Bringing people together with Independent Liverpool
Ahead of The Reader's Courtyard Fair on Saturday 9 September, we caught up with Dave from our event partner Independent Liverpool to discuss independent culture, community and memories of Calderstones Park.
Independent Liverpool has become something of a phenomenon over the past few years but how did it begin?
Independent Liverpool started over a cup of coffee about four and a half years ago. The best ideas are usually over a pint, but this idea came with a sober mind so there was no waking up the next day and disregarding it. We’ve been best mates since primary school and wanted a hobby to make people see the great things that Liverpool has to offer. We’d both recently graduated from university and had fallen into jobs we hated and just wanted something fun to do on weekends (and an excuse to eat out all the time!).
The idea was simple: shine a light on hidden gems and the city’s best local business through writing. We would tell the stories of our local heroes in the hope that people would go discover, support and fall in love with them. And weirdly, they did. Before we knew it we had thousands of people following our journey, reading our words and the flame of Liverpool’s independence had been reignited.
We could have never anticipated where this journey would have taken us, and in 2013 we released our first member’s discount card. It was a way to uncover the places we’d previously spoken about and be rewarded for doing so in the process. Since then we’ve gone on to host massive food and drink festivals for thousands of people and created a series of cult film nights in amazing locations.
In the process of writing this love letter to Liverpool, we’ve created a whole platform for independent culture and that’s still surreal to say out loud. It’s led to us getting our own warehouse in the iconic Cain’s Brewery where we have opened Liverpool’s first street food market. Who knew we could go from one of our Mum’s spare rooms sharing the duty of writing a blog to this? It’s a dream come true.
The Reader's Courtyard Fair will be Independent Liverpool's first venture into Calderstones Park, but you've both got a personal connection with the place haven't you?
We actually both went to Calderstones School and I lived a 5 minute walk from the school so was brought up in there. At 11 years old we were running around it for cross country and some years later we were drinking a celebratory beer after receiving our A-Level results and getting into university. Your local park is always a personal, special and serene place and Liverpool is so lucky to have so many amazing parks - a place to unwind amongst the greenery, walk the dog or catch up with family.
Calderstones is special though just because its so big and has so much history. We have countless memories but maybe the most memorable/painful one was running around with the family dog and running straight into a branch at eye level. Ended up going to the kids emergency hospital and being filmed for Children's Hospital but due to my eye not needing surgery, my five minutes of fame fell flat. All that pain for nothing!
Our Courtyard Fair coincides with Heritage Open Days and we'll be celebrating the rich history of the park with guided tours that explore the neolithic Calder Stones and the Mansion House. Independent Liverpool have played a huge part in changing the city's cultural landscape in recent years - does that give you a unique connection with it's history?
There’s no denying Liverpool’s history. It’s a wonderful one and it wasn’t always easy, but to see where the city is now would make any Scouser proud. As for changing the cultural landscape - It’s funny actually because in our heads, Independent Liverpool is still that tiny hobby we started some years back that only a few people know about. I don't think we’ve ever properly processed the whole thing and whether that day might come is up for debate. We’re blown away when anyone ever says that to us. We just feel like we’re doing our bit for the city we love, the independents that deserve it and the local people that took the risk to do something. Without all their hard work we’d have nothing to talk about.
One thing I hope we’re doing is inspiring people to shop local and maybe follow their own dreams. It’s horrifically cliche but if we can do it, literally anyone can.
Another thing that you've achieved through Independent Liverpool is to create a huge community of people right across the city. What has it been like to see that network grow?
That has been the most enjoyable part of it. Whether it's bringing local restaurants and suppliers together, seeing producers together at one of our farmers markets or seeing venues use local artists. It’s just such a lovely feeling.
We always confess, Liverpool was fiercely independent before us, it wasn’t something that we created but we used social media to bring all these like-minded people together. To date, over 105,000 people like our Facebook page alone and it’s incredible seeing them all communicate together. Just recently, a girl who had recently moved to Liverpool from America it was I believe, she said she’s been struggling to find friends or meet people and within thirty minutes of the comments at least 40 people had given her suggestions or offered to show her around. It probably shouldn’t keep surprising us - this is what Liverpool is all about but it’s still just as beautiful every time something like that happens.
We can't let you go without asking you one of life's toughest questions - what's your favourite book?
Arghh you can’t do that. That’s just too hard! Freakonomics was great, as was Norwegian Wood but for me it has got to be Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman. It is the first book I can remember where I did absolutely nothing until I finished it. I lost myself in this black hole of time, in a story far more interesting than my own and it was such a clever twist on society. For those that haven’t read I won’t ruin it but it’s a modern twist on a Romeo & Juliet style love story where star crossed lovers, separated by their class and colour are driven apart.