A great day yesterday in which I had the opportunity to engage in two projects concerned with saving important examples of Liverpool’s built heritage, namely the former Royal Seaman’s Orphanage, Newsham Park, and The Futurist on Lime St.
Spencer Kelly, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Technology & School of Built Environment at LJMU, kindly invited me to visit the Royal Seaman’s Orphanage along with his students on a field work trip. Their brief was to come up with theoretical plans to present to property developer John McKenzie whom had very kindly acted as our ‘tour guide’ on the day.
Firstly the building itself, a vast neo-gothic complex is indeed an important part of our heritage and wonderful to explore, as 8000 locals did during the recent Heritage Open Days. The vast size referred to is both a key facet of its wonder, but also I am sure the source of many a sleepless night in contemplating future uses.
Our visit, taking place on Halloween as it did, had an added element of supernatural overtones, especially in the former morgue! From an educational perspective there was clear engagement from the LJMU students, and this resulted in some great ideas coming out in their subsequent presentations.
My second engagement was with a group of locals united in a passion to ‘Save the Futurist’, a campaign spearheaded by Lesley Mullally and now backed by Liverpool City Council.
The group met to come up with ideas to present to the council on highlighting the Futurist campaign and the ‘Lime Street Gateway’ during Liverpool’s hosting next year of The International Festival for Business 2014
It was great to meet with like-minded people with a passion for our rich Liverpool heritage, and especially to hear the stories of ex-Futurist projectionist, Eric. Eric’s stories illustrated superbly how our built environment is entwined with our social history, and how important its preservation is. If you can share further stories about the Futurist please do contact Lesley via the Futurist Blog, she would love to hear from you.
The meeting, especially the second half which moved on to a local hostelry, was full of innovation and it will be great to see how things develop. Keep an eye on the Futurist Blog for updates
What both ‘projects’ highlighted for me, in addition to the passion we have for our past, was the conflict between preservation and the harsh reality of economic viability. How do we save our old and currently disused buildings in a way that secures them for future generations, without being an endless drain on public funds?
Engaging ‘the community’ is of course key, but this involvement needs to be economically sustainable. New uses for old are not as easy as they may sound, especially when the ‘community’ has to be by necessity ‘a paying customer’.
This conundrum will be faced on many occasions as Liverpool strives to save its past whilst building its future.