Hope & Glory, Shankly rooftop, Tobacco Warehouse, Bar Lightship, St Luke's and more

New things brewing at Cains Brewery. Picture: Angie Sammons

January | Liverpool Baltic 'fourth trendiest place in UK'

The Baltic Triangle has been touted as Liverpool’s next big thing for several years, but maybe it was 2017 when its regeneration engine really kicked into gear.

Back in January it swiped fourth spot on TravelSupermarket’s vaguely risible Hip Hang-Out Neighbourhood Index (“We didn’t base the ranking on beard-to-face and pints of craft beer ratios!” yelped the press release), but the year has also seen some less flaky signs that the neighbourhood is consolidating nicely.

While the area still doesn’t exactly buzz round the clock, the rapid growth of food, drink and other businesses round Cains Brewery Village – now officially part of the Baltic brand – have added extra appeal alongside longer-standing venues like Camp & Furnace and Constellations. 

By the time TravelSupermarket returns with its trusty Trend-O-Scope, perhaps a place in the top three could be there for the taking. Dare we dream? 

* Full story here

Pat Doherty. Picture by Angie Sammons

February | The Irish millionaire who took a punt on the Tobacco Warehouse

As every amateur Liverpool historian knows, the Tobacco Warehouse at Stanley Dock was once “the biggest brick building in the world”. Or it might still be. Or perhaps it never was.

Whatever the truth of the matter, its hulking great glory days seemed set to remain in the past until Pat Doherty, an Irish-born developer, took on the job of restoring it for a new era.

Doherty was in town back in February for the official launch of the “Ten Streets” vision for the north docks district, already home to creative projects such as the Invisible Wind Factory, Drop The Dumbulls and Make. As he told Liverpool Confidential at the time:  "Ten years ago we wouldn’t have come to Liverpool. We just wouldn’t. But seven or eight years ago I saw this place and saw its potential. I’m glad we came then.”

The Stanley Dock project is now well advanced, with 538 apartments on the way at the 42-acre site. But when it’s finished, where will Peaky Blinders go for all those atmospheric warehouse shots?

*Full story here

Picture from NML

March | Biggest Ancient Egypt collection outside London

Liverpool’s mummy bloggers had plenty to write about in March, although it wasn’t school runs and nit infestations that was keeping their typing fingers busy. Instead, it was the news that the biggest gallery of ancient Egyptian artefacts outside London was due to open at Liverpool World Museum, complete with a climate-controlled Mummy Room featuring nine of the bandaged beauties.

The preserved remains include a female temple musician called Ankh-es-en-aset, a priest called Hor-wen-nefer, and a woman called Ta-enty who was buried in her bedsheets.

As Liverpool Confidential’s resident Professor of Egyptology commented at the time: “Swivel on that Tracey Emin”.

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The Planet lightship sails out of the Mersey for good. Picture by Angie Sammons

April | The Bar Lightship's removal - an absolute disaster for Liverpool'

Over recent years, the vivid red bulk of the Planet lightship had become a distinctive Canning Dock landmark (watermark?), but back in September 2016 it was seized by the Canal and River Trust in a row over unpaid mooring fees, and in April this year, it was sold.

Any chance of the historic vessel returning to the Mersey seems to have been scuppered.

City heritage campaigners, including Merseyside Civic Society, were unhappy that not enough noise had been made in Liverpool about the imminent loss. They were also angry about the role of the C&RT who, they claimed, had “failed to honour its earlier indication, made at a senior management level to the MCS, that the vessel would be returned here.”

In response to Liverpool Confidential’s article, one commenter suggested the move was “akin to Yorkshire selling the Angel of the North”.

The Angel of the North is, of course, in Tyne and Wear.

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Ambrose Reynolds. Picture by Angie Sammons

May | Jubilant Ambrose Reynolds gets the keys to St Luke’s for next 30 years

May was the month when St Luke’s on Leece Street, or the Bombed Out Church to you and me, finally got its future sorted out.

Standing as a World War II memorial since it was hit during the Blitz of 1941, it also became a much-loved events space when Ambrose Reynolds and his Urban Strawberry Lunch organisation began caring for it back in 2007.

However, the building’s physical deterioration led to closure for a couple of years, and with a tender process set in motion, it was uncertain who would be handed the keys once the restoration work was done.

In May though, it was announced that a bid put together by Reynolds and Mark Hensby from Liverpool Organic Brewery had been successful.

“It’s the best news ever,” said Reynolds at the time, a sentiment with which much of Liverpool seemed to agree.

May the sound of bongos ring out once again.

* Full story here

Liverpool waterfront. Picture by Angie Sammons

June | Liverpool could lose World Heritage status as soon as next year

“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” say motivational business types, but it’s Liverpool’s planning decisions over the last few years that have put the city on UNESCO’s list of potential World Heritage Site failures.

Liverpool has been on the ‘danger’ list since 2012 when concerns were raised about the impact of large-scale developments, particularly the £5 billion Liverpool Waters project planned by Peel, owners of the Port of Liverpool.

However, in June this year it became clear that UNESCO was about to issue its strongest warning yet, making it clear that Liverpool risks being struck off at its next annual meeting unless the British Government clamps down on civic planning decisions affecting the historic waterfront.

The date for your diaries is June 2018 when the 42nd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets to decide the next step.

Watch this space.

