The workshop is being set up by Assemble to reflect and support the type of hands-on activity that has brought about immense change in the area.
Granby Street was once a lively high street at the centre of one of Liverpool’s most racially and ethnically diverse communities. But for decades the area was subject to a toxic combination of ‘regeneration’ initiatives and institutional neglect, leading to the demolition of much of the area’s housing stock and the dispersal of a community.
The tireless campaigning of a group of residents led by the Granby Residents Association saved Granby’s last four streets of Victorian terraces from demolition. Those who remained in these ‘Granby Four Streets’ lived in sparsely populated streets filled with boarded up terraces, the threat of the bulldozers never far away.
In an effort to improve their surroundings and alert others to their situation, residents began planting ivy to climb the empty buildings and placed tubs of flowers in the streets. They painted curtains onto boarded up windows, cleared away rubbish and rubble, started a community market and continued to raise their voices against the destruction of their homes. In 2011 residents set up the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust (CLT), with the aim of finding a way to renovate the empty houses that had been allowed to fall into dereliction. Thanks to their direct action the Four Streets are now finally being refurbished and reoccupied in partnership with a number of local organisations. The CLT have been working with Assemble to renovate 10 houses on Cairns Street, which will provide affordable housing that remains in community ownership.
As the Four Streets move from dereliction back into inhabitation, Granby Workshop will continue to support the ethos of DIY activity that has been so important to the area, turning to this history of creativity as a way of providing sustainable local jobs. Local people will be trained and employed in the making of a series of handmade products, with all income generated feeding back into the project and into Granby.
The Workshop’s first series of products is a new set of ‘original features’ for the empty houses to replace those that were lost through decades of damaging neglect, including fireplaces cast using brick and rubble from the houses, ceramic door handles smoke-fired in sawdust filled bins, and tiles decorated with colourful hand cut decals. These are to be fitted in the Cairns St houses, and then replicated by the Granby Workshop. Each product will be made using simple experimental processes that embrace chance, improvisation and accident. So each object will be unique, its design evolving at the hands of its maker.
These initial products are only a starting point. Granby Workshop aims to engage a large number of local people in a program of regular workshops, which will provide the opportunity to share skills and knowledge.
Metal will be supporting this ambitious project during its initial development phase, supporting the team of workshop managers and generating a wider network of support.
If you would like to stay updated on the project or to be involved sign up for the mailing list at www.granbyworkshop.co.uk.
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