Light at the end of the Littlewoods tunnel?
It’s seen fire, lost tenants and half a decade of delay, but new plans for the massive redevelopment have been outlined
Dear readers — Pryvit! This weekend saw The Post go global, with Danny Rigg’s fantastic dispatch from Vinnytsia, the Ukrainian city where being a Scouser is the ultimate boast (and where statues of Lennon and Lenin stood together in the 1980s). Thanks as always for all the lovely comments. Here are a few:
“Superb article. The standard of journalism that’s sadly lacking from mainstream media these days.”
“Wow, this is a really fascinating read. Wasn't expecting to learn about a city I'd never heard of when I got the Post notification this morning! Great stuff!”
“Thank you Danny, for a little insight into how Ukrainians are carrying on despite the conflict and horror their country has been inflicted with”
Today we’re back in more familiar territory, with a briefing that features stalled developments (but potentially light at the end of the tunnel for the long-delayed redevelopment of the Littlewoods building), WAGs and the battle for the future of one of Liverpool’s best-loved festivals.
Last week paying Post members received two great pieces. On Tuesday Abi paid a visit to the land of decapitated dolls (The Doll & Teddy Hospital on Smithdown Road) and met the dedicated people bringing them back to life. Then on Thursday Jack went where few people go — through the door’s of Liverpool’s coterie of unloved listed buildings — and wondered where the dedicated people meant to be bringing them back to life had got to. Here’s a taster, featuring perhaps the only recorded example of the Everton Library being compared to a vape.
“Then there’s the Everton Library, the 125-year-old Grade II listed building, once known as the “jewel on the hill”, which these days is more discarded JUUL than jewel, sitting in a state of crumbling disrepair since 1999, despite endless attempts to coax it back to life.”
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This week’s weather
Monday 🌧️ Drizzle and a gentle breeze with highs of 22°C
Tuesday 🌦️ Light rain showers and light winds with highs of 20°C
Wednesday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a gentle breeze with highs of 21°C
Thursday ⛅ Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze with highs of 21°C
Friday 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle breeze with highs of 23°C
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This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
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The big story: Light at the end of the Littlewoods tunnel?
Top line: New proposals have been outlined for the redevelopment of the Littlewoods site off Edge Lane, one of Liverpool’s most prominent and endlessly stalled development prospects. It’s a positive step, after more than half a decade of delay, but should we be holding our breath?
Context: Erected in 1938, the building housed the Littlewoods Pools empire for 60 years, employing thousands of people and playing an important role during WW2, manufacturing items like the floors of Halifax bombers. But for the past two decades it has sat empty. Plans were announced, to much fanfare, in 2018: developers Capital & Centric would transform the site into film studio space. But little has gone to plan since — a fire which swept through the building that year, and the loss of Liverpool John Moores University (who had agreed to take 75,000 sq ft) as a tenant last year, have been perhaps the two most notable setbacks.
Long delays: “8 years is a sorry indictment of the apparently grinding bureaucratic cogs that have been pushing this project along, glacially” tweeted Liverpolitan.
Nonetheless, there appears to be movement. A public consultation process has been initiated and new plans outlined, which include:
Using the building’s existing west wing to house office space, an education facility, hotel rooms, and residential apartments (for the crews)
Two new-build 20,000 sq.ft. studios
Workspaces, workshops and studio support facilities in the east wing
A “screening and performance zone” built inside the hangar, featuring cinema screens, performance space and a food hall — all accessible to the public
The Hollywood of the North: When it was first announced there was much excitement that building studio space could set Liverpool apart, earning the speculative ‘Hollywood of the North’ tagline. Whatever the root cause of the delays, they’ve resulted in major issues, especially the loss of competitive advantage in the interim. Britain is on course to have more studio space than Los Angeles within two years; cities like Belfast and Cardiff have built huge amounts of such space. Birmingham too has moved ahead. It was a recurring theme of our conversations with private sector sources when we wrote about Liverpool’s inward investment issues last year. Some, suffice to say, had some choice words for the tagline:
“What a load of shite,” one source says. They believe Capital & Centric will make a good job of the Littlewoods project but the idea that it alone is enough to dominate the industry is “pure fantasy”.
Either way, finally getting the project towards the finish line would be hugely exciting for the city. Of the £70 million expected cost, £17 million is being provided by the city region combined authority. John Moffat, joint managing director at Capital & Centric, said this:
“Thousands have been through the building’s doors in its former guises, whether as the home of the Pools or as a monumental manufacturing hub during World War II. We want to produce a worthy sequel to that incredible origin story, helping the site to be reborn as a new UK focal point for TV and film production.”
Bottom line: To many, the seemingly never-ending delays to the Littlewoods project underline a broader issue in Liverpool: the inability of the private sector and local authority to work in tandem to deliver on lofty promises. As such, any developments — even unequivocally positive ones like this — will be met with scepticism. If the stars do align though, the Littlewoods redevelopment has the chance to be transformative.
Your Post briefing
The organisers of Africa Oye Festival have warned they may have to cancel the event in coming years due to funding shortages. The festival — which saw Sefton Park filled with 50,000 party-goers this weekend — is the biggest free celebration of African and Caribbean culture in the UK, and is currently paid for by donations and grants from Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council. Appealing for more funding, Paul Duhaney, the artistic director of the festival, said: “It’s such an important event for the city of Liverpool — we’ve been here for 31 years and we don’t want it to go. For people who can’t afford to pay for tickets for Glastonbury and other events, they get an opportunity to see world-class music for free.”
