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Hidden Gems Feature: What’s Up Dock?

A brief look at Liverpool's next creative postcode

What’s Up Dock?

Words by Josie Jenkins
Article Originally published in Hidden Gems

You’d think the Kazimier was building an empire in their monster of a venue on the North Docks, but in fact when they moved in a couple of years ago, the main thing on their minds was cheap space. Most people know the Kazimier as a music venue in Wolstenholme Square, which sadly came to an end in January 2016, but not so many are aware that the Kazimier had been quietly beavering away for two years in their warehouse on the North Docks, producing large scale commissions and all-encompassing experiences for festivals or anyone else across the country who required such a niche service. In November 2015 the Kazimier decided to put on their own event in the space, named the Invisible Wind Factory, and since then eyes have been turning towards the North Docks.

The buzz of excitement from this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque venture comes not only from the covert projects that are going on, the incredible scale of operations taking place, the cranes and other huge machinery, the muddled sounds of sawing drilling and shouting with the occasional burst of music, but most importantly from all the people that are involved. The industrious workers have all the skills needed for the company to produce any kind of end-to-end show; they invent and design, build and fabricate, compose and edit sound and music, work with technology, and there are even your standard (but certainly not boring) office workers. The Invisible Wind Factory is creating a community and it’s the sort of community that artists love.

The decision to offer artists’ studios seemed like a natural move for the Invisible Wind Factory. Bringing artists in not only boosts excitement around the venue, but also offers great opportunity for collaboration from both sides. The idea started with a tweet and very soon the studios were full. Without any real planning (they admit to doing their market research in hindsight!) the Invisible Wind Factory has offered a unique alternative for artist studios in Liverpool; huge spaces, cheap rent and incredible views across the Mersey. There’s even a half finished café ready to be transformed into a hub that will provide for the artists, workers and anyone else who might want to join in the fun.

90 Squared started as just 90 square feet of space in the basement of Elevator Studios on Parliament Street, but after only 2 months moved to occupy the main warehouse on the 2nd Floor of the same building and now, three years later, this entrepreneurial artists’ studio is making headlines with a new venture: Make Liverpool. The Make space is next door to the Invisible Wind Factory and the choice of venue was no coincidence. The Invisible Wind Factory wanted like-minded neighbours and the directors of Make Liverpool could see great potential in the area. When 90 Squared directors Kirsten Little, Liam Kelly and Alex Kelly first sat down to come up with a plan for the perfect studios they recognised a need for a facility which not only offers space, but equipment. From printmaking, photography and laser cutting facilities, to the basics of a scanner and printer, artists who come straight out of university are used to having access to all this stuff and all in one place. 90 Squared had recognised that access to facilities was a massive barrier to artists embarking on their journey in the real world. This is the grand plan for Make Liverpool: a one stop shop studio and resource centre. Considering that their first studio didn’t even have a sink, they’ve come a long way!

To complete the set, The Lantern Company can also be found on Carlton Street. Known in Liverpool for the creation of amazing and memorable events such as The Lantern Parade in Sefton Park and their most recent success story, Luminous Landscapes in the Festival Gardens, the Lantern Company has actually been storing its back catalogue in a Carlton Street warehouse for the last 10 years.

On the North Docks the amount of space that you can get for your money is incomparable to a city centre unit. Along with the Invisible Wind Factory, Make Liverpool is also interested in offering big space and messy space. The constraint of a small studio certainly affects the work of an individual artist and in the grand scheme of things it could be argued that this impacts on the work of a whole art community. Is it time for a sea change in the scale of work created by artists in Liverpool? The other beautiful thing about the Invisible Wind Factory and Make Liverpool moving into this area is that the manufacturing from the North Docks’ past has been brought back to life. Those buildings have been empty for years and now the tools and processes that once made the area a hive of industrial activity are set in motion again, but with an end result that is something completely different.

Read the paper online HERE.