It’s been many years since I’ve been in Liverpool – the city where I went to university, the city I always thought I would never leave. But there came a time when things there were so bleak, that it felt necessary to escape the downward spiral that at times seemed so threatening. A lot of people living in Liverpool in the 80s and 90s felt the need to get out, I think – for both economic reasons, as there were so few jobs or opportunities, and also because living in the midst of decline of that kind takes its toll on your very being.
It was so exciting, therefore, to be in Liverpool this week and speak to young people who are not only passionate about Liverpool, as so many people who live there are, but also optimistic about its future. Unit 51 is one of a few cafes is at the heart of this area of warehouses and work units that comprises the Baltic Triangle. The streets that roughly form the Triangle – Greenland Street, Jamaica Street and Parliament Street – are familiar to me, but the area within isn’t, as it’s in a part of town close to the docks that we would have had little reason to visit.
The Baltic Creative has played a big role in how this part of the city has developed from a virtual no-go area to one that is home to a number of independent, creative businesses, a place that people who have discovered it, are fiercely passionate about and protective of. The rash of new developments at the edge of the Triangle are an indication of the threats that areas like this face as they develop and become more successful. There’s a sense of resignation to the fact that one day a Tesco or Co-op is bound to want in, but also a fierce determination to protect the area as much as they can and stick to the charter that they drew up in the beginning.
That building something in the rubble of what once was, has its own kind of energy, is something I’m beginning to understand. It also requires a particular state of mind to focus on what could be, not on the lack, on the devastation. It was good to be in Liverpool and hear language of hope, to feel the energy of committed people who have a vision for what they want this part of the city to become.