“It’s not the Biennial’s job to represent the city, that’s our job.”

SevenStreets is sitting upstairs in the Bluecoat with Nathan Jones, ex School Lane poet in residence, and Mercy man at large. He’s project managing The Cooperative, a ‘collective of collectives’ aiming to redress the balance, reclaim the city, and show those who come that there is more to our bi-yearly art event than a ‘festival of work from outside the city.’

“The Biennial is, rightly, an international event, so it’s up to the rest of us to capitalise on the buzz in the city to show just how creative this city is,” Nathan says.

The best way to do that? Engage the art and creative collectives who’ve been active in the city for years. Round ‘em up, give them a home for the duration of the festival (the old Rapid paints shop on Renshaw Street) and let them do their thing.

“It’s gonna be a central hub for people interested in Liverpool’s amazingly diverse scene,” Nathan expains. “We’re mostly looking at process based events, so artists will be working in the space to create something that will evolve throughout the week, and hopefully that’ll encourage dialogue between artist and viewer.”

There’ll also be a permanent archive and set of portfolios displaying the work of all 50 selected artists. Think of it like an ‘open studios’ event, without the hassle of having to trek across town to visit all the studios individually.

“It’s an entry point into our art scene,” Nathan says. “We’ll be representing a large network of collectives, so there’ll be a wide variety of styles and different types of artwork, from film-makers to musicians, sculptors to drawing.”

Nicky McCubbingTake, for example, the opening week’s offering of a giant bed made of boxes of fondant fancies – talk about a spongy mattress – by Nicki McCubbing, plus a show of her existing, controversial sculptures, including a nurse with a breast for a face and an owl dressed as a Brownie Guide meeting a mini Queen Mother. If they’ve any sense, Smiffy’s Serious Fun must be mocking up a costume pattern right now.

The excellent Emily Speed will arrive in week two, with her curious and fragile architecturally-based work lending itself perfectly to the creation of a ‘very special’ magazine which will be construced throughout the week – although the likelihood of it building, week by week, into a balsa wood replica of a Lancaster bomber is sadly unconfirmed at time of going to press.

So, a collective of seven of the foremost artist groups in the city – the literature and design group, Mercy, public artists Jump Ship Rat, the music collective Sound Network, and galleries Red Wire, Lost Soul and Stranger Service Station, Arena Gallery and The Royal Standard – an exciting new playground for creatives to call home for the festival, and the opportunity for the rest of us to enjoy the well-documented benefits of consuming some fresh, home grown produce every week.

It Gets Darker Downstairs

Below decks, Mercy reign over the proceedings, staging a series of performance-based evenings in a specially constructed new auditorium: featuring emerging talent covering poetry, laptop-based beats, innovative films, discussions, late-night magazine making and comedy.

Every Saturday, at the stroke of midnight, the Midnight Special promises a stay behind every bit as unpredictable as you’d expect from an after-hours at the edge of town.

Emily Speed“Mercy are all about the spoken word, so every evening will have, at its heart, a literary context,” Nathan says, showing SevenStreets a list featuring the likes of Michael Mayhew, Forest Swords, a.P.A.t.T, Hive and Hot Club De Paris.

Taking full advantage of Liverpool City Council’s excellent ‘Shops Upfront’ initiative – unlocking many of the city’s boarded up retail units – Mercy intend to stage a theatrical season the likes of which you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

We’ll be giving you weekly updates – so start clearing your Saturday nights, or at least, be prepared to head up town before you lose the use of your legs.

If this is the shape of the city’s creative scene, SevenStreets only has one question. Why can’t we have a biennial every year?


cooperativeThe Cooperative
The Old Paint Shop, Rapid Building
28-32 Renshaw Street

Open Weds-Sun 1pm-5pm, 18th September until 29th November: SevenStreets readers are invited to each week’s private view, every Friday evening, 7pm.

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