The Turner Prize has landed in Liverpool, where a community benefit society is galvanising residents who, against the odds, have breathed new life into their community. London-based architects collective Assemble won the prize for their work with bencom Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust (CLT).
The partnership is refurbishing 10 homes in Granby, a neglected corner of Toxteth, and has taken over a disused newsagent’s shop to create the Granby Workshop, a social enterprise which hand-makes items for the home. The workshop’s first range is designed to replace elements stripped out of the houses that will be refurbished, including door knobs, mantelpieces, furniture, fabric and tiles. Fireplace surrounds, bookends, table tops and planters are being made from the rubble of demolished buildings.
Longstanding residents have stayed in Granby despite the threat of demotion and redevelopment. While regeneration schemes have come and gone since the late 1960s, more recently locals have been organising street markets, painting murals on empty buildings and creating gardens to show the area had hope.
The four streets at the area’s heart have been scheduled for clearance for over 20 years. Residents of these streets set up the CLT, and say nothing could have prepared them for the media attention that followed the Turner Prize art award nomination and victory.
Housing officer Ronnie Hughes has been involved since the early 1970s. He says that by early 2011 around 50 of the houses were lived in and 150 were empty. “Plans to demolish them under the ‘Pathfinder’ housing market renewal initiative had just stalled,” he says. “So maybe, we thought, as we began to meet, there might be a chance to keep the streets up.
“Liverpool City Council decided the four streets were not to be demolished and put the renovation works out to tender. Though we’d had the idea of forming a Community Land Trust by this point we couldn’t, of course, have tendered for such a large project.”
Although community members felt despondent, they carried on gardening and organising street markets, and set up the CLT. They talked about a smaller project with the council, housing associations Plus Dane and Liverpool Mutual Homes, social investor Steinbeck Studios and funders the Homes and Communities Agency and the Nationwide Foundation.
After three years of hard work, in late 2014, the council backed the CLT and Plus Dane and LMH went on site. Assemble got involved, working with the community across art, design and architecture, to promote direct action and embrace a DIY sensibility. It started the Granby Workshop last summer, developing and prototyping products and trialling production.
After the first open day and public workshop in September, the products made in the pilot phase went on display in Assemble’s showroom at the Turner Prize Exhibition, effectively launching the business. Throughout the three-month exhibition, Assemble continued to develop the workshop, with production of pre-ordered products commencing in February.
The aim now is to build on the creativity and commitment burgeoning in the area. The partnership plans streets full of plants, a thriving multi-cultural, multi-racial community and a safe, welcoming place to socialise and live.
Ten Victorian terraces will be imaginatively restored, with five available for shared ownership and five up for rent. Local young people between 18 and 24 will be offered on-site building and construction experience and City and Guilds qualifications while volunteering alongside specialist mentors.
The community will continue to organise and develop monthly street markets, and to garden and create. Ronnie Hughes says the project is all about people, place and future possibilities. “Now we’re all filling it with people again,” he says. “In many ways much of what we’ve done has been art all along.”
In this article
- Assemble Collective
- Community land trust
- Granby 4 Streets
- Granby Four Streets
- Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust
- Homes and Communities Agency
- Housing officer
- Liverpool City Council
- Nationwide Foundation
- Ronnie Hughes
- Marie-Claire Kidd
- United Kingdom
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