A creative's guide to Liverpool: Heart, soul and an inspiring cultural scene
Where can we possibly start with somewhere as wonderful as Liverpool? It's one of the UK's most vibrant, colourful and interesting creative cities, and the people are just wonderful. Their humour, their warmth and their talent, all make Liverpool one of the best places to live, work and play. No wonder it's nicknamed The Pool of Life.
Home to The Beatles and labelled the World City of Pop by Guinness World Records, it's a city that's steeped in history and culture. Back in the early 19th century, Liverpool was a major global port and 40 per cent of the world's trade passed through its docks. As you can imagine, its architecture is rich in heritage and several areas of the city were granted World Heritage Site status back in 2004.
Today, Liverpool proudly has one of the largest economies in the UK. In recent years, there has been significant growth in the knowledge economy with the establishment of the Liverpool Knowledge Quarter in sectors such as media. And because of Liverpool's beautiful old buildings, it's become the second most filmed city in the UK outside London.
Building on its creative and enterprising past, the creative industries are really thriving in Liverpool. It's home to over 7,000 creative and digital firms, employing over 48,000 people and making up £1.4 billion GVA to the local economy. There's a big tech community here and Liverpool happens to be one of Europe's focal points for the games industry. When it comes to culture, you can't move for the wealth of talent.
The Baltic Triangle is a historic area of the city that's enjoying a steady renaissance, becoming something of a magnet for creative people, entrepreneurs and their combined businesses. The area was once a workshop and warehouse district, handling the global trade from Liverpool's docks during the 18th and 19th centuries. But now, thanks to support from Liverpool City Council and various other organisations, it's becoming home to a wealth of creative and digital industries. Photographers, filmmakers, architects, recording studios, acclaimed arts festivals - they're all based here. But more on that later… If you're a Liverpudlian and you're proud of your city, I hope this latest in my series of Creative Cities does you proud. Liverpool! It's over to you.
What Liverpool creatives say
"After studying in Birmingham for three years, I moved back to Liverpool in 2010 and started my own company with a fellow course mate. Working in Liverpool has provided us with so many opportunities. We are surrounded by some of the most hardworking, independent creatives in the industry. From the wonderfully quirky Bold Street, filled with independent shops, art stores, vintage treasures and creative businesses, to the ever-growing Baltic triangle - the creativity I see coming out of the city on a daily basis makes me proud to be from here. I wouldn't have started my business from anywhere else."
Sophie Bold, Company Director of Strange Case Collective
"Liverpool is rich with personality; it shines through everything that happens here. Nothing is faceless, featureless or anodyne, which is what makes it such a joyous place to live, work and play."
Phil Charnock, Draw & Code
"Liverpool has great photographic history, including major work by Martin Parr and Tom Wood, but we're always developing new ideas and ways of seeing up here. Open Eye Gallery supports local artists massively, as well as premiering a lot of major cutting-edge photography, and the grassroots is vibrant, with local venues like Bold Street Coffee collaborating with individual photographers like myself, to curate more independent exhibitions and books. The city has it going on at every level!"
Sara T'Rula, St84photograhy.co.uk
"Liverpool is home to the most listed buildings outside of London, and also one of only a handful of European cities with two cathedrals! Ooh and we also have a Banksy, surely that certifies us as hip!"
Darren Blenkhorn, @Blenky87
Liverpool's startup scene
The startup scene in Liverpool is kicking off big style. There is a huge entrepreneurial spirit here and you can sense it wherever you go and whoever you speak to. People are determined to make Liverpool an even bigger success. And there's a hunger that makes you want to better your own business, just to keep ahead of the game. Listen up UK! You'd better watch out! Liverpool is a force to be reckoned with.
For co-working and the chance to bash ideas about, Open Labs is a fantastic resource by Liverpool John Moores University that supports local tech companies to develop new products and services. Find out more about membership to see if you're eligible to join.
Elsewhere, you should also check out DoES Liverpool in the Gostin's Building on Hanover Street. It's a fantastic co-working and maker community, home to many tech startups. Founded by a group of friends who are all passionate about tech, it runs talks, workshops, Startup Saturday Clubs, Hackathons - the lot!
Paul Freeman is one of the organisers at DoES. He said: "The startup scene is keen and growing here. There are plenty of freelancers who are bootstrapping to work on their side projects. We've got lots bubbling under the surface. You get a real sense that we're part of something new and exciting. People are certainly not afraid of hard work. It's great that this movement is happening. We now just need to take it to the next level and get the community to talk to one another. It's great that everyone's getting their heads down to achieve something. But we've got to build engagement and share our experiences to really support one another. It's already happening. We host and run some relevant startup groups here, and the interest is buzzing. There's never been a more exciting time."
For networking, DoES also hosts Lean Liverpool - a monthly meetup for those interested in the lean startup movement.
There are many local startups worth mentioning. ScraperWiki - a web-based platform, or data hub, where programmers write scripts to get, clean and analyse data sets. WhereDial allows you to show your loved ones where you are with a giant Internet of Things physical device - yes, it really is as wonderful as it sounds. Then there's the Good Night Lamp that has become pretty famous lately. It's a family of connected lamps that lets you communicate the act of coming back home to your loved ones, remotely.
Where to study in Liverpool
Liverpool is a great place to study. And I'm not just talking about the famous nightlife! Served by three major universities: the University of Liverpool, which was one of the first in the UK to offer a degree in architecture, Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool Hope University - there are plenty of opportunities to further your education here. Liverpool is also home to the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA).
