Liverpool news London Road and the vision for Liverpool's new centre of cool MetiNews.Com

MetiNews.Com - Special Report: The once bustling city centre road has fallen on hard times in recent years, but new businesses and a new vision are providing hope for an exciting next chapter

Liverpool news London Road and the vision for Liverpool's new centre of cool MetiNews.Com

MetiNews.Com - Special Report: The once bustling city centre road has fallen on hard times in recent years, but new businesses and a new vision are providing hope for an exciting next chapter

Liverpool news  London Road and the vision for Liverpool's new centre of cool MetiNews.Com
16 May 2021 - 10:00

Breaking News ! If you stand in the middle of London Road today you might struggle to feel like you are in an area of Liverpool City Centre. But this once bustling street is just yards away from the city's main train station and a stone's throw from key attractions like the Empire Theatre and Liverpool's much-admired cultural quarter. So it is perhaps strange that such a well-located street has almost been forgotten, during a time when so much of the city centre has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance. Of course things were very different once and you have probably read plenty of times how London Road was once blessed with 27 different pubs, two cinemas and plenty more that would attract shoppers and visitors in their hoards. All but a couple of those pubs have now gone and so have the cinemas, to be replaced by takeaways, phone shops and student blocks. Although the Islington area of Liverpool has a rich history at the heart of the city’s textiles industry and rag trade, in more recent history it had fallen into decline and neglect. High crime levels, few open green spaces and a transient student population led to a lack of a coherent community and the area previously became Liverpool’s notorious red light district. But in 2017, a group of local business figures, residents and interested parties got together with the aim of making a change in London Road and the areas surrounding it. They recognised things needed to happen from the bottom up and that a new vision was needed. The Fabric District Community Interest Company (CIC) was formed - with the name nodding to the history of the area - and those involved set about trying to drive change that would hopefully attract creative new businesses and a new atmosphere. The area has always had an undercurrent of fiercely local commerce, which still exists today – with Stafford Street boasting a bounty of traditional independent fabric and haberdashery shops, including sewing superstore Abakhan. Receive newsletters with the latest news, sport and what's on updates from the Liverpool ECHO by signing up here The area is also home to heritage headwear and uniform cap company Try & Lilly, established in 1864 and run by the same family since 1958, and much-loved Mediterranean and Middle Eastern supermarket Melo’s. One of the early success stories of the new project was The Tapestry building, a former clothes factory surrounded by fabric shops off London Road that had lain empty for a decade. The building had belonged to the family of Jason Abbott and he has now transformed it into an arts, fashion and creative hub that helps new independent businesses and creatives to get off the ground. Most recently, community-led radio station Melodic Distraction was inspired to move to the building after they were forced to leave their home in the Baltic Triangle at short notice when their landlord decided to redevelop the land their former studio sat on. Mr Abbott was the original chair of the Fabric District CIC, a role he has now passed on to Michael Birkett, the chief executive of the Regenda Housing Group - which has its HQ at the bottom of London Road. London Road in Liverpool City Centre (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo) Michael said it has always struck him as odd that London Road has almost slipped through the net when it comes to regeneration and improvements because of its location. He said: "We feel like London Road and the broader Fabric District area is probably the forgotten bit of Liverpool City Centre. "If you look around the city centre you see real, physical indicators of regeneration, but if you go up London Road, it feels unloved and a bit forgotten. "If you think about it, that's a really odd notion because Lime Street station is literally next door, as is the Empire Theatre and the Cultural Quarter. Tens of thousands of people every year come out of Lime Street on to London Road and walk up to visit the university, the hospital or the School of Tropical Medicine. "The idea that it is forgotten is counter-intuitive, because we should show it off, if you think about lasting impressions or first impressions of the city it feels like a massive lost opportunity. He added: "What we wanted to do was bring together a collective voice that said this is an important area - and then put together a plan to do something to drive the regeneration, bring influential and interested parties to the table and start to put a focus on this area." The CIC believe the Fabric District has the potential to be a resurgent force in Liverpool’s economy. That new plan has been put together and is already driving change - particularly in terms of some of the new creative businesses popping up in the area behind the famous TJ Hughes building on London Road. They include Hop/Scotch, a secret whiskey bar specialising in independently bottled single cask whiskies, while the nearby Fashion Hub is home to a thriving community of fashion designers and creatives. But what about the road itself? There are well documented challenges when it comes to attracting new businesses. Closed shops with out-of-town landlords, issues with crime and begging have all made it more difficult for new ventures to get started. But despite the challenges for the area - there are interesting and inspiring new businesses starting to open up and take a punt that this famous old road can begin an exciting new chapter. One of these is Bekas - the first Kurdish cafe in Liverpool - which opened its doors just over the road from the TJ Hughes building two weeks ago. The business has been launched by a family from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq who moved to Liverpool having fled the violence and persecution in their home country and region under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Cafe manager Dwen Hmarashed, 33, spoke about the remarkable and horrific circumstances that led her family to their new life in this city. She said: "My mum had to flee from where we lived for safety reasons. She came over here in 2001 but we weren't allowed to join her for seven years because the Home Office kept turning us down." Dwen said she regrets missing out on those formative years with her mother, but said the family is grateful to be living safely and together in Liverpool - a city that has now been their home for 13 years. Bekas is named after Sherko Bekas who was one of the most prominent poets in Kurdish history. He has been referred to as the voice of Kurdistan and the family wants their new cafe to help introduce their culture to the people of Liverpool. Azhin Latif(left),and Warda Dalled from Bekas Cafe (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo) Dwen said: "We love food, our culture is all based around food.

