Huge congratulations to the Stirling Prize-winning Everyman team – Howarth Tompkins, Gemma, Deborah and the construction team. Tonight’s win shows just what’s possible when you love a building back to life. When you decide that, to make something bold and new, the bravest thing is to take the best parts of the past with you. To stand your ground and demand that the city gets a building it deserves: that acknowledges where we’ve come from, and embraces where we’re heading.
Yes, RIBA were bound to love the building’s environmental bells and whistles (we do too) but this is no textbook 21st century poster child. The new Everyman is not just clever (its audacious split-level ascension cramming every last inch of use out of its tight footprint), it’s warm, democratic, easy to navigate and, yes, lived in. Already.
From the writers’ room snug to the joyfully messy dressing rooms, the rehearsal spaces and antechambers, the theatre offers a warm embrace to punters, players and playwrights alike.
It always was a “theatre for the people”, it’s just that now, the people won’t get a numb bum halfway through Much Ado. The people can enjoy a drink on a balcony Juliet would die for. The people can see magic in their midst. Flying, freewheeling, fascinating magic.
Yes, the play’s the thing: and with the Everyman’s crucible already firing on all cylinders, it’s blindingly obvious: above all else, this is a building that just works. In a way that the Cunard Building as Cruise Terminal obviously never would.
More than anything, the Everyman defiantly proves this: if we care for things, if we devote our attention to beauty, pride and the sheer will to make things better, the world will notice. It will see Liverpool as a city that gives a fuck. A city that still burns with that passion that got us this far.
It’s telling that Jeff Young’s Bright Phoenix is currently thrusting the Everyman’s audience forward in its padded seats – wrestling with the knotty problems of urban regeneration. Daring to suggest that our city’s guardians have lost their balls along the way. That the true stewards of the city are us.
Joe Anderson and the council will, we have no doubt, be delighted at the Everyman’s triumph (although they can take none of the credit) – but they should be very wary of the Everyman ever staging A Tale Of Two Cities. Because, when it does, it would only need to glance in the direction of Great Homer Street to see a city the council’s washed its hands of. A city of lost opportunities. Fudge and compromise, of timidity and duplicity.
Because Great Homer Street’s new Market won’t ever see a Stirling shortlist. Won’t ever get a glittering second act. Doesn’t get the world’s press clamouring for quotes, rushing to our city to see how it’s done. A city that cares enough to worry and fret about every little detail – because the little details are what makes us great. Left to Malcolm Kennedy, the new Everyman would have been a 24 Hour Tesco with a karaoke podium.
And, in an equal and opposite way to the Everyman, this matters too. Because we are both these cities at once. And wouldn’t you think someone in Dale Street would notice the disconnect? Would stop and say, hey, maybe there are people outside Planning and Regeneration would could, actually, do things better, if we let them?
It’s glib and offensive for Joe to say, of the scheme, that it’s a ‘great success’ when he knows – we all know – he wouldn’t allow such a cheap, nasty huddle of mean-looking shacks to be erected in the centre of the city. So why allow it in North Liverpool? What does that say of us?
Stirling knows: you don’t need £27 to make a building beautiful, resonant and fit for purpose. That’s why it has a special category for buildings under £1million. So why do we fail to see the potential in every corner of the city? Why does our selective blindness trip us up time and again? Why is Great Homer Street Market’s £2million new home akin to a Syrian refugee camp? Is that what we deserve too?
“The Everyman was built with humanity at its heart,” artistic director Gemma Bodinetz said tonight.
We need that humanity, evident in every brick and every body associated with the Everyman now, more than ever, to take a tour of the city. To infest those responsible for the drech of Great Homer Street and every grubby little development cowering in its wake, and to shout, loudly in their ears:
We are better than this. Look at us: when we try, no one can stop us.
second pic (c) Ronnie Hughes