What does the closure of Constellations mean for the Baltic Triangle and for Liverpool?
5 years ago
Constellations will close in 2019 leading us to wander about the future of independent venues in our city.
The Baltic will say goodbye to Constellations in 2019 as the site is redeveloped into housing. The venue, a creative hub for music, arts, performance and celebrations has enjoyed just 4 years at the heart of the cultural melting pot that is the Baltic Triangle, from music festivals to weddings, family raves and photo exhibitions, Constellations , previously voted #1 coolest place in Britain, has lent its walls to many memorable events.
GetIntoThis Journalist, Peter Guy broke the news here late on Wednesday 11th July and it’s safe to say it has come as a real blow to not just customers, but also Baltic neighbours, fans and friends. At a time when securing huge cultural investment into the city from the likes of Channel 4 and Twickenham Film Studios, is paramount, this high profile closure begs the question, are we taking one step forward, and two steps back? The venue released an official statement on its official Instagram account. (Thursday 12th July 2018).
People have flocked to social media to give their thoughts on the closure with comments like ‘This is happening more and more in the city, it has to stop’ and ‘Terrible news for the city’, being echoed across different platforms.
Culture For Sale
The news of Constellations closure has brought about a conversation about the future of the city’s cultural offering and Baltic Triangle Area CIC have released an open letter entitled: Culture For Sale. The letter is written in response to the recent news that proposed ‘residential development’ will see the loss of Baltic Triangle green space “Twirling Trees” and the closure of Constellations.
The letter reminds us of the loss of a number of prominent independent and culturally important venues which have given way to residential developments in the past few years, including Nation/Cream and The Kazimier, and focuses its attention on the need for a level playing field for both local independents and national firms when buying and developing land.
Essentially what happens is this…a small number of creative entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, whoever, inhabit a rundown space and turn it into a cool, welcoming venue that the public use and grow to love. The creative co-op develops the space by responding to the needs and cultural shifts of its users, ie. we get behind live music nights, we buy local art, we support fundraisers, and in time, the space and surrounding area attracts more like-minded creatives and customers and grows into a full-blown city hot spot, which is maybe even named the #1 coolest place in Britain (ahem, Constellations). Foot fall increases, popularity is at an all-time high… and there’s money to be made.
At this point, and in the case of Constellations, just four years since it opened it’s doors, a redeveloper ear-marks the venue as prime location as the perfect place to build…most typically, more housing.
There is of course, need for investment into Liverpool and it’s landscape, and the far reaching needs of a growing city that is attracting and retaining more young professionals, families and students than before. Maybe the question is a question of fairness? Are the local creative co-op’s given a level playing field to cultivate what they’ve worked so hard to achieve? Is it always in the city’s best interests to opt for outsider investment? Can this not be divided more fairly?
The Future of Culture in Liverpool
Is it a given that Liverpool’s cultural collective has to adopt the idea of consistently evolving and moving to different sites? Packing up, starting again, rebuilding their brands and clientele, the moment an independent, culturally rich area becomes too good to ignore? How can local independent groups be in with a chance of buying spaces and land to keep these beloved venues safe from redevelopment, after years of blood, sweat, tears and investment, which makes them so attractive to the big buyers?
We asked Independent Liverpool‘s David Williams what should be done to protect the city’s independent cultural offering, he said: “That’s a hard question to answer and I’d be lying if I knew the answer but I do know we need to use the sad news about Constellations as an excuse to come together more. Make movements, investments and plans as an area rather than singular businesses.
“We’re all working so hard down the Baltic way and we’re all part of this crazy new area that keeps getting better by the week but the Constellations and The Kazimier closure is a reminder that culture is for sale as long as there’s a buyer.”
Baltic Team Work
There’s an unrivalled level of social responsibility among the Baltic Triangle independents. Not only do they all bring something unique to the table, from coffee shops and beer gardens to digital studios, festivals and urban canvases, they also look out for one another and work collectively to develop the area for the good of everyone.
Constellations is due to host a fundraiser for the New Bird Street Skate Park this summer. It aims to rejuvenate what was one the first community projects in the area. Offering “a raffle, food and bevs”, the August 8th event is hoping to raise just £1,000 to make the site useable and more attractive for all, a true investment back into the local area from a venue with it’s fate already sealed.
It’s Not Over Yet
Hinterlands at Cain’s Brewery Village will become the new home for celebrations at the Baltic as the team behind Constellations continue to provide creative mixed-use space for local companies, artists, thinkers, makers and creators to not only work but also and flourish.
Until then, there’s a packed programme of events to see the final year of a much loved venue, show us what it’s made of. This summer alone you can get involved in pop up life drawing, African beats, record fairs, live music, BBQ’s, fundraisers, lazy lunches, reunions, all-dayers and plenty of late nights too.
So in answer to our headline “What does the closure of Constellations mean for the Baltic and for Liverpool?”. Truth be told, we are not sure. Is this natural progression for a city like our ever growing Liverpool? Or is it the beginning of the end for our beloved local independent businesses that make our city what it is?
There’s still a huge programme of events to come throughout the summer and beyond at Constellations. Click here to see what’s on and get down there.