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Baltic Green, off Jamaica Street, has been transformed from a patch of waste ground into a community green space for the area.
Now, with artists still struggling to find places to perform due to coronavirus restrictions, it is hosting an open-air festival, organised by Unusual Art Sourcing with WARPliverpool.
On Saturday, from 1pm-9.30pm, Baltic Green will be taken over by more than 25 performing groups – musicians, poets, theatre, dance and art – for a safely-spaced celebration involving all ages.
“We have been looking at the space for about three years and then recently we’d noticed things were happening there.
“We work with Sound City, but with the virus that was cancelled, and as the restrictions were changing we noticed people seemed desperate to perform. We wanted to give them an opportunity to do something.”
He started by contacting A Lovely Word, a spoken word night usually held at the Everyman, and organising an outdoor version at St James Gardens three weeks ago.
“120 people turned up, sat on the grass, socially distanced and loads of poets wanted to perform,” says Allan. “After that, we knew we needed to put a festival on, then we bumped into Tristan from WARPliverpool and he said they were looking for something to launch Baltic Green with.
“We contacted poets, cabaret, spoken word, performers – and everyone was saying yes. After being stuck indoors for so long they were just desperate to get back out and doing it again.”
In fact, they ended up with far more than they could fit in, even with fast change-over stage times, but Allan says he’s happy to be able to get as many on as possible and for audiences to enjoy a safe in-the-round experience.
“Baltic Green is a great space that really lends itself to what we want to do and we’re already looking at the next one just based on sheer enthusiasm we’ve seen.”
For most performers and festival-goers, it will be a first chance to see what Baltic Green has become.
Community artist Tristan Brady-Jones, director of WARPLiverpool, has been working to transform the land since becoming involved with the Baltic Triangle a decade ago.
Tristan, who also runs Hobo Kiosk pub there with his wife Delia, has been a part of Liverpool’s creative scene since moving to the city in the early 80s.
He explains: “I became aware of the Baltic Green, which was a scruffy green space that had been a tile warehouse until it was knocked down, and I locked onto it as having potential to become somewhere of value rather than somewhere that was just overlooked.”
He has worked with the city council and, supported by other arts organisations in the city, begun turning the space into a proper modern urban park for Liverpool.
“When we took it over there was about three inches of top soil, it had been used by travellers as an informal camp and because of that the council had put up posts around it. Then it became a bit of a non-space, nobody would even walk across it, it was totally unused – you might just get one brave soul in the summer who’d walk over to it and lie on it to get some sunshine but that was about it.”
An initial ‘pallet build’ on the green five years ago, making a stage and a variety of tables and benches, went in a massive bonfire on November 5. “But we’re long-term community artists so when we’re left with a blank slate, we start again,” says Tristan. “We talked to the community and we began to build with them in mind.”
With the help of local architect Adam Morgan from Studio RBA, an animation was drawn up envisioning what Baltic Green could look like, and a team of volunteers working with Tristan have made it happen.
“It’s a European idea, to create a self-sustaining urban park – in Europe they have cafes and bars in the middle of the parks, and they hold events.
“You can have some form of temporary structures, like containers, which aren’t too overwhelming so we can use them as workshop space as well as a place people can sell food and drinks from.”
Along with a lot more pallets – including some turned into a giant dragon, an over-sized throne and a puppet theatre – Baltic Green has already become a place for people to gather and enjoy.
“Parks generate culture and they create communities – like pubs but without the alcohol,” says Tristan. “They are fresh air spaces that you can use in your own way, so already we’ve had musicians, tai chi, pottery firing, and pilates classes, because it’s got to be of use to people, where something is always happening.”
Tristan hopes Saturday’s festival will bring all ages together to discover the space, and hopefully it will be the first of several outdoor festivals this year.
“With so many restrictions around theatre at the moment, this could become one of the most important art spaces in the city because we can move everything outside.
“We’ve got great communities all around us, so we have to look at how we can get them down here and get them involved, because this is a park for everyone.”
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