Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub Newsletter December 2014

What a year 2014 has been!  We started the year with a bang after receiving development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  During summer we launched the project and emergency holding works started in the former library.  During the year we have been lucky to work with fabulous local groups including North End Writers, Eyedear Productions, LJMU and LIPA and are so pleased of the high level of support we have received from the local community. In 2015 we will continue to run community consultations as we develop our floor plans and HLF bid.  Please keep following our progress, attending our events and lending your support-it is much appreciated.

Season's greetings and a Happy New Year from everyone at Lister Steps.

Lister Steps Festivities

Staff, children and parents have all been involved in celebrating the festive season at Lister Steps.  We took part in our very own sponsored 'Santa Dash' and held a raffle and raised just under £300.  A huge thank you to Liverpool FC, My Little Box, Pink Parcel, staff and parents for providing raffle prizes and to everyone who sponsored us.

We had a very special visitor at Lister Steps recently-Santa!  He visited the children at our festive party and gave them each a small gift.  We also ate party food, played games and danced at the disco!

We have a limited number of spaces available in Playscheme on the 22nd and 23rd December 9am-5pm where we plan to do lots of themed craft activities.  Perfect for parents who have last minute shopping to do, or for children who would like to join in our festive fun!  It costs £12 per day or £20 for both days and includes snacks, a healthy lunch and all craft materials.  Call us on 0151 254 1394 to book.

Holding Works Update

We are so pleased with the progress being made in the former library.  Robinsons Preservation Limited have continued to investigate the damage, mould and structural integrity of the building.  The £100,000 from Liverpool City Council to save the building and carry out some emergency works has stretched further than we hoped and so some rescue work has been undertaken.  For example, we feared the heavy metal and glass laylights would not remain in situ due to the extensive damage to the timber beams holding them in place.  These beams were replaced like-for-like one at a time to ensure the laylights remained in situ and undamaged.  The ceilings/floors of the former Librarians Office and the first floor toilets were removed as they were so saturated and unstable they would have collapsed soon.  The ceiling of the former Librarians Office was replaced like-for-like and parts of the ceiling of the former Ladies Reading Room were also replaced.  Roof repairs have been carried out using a resin as a temporary measure to ensure the building is watertight as we find funding to carry out the full regeneration works.  The missing guttering has been replaced with plastic piping as a temporary measure to ensure water is directed away from the building.  Work will continue into January 2015 as we plan to remove the foliage growing on the building, cut back some of the overgrown bushes in the grounds and install additional security measures to ensure the building remains safe and protected.
One very interesting update is regarding the internal plaster detailing.  You may recall investigations into why the majority of the plaster mouldings were a kind of plasterboard rather than the more traditional lathe and plaster method.  The team involved in the holding works were concerned the plasterboard was not in keeping with the methods of 1903.  Our Heritage Development Officer spent time in the Liverpool Records Office investigating the 'modernisation' work we know was carried out in 1957.  It appears the modernisation was simply replacing some of the electrical wiring and cleaning and painting inside and out and we have records of the tenders submitted for this work (the lowest quote was accepted!).  The plaster report came back from the plaster specialist and revealed the plasterboard is original!  It seems Thomas Shelmerdine's motto of 'modernise everything' applied to the former library building as this method was very 'cutting edge' and modern for 1903.  A mystery solved!

An interview with Chris Griffiths

1: Hi Chris, Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

I am originally from Liverpool and have worked with Buildings at Risk in the City since 2006.  Before that I worked in Shrewsbury as Conservation Officer after graduating with an MA in architectural history from the Courtauld Institute in London in 2000.  My wife Leti is Spanish and we have three children; Peter, Santiago and Sofía and we live in Formby.

2: You are currently working on the former Andrew Carnegie Library.  Can you please tell us more about this project and the work you are doing there?

