In 2008, recognising the true spirit and heritage of the city, the eyes of the world were on Liverpool as it was crowned the European Capital of Culture. During the festival year visitors to the city increased by 34% and development has been taking place across several quarters since. Previously obsolete infrastructure that had become the graveyard of what was once the most advanced port system in the world, began to be reclaimed. The regeneration process is still under way, and there is plenty of opportunity for independent professionals to join a growing community in Liverpool, staking their claim to spaces and places, and building a better city.
The industries that are thriving
The creativity and culture that has characterised this historical city in the North West, which once saw trade from all over the world pass through the docks, means that Liverpool is not short of entrepreneurial spirit in the creative sectors.
In 2009, Liverpool Vision, the city’s economic development company, recognised the desperate need for studio space for the swiftly growing creative community of entrepreneurs. A programme was launched to redevelop the ‘Baltic Triangle’ area of the city, named after the storage of goods there from the Baltic Sea.
It is this area which has seen a huge influx of creative and digital technology freelancers, contractors, start-ups and small businesses over the past six years. Baltic Creative CIC, in the centre of the Triangle, acts as a landlord for several warehouses and supports and encourages a talented group of creative and digital entrepreneurs. At the front of the main warehouse the Unit 51 café also serves a mean bagel and fantastic coffee. It is always bustling with people having meetings and working on laptops – the perfect place to set up for the afternoon as a freelancer. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a space in the warehouses that’s more substantial than a trip to the café, then your name will be added to a long waiting list. But there is talk of expansion in the Triangle and also perhaps outside it. Watch this space.
Networking groups in this industry are also springing up in the city, one being Kin. This is another initiative supported by Liverpool Vision (and by ACME), the success of which is indicated in its already long list of members, events and job opportunities – available to browse on their website.
One of my favourite things about Liverpool is the thriving (and delicious) food scene. Every September, Sefton Park – a beautiful sweeping park in the south-east of the city – hosts the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival. Newcomers this year included Japanese-inspired Mr Miyagi’s (which served arguably the best Chicken Katsu curry I’ve ever had) and old favourites included Host, which enjoys an almost legendary status in Liverpool and serves a whole range of complex dishes. The variety and quality of food and drink, and celebrity appearances from the likes of sisters Hemsley + Hemsley, cemented the impression of Liverpool as a city with a fantastic food scene and a rapidly growing group of restaurant entrepreneurs.
As Paul Askew, founder of The Art School restaurant on Sugnall Street, says, “We have a restaurant scene that is developing at an incredible rate of knots.”
Where to stay
For the high flyers, the Titanic Hotel in the docks at the mouth of the river Mersey is a stylish, if extravagant, option. It is part of the redevelopment of the historic Stanley Dock complex – a vital part of the port at which the Titanic was designed. The hotel won several design awards in 2015, but if you’re not feeling wealthy enough to pay for a room (at around £100 per night for a standard) then Stanley’s Bar & Grill or the Rum Bar, both part of the hotel development, can provide a taste of the Titanic class.
What is arguably so great about Liverpool is that a large portion of up-and-coming businesses are examples of independent professionals starting out on their own, or CICs supported by other groups. For this reason more than any other, Liverpool feels like a more creative, cooler, younger sibling to other cities in the UK. It provides a good platform for any freelancer looking to be part of an intuitive and fast-growing creative community.