The name’s hardly original, but the ambitions are. In theory. But are we talking reality or rhetoric when it comes to ‘Ten Streets’. Surely you’ve all heard the news by now about revolving stages, railways and regeneration? Everton FC look to be involved, too, and The Kazimier’s recent move appears to be inspired as opposed to enforced. But, we digress. There’s a public consultation taking place about the future of the city’s northern docks, it’s called ‘Ten Streets’ and you’re all invited. Especially if you’re an investor. By Alan O’Hare.
You’ll have read all about the revolving stage. But we’re sure the ‘Ten Streets’ vision has your mind going around in circles, too. After all, you can’t start a fire without a spark and Liverpool City Council don’t have the best reputation for providing catalysts. Let’s be honest from the off: Manchester, for example, kicks our arse in the cultural stakes. Compare, say, LIMF to Manchester International Festival… Shaggy or Björk, you know? Anyway, enough, let’s forget comparisons and add our own rhetoric to the ruckus before we focus on the facts.
What if our creative visionaries don’t intend to start a fire – what if they’re busy being born by rubbing their stick against another cultural hub and sparks are beginning to fly naturally? We can hear the cynical amongst you thinking ‘the council will sell the building next door to property developers and we’ll be forced to close down’. We forgive you. Let’s be honest, they’ve got form.
Will ‘Ten Streets’ represent a new beginning, then? Let’s ask them… and their partners, Dublin’s Harcourt Developments and London and Paris’ AWP Architects: “We’re adding something new and different to around 125 acres of Liverpool’s Northern City Fringe,” they say (that’s the northern docks to you and I, from Costco to Titanic Hotel). “A vibrant creative quarter located within the Liverpool City Enterprise Zone that will drive future prosperity and enhance the city’s status as an international destination with a unique offer and character.” There you go… simple enough. Well, not quite.
Manufacturing miracles is a dangerous business. Can it be done? History suggests it nearly always ends in tears. However, helping to push along an organic phenomenon, well, that’s been done before. Germany offers a great example with many initiatives linking culture, creative industries and education to encourage economic growth and draw new talent from across Europe. Shit… therein lies the rub. Europe. Whenever Liverpool has reinvigorated itself in the past, it’s stood on the shoulders of the EU to build momentum (and buildings). Think Albert Dock and Liverpool 1, for example. Where’s the capital going to come from in a post-Brexit landscape? Mayor Joe Anderson has already said how Liverpool has been “the hardest hit” of any local authority thanks to the Government’s latest cuts and how “people will lose money” from future local government settlements. What gives, then, Joe? “Our unique selling point and what brings people here,” are the things he pointed to at the launch of ‘Ten Streets’ public consultation – in front of what was probably a room full of potential (and private?) investors. Let’s have a look at those ten USP’s, then…
Even in this post-truth world of newspeak, we recognise bullshit when we read it. Especially in this city. You make up your own mind. There’s lots of admirable and ambitious admissions in these ’10 Big Ideas’… but what do they really mean? Reading between the lines – and thinking that perhaps Everton Football Club, The Kazimier (Invisible Wind Factory) and Sound City were on an exclusive mailing list – it looks like transport links are crucial to any plans and those plans appear to be at an advanced stage (Bramley-Moore Station, anyone?). As will be attracting the kind of digital trailblazers that the Baltic Triangle has over the last couple of years. Can they do it?
It all depends on attracting something else: investment. The right kind of investment. The council can point proudly to the expansion of the city’s Knowledge Quarter, the creation of Grade A office space at Pall Mall and employment space at Stonebridge Cross as recent examples of successful key projects. But it would be remiss of us not to mention the delayed regeneration of the north end of the city, the ongoing challenges faced by the creative community in and around the city centre and the controversial acquisitions of the Cunard Building and Finch Farm, for example. There’s talk of “2500 jobs”, too, though how many of them will go beyond the building stages and casual matchday appointments at EFC remains to be seen. Cynicism? Sure, but you can hardly blame anyone for asking questions.
We’ve been here before. Still, let’s be positive. The Mayor has said there’s no going back, so let’s join in. Go along to the public consultation this week and see for yourself what’s being discussed. Ask questions. Cajole on social media. Speak up when they ask ‘what do you think’.
But let’s remain vigilant – after all, it’s our city. It’s our future. Even if it won’t be our money building it.
‘Ten Streets’ Public Consultation
Friday, February 10th 2017, Noon – 6pm
FACT, Wood Street, Liverpool
Artist impression courtesy Ten Streets Liverpool