Where to network in Liverpool
With such a thriving creative city, Liverpool has more than its fair share of networking events and meetups. For general all-around creativity, you have Creative Liverpool, where creatives can meet up, grab a drink and have a chat about what's happening locally. It takes place on the first Thursday of every month.
You also have Kin2Kin, an online network and resource which aims to connect Liverpool's creatives. Founded by ACME - a support agency dedicated to developing the creative industries - it hosts loads of events across all sorts of creative fields. From photography workshops and craft making to general networking, there is plenty to discover. Check out their latest event list. ACME also runs various projects, including a recent 'Futureproof' programme for local digital and games firms. For photographers, there's a very handy Fashion and Fine Art Photographers group which offers networking and workshops to help its members.
If you're more on the digital side of things, then UX Liverpool is a group for those of you into User Experience. Basecamp3, an incubator for local digitals and creatives, offers lots of networking. And then for a little fun and social networking with other creatives, Camp and Furnace is your event space, bar and music venue of choice. It's a huge former gallery that has plenty of things going on to keep any creative happy.
Where to work in Liverpool
There are plenty of places catering for Liverpool's many freelancers and growing startup community. Baltic Creative CIC is a very cool creative space with wooden huts sitting inside a huge warehouse, offering studio offices to small businesses. Round the corner, you've got Elevator Studios, a creative hub that provides a workspace for artists, musicians and creative firms. Set in a Grade II listing warehouse, which was once used to store cargo such as cotton and spices, it has a very inspiring work environment.
You should also consider Basecamp3 - an exciting new community business incubator that is really pushing to support Liverpool's creative industries by providing decent space as well as business advice. And The Annexe over in Hope Street offers low-cost office space, studio workspace and rehearsal facilities to theatre arts and media-based firms.
Then I simply must mention Jelly Liverpool. It's hugely popular and meets twice monthly on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month. Mainly attracting developers and tech types, it's a casual working event for freelancers. A chance to get out of your home office and meet other people, share ideas and benefit from co-working.
Where to hangout in Liverpool
When you need to meet a client or just get out of the house with your lappy and grab a coffee, you can't go too far wrong with Bold Street Coffee, it's a lovely independent recommended by The Independent. LEAF is another recommendation on Bold Street, which also happens to run lots of evening events including open mic nights and 'electrified yoga'. It also does a great breakfast - and is a really popular haunt for local creatives.
For grabbing a bite to eat, you're spoilt for choice in Liverpool. If you've got a client to impress, take them to Marco Pierre White - it's a steakhouse bar and grill but the food is first class. 60 Hope Street is another great establishment. Family-owned, it's spread over three floors in a gorgeous Georgian townhouse. Great food, and stunning surroundings - my favourite kind of combination.
For after-work drinks, The Attic is a nice little bar that does decent fodder. Puschka is a local favourite over on Rodney Street in Liverpool's old Georgian Quarter. For cocktails, Newz is a lively bar. Santa Chupitos is an independent cocktail bar and worth a visit over on Slater Street.
But if you're like me, and prefer the old, traditional type pubs then check out Fly in the Loaf, a nice little boozer on Hardman Street. The Ship & Mitre offers an impressive range of real ales. The Shipping Forecast is an alehouse and eatery on Slater Street, which is the final place I'll mention - it's got the kind of decor us creatives love. Exposed brick walls, cosy lighting and squishy leather sofas. Heaven! Oh, and it even does events!
What to do in Liverpool
After having a little lie down under my desk, from feeling overwhelmed by the HUGE amount of things to do in Liverpool - I've managed to pull myself together and pick out the following highlights. And when I say highlights, I really mean highlights as this is just a tiny insight into what Liverpool offers.
Albert Dock is the first place I'm going to mention. It's a wonderful waterfront setting and home to Tate Liverpool - the base of the National Collection of Modern Art in the North and one of the UK's most visited galleries outside of London. The famous Beatles Story is also located here.
Walker Art Gallery will blow you away with its stunning collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts spanning over 600 years. Open Eye Gallery is an independent not-for-profit photography gallery located at the heart of Liverpool Waterfront. You must visit The Bluecoat - a distinctive Grade I listed, 290-year-old arts centre which offers a fantastic programme of visual art, music, dance, live art and literature. Across the River Mersey at Port Sunlight on the Wirral Peninsula is the Lady Lever Art Gallery, definitely worth crossing the river for.
Liverpool is also home to some world-class public art, including Another Place at Crosby Beach where 100 cast-iron life-size sculptures of Angel of the North artist Antony Gormley, stand and stare out to sea. If you love street art, Banksy's work can be found on the edge of China Town on Berry Street.
For some cultural entertainment, go a little classic with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Catch a musical, pop concert or play at Liverpool Empire, located on the corner of Lime Street and boasting the largest two-tier auditorium in Britain. Everyman Playhouse are two distinct theatres in different parts of the city, working hand-in-hand to produce acclaimed and adventurous theatre. UnityTheatre also deserves a mention and there's the Lantern Theatre, a family-run establishment situated in a converted warehouse near Liverpool One. And of course, there's FACT on Wood Street, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology and the UK's leading media arts centre. Here you will find three galleries, a cafe, a bar and four cinema screens run by Picturehouse.
For a bit of shopping, creatives will love the independent and vintage type stores along Bold Street and Slater Street. Plus why not support your local creatives by hopping back to The Bluecoat where loads of independent retailers reside.
For more information about things to do, check out Visit Liverpool. And for more creative insight, check out Creative Tourist.