Monday, 9 April 2012

The Florrie-What An Inspiration to see its restoration.

Toxteth has had some rotten luck over the decades. 
 Neglected by a City Council more concerned by yuppie flats and adding to the Duke of Westminster’s fiefdom,than looking after its more run down places.
it is was always going to be a mammoth task to save anything in and around such a neglected area.

Wayne popped into the Florrie and was blown away by its rebirth which was a result of people power and the prolonged tenacity of a small group of local dedicated campaigners who have made something happen.

“When I was restoring listed buildings for a living it was always a disappointment when on completion of the task, it actually looked like nothing had been done".

  I am afraid I was one of those people on Saturday last who had to compliment all concerned because it looked like it should have and would have.
But it is hard to believe that this place never had a roof and had water creeping into it for ages. 
The saving grace was that it was built of such good glazed brick that did exactly what it should have done, and kept out the elements and protect the structure despite the roof falling in. 

This wasn’t a council job in fact it is a shame that ex council leader Warren Bradley had been driving his fire applicance around his beat, which is Toxteth, probably turned the hose pipe to put out fires there on numerous occasions.
  We lost Beaufort Street school just over the way as a direct result of Warren “warzone” Bradley’s ineptitude to be able to look further than his nose and comprehend the state of affairs that was Toxeth’s decline. 

It is a breath of fresh air to know that there are people who get up off their behinds, believe in quality of community and put their energy and commitment into something that can give them the sense of satisfaction for being involved in a mammoth task that will probably not benefit them financially. 
 But how  can you sum up a group whose dedication will benefit the whole of Toxteth. 
 The Florrie could be Toxeth’s Albert Dock, its turning point, its navigation out of the doldrums.  Looking to the future but remembering the past.  And more importantly showing a sense of community is at the heart of Toxteth, still, no matter what it has been through. 

I bumped into Tom Calderbank, who I was as impressed today as I was with him years ago when I first met him.  Though he is not the only one, he is typical of the people that have made this happen and I have to take my hat off to them.  If this city has more people who understood the depth of their community can start from the ghosts of old buildings it would be on the path to greatness, stirring a course away from the recent homogenisation.

 Thank God Urban Splash didn’t get their hands on this. 

With the renovation of Toxeth Town Hall there is a now a key series of buildings that can make people believe again. 
 Maybe they could tackle the library in Lodge Lane now, which seems to have been ignored by Louise Ellman and co, while declaring the decimation of the central docks in the WHS would be of benefit to Liverpool, thus abandoning the need to infill those parts of the Dingle that desperately need bringing back to life. Transferring much needed  Toxteth jobs up river. 

Tom showed me around and showed me the Great Hall, with its beamed ceiling and its sense of history.  There is a Heritage Centre showing scenes from the past.  The Gymnasium is being restored where the likes of Alan Rudkin trained and generations before met.
  The Cafe now has cream scones and tea and they hope to be supplying it from the allotments next door in the future.  There is an overall feeling of friendship and enthusiasm.  And I hope the trench lines have been drawn, and from now it is forward marching and forward thinking encompassing the spirit of Toxeth. 
 The Florrie can be held up as what can be achieved and give inspiration for other historic building in and around the Toxeth/Dingle area.

The grand opening on 18th July will be performed by Jimmy Tarbuck.  More details can be founmd


  1. Hi Wayne
    I hope this message finds you well. Thanks for writing so positively about the restoration of The Florence Institute. However, I'd like to take the opportunity to correct a few points, and to point out a few salient facts. You are unfairly critical of some individuals and agencies in this instance, who have really helped make this priceless project happen.
    Firstly, Louise Ellmann MP has been one of our greatest supporters over the years. She has consistently backed the Trust in its efforts, and is the first person to acknowledge that this was a community-led and inspired triumph. Joe Anderson has also gone on public record with precisely this point.
    Secondly, Simon Humphries from Urban Splash has been a Trustee for several years and has been an invaluable asset in representing the Trust and bringing his experience and professionalism to bear to ensure that the finished product is to the highest possible standards.
    Thirdly, the grand opening is not on the 18th July, its a local community concert opening.
    The Board also deserve a mention, as they have played an absolute blinder on behalf of the community, all voluntary.
    You are absolutely within your rights to hold your opinions, and as a fellow campaigner for the historic built environment of Liverpool, I applaud your efforts to protect the many fine buildings in the City. But in this particular instance, you need to be in possession of all the facts before jumping to conclusions. If you would like to interview/quote/check facts on the project, may I direct you towards the inspirational Chair of Trustees, Denise Bernard who will be more than happy to help.
    I hope that helps set the record straight.

  2. Thanks for that Tom.

    Your opinion is always of interest to me......but the point I was trying to make about Louise Ellman and Co is that she has been an MP for decades and while Liverpool has recieved a billion in european objective one funding it has been lashed on apartments in the city centre while the loikes of the florrie was left, and for every success there is a Beaufort street school just across the way.

    Oh and what about the Baltic Triangle.
    The florrie is indeed a great success but this is only the beginning and Louise Ellman was also a help with the CUC on Parlimenent street where they have just sold off the kitchen contents.......that we paid for.

    As for Urban splash you know as well as i do they hang on the shoulder of heritage campaigners and wait to get a job out of it and as i said thank god they didnt get it. We saved the Littlewoods building for them and look at the state of it now.

    As for Joe Andersons efforts.....well he is a votecatcher and where was he ten years ago.

    The opinions may seem strong in reflection of the efforts but dont forget the struggle has only just begun.