Cast a fleeting glance down Cairns Street in Toxteth and you would be forgiven for assuming that it is just another forgotten Liverpool street slowly crumbling into oblivion. But look a little closer and it soon becomes apparent that Cairns Street is the hard-working heart of a neighbourhood that still has a uniquely scouse life-blood coursing through its veins.
Popular local opinion is that following the Toxteth Riots in 1981 the city council wrote off Cairns Street and the Granby Triangle both as punishment for the riots and with one eye firmly fixed on future ‘re-development’ of a prime real estate area.
In turn the street was allowed to fall into disrepair, houses left empty were boarded up and the weeds started to push up the pavement. However this did not dent the resident’s pride and passion in their street and over the years they have transformed an otherwise run-down street into a little Liverpudlian Garden of Eden. The front-gardens of empty houses are propagated with vegetables and wildflowers, picnic benches abound for locals and passers-by to sit and rest awhile and for six months of every year a monthly market has been held where people can come to shop and swap, listen to great local music, enjoy great food and meet the local community.
This Saturday, 29 September, is the last market of the summer and could well be the last market on the street for an even longer time with rumours of ‘re-development’ circulating. As always the local residents are putting on quite the event and this time have teamed up with local artists who for the last week have been preparing a truly unique art exhibition for the street which opens tomorrow.
For the last 7 days 11 local artists have set themselves the task of creating artwork that responds to the street and engages with its story and the experience of the local community. SevenStreets caught up with Theo Vass, a student at Liverpool John Moores University and one of the artists involved in the project to find out more.
Theo told us that for him and the other artists this project presented a unique opportunity where due to the council’s lack of interest in the area they have been able to enjoy artistic freedom that is not usually possible when working in the public space. As Theo beautifully put it, “following the riots in 1981 something beautiful emerged in the shape of a strong, friendly and open community and we are seeking to show that through our art… the Liverpool Biennial this year is centred around the theme of hospitality and this Saturday’s event, both the market and the art, focuses on the same concept with true Scouse hospitality whether the council like it or not!”
Cairns Street market is open from 10am to 4pm this Saturday, 29th September. There will be live music, great food and plenty of bargains all day and the art will be as permanent as the council allow it to be, the artists are leaving it there for the street and local community to enjoy.