I’m as guilty as you – a creature of habit. Haunting the same old spaces. Navigating the same route from home to work to third space. But what happens when you want to have a meeting, in town, in private? Or if you just need to disappear in plain sight, while you wrestle with that tricky presentation?

You can’t, not if you know half the people in Bold Street Coffee, you’ve Snapchatted the waiters in Leaf, and the tables are too close for gossip in Cow&Co.

What happens when you realise your weekdays are too Truman Show for comfort?

Third Spaces are great when you want to escape the office for a rebooting of the senses, or just to soak up a bit of big city energy and funnel it into your Arts Council application form. No wonder hot desking, and co-working spaces such as Jelly, Basecamp and DoES are so popular right now.

But, while it’s good for the soul to say ‘hi’ to twenty people while you wait for your flat white in Unit 51, to be really creative, sometimes it’s good to go outside your comfort zone. To wake up and taste the coffee in BHS. To dare to be different in Debenhams. Underestimate the shock of the new at your peril – for herein lies the way to work out that most hard-to-reach muscle, your brain. Confuse it, and the potential for real wonder arises. Serial coffee shop hoppers, from Malcolm Gladwell to Ernest Hemingway, swear by the restorative powers a change of mise-en-scène can muster.

It sounds counter-intuative, but working from a new space is actually less distracting. Less ‘did-you-see-the-football’ white noise from office mates and Baltic Creative fellow travellers. More opportunity to get all of the buzz, with non of the pesky chitchat.

It’s human interaction with that prophylactic reassurance of being sealed off from small talk.

It’s how we roll, anyway. So, why not try to build a new coffee shop/hang out into your working week – and see if your productivity doesn’t thank you for it.

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 22.15.54Hotel Bars

Plenty to chose from. But, for us, the more anonymous and anodyne the better. So we’d opt for entirely functional and audaciously inoffensive Novotel, on Hanover Street. Looking like a cross between the transit lounge from 2001 A Space Odyssey, and a Belgian morning TV studio, ladies and gentlemen, this place will have your head floating in no-space nirvana.

Quaker Meeting House

Free wi-fi, a chilled out cafe and a side order of no-pressure spiritual warmth within LiverpoolONE? No, we’re not talking Cath Kidston’s new range of Pope-Picnicwear, we’re talking our favourite non-dogmatic and welcoming retreat, hunkered between Radio Merseyside and Herberts. Jesus talk-free (as is the tea), this is Liverpool ONE through the looking glass.

cumfy busThe Bus

No, really. Tomorrow, we’re catching the Cumfy Bus, as it lazily loops around town, like an ox-bow lake meandering around a secret kingdom…oh whatever. Point is, in the space of a good meeting, it will transport us back, magically, to where we came from. Many busses have wi-fi, and the view from the window sort of changes, like a really authentic Biennial film installation. And if you can’t get inspiration from overheard in Liverpool conversations, words fail us. See Arriva’s site for wifi details.

The Ferry

What’s that you say? The Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey cruise is for EasyJet tourists and befuddled commuters only? You lame landlubber, this is a 50 minute tailor-made escape from the city, with the round-trip convenience of bringing you back to where you started from. And maybe it’s our fanciful airs and graces, but we think the sea air invigorates the mind in a way that a frappuccino at Costa never can.

BBH Cafe Bar

Blackburne House is a real gem of a place. What is it? Hard to put into a few words really – but it’s been inspiring women and transforming lives for nearly 40 years. Its Cafe bar, well, that’s a lot easier to explain: it’s a relaxed little bolt hole, serving great lunches, coffees and perky salads all day long.

24056The Cornmarket

We love this pub, tucked into a spur off Fenwick Street. And, in summer we love it more – because it’s got a cracking little beer garden. Wifi’s free, and there are plenty of snug corners and huge oak tables to crack open your MacBook and get on with it. Beer not compulsory.


Punch ‘espresso’ into your PC for the free wifi at Bluecoat – their hub cafe is suitably close to hand, should you wish to conduct a personal review with Wayne from logistics, and don’t fancy causing a scene in Starbuck’s again. Head upstairs to their shockingly under-utilised restaurant for more space, and better food.

