Monday, 16 March 2009


Now Showing: In London
Triumph, Disaster & Decay:

The SAVE Survey of Liverpool's Heritage.17 April – 1 May at 6 Playhouse Court, 62 Southwark Bridge Road,London SE1 0AT(Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm). Admission free.
Then from 5 to 22 May at The Gallery, Alan Baxter Associates, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ (open day on 14 May, 9am to 8pm, otherwise by appointment only)
It was with deep regret but vigour that a small band of concerned Liverpool citizens met with representatives of SAVE to pour their heart out, over the depressing times that have befallen our city and its historical architectural stock.
This once omnipotent city that had it all, that turned in on itself and cried while reading books such as Freddy O’Connor’s “It All Came Tumbling Down”, standing by helplessly while JCB’s pulverised whole areas in the days when we could blame lack of investment.

In the 60s and 70s it was bad, very bad. I grew up off St Domingo Road, which had a plethora of doomed Pugin buildings. It was still happening in the 80s with the wanton vandalism of Clayton Square.
The 90s saw the faded visions and hopes for the Grade I listed St Andrews Church, now a poor shadow, The Wellington Rooms (1814 by Edmund Atkin originally paid for by public conscription) and St James Church which currently has a giant neon bunny rabbit on it as part of the Biennale without listed building consent. These are still on the English Heritage “at risk” register, despite a billion pounds of European objective one funding.
In the new millennium there are streets such as Duke and Seel Street blighted by new build so out of place, that they now make the old look alien in their historic settings.
This exhibition was first and foremost a joint effort but we in Liverpool have to thank SAVE for bringing together such a detailed study of Disaster and Decay.
We must pause here to also pay thanks to The Georgian group who surveyed our city in a most balanced way for their early 2008 publication and this publication along with the painstaking work by local groups gave us in the city a credible objective view in which to show up the arrogant assassins of the public realm, the city council.
To look from afar just what we have left and what we stand to lose. Yes it is that bad.
It is with this inspiration that SAVE also wanted to make their own survey.
We have lost 46 listed buildings in Liverpool in 10 years.

I think SAVE went a little overboard on the Triumph in their need to keep well placed with English Heritage and not upset the City Council too much because there is little to be triumphant about. Though it is fair for them to recollect the historic battle they won to SAVE the Lyceum.
Marcus Binney applauding the new Grosvenor-pool/paradise project has not judged it at all well but I suppose he had to be kind somewhere.
My own opinion is he must have come here on a sunny day and put on a pair of Rose tinted spectacles specifically for his review. They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot is how many of the natives see the new shopping centre, now the hype has settled down.
Robert Hradsky has done a fine job in the curating of the space.
There was not enough of the real disaster. It didn’t quite make the point of just how perilous the situation is, more a perusal, a flirtation, than a hard hit home. Although I found some people enjoyed it, It was miserable for me as we have fought to save quite a lot of the buildings and the images are reminders of what we have lost.
We in Liverpool need the spotlight to be beamed on our city before it’s all too late. Personally I fear that we have passed the point, and the Klondike style land grab that turned Capital of Culture into Culture of Capital, that has done more damage than the Lutwaffe did during the blitz.
What chance for us without an architects department at the local planning office.

SAVE are not new to Liverpool they wrote their publication The Agony of a Georgian City in 1984 and part of the exercise was to revisit and update.
They have done us proud in the past being involved and active and I can personally vouch for their ceaseless help and involvement in the annuls of Liverpool’s forlorn hopes.
Decades since the same old story keeps unfolding before us and here in accessible and well laid out form using modern wide screen technology with digital images, on the walls.
The exhibition is accompanied with a glossy, if not costly (£12.50) publication with a excellent chapter by Liverpool’s friend and ally Gavin Stamp.
It’s well written, but painful reading.
James Darwin and Paul Robertshaw paint an inquisitive picture of Liverpool’s “Grade II*-listed Graveyard” and talk of the lack of quality in rebuilt Georgian replicas such as the Casartelli (1820) and the neglect and decline of Shaw Street and elsewhere.
But defer to the fact that there is still far too much to be done while fascadism is a fascination of Liverpool’s property developers.
Jonathan Brown who lives here talks passionately about the misguided and flawed Pathfinder disaster.

This exhibition is our very own scary movie. It is a catalogue of mistrusted faith in a conservation office that fails to function as a credible unit, and that floats from one disaster to another.
The Council are very touchy about this exhibition I have heard.
And so they should be. Though the City Council buildings at risk officer helped with information, he being funded by English Heritage. Those of whom I spoke to at the opening evening, told me It shows how English Heritage have let us down sailing blindly upstream without a paddle. Unable to get a handle on the relentless tide of decay, destruction and contrived neglect.
In fact asking English Heritage to look after your history with this council is a bit like asking my mouse to look after my cat.
Most of the city have got used to the fact and feel powerless.
There is a whole section on the impending disaster that has befallen our World Heritage Site just as a Supplementary Planning Document for the WHS has been published by the very people who have done the damage and SAVE show through images, that it is akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
We hope that it will inspire the powers that be to think again, we a wait to see if they take the SAVE view seriously and get real with our historic landscape and its sense of place in our city’s future……it would appear that only the credit crunch can help us now, by stopping the horrendous urban sprawl.
But then investment in the historic fabric will cease. Are we too late.
Will SAVE need to do another survey in the not so distant future.
I for one sincerely hope not.

SAVE have done a fantastic job but the real credit should go to English Heritage and Liverpool City Council because without their lack of care this exhibition would not have been possible.

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