After a battle over who will be Labour’s candidate for Birkenhead in the next general election, the results are in. Wirral South MP Alison McGovern beat sitting MP Mick Whitley over the weekend. The competition for the seat arose after upcoming boundary changes meant McGovern’s current Wirral South seat will be scrapped, but many on the party’s left felt her choice to contest Birkenhead was deliberate ploy to take out a socialist MP. Whitley, who was elected in 2019, has been a vocal critic of Labour for allowing the contest to go ahead, stating: “I do not believe that anyone who has our party’s best interests at heart could agree with a contest that pitted two sitting Labour MPs against one another.” Jack published a fantastic piece on the whole Labour-on-Labour fiasco earlier this month if you want a deeper dive.
Merseyside Police are investigating a suspected arson attack after three people were rescued from houses in Birkenhead over the weekend. At 5am on Saturday, fire services were called to two houses on Claughton Road, both of which were engulfed in flames. A further 10 fires — predominantly in skips and bins — were also reported in the same area. A police spokesperson told the BBC that they believed the house fires “may have been caused deliberately.” A 31-year-old man from Egremont has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.
Protestors took to the streets in support of Park View Medical Centre in Tuebrook over the weekend, armed with whistles and boards demanding it stay open. The centre is being threatened with closure after the Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board (ICB) failed to find a suitable provider to keep it open after the current contract ends. The closure would see thousands of patients relocated to other centres across the city, with MP for West Derby Ian Byrne now taking the matter to Parliament. Speaking to the House last week, he said: “The medical centre has been at the centre of the community for decades and provides vital primary care services to constituents in one of the most deprived areas of Liverpool.” He added an appeal to the Department of Health to find a way to keep Park View open.
🎸 New Zealand psychedelic rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra head over to Cains Brewery this Tuesday in support of their new album, V. The event is the first to take place at CONTENT, the brand new venue in the heart of the Baltic’s brewery village. Tickets are available here.
🎭Enjoy a night of stand-up comedy at the Liverpool Irish Centre this Friday, with performances from Kay Nicholson and Ethan Madds. The event is being hosted by comedian Mark Devine, with tickets available for £7.50. Buy one here.
💃Tickets may be sold out for this weekend’s multi-venue Soul Weekender, but have no fear — Melodic Bar is hosting a warm-up party this Thursday to get your blood pumping. Enjoy music from Frank Parra, Annie Neale, Ambitious Outsider and Michael Chrietzberg, all free entry.
🤔The Camp and Furnace is hosting an Alan Partridge-themed quiz this Saturday, with several rounds testing how well you know Alpha Papa, Knowing Me Knowing You and Mid-Morning Matters. Test your Partridge knowledge and buy a ticket here.
Home of the week
This two bedroom end-terrace in Wavertree is on the market for £105,000. It boasts plenty of natural light, sleek wooden floors and an outdoor space with heaps of potential. Upstairs, the property enjoys a good-sized master bedroom, with a second space boasting the ideal proportions for a home office. Find out more about the property on Zoopla here.
Our favourite reads
“In the thick of the 2000s peak-WAG tabloid frenzy, barely a day went by without the wives and girlfriends of the Premier League’s elite weren’t plastered across the red tops,” begins this brilliant Dazed exploration of the Scouse store which brought Parisian high fashion to Liverpool. Long before her star turn in the Wagatha Christie trials, Coleen Rooney could often be seen clutching a “pink, zebra or leopard-print shopping bag from independent luxury boutique, Cricket”, which boasted ‘nice clothes that cost loads’. If you want to find out how Cricket reached its place at the zenith of WAG-dom, you’ll have to read the piece.
A fascinating piece from our Mancunian amigos at The Mill, and one that might be of relevance to Liverpool too. Mollie Simpson unpacks the bizarre tale of John Christian, a Manchester University student who was co-opted and martyred by right-wing activist students after he was dismissed from the university. Students Against Tyranny — a far-right group whose leader has called the Holocaust into question — protest at various universities in the northwest, and recently clashed with leftwing counter-protestors on the streets of Liverpool. Significant questions linger over the tale though, like how much Christian’s views actually align with these activists, and whether he even exists.
“And so after its big bang, Merseybeat ended with a whimper. But 60 years on, its legacy is a treasured one, especially to those that were there.” What do Liverpool musicians think about the Merseybeat explosion? The Guardian asks that question, and uncovers a legacy of soaring triumph and crushing pain. Not everyone, for example, was best pleased when The Beatles became the biggest artists on the planet; Liverpool arriving suddenly at the centre of the pop-culture universe didn’t necessarily mean that success trickled down.
Letters from readers
Thanks Jack for a well balanced article. Liverpool is both blessed and cursed with its Victorian (and later) buildings. Like the old Irish Centre opposite the Everyman — people long for their memories of the place, but really don’t know what you could do with it. I alternate between wanting to cling on to them, while wanting the utility and efficiency of new places, ‘’They don’t value it, they don’t care’: why Liverpool’s most prominent buildings are being squandered’, Mick Kelly
Has the post recruited Sid from Toy Story as its new reporter? Gratuitous toy mutilation just for the sake of a story? Seriously, a lovely story about somewhere I have passed on hundreds of occasions and also wondered how a business like that survives, ‘How do you mend a decapitated teddy bear?’, Simon Jones