Come, drink, snack, loiter. Pay not for what you stuff into your face, but for the time you spend here. That’s the clever little twist at this relaxed internet cafe down on the cobbles at Albert Dock. “Each Ziferblat guest becomes a micro-tenant of the space, responsible for it and able to influence our culture.” They say. Or you could just browse YouTube and have a Cappuccino. That works too.

Liverpool Watersports Centre

The cafe here, raised above the steely waters of the docks, has free wifi, and great views. It’s closer to town than you think, and the occasional illicit thrill of seeing some poor novice trying to roll their kayak always peps up a sluggish powerpoint demo.

p24207-Liverpool-The_Adelphi_LoungeThe Adelphi

Squint and you’ll see it: this hotel really was something special. Its glory days might have sailed long ago, but you know what? We’d still rather have coffee here than in the horror that is 30 James Street: the patina might be thin, but there’s still something of the golden age of travel here. And there’s nothing like a hushed hotel, mid-afternoon, for a secret tryst. Free wifi too.

The writer’s room, Everyman

If you’re a writer, that is. The all-new Everyman has a brilliant space for hunkering down in – lined with scripts from the theatre’s history. That’s either great inspiration or daunting peer pressure, depending on how your juices are flowing, we guess. Clue: we’ve yet to summon up the courage to visit.

Central Library

Whether in the ground floor cafe, or the rooftop space, Liverpool’s Central Library really does have a hushed shock and awe about it, still. Wifi (and computer use) is free. Research material is kinda on tap (but you’ll have to book ahead to access the archives. Really, though, this is just a brilliant space to seek inspiration, whatever problems you’re trying to unpick.

Titanic Hotel, Stanley Dock

A newie – and a really nice addition to the northern fringe of the city – as understated as Signature Living is over-the-top. Full height glass walls, a chunky industrial aesthetic. Confident, cool and worth a trip – 15 minutes’ walk from the Pier Head. We’re going for afternoon tea later, will report back. (Main pic)

Brasco Lounge

Half-hidden behind the jagged black alps of Mann Island, Brasco is still something of a secret to many in the city. Shame, really, as good waterfront places are hard to find. This is great – and just five minutes’ walk away from Liverpool ONE. Just don’t go anywhere near the cafe in the Museum of Liverpool, you hear us? There be dragons.

victoria museumVictoria Museum and Gallery

The so-called ‘Knowledge Quarter’ has its fair share of venues, from the refectory of the Metropolitan Cathedral to the bars and coffee shops tucked into the university’s precincts. But we love the polished tile and rich woods of the Victoria Museum’s rather grand caff (main pic). It’s usually quiet in the morning too. Students way too busy sleeping off a heavy one…

10 Responses to “Displacement Theory: 14 third spaces in the city”

  1. Ian Jackson

    Yes, all good places (apart from the bus idea – cumfy it is not) but damn you, Dave, you’ve given away our secret quiet place! – Upstairs at the Bluecoat. It’s difficult because, of course, we want all these places to thrive but as soon as they reach a certain level of popularity I don’t want to go there any more. So many places that people rave about are always too squashed, too noisy, I feel I have to rush to free up my table etc. The coffee might be lovely but with that six-piece band they’ve managed to squash into a corner I can’t actually think or talk.
    Totally agree that change is good, especially for creatives, search out new places or try old places you’ve walked past thousands of times but never entered (excluding MacDonalds) , it’s good for the brain.

  2. Mike Prescott

    Some good spots here! I usually end up in one of the big chain coffee shops when I’m trying to work as I don’t mind taking up space in exchange for very little coffee quite so much. If I’ve got a big project to get done then Central Library is definitely the one.

  3. david_lloyd

    sorry Ian, yes, I recall your liking of Bluecoat. fortunately, our readership has dropped to about 12 people now. so you’re safe

  4. Paul Cook

    I think The Hub is actually the ground floor of the big, black monstrosity down at the Pier Head. Also known as the Merseytravel Head Office.

  5. There’s something wonderfully romantic about cafes in department stores. Nothing beats a cheeky americano in Debenhams as people race by to interrogate the perpetually blue-crossed Jeff Banks collection.

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