Aigburth - Liverpool’s Bohemian quarter

PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 September 2014

Lark Lane

Lark Lane

Archant

We visit Aigburth and take a stroll through some of this area’s lovely green spaces. Rebekka O’Grady reports

Phil Southall isn’t being fanciful when he says the eclectic mix of stylish shops in Liverpool’s Lark Lane area reminds him of Portobello Road in London.

This street does have that same buzz of creativity and individual style. It’s been growing in popularity for a number of years, but now it’s really taking off. For Phil and his wife Jill, their three businesses have only added to the rich character of the street.

From Larks, an old fashioned gift emporium with cutting edge contemporary and vintage chic, to No.13, a shop that can take you on an incense-fuelled journey around the world, and finally to GASP, a vintage warehouse containing a treasure trove of items, these stores display creative minds at work.

‘We tried really hard to make Larks unique, sourcing different products so it isn’t run of the mill. A blend of contemporary and vintage, you can walk out with something different each time,’ says Phil. ‘It reminds me of something you would see on Portobello Road in London.’

He started on the independent music scene, setting up the famous 3 Beat record label and shop. After becoming disillusioned with the industry, he set up No.13 in 1997 and through this shop he met his wife, Jill. The former cabin service director on Concorde and 747 flights, Jill’s jet-set career enabled her to indulge in her passion for collecting curios and objects d’art from around the world, before becoming a greetings card agent. The couple’s shared interest in nostalgia and memorabilia culminated in a match made in vintage heaven.

‘With GASP, we aren’t restricted with the amount of items we can have due to the vast space. Previously, if we saw an object that we really loved we would have to turn it down as it wouldn’t fit upstairs in Larks,’ says Phil. ‘Vintage brings back memories and nostalgia, but not only that, it is made extremely well. We have a 1950s sideboard here that has been in constant use through the years but is still in great condition – plus it is cheap!’

He has also found some turn of the century treasures at auctions and car boot sales around the country. ‘I love getting up early and never knowing what I will be coming back with,’ he says. ‘It is an adventure. There are some contacts who know the types of things we like so they will save it for us. At the moment we have some vintage clothing that is ex-catalogue stock from the 1960s – brand new. It’s like Jarvis Cocker outfits for four year olds!’

Another fan of Lark Lane’s individuality is artist Alex Corina. He is the proprietor of Lark Lane Arts Works, and despite originally hailing from Bradford, the adopted Scouser sees this part of Liverpool as his cultural home.

Palm House, Sefton ParkPalm House, Sefton Park

‘Lark Lane is a cultural enclave, a cultural gem within Liverpool. Not only is it bohemian in terms of people, but in the shops and cafes that line the street. It’s full of creative people, musicians, craftsmen and artists.’

Alex is best known for his ‘Mona Lennon’ print which was used to capture the spirit and humour of Liverpool during European Capital of Culture 2008, and a giant version 80ft by 50ft version was hung from Liverpool’s St Georges Hall. The artist took over Lark Lane Art Works on a temporary basis in 2008 after the family of its previous owner, the late Frances Seymour, wanted the building to be used in similar way.

‘I ended up staying permanently of course,’ says Alex. ‘We just added our own twist to the foundations Frances had built. The work here is a combination of quirky and local art – I would like to think it is an edgy venue for artist to exhibit in.’

During the summer months, Alex has been utilising the gallery for a series of ‘Art in Action’ sessions, where the audience can see how artists of different mediums work first hand and have the opportunity to ask questions. ‘All of the artists involved have Liverpool connections. The blacksmith who took part in July, his mum lives just across the road,’ he says. ‘There is a great deal of drama involved in creating a piece of work, and now people can take part in an experience and see how it is produced.’

‘Lark Lane has richness and a flavour about it that makes it unique, and I hope the art gallery reflects that.’

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The Chinese GardenThe Chinese Garden

Green Angels

People from outside Liverpool might not associate its suburbs with beautiful green spaces, but you don’t need to try too hard to find them. Just ask the Angels.

These particular Angels are of the green variety and they run a Big Lottery funded scheme at South Liverpool’s Festival Gardens, one of the last vestiges of the Garden Festival projects that went from city to city in the 1980s.

The Green Angels is the name of the project that aims to improve the quality of life for local s by providing training opportunities in the environmental field.

‘When we first started the project, I didn’t realise how much it would benefit Festival Gardens,’ said Green Angels project manager, Carolyn Hassall. ‘Not only has it benefited the employment prospects, social cohesion, education and skills building of those taking part, it has also transformed aspects of this green space. As a team it is amazing how much you can get done,’ said Carolyn.’

The project has been inundated with applicants since it began in November 2013 and is now looking for participants to join for September 2014. Courses have ranged from countryside management and parks maintenance, to business skills, environmental education and horticulture.

Some Green Angels courses also carry external accreditation: ‘We are open to everyone, and encourage all who think they would be interested to apply,’ said Carolyn. ‘The scheme will run until November 2015. It is a brilliant way to learn new skills, meet new people, and change your future prospects.’

Liverpool Festival Gardens is the only remaining example of the 1980s Garden Festival movement. The Land Trust was appointed to operate the park in 2012 after developer Langtree began the initial restoration of the gardens. A blossoming community space, the addition of the Green Angels only enhanced this valuable space.

One of the Green Angels from the most recent course is Tina Giannasi. Along with her fellow participants, she has helped to weed and redesign the Japanese garden and plant trees for a woodland area. All work on each course is seasonal.

‘I work in a children’s centre as a parent operating a ‘mini-growers’ class,’ said Tina. ‘As a mum I think it is fab to get children involved in gardening and growing, so I signed up to become a Green Angel so that I could learn more and in turn benefit my own project. I have really enjoyed the course and I encourage others to take part in the next one.’

Another green space in this corner of Liverpool is Sefton Park. Located north of the popular bohemian quarter of Lark Lane, the 235 acre park has undergone a surge of restoration thanks to a £5 million Heritage Lottery funded renovation project.

Salvatore Ferraiolo has seen the regeneration from start to finish from his business in the centre of the park. He runs the Oasis Café, a one-time greasy spoon.

‘The development of Sefton Park has been a positive influence on the surrounding business and area. I think it will only continue to get better, and with the different events that are held here it brings more and more tourism in,’ said Salvatore. The business man, who moved to Liverpool from Italy aged five, has seen the positive aspects from the regeneration and added Ferraiolo’s Italian Bistro on to the property in 2012 and most recently this year the Marshfield ice cream parlour.

His inspiration comes from parks around Europe, where many cafes offer a more cosmopolitan version of what we provide in England. However, it doesn’t stop there for the passionate entrepreneur. He is planning to run a land-train that will take visitors on trips around the park, explaining the history of the green space and the particular monuments inside, including the spectacular Palm House.

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