Helen Wilkie shares her thoughts on the recent bulldozing of the Baltic Green…
Writing is a new hobby for me. It started a few weeks ago when Scally Magazine asked for views about Lark Lane. I trotted off 800 words in half an hour about why I don’t like it and thought that was that.
However, it left me feeling a bit uneasy. If people want to hear me (or hundreds of others like me) having a moan, they can drop in on my Twitter account any day of the week. As a result, I resolved to put a positive spin on any future writing I did.
Thinking about what I’d like to cover, I thought about Tristan Brady-Jacobs, an artist whose work I’ve followed for the past few years. Over lockdown, I watched him and a group of fellow volunteers transform a bare patch of grass in the Baltic Triangle into a surreal wooden pallet garden named the Baltic Green.
It was embraced by students, construction workers, and families alike. It provided a useful rain shelter for me while I waited for a friend to finish getting tattooed recently. So, a few weeks ago I went to have a chat about his projects, Liverpool’s place in the world and the challenges of making a mark in a space that is increasingly being fought over by competing interests. Then life got in the way. Like I said, this is a hobby after all.
While I dealt with more urgent issues, I still looked forward to writing something about Tristan, his and his wife’s bar Hobo Kiosk, and the Baltic Green. I wanted to be hopeful and was sure this piece would write itself. Tristan is a man with big, creative ideas and the energy and passion to realise them.
Then one morning, a video appeared on social media of a digger demolishing the hand-built furniture on the Green. It was then I realised that both my intentions to write something optimistic- and get some decent photographs- were never going to be realised. There’s a lesson there, kids.
That same evening I headed back to the Green, but Tristan wasn’t there. I spoke to other staff from Hobo Kiosk who were as bewildered as they were disappointed. They knew the Green was under threat but hadn’t expected such heavy-handed action.
Wandering around the Green, it now looked like a bomb site. I had heard reports of rodents and litter, but the digger had now left an ugly landscape of jagged wood and churned up turf. There was no longer any shelter or anywhere to sit, and the carefully painted and constructed sculptures had just been left to soak in the rain. A colourful, eccentric, haphazard oasis was now a mud bath.
It wouldn’t be 2021 if one of Liverpool’s male, pale and stale councillors didn’t wade into the debate on social media, and in doing so, soiling themselves publicly. While the consensus was that the Green needed maintenance, and people were sorry to see it go, Steve Munby took to Facebook to counter arguments put forward on Twitter (and as usual, copied and pasted by a professional journalist into an Echo article) expressing dismay at losing this “popular green space”.
Calling it a “rat’s nest”, Steve declared residents were rejoicing at the destruction, even turning up “en masse” to thank council staff (an event disputed by someone who witnessed the entire debacle). At this point I considered a Freedom of Information request to find out how much Liverpool City Council is paying the Pantomime Villain School of Public Relations. He even referred to Tristan as an ‘artist’ (quotation marks his) and declared “if this was artwork, I’m Picasso”.
In that case, Steve might want to buy some paints and try and earn a living in St Helens and Earlestown where the same people who created the Baltic Green have been asked to build something similar in the main shopping square.
Usually at this point, I like to refer to a European town or city that has embraced its local art scene, experimented with its public space, and had the courage to try something new and different. Now it seems even St Helens are showing Liverpool how it should be done. We’re letting the wools win!
Lately, with all dispersal orders, bike lane destruction, bulldozing of art and the various dubious decisions about licensing, town planning and development, I’ve spoken to many people who are convinced that post-Caller Report, Liverpool City Council still hasn’t washed its hands of corruption, and so called left-wing parties are listening to big money rather than their constituents.
Until I see evidence of that, it’s my impression that we just have poor-quality politicians, who’ve led sheltered lives, have no imagination and are afraid of change and new ideas. It is in this way that they poorly reflect large sections of the city’s population through being devoid of innovative ideas and, despite slight improvements, they continue to lag on demographic representation as well.
So, I’m sorry this article hasn’t included any of Tristan’s thoughts on Ken Campbell, John Fox, arte povera, Bill Drummond, Nancy Sinatra, French yé-yé pop, Steve’s Chippy, Nantes, Lisbon, Cahors, or the Albigensian Revolution, but to be honest, the best way to hear them is over a pint in Hobo Kiosk, Bridgewater Street. Go there before it becomes a Mr’s Browns Boys theme bar.
Cover photo: Helen Wilkie