. I always missed that part of our culture, making food and getting together with family and friends, so that's what drove us to start this business." Bekas serves speciality Kurdish coffee as well as traditional cakes, pastries and baklava, while also selling Italian ice cream and other snacks. The family said they felt there was an opportunity growing in the London Road area and decided to take a gamble. Dwen said: "We wanted to be close to the city centre and this area. We were looking for two years when we found this place. There are a few other Kurdish shops on London Road too, so we wanted to be united with them but also to do our own thing. "It's good to see new businesses from different cultures opening around here, we really want to understand their stories too - and introducing our culture to Liverpool is what we really want to achieve with this business." She said the reception so far has been brilliant, adding: "The shops around us all came in to welcome us to the street, people have been popping in to say hello and say how glad they are that we are here. "It's been a difficult time to start a new business of course but the people of Liverpool have made it so nice for us, we are so happy to be here." Further down London Road, towards the Lime Street area, there is a building adorned in vibrant street art that is impossible to miss. Not so long ago the property looked very different and housed the traditional Lord Warden pub - which had been part of that remarkable run of boozers London Road was well known for. The pub was taken on by businessman Peter Surridgel last year, who realised that - like the whole area - his premises needed to change. The Lord Warden has now become Sketch, a vibrant bar and music space that Peter hopes will become something of a hub for creative people and that will give up and coming musicians and artists a space to show off their work. He employed up and coming street artist John Culshaw - known for some amazing murals around Liverpool - to create eye-catching designs on both the inside and outside of his new venture. Peter accepts that he has taken a gamble launching a new business in an area that has struggled in recent times - but he is optimistic that things are moving in the right direction. He said: "A lot of my friends thought I was mad when I took this place on, it is an area that has been forgotten about. "But I looked around, we've got the 02 Academy over the road, the Empire nearby and we are right next to Lime Street Station - I'm pretty confident that we can get the footfall into the area. "Obviously this was a pretty traditional pub and I think it is about adapting things, I think this area can start to get some momentum." Speaking about his vision for Sketch, he added: "My main thing is that I want people to feel comfortable here. "We just want to have an open door to everyone, we've opened it up, got the light in and got some colour in." Artist John Culshaw(left),and Peter Sturridge from Sketch bar & kitchen (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo) There is a strong music theme to the decor, with John's stunning artwork including plenty of famous faces - notably a huge mural of John Lennon on the ceiling. Peter said: "Music will be a big thing for us, we are going to have open mic nights and those sort of events - that will be a big part of things and I'd also quite like to display the work of local artists inside the pub. "We want to create a safe, comfortable and creative atmosphere." If London Road is going to emerge as a new success story for Liverpool - in a similar way that the Baltic Triangle has done - then you get the feeling that businesses like Bekas and Sketch will be at the heart of things. But as Michael Birkett explains, there is a lot more work needed to convince other businesses to move to the area - and part of that will rely on saving the good things that already exist. The Fabric District CIC and others are trying to resist plans to demolish the famous Audley House building that was designed by Walter W Thomas. Michael said: "There are some beautiful buildings in this area, which if we are not careful, will be lost to the city - most notably TJ Hughes, or Audley House, which has got unbelievable architecture and is the landmark building in the area. That building must not be lost to the city. "Then there is Monument Place in front of it, which has such potential, I think that's probably the last market square of any real scale in the city. We think there is massive heritage-led potential as long as we cherish those buildings and areas." He added: "We also think there are big opportunities to use social and cultural regeneration to drive forward the broader vision. "Supermarkets, restaurants - there is a fantastic grouping of businesses from across the world, particularly the middle east. "That again brings significant opportunities and diversity to the city that we probably don't have anywhere else. We want to take that offer further and turn it into something where people from all over the city will come and visit." There are already plans for another Fabric District Arts Festival in the area this October and talks of a food festival to show off the emerging international food scene in the area. The people who want to make London Road Liverpool's next big success story know this will take a lot of work - but they are certainly all up for the challenge.

Source = MetiNews.Com

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Liverpool news London Road and the vision for Liverpool's new centre of cool MetiNews.Com


Liverpool news London Road and the vision for Liverpool's new centre of cool MetiNews.Com


Liverpool news London Road and the vision for Liverpool's new centre of cool MetiNews.Com


Liverpool news London Road and the vision for Liverpool's new centre of cool MetiNews.Com

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