Five years after FACT gave Liverpool’s city centre a new cultural dimension, Novas is promising to be a cultural powerhouse in the city’s so-called Independent Quarter.
The previous director of operations was homeless for 20 years and the current director of hospitality is a ex-drug user.
Converted from a large, late 19th century warehouse on Greenland Street, opposite Cains Brewery, the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre or CUC is a multi-purpose venue with an ambitious vision: 20,000 sq feet of gallery space, two theatres, a cinema, a small stage, a cafe bar and a restaurant and pub. Opened in February just gone, the CUC is bit of work in progress but, say the people behind it, it will to be completely up and running by the end of July.
Founded in 1998 by Michael Wake, Novas is a charity that specialises in support for excluded people. With its central office in London, Wake spends his time between the two cities.
In 2000, Novas sent 70 of its staff to work in Liverpool. Originally based in Crown Street, they have moved around a bit: From Paradise Street, to the Alima Centre before moving to the buddleia building.
“I want it to be a fantastic cultural social enterprise for all of Liverpool, focused on the community and those who are excluded, and to provide a legacy for the community as the area develops,” Wake says.
Creating a legacy in Liverpool is important, says Novas which hopes to establish long term ties to the city. The key to the CUC’s sustainability is its core income coming from the commercial aspects of the business like the cafe bar, restaurant and conference space.
Its early days, but the signs are promising. With no marketing department to speak of, 3600 visitors have already entered the galleries since the first exhibition by Hawkins & Co in February.
The hugely successful Liverpool Art Prize (which is returning next year) was among the exhibitions taking place in the six separate gallery spaces. Though the numbers are good, they will be dwarfed by the 10,000 visitors expected to visit the Design Show Liverpool from the 19th-22nd June.
In addition to the gallery space the CUC offers a state of the art theatre that can seat 440 people for theatre/conferencing events or hold 720 people standing for music events, a small 100 seat theatre that can also be used as a rehearsal space, a venue room that can hold 150 people for comedy or music nights, and a 120 seat lecture theatre come cinema showing World Cinema, community films and films with some social comment The new Jamaica Rooms pub and Malaysian Restaurant will only add to the many reasons to visit the centre.
Wake hopes the CUC will be the ethical choice for conferencing, events and people who have a social conscience. This ethos is apparent in the day to day running of the CUC as Novas has continued its policy of helping excluded people into employment through volunteering and training. Eighty percent of the their current workforce are black or minority ethnic, the previous director of operations was homeless for 20 years and the current director of hospitality is a ex-drug user. There’s no doubt that the Novas philosophy has led to tangible results.
With its artist studios and community offices, the CUC also has the resources to foster and develop local talent and social enterprises. After the migration or, should I say, exodus of artists and creative types from Duke Street, the CUC wants to help maintain an area for Liverpool’s talent, hoping its size and presence will help this happen.
Along with the New Picket, the A Foundation and Liverpool Biennial the CUC joins a growing number of creative organisations trying to establish themselves in the Independent Quarter. They‘re also talking to Merseytravel about new bus routes linking the area with the rest of the city. Although there’s no car park for the centre, parking is currently unrestricted along Greenland Street and the surrounding roads and the CUC has a number of disabled parking spaces.
All in all the CUC promises to be a dynamic cultural hub, bringing a diverse range of people together under the same roof. With the high quality specifications of the spaces plus the nice extras like free wi-fi coming, halal food, fixed and portable PAs the centre could be a positive catalyst for Liverpool’s cultural scene.
Contact Development Manager Linda Thompson (Linda.Thompson@novas.org) to get involved.
Liverpool Design Show, June 19-22, Novas Cultural Urban Centre, Greenland Street, Liverpool. 0151-708 3510
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