The former Andrew Carnegie Library is a grade II building at risk.  It is one of the finest suburban public libraries in England and the most expensive of the series of Shelmerdine libraries constructed by the Liverpool Corporation at the end of the Victorian era.  This one is actually Edwardian, built in 1904-5.  The library fell into disuse in 2006 and suffered lead theft and vandalism soon afterwards.  Serious water ingress caused widespread dry rot infestation which is now being tackled by the first phase of urgent repairs.  I am project managing these Conservation works funded by the Council in support of Lister Steps’ Stage 2 HLF bid.  The works have already made a tremendous difference to the condition of the building and should serve to keep the building in a sound and stable condition in the period prior to full restoration works commencing.

3: What are your concerns for the building?

Security; once the phase one works are completed, i.e. preventing further vandalism and theft, and retaining as much of the primary building fabric as possible.  It is hoped the conversion of the building by Lister Steps will complement the historic significance of the former library and exploit its full potential as well as securing a sustainable use for the future that is also highly beneficial to the local community.

4: Can you tell us more about the emergency holding works that are taking place thanks to a £100’000 investment from Liverpool City Council?

We are currently targeting the worst affected areas of the building by removing all rot affected timber and plaster, replacing floors and elements of the structure where these have failed and ensuring that the roof is made fully water-tight to allow the building to dry out.  Embedded vegetation will also be removed from the building.  The works will be completed early in the New Year.

5: What do you find special, unique or interesting about the former Andrew Carnegie Library?

The building is beautifully situated in its own landscaped grounds with a matching boundary wall of brick, stone and iron railings that is separately listed, also grade II.  The style of the building is described as English Renaissance, of which the architect Thomas Shelmerdine was a true exponent – one of the very best.  He built all of the buildings which formerly lined Lister Drive, including the large secondary school and frontage to the old power station which generated power for Liverpool’s tram system (the first in the United Kingdom) both now demolished.  Shelmerdine’s former public baths happily do survive and are sustained as a quite remarkable pet store.  

As for the building itself, one could say a lot – it is an excellently thought out piece of architecture and interior design.  For instance, the octagonal corner turret marks the entrance to the building.  It is a distinguished feature that sets it apart as a little palace of learning where everyone is welcome.  It is indeed a very friendly building with the interior laid out in a generous manner that is also logical.  The material finishes add considerable warmth with much solid oak panelling, decorative architraves and plasterwork that is pleasing to the eye, green glazed brick and faience block that is clean and also practical – It’s highly fire-resistant, a good thing with all those books around!  There is even a sense of palatial splendour in the use of polished stone and inlaid marble to the floor of the entrance lobby and enclosed corridor.  The whole is rich and designed to make the act of reading books, of study and of learning something to enjoy and to love doing not just once, but again and again.  I think that is great and is what I like most about this building.  All the various users were accommodated in their respective reading rooms or lending library including one specifically for ‘Boys & Girls’.  This resonates very nicely with the proposed new use for the building.

6: Finally, what are your thoughts on Lister Steps plans to regenerate the building and reuse it as a community hub?

Brilliant idea and can’t wait to see and help make it happen!  

Community Consultation Drop-in

We held our first community consultation on Andrew Carnegie's birthday, the 25th November) and we are very pleased with how many people dropped in to share their ideas and opinions with us.  We will now collate the information, seek partnerships with groups who provide the activities you requested and work closely with our architect (once they are in post) to develop floor plans based upon the achievable suggestions you have put forward.  These plans will be presented at our next consultation event on 7th February 2015 and will be open for discussion.  A huge thank you to everyone who attended.

Following the community consultation we used your suggestions to create a very short survey to gain feedback on the popularity of potential activities, products and services the hub could provide.

Please could you spare a couple of minutes to complete the survey........

