BLOG: If all the world could be Prescot…

After visiting the brand new Shakespeare North Playhouse, Liverpool’s Culture Director, Claire McColgan MBE was inspired to write about how culture-led regeneration continues to lead the way.

People talk about culturally led regeneration in terms of glib places around the country vying for a shiny thing to brighten up a high street or to halt a trajectory of decline. These projects are sometimes thought through by consultants creating a whole place, or other such levelling up terms, but for anyone who wants to see it done correctly, you should make the journey to Prescot.

I was introduced to the concept by two very different women Elspeth Graham, my old English literature lecturer from Liverpool John Moores University and the brilliant and quietly forceful Paula Williams from Knowsley Borough Council. There were many others involved of course, and many more equally passionate, but these were my two barometers. The idea itself of a Shakespearean playhouse in Prescot was bonkers when you say it out loud but that, sometimes, is the point. And anyway, all the laughter has turned to stone as it does have historical relevance but it also captures the imagination that is true to a place and is built literally from Prescot’s foundations.

Roll forward five years, Knowsley Borough Council, the Board of Shakespeare North chaired by Max Steinberg and the new brilliant team headed by Melanie Lewis…take a bow and an encore!

This incredible centrepiece of a new public realm felt proper, right and ‘un-council’. It felt allowed to be brave by brilliant creative direction, it felt like the most exciting thing to happen to culture in years. It is truly beautiful as a space but the space feels full of people’s dreams and the dreams of those to come.

Liverpool is a city that for the last 20 years has trusted culture to lead the way, trusted the dreams of artists to fill its streets and tell its stories. For those who want to see the next generation of that, for all those cities and towns who want to bid for City of Culture or levelling up or who truly want to change things from the foundations get hold of Mike Harden and Graham Morgan at Knowsley Borough Council and let them take you on a truly transformative journey.

Funders who believed in this make sure you see it and show what money spent wisely and locally can do. Thanks should go to DCMSArts Council EnglandNational Lottery Heritage Fund and The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

And beware, for all the talk of cultural organisations from London finding a foothold in the North, if I was London I would be asking for a piece of Prescot in the capital.

Liverpool Waterfront