Farewell Victoria Street; a sad goodbye to a cultural hub, and a warm hello to the future of its tenants

The Last Days of ROAD © Tony Knox

Without agenda or pretence, I want to commemorate a building which has been an invaluable support to Art in Liverpool, the Independents Biennial and myself, as it closes its doors to add to Liverpool’s long list of apartments and hotels.

The Crown Buildings on Victoria Street towered over the road out of town with grace, holding a steady face while positive creative chaos ensued behind its bricks. Outstanding exhibitions, entrancing music, and hypnotic writing happened on every floor. Ideas were born, and things were achieved.

On its top floor, was Art in Liverpool’s studio, housed in ROAD Studios, where we met writers for the first time, planned the first stages of the Independents Biennial, hosted guests and wrote half of our 2017 articles. One of the team leading the studio, Tony Knox, has contributed hundreds of beautifully framed photographs for the website over the years, and continues to provide the spectacular documentation of the Independents Biennial.

Nothing will replace the bricks and mortar of ROAD, but equally, nothing can stop them in their tracks.

They have moved over into George Henry Lee’s, for now, while the group find a venue that suits them and lets them work their creative magic for years to come. Their exhibitions programme will play out at GHL too, with an exhibition curated by Liverpool Hope University Students open now, Eoin Flynn’s window installation continuing until the end of October and Kerry Baldry’s much anticipated solo show opening later in the month.

Born out of Wolstenholme Creative Space, the studio members who moved to ROAD embodied the counter culture creativity that opposed the nightlife in Wolstenholme Square.

They continued to add their voice to the city centre, and will carry on.

Their gallery was flexible, engaging, and accessible to emerging artists and established ones alike (though not particularly physically accessible, with four flights of knackering stairs to climb to get there). It was where I first discovered Soup Collective, now SCI, who are exhibiting in George Henry Lee’s at the moment, it’s the first time I saw the work of Patrick O’Rourke, again, an artist we invited as part of Not Just Collective to exhibit here in George Henry Lee’s, and more importantly, my first stop for every LightNight, whether or not it was an official part of it or not.

The genuine and honest way that exhibitions evolved there was unique, and unlike any space I’ve known, largely down to the curators, Tony Knox & Rob Flynn who held the chaos together impeccably.

Sadly like so many other creative spaces it has been moved or relocated over recent years. The nature of a move is inevitable; the space, the mission, the direction of travel changes and what you do transforms. ROAD were one of the last city centre artist spaces in the city and will hopefully stay in that category, but the nature of their directors is difficult to change, and in my gut, I think it’s quite clear that even if they set their new studio up on a yacht floating on the Mersey, they’d still be the same ROAD Studios we know and love.

For now, they live at George Henry Lee’s with so many other exceptional artists in this temporary artist community, with exhibitions ongoing until the end of the festival, including Eoin Flynn’s ‘Landscrapes’ in the window gallery, a collaborative exhibition by Liverpool Hope University staff and students (featuring work by John Moore’s Painting Prize 2016 People’s Choice Winner, Donal Maloney) and the upcoming installation by Kerry Baldry – one of the most anticipated visiting artists of Independents Biennial 2018 – opens 5th October.

Cover image: The Last Days of ROAD © Tony Knox,