The story of a Make in Huyton really began nearly five years ago and if it was not for the pandemic, someone else would probably be writing this blog in 2021!
As it happens, six months into my time as Project Lead for Make Huyton Village and Make on the Corner in 2023 I have the opportunity to talk about our successes so far.
Make started looking for creative makerspaces outside of Liverpool and Birkenhead about five years ago and Knowsley, particularly Huyton, was a favourite from the outset. As part of a wider regeneration initiative that includes a reimagined High Street, Knowsley Council had started buying buildings from private landlords in the Huyton area, particularly along Derby Road, the pedestrianised shopping street in Huyton Village. After several visits in the area, Make had their hearts set on the Mayfair building at 47-49 Derby Road. The building’s history, including the local nickname ‘the ranch’ due to its penchant for screening Western movies, along with its spaciousness and unique structure, sparked various creative possibilities for Make. As well as ideas for transforming the large car parking space at the rear into an urban outdoor area for the local community.
Originally the Mayfair Cinema, the building has gone through various iterations, most recently before Make, a Boots Chemist; a history we’ve decided to honour by retaining many of the back-of-house spaces with their original names: Dispensing Room, A-Z Stockroom, Manager’s Office etc.
I first came to Huyton Village in January 2023, before I had taken the job with Make, when Knowsley Council were still in the process of removing shop floor fittings. On my return in early March, Dock Design were putting the final touches into the open plan studios in the old Boots store. Make had also realised their wider ambition of engaging with the local community and expanding our education and events programme, by taking on the abandoned shop front unit at 22 Derby Road, with the help of Knowsley Council. This space would become Make on the Corner, a multipurpose event and hireable space for the community.
Between March and today I have grappled with Huyton’s sewage system to get an accessible loo in the building, experienced minor floods, scraped old double-sided tape residue off acres of wall, scraped God-knows-what off acres of floor, removed forests of rusty shelving, been covered in dust and grime, scoured, washed and scrubbed.
It is all worth it, because here at Make Huyton Village, the most brilliant creative community is taking shape. Our tenants include a candle maker, photographer, animator, sculptor, publisher, 3D printer, artists, an arts organisation with twelve employees and a family-run vegan pick-and-mix business. They have proven to be the most helpful, welcoming, patient and charming group of people anyone could ever hope to meet and every time I am able to welcome someone new into the warm embrace of the Make Huyton Village residents, it is pretty joyful to be honest!
Make Huyton has been a labour of love over the past six months, lots of work has gone into making the building accessible and ready to be filled with creativity.
Now, we have a colourful and welcoming space for Huyton’s creative community, unique and bright work spaces, the opportunity for more studios to be built, and we’ve welcomed people into our space for our open days. We have hosted meetings, classes and workshops. Our Creative Enterprise Workshops were the first to take place in the space, which supported 15 creative individuals all at different levels on their creative journey.
None of this would have been possible without the kindness and generosity of spirit from the local community. The Coffee House that have kept us all caffeinated, to Joe’s Stall, Maria Fogg and the local Parish Church (to name a few) for sharing all our stories and everyone in the Huyton Village WhatsApp group who are full of advice and insight. Finally, a shout-out to the folks at Knowsley Council who have been unwavering in their dedication and support.
Now we are at a point in the project where we are able to facilitate exhibitions and start to put together a shop area where our residents can display and sell the things they produce at Make. The next six months will be even more exciting and productive and you will hear about it every month from now on!
Mia Tagg, Project Lead – Make Huyton Village.