It’s easy to be negative. To shoot from the hip, and to write scathing reviews of this, bitter rants about that (and, if you want the truth, it’s quite fun sometimes). We seem to have had a run of gloom – of closures, cut backs, accusations and confrontations. Yes, it’s been a winter of discontent. We’d say of disquiet, but let’s not mention noise, just this once.
But here’s the deal – it’s self evident, but bears repeating – we started this site because we saw there was so much great stuff, interesting people, inspiring stories falling between the cracks that we wanted to share them. We wanted to plug into that cosmic string that powers up the city’s soup of genuinely thrilling adventures and opportunities.
So, lest anyone think we’re in a spiral of fatalism and self destruction, it’s time for a touch of balance. This is not a survey of all that is good in Liverpool. And apologies to those we’ve not name checked. We’re just scratching the surface. Just pinching ourselves to say, hey, we’re doing alright. And let’s carry it forward.
Passion: it’s not something we’re short of up here. And, when the chips are down, we come out fighting: see the raw, exasperated reaction to Static’s sad closure of its music programme as one of the more recent examples. We’re a city that loves its voice to be heard. We even had a bash at our own Occupy movement and, although it didn’t quite have the impact its bigger city counterparts did, showed solidarity with counterparts in London and New York. That we’re engaged and passionate about the shape our city takes is evident in heartfelt debates surrounding UNESCO and Liverpool Waters. We don’t always agree on the ways and means (shared stadium, anyone?) but we’re in to this city too deep to sit on the fence. Even the scale of open, honest discussion about that Louis Suarez incident surprised us – much of it conducted on Twitter and Facebook by articulate, level-headed fans of sport and with minimal mud slinging. The rare spate of violence around the Stanley Street gay quarter last year was met with widespread shock and condemnation (above). This spring, faced with further cuts and chaos across the city, and with whispers of a full-scale campaign to save the our nightlife from the clutches of the council (more on that soon), we’re all needing to be as opinionated and loud as ever before. Bloody well bring it on.
It’s always been there, bubbling under. The city’s innate love – and need – to do things DIY style. Feel something’s missing? Get on and build it yourself. It’s the motto we used when starting this very website, and it’s evident in blossoming, buzzing places like the Kazimier, Wolstenholme Creative Space, Bold Street Coffee and the numerous small-scale bars and galleries that pop up weekly. It’s in spunky, cool grassroots magazines like Bido Lito, Waxxx, Spiel, Lowdown and Halcyon – showing everyone that hey, print isn’t dead. At least not up here. It’s there in the city’s music and arts organisations: Africa Oye, Above The Beaten Track, Sentric, Liverpool Art Prize, Mercy, FACT, Liverpool Music Week, Homotopia, Threshold, Sound City and our tireless gig and clubnight promoters bringing essential breaking acts to town. Liverpool’s huge Pride fest is done on a shoestring. And it’s in the pop up shops, the vibrant craft and food fairs, the independent troupes, artists’ studios and performance spaces. And they all, undoubtedly, make this region a better and more inspiring place to be.
Though we love small-scale exhibitions, events and gigs, the city’s really come into its own over the past couple of years when it comes to bringing in big names. They’re just as crucial as the grassroots stuff to keep the city’s heart beating – though we might sneer at yet another Westlife gig at the Echo Arena, for example, it brings a mountain of tourist cash into the region. And, five years ago, we couldn’t even find anywhere big enough to host bands like that. The Arena’s done a superb job of filling a much-needed gap: inviting everyone from Buble to Blink 182 to b’ballers the Harlem Globetrotters over the past year. The BT Conference centre always scrubs up well when we see the political conferences (and the recent Entrepreneur summit) on the telly. The Empire and the Philharmonic continue to pull in touring productions and panel-show comedians doing the circuit – and Vasily’s got usually mild mannered critics foaming at the mouth with zeal. And with the new Epstein Theatre and a refurb’d (and reinvigorated) Everyman, the next couple of years are set to be even more thrilling. And let’s not forget Liverpool ONE. A massive success, and almost entirely full – practically unheard of up north (Preston and Burnley have both recently pulled similar schemes), with Harvey Nichols on the way. We’re S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G, we’re shopping. And Central Village – well, that’ll be finished. One day.
