Your travel guide to Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle
The Baltic Triangle is a curious part of Liverpool. Out on a limb and bordered by dual carriageways, this historic area is a peculiar amalgamation of creative enterprises and heavy industry. It’s only a ten minute walk from the city centre but, as you meander down Jamaica Street past shed vendors and international freight dealers, you can’t help wondering if you’re in the right place.
Keep the faith, though, as arguably Liverpool’s finest bar and event space, Camp and Furnace, calls the Baltic Triangle home. Opened in Spring 2012, Camp and Furnace is a former warehouse that appears to be able to turn its hand to anything: mini music festivals under the roof of its vast furnace space; a snug complete with roaring fire and real-ale bar; kitchen; photographic and film studios, and the Blade Factory club space. Its owners plan to develop it further over the coming months: more events, new kitchen, a hotel – check website for details.
Camp and Furnace occupies the now defunct A Foundation, a radical contemporary art space set up by James Moores. He was also responsible for establishing the Liverpool Biennial – the UK’s largest international contemporary arts festival – and is one of the partners in the building’s current incarnation. The A Foundation went by the wayside thanks to spending cuts, its demise followed by its enormous neighbour, the ill-fated Contemporary Urban Centre (CUC), a gloriously restored Victorian warehouse arts space that never quite seemed to grasp who or what it was for. In 2007, a huge high-rise development project also went bust, leaving more than £45m of debts and a derelict building site.
For some time, the Baltic Triangle looked as doomed as the CUC. But Camp and Furnace is one of several developments which have rescued this creative quarter from oblivion. Its neighbours include the Grade II listed Elevator Studios, a block for around 50 creative studios housed in a 200-year-old warehouse. Also in the building are the Giant bike and bicycle repair shop (its flagship UK store) and online music retailer, Dolphin.
Meanwhile, both Baltic Creative (premises for creative start-ups, with a sweet public cafe) and the offices of Liverpool Biennial have boosted the influx of digital and cultural companies. A developer has bought the half-built high-rise site and is on course to transform it into residential, office and hotel space. Even the old CUC has been snapped up; in September 2013 the first intake of students will arrive, ready to take their places at this new outpost of the North Liverpool Academy. The influx of (eventually) 1,200 students a year will inevitably spark more developments. And attention has been given to paving and street dressing – wide pavements and a clean sweep of a road make the prevalence of uninspiring industrial units more palatable.
For the visitor, though, the main draws remain eating, drinking and gawping. Opposite the Elevator Studios sits the fabulous red brick and terracotta Cains Brewery. You can usually sniff it before you can see it and, for the enthusiastic, it offers full tours of its Victorian brewery (seven days a week with a pint included in the ticket price). If a sit-down drink is more your thing, the attached Brewery Tap pub is worth a look. There’s also The Picket, an iconic venue which relocated to Jordan Street in 2006. A long term champion of local music, this 30-year-old organisation hosts live gigs and club nights.
Closer to the city centre, keep an eye out for the Gustaf Adolfs Kyrka, a Grade II listed church on Park Lane. It’s not difficult to miss: the structure rises crazily in layers to an octagonal centre with a lead-covered spire spiking into the sky. It was built for the Scandinavian sailors who once passed through the port -presumably this trade with the Baltic Sea is where the area takes its name from. The similarly named Baltic Fleet on the dock road is a pub of the proper variety. Dating back to the 1850s, this Grade II listed hostelry brews its own ale on site, serves a number of ‘heritage ales’ on tap and boasts both a lounge with a real fire and a summer patio. Close by, the new Hampton by Hilton hotel provides mid-priced rooms within walking distance of the Baltic Triangle, city centre and waterfront.
Perhaps the only major downside to the Baltic Triangle is the fact that there aren’t many shops save for the tiny Cow & Co which, until Summer 2012, was online only. Close to Liverpool ONE, pop in for unusual design, art and fashion magazines and homewares. Like the rest of the Baltic Triangle, Cow & Co combines old (Victorian heritage) and new (creative endeavour). Because of that combination, while the Baltic Triangle may not be on the way to or from anywhere, it’s fast becoming a destination in itself.