Last week it was announced that the Creative Ropewalks project, an initiative to inject the Ropewalks with a healthy dose of creativity and energy, has won at the prestigious Georgian Group Architectural Awards.
Ropewalks has completely transformed itself recently from its previously derelict days (though some say it still has a way to go in terms of nightlife) and its strong branding has meant that many are firmly sticking with the independent quarter in the face of the Liverpool ONE behemoth down the road.
The project won the ‘Restoring a Georgian Building in an Urban Setting’ award, which took into account various restoration projects in and around Bold Street and Seel Street.
“This praise from the Georgian Group is well deserved” said Liverpool City council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy. “Much has been achieved in the past decade, but there is still so much potential to be unleashed. We will continue to work together to promote Ropewalks as a distinctive, well-managed, clean and environmentally friendly area.”
We sat down for a chat with Chris Gibson, who runs Ropewalks’ hub Ropewalksliverpool.com, about the area’s growing success and reach.
How did Ropewalksliverpool.com start?
The site came about because it was felt that all of the RopeWalks area needed to band all its strengths and qualities together and shout with one voice: this is who we are, and we’re fantastic. Every business, every cultural event, every person in RopeWalks, gets the chance to express why they are special and communicate it to the outside world for free. We also have a place on our site you can look for jobs in the area. We really want people to benefit from our existence, and we do everything we can to help those we interact with.
How’s it all going?
We’ve been operating for 10 months now and the number of people visiting the site keeps on getting higher and higher. We’re also a community hub on Facebook and Twitter, where all of the group’s members chat amongst each other about the great things that are happening in the area. The statistics show RopeWalks is attracting a lot of people from outside of Liverpool. It means we’re tapping new sources of revenue and creativity. These people are our lifeblood – they keep injecting new energy into the place and will the locals here to carry on and try even harder. There’s a reason RopeWalks has been alive for so long.
What have been the highlights of watching Ropewalks’ regeneration?
We have the UK’s leading digital arts centre at FACT. We’ve seen Leaf come to life on Bold Street to provide us with a hangout space. There’s Mello Mello open on Slater Street which is still growing in new and beautiful ways, a new arts and social movement has come out of the fantastically creative Kazimier club in Wolstenholme Square, Grand Central’s mix of fantastic independent traders who are the heart and soul of the area, Bold Street’s mix of continued boutique retail and rich heritage, 3345 and Studio 2 Parr Street, Base2Stay opening their hotel on Seel Street… really the list is endless.
So what’s your job?
I report on the area, provide photographs and run the social media groups. I provide most of the stories on the site, but I also point visitors to stories other parties have written too. It’s great to work in amongst such positivity. There are great communication networks within the community, such as the Bold Street traders association, RopeWalks Creative, Friends of Renshaw Street, The RopeWalks stakeholders group… communication is the key to success in any relationship, and all of us talk a great deal to make the community a better, safer and more exciting place to be. I’m pretty proud to be involved with it all.
What is it about the Ropewalks that is so special, and so important to protect?
I believe what we provide in the area is honest, positive and full of soul. It’s a very human, very touching place. There is heart and character that not everywhere possesses. You can’t recreate it, but you can damage it if bad decisions are made. It’s up to all of us in the community to make sure we stand up for common sense and protect the ecosystem we’ve nurtured for hundreds of years. RopeWalks should never be homogenised and stripped of its identity by people just trying to make a fast buck. Some convenience is needed its true, but we need to know that everything else will come in its own time.
How do you think the area can develop and keep its character?
Some people are fearful of new developments which come this way. The modern look of new architecture due to appear in the next few years will present a stark contrast to the mismatched splendour of historic RopeWalks. They also fear that the council and landlords will put the rent up once places like Central Village open. For my part, I think that investment being ploughed into former gems such as Lewis’s will provide more opportunity for the area to make new visitors fall in love with it. The hotels are always welcome for me. Why wouldn’t people want to stay with us? We’re great! We’ll also benefit from expanded capacity at Central Station too, and it will mark for the first time since the Liverpool Underground was opened, a welcoming entrance to a welcoming neighbourhood. What we all need to do is to guide the area and watch its character come through more and more.