The Lock & Quay is part of a groundbreaking social enterprise project in Bootle
Music festivals, cheese tasting and a Saturday canoe club. Ordinarily, these wouldn’t be the things that spring to mind when you think about Bootle. But then the Lock & Quay is no ordinary pub.
We’re trying to give the local community something they wouldn’t ordinarily get from anybody else. Why shouldn’t they?
This local boozer is owned and managed by SAFE Regeneration, a social enterprise that’s based in the former St Mary’s school in Bootle. The Lock & Quay is the region’s only community microbrew pub where all profits are reinvested back into community projects. Is this the future? Bootle certainly seems to think so.
SAFE began in the 1990s as a small creative arts collective working from Toxteth. They won commissions from hospitals, schools, public services and private contractors across Europe, to engage communities in the co-production of public artwork. As Capital of Culture year approached, rents went up and the market became saturated with arts and cultural activities. In 2007, the organisation took the decision to move to Bootle.
Today, the SAFE community hub beside the Leeds-Liverpool canal houses social enterprises, provides space for creatives and artists, has five acres of public space and an allotment.
SAFE took over the management of the Lock & Quay in 2014, operating it as a pop-up pub. It never popped down, becoming a firm fixture for the community in 2015 and an example that it ain’t what you do, but the way that you do it.
Liz Bromilow is the current venue manager of the Lock & Quay. Liz came on board just last year but hit the ground running with a packed calendar of events that include Bootle Music Festival, a pirate festival, ukulele festival, real ale and sausage festival, and LocktoberFest.
“When the lockdown lifted, everyone was looking to use outside space a lot with Covid still being around, so we got inundated because of all our green space outside,” Liz says, as she gives me a tour of the pub.
“I got brought in to streamline things and do the day to day running and utilise the outside space. Up until that point, we only really did the Bootle Music festival, but now we’ve got several festivals planned throughout the year.”
This isn’t Bootle as I know it. The Lock & Quay’s outside space is beautiful; there are cute little boats dotted around the beer garden, a marquee and a food van. Inside, there’s modern artwork, a wall of guitars and a supporters hall of fame. It’s bright and clean and the floors are not sticky. It might just be the nice weather, but even the canal looks lovely today.
Liz has plenty of good ideas on how to maximise this humble pub’s potential.
“The first thing I noticed was, we didn’t have enough bars to serve the amount of people coming to the site. I asked everyone I knew if they had a free shipping container and somebody said, yeah. They craned that in and then Carlsberg fitted out a full bar in the shipping container. The hatch goes up and that services the outside beer garden.”
The cheese club - aka “Lock & Brie” - is hosted by Crosby Cheese & Charcuterie. Liz says it’s one of their most popular events.
“We’re trying to give the local community something they wouldn’t ordinarily get from anybody else,” she says. “But why shouldn’t they? There are loads of lovely people in Bootle.
“The biggest thing is live music. We have a lot of live music and again we try to make sure we use all the local acts and artists. We have an open mic night which is really well attended by the local community again.”
The main event this summer is Bootle Music Festival on 17 & 18 June, with headliners Glenn Tilbrook, Nick Harper, The Christians and Xander & the Peace Pirates.
“We try to put on big events that people wouldn’t normally be able to afford or attend, and just on their doorstep,” Liz says.
“All the ticket prices are worked out with the local community in mind because we’re not in the most affluent of areas, but if we pitch it correctly then it should be affordable for everybody around here.”
It’s not just one way though - Liz says they get a lot of help back from the community from volunteers and sponsorship.
“The community helps us and we help the community,” she says. “You hear about community pubs and initiatives and sometimes you feel like it’s a bit of a front. But it is so genuine here. Everyone in the community gets involved.”
The Lock & Quay pub is a SAFE Regeneration success story, but it’s also part of a much bigger plan to bring community housing to the area.
Destination Bootle is the UK’s largest community-led housing project - an investment of £38m - designed to bring affordable, eco-friendly and future-proofed homes to Bootle.
In March 2021, the planning application was refused on the grounds of inadequate parking, citing that each dwelling needed two spaces. This is an area where only 5% of households own two cars and only 29% own one. £25,000 was raised through a GoFundMe campaign to support an appeal against the decision, of which they’re awaiting an outcome.
SAFE says the housing project will further enhance the way that the Lock & Quay has gone from a derelict pub to a destination. The plans describe it as the “centre of the community” with outside eating space, piazza and improved use of the canal-side area.
“This is part of the redevelopment, this is staying,” says Liz. “But a lot of the land outside here will be used for the housing application that they’ve put in.
“It’s for a good cause. The whole point of SAFE is to provide wellbeing for the whole community. We’ll still have a lot of green space and will do events.
“We’ll adapt to whatever changes are made.”
Follow Vicky Andrews on Twitter: @planetvicster
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