* Full story here

Picture by Liam Fogherty

July | Shankly Hotel roof extension ‘a lumpen, thuggish carbuncle’

We can only guess at what the great football manager might have said about it, but a city hotel that bears the Shankly name became the focus for brickbats and scorn this year. The reason? An unwieldy roof extension emerged atop the Victoria Street venue, lurking over the elegant Victorian streetscape like a malevolent black cloud.

The Shankly Hotel, owned by city developers Signature Living, won permission for its extension in 2015, but as the construction grew larger and larger, concerns were raised that it didn’t match the plans. According to a report to councillors, it “did not correspond with the form and design” of the extension that had been approved.

For former journalist, BBC broadcaster and one-time mayoral candidate Liam Fogarty, it was all too much.

“Developers who embrace smart, sensitive design should always be welcome in Liverpool,” he said. “Those who won’t shouldn’t be allowed to put one brick on top of another.”

* Full story here

Day two on the site of the Hope and Glory festival which was abruptly cancelled. Picture by Angie Sammons

August | Who and what killed Hope & Glory?

Whether or not you thought the likes of James, Razorlight and Haçienda Classical were the kind of acts you wanted to see at a festival (and plenty did), the abrupt nosedive in fortunes that befell Liverpool’s Hope & Glory festival tended to catch the attention of attenders and non-attenders alike.

Scheduled to run over the first weekend of August on a site sandwiched between the World Museum and St George’s Hall, it didn’t take long for social media to heat up with comments about queues, tickets and a general air of disquiet.

By the end of the first day, with acts having been cut from the bill and the complaints continuing to pour in, Twitter and Facebook were aflame as punters and organisers slugged it out in public. And when the official festival Twitter account kicked off the Sunday session by posting “No festival today,” the event’s place in the PR textbooks was finally secured.

Put it this way. Don’t get your hopes up for Hope & Glory 2.

* Full story here

Renters can expect to pay up to £900 for these once condemned houses in L8. Picture by Angie Sammons

September | The Welsh Streets residents who can never return home

The successful regeneration of the once-ill-fated Welsh Streets sent many hearts soaring this year, with The Observer’s Rowan Moore describing the houses’ existence as “something of a miracle”.

However, while there is much to celebrate in the fact that the long campaign to save the Toxteth homes eventually won the day, September saw Liverpool Confidential reporting on the ex-Welsh Streets residents who can no longer afford to return.

People now wishing to live in their old homes, or those moving there for the first time, will have to find market rents of between £650 and £894 per month for the privilege. For many of those who were obliged to accept a payout in the face of imminent demolition, and who then had to take on new mortgages to make up the difference, the Welsh Streets’ steady gentrification means the doors stay locked.

* Full story here

The Mersey Gateway Bridge. Picture: PR handout

October | Two quid to cross the Mersey - a Runcorn Bridge too far

It may be architecturally elegant and its presence may well assist the smooth flowing of traffic the between banks of the Mersey round Runcorn, but the new Mersey Gateway bridge adds another toll to the routes in and out of Liverpool.

With two tolled tunnels already and the old Silver Jubilee bridge due to start charging following its renovation, four key routes to and from the city will involve the handover of money.

As our report pointed out at the time of the Mersey Gateway’s opening, another new bridge across the Forth, near Edinburgh, is free to use, as are plenty of other existing river crossings up and down the country. 

At the last count, the number of toll bridges crossing the Thames in London was zero.

Perhaps they are all missing a trick. More than a million quid in fixed penalty fines was raked in during the first month of the Mersey Gateway's opening as non clued up drivers failed to get online and pay the toll in time.

* Full story here

Bedsit land: The Dales off Smithdown. Picture from Google Streetview

November | Council puts brakes on student invasion of Smithdown

Mention of “the Dales” may bring to mind tranquil countryside vistas, but the south Liverpool district of the same name – referring to the roads branching off Smithdown near the Ullet Road junction, including Borrowdale, Avondale and Langdale – is more famous for trundling wheelie bins than rolling hills.

The dense streets of terraced housing have long been popular with students, and with landlords able to earn around £80 a week from each occupant, there has been plenty of motivation to turn old family homes into “houses of multiple occupation” (HMOs).

However, with four out of every ten homes in the area now classed as an HMO, and numerous complaints about noise and anti-social behaviour, a plan went before the Mayor’s council cabinet to prevent any more houses being converted.

Perhaps there are more peaceful times ahead for the district’s traffic cone population?

* Full story here

Liverpool Chinatown. Picture: PR handout

December | Liverpool’s spectacular Chinese festival will go on for nine months

Liverpool’s Chinese new year celebrations have been growing steadily over the last few years, but it seems that the dawn of the Year of the Dog in February 2018 will be the most spectacular yet.

When the plans were announced in December, there were promises of festivities along the length and breadth of Berry Street along with “spectacular projections” on the Chinese arch and a pyrotechnic display that will apparently “blow your socks off”.

As well as marking the new year, the coming celebrations will also be used to launch Liverpool 2018, the year-long cultural programme intended to mark ten years since the city was European Capital of Culture. With the recent news that, post-Brexit, British cities will no longer be eligible to hold this title, it may also be something of a memorial to that particular Euro bauble.

Speaking of which, can it really be a decade since Ringo appeared in a Portakabin on the roof of St George’s Hall?

How time flies when you’re having fun.

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