The Baltic Triangle is one of Liverpool's fastest growing districts
PUBLISHED: 13:36 14 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:45 16 March 2017
A hive of creativity, Liverpool's Baltic Triangle is an area continually on the rise, as Rebekka O'Grady discovers.
Metamorphic is just one of the words you could use to describe Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. An ever-evolving melting-pot of business, creative enterprise, food and nightlife, the area once known for abandoned warehouses and workshops that were previously used to handle global trade from Liverpool’s docks during the 18th and 19th centuries is now one of the city’s fastest growing districts – and has even been named the fourth hippest area in the UK by TravelSupermarket, as well as the coolest place to live in Britain by The Times.
Located a ten minute walk from the Liverpool ONE shopping complex, the Baltic Triangle has, in recent years, been developed by creative businesses and is now home to some of Liverpool’s most interesting people and independents, as we discovered on a recent trip to the area.
One of the oldest residents is the Gustav Adolf Nordic Church, located on the edge of the area. The Grade II listed church was built in 1883 as a ‘Scandinavian Seaman’s Church’ – words which are written in Swedish above the door – for the hundreds of immigrants who, while travelling to the USA, ended up residing in the UK. Today, alongside its traditional church services, it’s also a cultural centre with a calendar packed full of events ranging from language classes and a craft café to film nights and Nordic-style coffee mornings.
Stan Royden, chairman of the GANC council spoke about the church’s rich history, which has included a fight to keep the building from being sold back to the Church of Sweden. Stan met his wife, Mette, while working as an English teacher in Norway. He has been involved with the volunteer-led church and teaching Norwegian since 1978.
‘In 2008, the Liverpool International Nordic Community, a charity company set up to run the place, had a stand off with the Church of Sweden which lasted two years. They eventually gave up and signed over the running of the church to us. Today, we are dedicated to maintaining a thriving community with a strong Nordic identity. There is still a very large Nordic community in Liverpool and the surrounding areas, but we always encourage more people to join to ensure we are to continue to succeed into the future.’
Success as a result of working together is also a massive motivation behind the running of the Women’s Organisation. Located within the contemporary 54 St James Street building (which they own), the innovative organisation, which celebrates its 21st birthday this year, provides quality enterprise and employment services to support and improve women.
‘The Baltic Triangle area is pioneering within itself, so it’s organic and fitting for us to be here too – as we are pioneering with what we do,’ said Jo Mountfort, a programme manager at the Women’s Organisation. 54 St James Street as a building underpins the organisation’s social values; so by people using the space they are contributing back into what we do here.’
So what exactly do the Women’s Organisation and 54 St James Street offer? The building, which was completed in 2011, is a flagship space for women and women’s enterprise. A physical representation of what the organisation has achieved over the past two decades, it offers a place for businesses to operate from – currently there are 129 virtual and 22 physical tenants, with 80% of them being female led businesses. Conference and meeting spaces are also available, and on the ground floor is popular food and coffee bar Siren, an independent business set up by friends, Jeni Wadkin and Natalie Hardman.
‘As more people set up a business, especially if they are working from home, it’s great for them to have something like a virtual office to give a perception about scale and also security to list their address as here rather than a personal one. In regards to the work the Women’s Organisation does, our core work and specialism is around women’s enterprise support, around the Merseyside and Halton region. A lot of the time people come to us with an idea but they just don’t know where to start.
‘We support start-ups, established businesses and run a networking club. If you’re a female business owner and give a small monthly donation to the organisation you are invited to our monthly networking events.
‘Here you can meet others, have peer support or even end up doing business together. It’s pretty amazing to hear from women from all different backgrounds – we want to highlight that women can do anything in business, it’s not just leaders in the field who succeed.’
A quick walk around the corner and you will come across some of the region’s best examples of independent, creative industry housed within various shop front studios, multifunctional warehouses and workshops, and the unique Creative Campus – shed style units and shared work spaces. All run and managed by Baltic Creative CIC, which was established in 2009, here you will find photographers, fashion designers, digital agencies, writers, architects and more.
Stan Royden, Helen and Roger Metcalf and Harriet Busby at the Gustav Adolf Nordic Church coffee morning
Statue of Mohammed Ali on the McKeown Rice exhibition space
Gustav Adolf Nordic Church
The Baltic Fleet
Customer, Akil Morgan, gets the full treatment at Swanky Malone hair salon courtesy of Lucy Ansboro, Laurence Morris, Ben Howland and Charlie Stananought
Graffiti and Super Rat sculpture by artist, Faith Bebbington
Principal, Ian Parry, with students, Megan Loughlin and Joe Benson at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC
Jo Mountfort at the Women's Organisation
Studio 'sheds' within the Creative Campus
Game time for Jason Leather and Vanessa Abel at Sugar 'n' Dice
Jamaica Street with Baltic Creative and Liverpool Life Sciences UTC in the background
The close proximity to enterprising businesses such as these is a huge bonus to Liverpool Life Sciences UTC, the first school in the UK specialising in Science and Health Care for 14 to 19 year olds.