It’s funny, when people call Liverpool a creative city, most of us think music. But Liverpool’s gaming industry, its maker community and its high tech and manufacturing mettle show us to be a city that’s just as much about nuts and bolts, bits and bytes as it is about bass and treble. With 4,500 new jobs at Jaguar, Sony’s first European studio (Wipeout‘s home) SCE 3-D gaming research and development team in Wavertree’s Liverpool Innovation Park, the switched on team at Open Labs at Liverpool JMU, Milky Tea, Hive Collective, DoES Liverpool, Apposing, Mocha, Lime, Glow, Tokyo, R2 Architecture, Splinter, SB Studio, ph Creative, Uniform, Scraperwiki going from strength to strength, Social Media Cafe, Team a go-go, Ignite, The National Bio Centre in Speke, The School of Tropical Medicine and the Liverpool Telescope (which, admittedly is in the Canary Islands. But we all go to Tenerife, don’t we?). Hey, we’ve got so much science there’s even a Science Walk you can take.
We’ve got a Michelin restaurant, not one but two of the best asparagus growers, with Leaf and Bold Street Coffee cool coffee and tea bars, an award winning farmer’s market on the Wirral, award winning community food schemes, more new restaurants opened in the past five years than in any other city outside the capital, two great food and drink festivals, award winning beers and microbreweries enough to arrange a piss up or three. Award winning cheese shops, delis, organic farms, chocolatiers, cheescake makers, cupcakes GALORE, ethnic restaurants from Chile to China (via Portugal, Spain, Eritrea and Aruba). And when we’re in need of care, social enterprise and support from the likes of Blackburne House, Sahir House and PSS. Globally important medical institutions such as the Roy Castle Foundation, the Walton Neuro Centre, Clatterbridge Cancer Research, Alder Hey and, in the Liverpool Care Pathway, a universally accepted model of the most caring way to administer end of life treatment too. From cradle to grave, there really is no better place to act our your entrance and your exit (and all the bits inbetween) than here.
We love the hustle and bustle of the city. The smell of fresh car fumes of a morning. But it’s good to clear your head, take a breather and connect with nature every so often. Especially after another messy night at Santa Chupito’s. Good job then, that it’s all right on our doorstep. There’s West Wirral’s windswept beach ‘n’ sandstone beauty – where, on a good day, you’ll catch the rolling Welsh hills in all their glory. You might even see seals if you head to Hilbre Island. Further up, we’ve got Sefton Park, which comes into its own in the summer, and the stunning sand dune/woodland nature reserves at Freshfields, Formby and Ainsdale if you fancy hanging out with squirrels or rare birds. Even the Albert Dock, with its amazing views over the water, can bring peace to even the most hardened townie. Basically: we’re spoilt for choice. We have more miles of cycle paths than any other county in the North, huge and glorious parks, world-important sites of Special Scientific Interest, national treasures such as Ness Botanical Gardens, Speke Hall, Croxteth Country Park, the Golf Coast. And a beach full of nudey men.
Of course, we don’t have to say any of this – not when others are saying it for us – and travelling a very long way to do it. Pound for pound, we’re constantly punching above our tourist weight: the most popular city break outside the capitals in the UK, the friendliest city, cruise line passenger’s favourite UK port, the best city for nightlife, the Conde Nast readers’ choice, the most-visited set of museums and galleries outside London. Need we go on? Oh, OK, the best dance festival in the UK, Europe’s biggest free music festival (yeah, OK, it’s Mathew Street. But they love it). The number of tourists visiting Merseyside increased by almost 5% in 2010, with about 54.5 million trips to the area, and an 8% increase in overnight visitors compared with 2009. In other words, the Capital of Culture year kinda worked – and the afterburn is still glowing nicely. In the past ten years we’ve added a further 3,000 hotel beds to the city. And in July and September last year, 250,000 rooms were sold. That’s the population of Iceland. So someone likes us, obviously. And with Adagio (above Lewis’s), Premier Inn on Hanover Street, Layla (one day), and sites on Dale Street, Martin’s Bank, Parker Street and Exchange Street East in the works, we’re never going to need the Adelphi to put mattresses in the corridors again.
– by the SevenStreets team