Since I first heard of the Hidden Liverpool project I’ve been very keen to get involved and it’s such a privilege that I’m now part of the team working on their People’s History exhibition as exhibition coordinator.

Normally I’m based in Manchester, and although I’ve made my name there with my architecture and history blog Skyliner it’s the city of Liverpool that made me who I am today.

What strikes me coming back here is how otherworldly both cities are from one another - I can step on the train in Manchester under a greying sky, amidst a low skyline that feels almost oppressive  and then emerge in Liverpool to sunshine and grand port buildings. The differences as I see it are that Manchester grows on you and Liverpool is immediate, sadly the similarities are that much of the built environment stands empty and decaying behind a boarded-up facade.

My dad grew up a mile from Liverpool city centre and so we would visit most weekends, most of the time we’d wander the streets dropping in on friends and looking around at the buildings before heading to the museum and library.

At the museum I’d spend most of my time in the bug house, pretending I was an Egyptian princess, or floating in space. I’d save my pocket money for the museum gift shop and my horde included a bird spotting guide for children, a jar of fool’s gold and some replica Roman coins. I took the coins immediately into school, convinced that they were real and fully expected my headmaster to rush them to the lab for analysis - obviously, carbon dating resources were much more readily available to primary school staff in the 80s, imagine my disappointment! More recently I was pleased to discover that my nephew had found my bird spotting guide and had stashed it in his bag to take home with him. Nerd blood runs deep.

At the library, just next door, my dad would look through old newspaper headlines on those big microfilm machines you sat encased by, sheltered from onlookers by their metal hoods. I don’t know what he was looking for during all those hours we’d spend there, simply chasing after a feeling of nostalgia I suspect, but the mystery fueled my imagination and I always fancied he was an undercover detective.

So looking back it’s no wonder that I turned out to be my father’s daughter - I dedicate my days to exploring the city, to searching those same microfilms for the hidden histories of a building, to putting into words the feeling of nostalgia that the archives provoke, and coming back to Liverpool for this project feels like I’ve finally come full circle.


Posted by Hayley Flynn, Hidden Liverpool Exhibition Coordinator and creator of Skyliner

14th March 2014

On Saturday 25th January, Hidden Liverpool invited the public to share views and ideas on the future of the Oratory and St James Gardens in the first of three public design workshops.

St James' Garden is nestled in Liverpool's Georgian Quarter and is a hidden gem within on the edge of the city centre. Once well maintained, it had been been deteriorating since the late 1980’s, but in 2002 The Friends of St James Garden (Twitter @StJamesGarden) were created. The Friends are a small team of local volunteers who have been working tirelessly to transform the space, making it safe for use by the local community, visitors & tourists. The Oratory is a key building in St James' Gardens and there is great interest in bringing it back into general use. The Friends are now working hard to develop a long term strategy for the site and the workshop was designed to support them in this process.

The workshop was led bylandscape architects Elaine Cresswell (reShaped), Graham Marshall (Prosocial Place) and architecture graduate Lizzie Edge and supported by the Hidden Liverpool team. The team worked with participants to develop ideas for this exciting project, exploring challenges and developing ideas through a creative hands-on format. 

The workshop began with an exercise to identify a wide range of ideas and issues that were then broken down into three bite-size projects

  • The Oratory – How could this empty building, currently largely closed to the public and used by National Museums Liverpool for storage of art work, be transformed into a Gateway for the wider area?
  • Hope Street – What could be done to maximise the potential of the Hope Street side of the site and all that it offers in terms of views  and prospects of the city?
  • The southern plateau – How could the area on the Upper Parliament side of the site become a fantastic space for ceremony?

Participants worked in groups to generate ideas and tackle some of the issues for the three different areas. The day resulted in a wide selection of creative ideas and designing, including models, drawings and writing on what people thought should be happening in the area. All the notes from the workshop - including peoples thoughts on the space and what should be done with it - are available here

We wish the Friends of group the best of luck with their efforts to revitalise this fantastic hidden oasis in the city and hope the workshop helped them on their long journey. Thank you for letting us be a part of the process.

We will be holding two further design workshops for the public in coming months with the next due to take place in April, looking at how local people would tackle the Lime Street area of the city. For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

21st February 2014

Since launching Hidden Liverpool in August 2013 we've been busy delivering a diverse range of events for local residents and schools. We’re now over halfway and we wanted to look back at some of our highlights of 2013 in our new blog.

The Lord Mayor officially launched the project, in the company of the High Sheriff of Liverpool, our wonderful Ambassadors and many of the city’s key players at West Africa House (now OhMeOhMy). The fantastic turn out and support offered created a real buzz about the project. A few days later we invited families to wander around the city, following clues that helped them to uncover hidden gems and speak with our volunteers sporting project T-shirts as part of our heritage themed Treasure Hunt.

"I thought I knew Liverpool, but this hunt has given me lots of wonderful info. The staff and helpers were so friendly - I think they enjoyed it also." – Jean Sinkinson

Over the last six months the team have enjoyed talking to hundreds of locals, students, and tourists at public events across the city, giving out our shiny new project booklets. We’ve popped up at events including the fab Bold St Festival, National Older Peoples Day at St Johns Market and Open Heritage Month events! We’ve also been to community groups across Merseyside such as Minerva women’s groups and U3A, to hear people’s tales of when they used the now empty gems.

We’ve had the privilege of being shown around some of the fascinating empty buildings we're featuring. The caretakers flat on the top floor of Albion House (White Star line building) has some of the best views of the waterfront. The roof of Toxteth reservoir, offering an unusual and quite surreal perspective on the city, with its wild meadow aloft. A tour of the India buildings left students in awe of its scale...

Our schools project launched in October with year 12 and 13 students from 11 local schools and colleges taking part. Students are working with design professionals from the PLACED Ambassador team and students from Liverpool John Moores University to redesign empty buildings in the city for todays’ local business. Taking part in a series of creative design workshops students are challenging our preconceptions of what empty buildings could be used for. Their ideas will be on exhibition in May.

Our first major exhibition, the ‘People’s City’ Photo Competition & Exhibition, received an overwhelmingly positive response. The 10 day exhibition created a real buzz about Hidden Liverpool. It was a challenge to find and secure an actual empty building for the exhibition and we are so grateful to Hope St Hotel for making it possible. Over 50 photographers got involved and 600 visitors came through the door of the old Blind School over the ten days of the exhibition.

“I remember this place as the trade union centre, nice to see the space put to good use. Love the exhibition, especially many of the images themselves…. Many places I’ve been and seen. Good images taken by good eyes.”

“An excellent way to use a beautiful but redundant space…”

In December we also held the first in our Conversation series at Florrie. With speakers from the Jewel on the Hill project, Homebaked and the Florrie itself, the event was a great opportunity to share ideas and experiences that local people have with regards to bringing some of the city’s empty buildings back into use.

“The event totally fulfilled my expectations - informative - great to see passion of the speakers for their projects / journey. Taken away lots of ideas as well”

And finally, our latest event has been our first community design workshop which saw local residents working alongside PLACED Ambassadors and the Friends of St James Gardens to reimagine a future for St James Gardens and the Oratory. The creative outcomes will soon be available on our website and will be used to help take forward plans for the area – a true hidden gem.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without our fantastic growing band of enthusiastic volunteers, a wonderful team of people who are making this project a huge success. If you fancy getting involved do visit the Volunteer page for details.

But the best is still to come! With two more exhibitions, walking tours, community design workshops, and further Conversation events there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved. Make sure you don’t miss out by signing up to our newsletter, following us on Twitter and liking our Facebook page. We hope to see you at an event soon!!

The Hidden Liverpool team