Say it Loud! by the Carnegie Collective

On Friday 5th December staff,  invited guests and community members gathered to watch 'Say it Loud' a performance by the Carnegie Collective.  This event was part of the LIPA 'Theatre for Democracy Project 2014' in association with Liverpool City Council.  Since October Lister Steps have worked with Lowri, Laura and Ste (the 'Carnegie Collective'),  third year students from the BA (Hons) Community Drama programme at LIPA, to create a performance that would enable people to directly engage with the democratic process.  The Theatre for Democracy Project 2014 attempted to create cultural spaces and activities that engendered and promoted dialogue between the decision makers and the communities they represent with a view to influencing change.

'Say it Loud' included live performance, pre-recorded interviews with community members and Lister Steps staff and audience participation.  One very special part of the performance was a poem written and read by Eddie Cotton.  Watch it live here:

 Love in the Library by Eddie Cotton

Like a jilted bride outside the church

 She waited in the rain

 We're talking about Lister Drive library

 On the corner of Green Lane

 For seven long years she stood alone

 Getting lonely, wet and damp

 A building shorn of beauty and charm

 The only illumination came from the light of a street lamp

 Then the scallies turned up to climb on the roof

 To make a nice few quid

 I phoned the police to let them know

 But the robbers weren't soft, they were liddds

 They were like Spring Heeled Jack

 When they heard the siren's wail

 Tuebrook's finest tried to catch them

 Unfortunately, to no avail

 The robbers had turned up mob-handed

 And quickly set up camp

 They were very organised I'll give them that

 'Cos they even built a ramp

 Working in shifts to rob the lead

 That protected the roof from the rain

 The police couldn't catch the culprits

 And like Bob Marley we waited in vain

 They stole and raped and pillaged

 And left her high and dry

 If you looked up at the roof on a fine sunny day

 You could see a clear blue sky

 But hoorah...Lister Steps came out of the block

 Like Usain Bolt against the clock

 Personal bests and Olympic gold

 Riding chariots of fire to escape the cold

 Inspiration arrived in a vivid dream

 Woke up that morning 

With a simply fabulous scheme

 To turn our library into a community hub

With a disco and a youth and pensioner's club

 Not forgetting the crèche, books and computer

 And digital inclusion for the 'arl ones

 'Cos you know it's the future!

 A performance stage with room to aspire

 To nurture future generations and a chance to inspire

 With kindles and books and a nursery too

 Positive things, for the likes of me and you

 A conscientious crew with goodness in mind

 Sprung into action to see if they could find

 The money needed before it was too late

 Before condemning the building to the fickle finger of fate

 They applied to the Lottery Fund

With a heartfelt funding bid

 After the panel had read the words it was unanimous...

Let's give Lister Steps a few quid

 So now there's a few bob to pay the bills

 For contractors to come in armed with drills

 To bore through the walls 

Before the whole building falls

 And preserve our heritage once and for all

 I had the privilege of going inside

 To film its condition and be your guide

To show what's happening, and to let you know 

How things are progressing after being so low 

It was dusty in the library, 

And there was plaster falling off the wall

 But, to be honest, with a bit of TLC

 It'll end up looking like St George's Hall

 I'm messing, but you know what I mean 

This building is beautiful and deserves to be seen

 If the money arrives to do her up

 It'll be like Ladies Day at Aintree

 And winning the European Cup

 13 grand it cost to build 

T’was a labour of love truly fulfilled

 A gift to us the readers of life

 To act upon life's troubles and strife

 Yes, If Andrew Carnegie was still alive I'm sure he'd turn in his grave

 So let's get this show on the road 

Because, truly, fortune favours the brave

 Apathy and disillusion are the enemy of man

 People who moan and begrudge I would personally ban

 From any activity that promotes good vibes

 We want people who enhance people's lives

 So let's build a library with love and affection

 And let's all pull in the one direction

 With people power we can move mountains

 And have a brand new library as well as two new fountains! 

We've embarked on an exciting journey

 Visualising the creation of a community hub

 So folks, if you like what we're doing

 Then feel free to join the club.


Thank you for your continued support, see you in 2015!