looking forward to seeing more of it in 2015.

Leanne Best

Easily the best actor to come out of Liverpool in decades, 2014 saw Leanne grab a regular role in ITV’s primetime Ripper Street. An astonishing stage performer (as anyone who saw her in 2012’s The Match Box can testify), it’s encouraging to see her get some long-overdue mainstream screen time. Trust us, it’s only a matter of time before she’ll have BAFTAs all over the gaff.

Liverpool International Music Festival

LIMF made a bigger noise in 2014 through a mixture of free mainstream events, one-off commissions (including our You Are Here at the Palm House) and strong cross-genre programming. In a post-Mathew Street Festival era, we always knew it was going to be a hard balance to strike, but gradually, LIMF is making its presence known. Coupled with Africa Oyé and Pride, Liverpool’s crowd-pleasing summers are now in much better shape than they were five years ago. And, yeah, we did love The Giants. Honestly.

The John Moores Prize

We sometimes, in our constant pursuit of the next and the new, forget the city’s old guard: and this year, the John Moores Exhibition was a good example of how our heritage is still in safe hands – at least in some quarters. That the John Moores Prize was won, this year, by the spry Octogenarian Rose Wylie was, for us, the icing on the cake. Or maybe the gouache on the canvas. A great win, and a great, reinvigorated exhibition.

24 Kitchen Street

Still finding its feet, 24 Kitchen Street is one of our favourite spaces in the city – hosting an array of weirdo clubnights, experimental electronic shows, and anything a bit off-base, as well as video shoots, workshops and all sorts of stuff. With the ever-brilliant Drop The Dumbells and The Kazimier opening new spaces that nudge towards North Liverpool, this was a welcome top-up to the Baltic Triangle’s DIY spirit.

The Reader Organisation

Doggedly determined to give every one of us the gift of reading, via their brilliant ‘Reading Revolution’ Liverpool’s Reader Organisation stepped up a gear this year, bringing books to life via a series of shared reading events, interventions and literary happenings throughout the city. We love them. And now they’ve secured Calderstones Mansion into their suitably inspiring hub, the best is yet to come.

Save Wolstenholme Square/The Kazimier/Nation

We’re always moaning about the slow creep – developers blindly bulldozing bits of our city to make way for homogenous ‘mixed use’ apartment/retail/student flats. You know the score, you read our website. Probably. So it was encouraging to see not just Merseyside’s creative community, but other cities, support an 8,000-strong petition to stop Wolstenholme Square from becoming a shiny glass-walled bellend zone. It’s a problem on a national scale, but when it was so close to home it brought out a primal, passionate and powerful reaction from Liverpool’s music and arts fans. But the battle’s only just begun.

The Friends of the Flyover

57323ab8-ce73-4926-808f-87a10579aa52_xlarge_The Flyover RotundaPassionate, smart urban thinking – like only these good people know. Will it happen? Who knows. Should it happen? Of course it should. Their open day made us appreciate, anew, the gorgeous proportions of William Brown Street and St John’s Gardens. And the potential for this as an elevated, breezy promenade in the sky. Here’s hoping.

Rex

Been into the basement of Rapid yet? We love Rex’s huddle of crafty, printy, glittery and snuggly stuff is well worth descending those gorgeous stairs for. Great to see a little bit of independence still alive on Church Street (well, just off it). Let’s hope it finds a permanent home in 2015.

The Art School

It’s a labour of love for Paul Askew, ex of London Carriage Works, and the space is nothing short of sensational. Tasting menus show a team still finding their stride, but when all those boxes are ticked the results are stunning. Further proof of Liverpool’s new found foodie swagger, and further proof that the top of town is the place to watch.

The Everyman

Everyman theatre Liverpool new buildingWhat can we say about this brilliantly conceived new space? That it’s every bit as good as we hoped it would be: and some? That the Stirling Prize-winning theatre is democratic, smart, warm and welcoming (yeah, OK, the bistro’s getting there). It’s, of course, firing on all cylinders again – and next season is something of a corker. Special mention, too, to the dazzling new Philharmonic – the refurb, so far, looks gorgeous. Loving the new signage.

Liverpool’s Cruise Industry

citywideLiverpool is, once again, a city connected to the sea. This year, we welcomed 52 massive cruise ships, bringing 80,000 wobbly-legged vacationers in their wake. Five years ago, the city saw only 13 ships. And why are they coming? Because we’re smashing the satisfaction surveys. People WANT to come here. Get the terminal sorted, and the golden age of travel could well return to our shores. Kudos to Joe Anderson and Angie Redhead for our city’s victory over Southampton – crying foul play, and demanding we paid back our grant. They’re scared, because they know which is the better tourist-friendly port.

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The Lobster Pot

When we stayed overnight at the Lobster Pot chippy we knew it would be fun (for Jane McNeil’s photoessay in Bitten) but what we sort of had forgotten was how bloody great their food is. Going backstage, we also got to see the attention to detail, and the spic and spanness of the operation. Seriously, this is a Liverpool institution that’s been hiding in plain sight all these years. Too good to sample only when you’re drunk.

City Bike

With their 100th city centre docking bay (is that the right term? Sounds a bit Interstellar) coming online this week, it’s good to see the city thinking about other traffic stuff than bus lanes. In truth there is much more to be done – such as, ahem, adding some bike lines. But that they’re here is a good thing. That we’re seeing more and more people on them is an even better thing. We’re a small city – cycling around our streets should be fun. It’s not – quite – yet. But we’re hoping this is a catalyst for a more enlightened movement strategy ahead.

Aloft Hotel

Aloft could so easily have been a disaster – but it’s not. It’s sympathetic re-imagining of the Royal Insurance building on Dale Street is a winner. Buffed to a deep conker shine, the walnut wood panelling of the old board rooms are strokingly lovely, and the dazzling white plasterwork on the ceilings is even easier to enjoy, thanks to a clever mezzanine room-within-a-room of the wxyz bar. Great to see venerable old buildings given the respect they deserve. If only the same were true elsewhere in town.

St Vincent at O2 Academy

She came, she conquered. Much anticipation preceded Anne Clarke’s Liverpool gig. ‘The best guitarist you’ll see live this year’ gushed NPR’s All Songs Considered. And her O2 Academy show was a revelation. Surreal talky interludes notwithstanding, this was as incendiary and thrilling a statement of intent that you’re likely to see in this or any other dimension. Made us remember the places great live music can really take us to.

The Independent Map Company

Charting a course for the passionate, the curious or the plain beautiful amongst us, the IDMCo is a collective of friends sharing what they find on their travels. From sleek hotels to dive bars, gift emporia to ceramics studios – their taste is always on the money. Think of them as your wisely curated, awfully-well-dressed guide book. And share their wide-eyed wonder with the world.

  • Ramsey Campbell

    Oh dear. Has someone threatened to sue? Or has my senile memory tricked me into believing I saw another article on here and comments about it?

  • Roger

    It’s disappeared by the looks of it. Which generally means someone’s threatened legal action. Sigh

  • Jenny Mugridge

    No mention of the newly opened Pen Factory?!