Opened in 2013 as the first University Technical College in the North West, the school is sponsored by various businesses and a university to provide education combining traditional GCSEs and A-Levels with specialist vocational qualifications, such as BTECs.
‘All education is about social mobility and preparing for the exciting world we live in,’said principal, Ian Parry. ‘Launching this school was an opportunity to look at students who have the mindset and skills to compete in real growth sectors. Here in a city region, they are life science and healthcare.
‘Pupils here have an opportunity to get high level qualifications and the opportunity to develop skills that will set them apart from others students when they are applying for jobs or a university place.’
At the school, students have access to world class resources and facilities and a curriculum that has been developed in conjunction with business partners such as Unilever and AstraZeneca.
‘Our partner base allows puts pupils in a position to work with these big names, as well as local SMEs,’ Ian added.
‘Being located in the Baltic Triangle adds to the atmosphere in the school of a workplace environment. We run by the motto that “everyday is an interview” so they are genuinely prepared for the next step, and we are fortunate to be able to guarantee each student a job, university place or apprenticeship when they leave here.’
Two pupils who are already utilising the facilities they have at Lifestyles UTC are Joe Benson, 17, and Megan Loughlin, 15. Year 12 student Joe joined the school in year ten with aspirations of being a trauma surgeon. However, the specialised subject areas on offer and access to partners has now led him along a business pathway, and the triple BTEC business and psychology student has launched his own recording label, Goat Entertainment.
‘The school is so supportive of what we do, always there for you whether it’s equipment or advice. If I hadn’t have come here, I wouldn’t have made those business connections that have helped me, such as meeting Agent Marketing in the Creative Campus.’
Year 11 student Megan moved from a previously technology focused high school to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist. ‘I really love it here and I want to work hard. The facilities here and teaching will help enable me to achieve what I want,’ she said.
Snip back in time
The development of the area is encouraging a wide range of businesses to set up shop here. Hairdressers Swanky Malone’s decided that the Baltic Triangle was the ideal destination for them to open their second site, with manager Lawrence Morris saying that they wanted to be apart of the area now and watch it grow around them, before it was too late.
Owned by Cameron Stananought, the hairdresser group is inspired by the 1950s, a nostalgic throwback to an era where personal grooming meant everything to a stylish man or woman.
‘We love taking clients back in time to this era. It’s a time when everyone made an effort and really looked the part,’ explained Lawrence, who said that they only play Frank Sinatra and Rat Pack music to in keep with the theme which also incorporates vintage furniture, décor and staff uniforms. ‘Clients really love the idea behind it and passersby are intrigued when they look in.’
So we’ve all heard of Cluedo, certainly played a heated game of Monopoly at some point and definitely come across stray Scrabble letters under the couch. But when was the last time that you actually sat down and played a board game with family and friends – and Christmas doesn’t count!
Well Sugar and Dice are aiming to change that. Owned by Vanessa Abel and Jason Leather, the couple were self-proclaimed board game addicts and decided to share they own collection of over 250 board games with the public when they opened their own board game café. Now boasting over 400 games sourced from around the world, since opening in November the café has become a destination for people to sit down and have fun, but not in front of a screen.
‘We wanted to bring back the good old days, where you put your phones away and actually talk,’ said Vanessa, who along with partner Jason co-owns the business with Rachel Button. The couple, who met in Japan, had previously run their own business in Berlin where they first discovered the board game café concept. ‘It was a local favourite for us so we said let’s do one back home.’
With some funds generated via a Kickstarter campaign as well as their own investment, they decided to launch in Jason’s hometown of Liverpool. ‘I couldn’t think of a better fit,’ he said. ‘It’s all about community here and so is café concept so it just made sense. It’s mad sometimes when you see how busy the café gets; we have really built up a community and people have found a way to socialise with like minded visitors.’
The concept works on the basis of £2 per person, per hour. However, the fee caps at £5 and as long as someone isn’t waiting for a table, you can play for as long as you like. Open from 12pm until 10pm Tuesday to Sunday, it’s accessible for those who want to visit after work and the fact you can grab a home cooked meal or cake is also a bonus.
‘One woman said to me as she walked out that she hasn’t spoken properly to her teenage son for two years before spending a few hours here,’ said Jason. ‘That was amazing to hear.’
Location: The Baltic Triangle is on the edge of Liverpool city centre, bordered by Toxteth and the Albert Docks. It is close to the M62, which links to M57 and M6. Liverpool Lime Street train station is a 20 minute walk away and has direct train links to around the North West and London.
Parking: Two hours no return parking is available but nearby King Park is £4 all day: L1 8LE