Expert Comment: Liverpool's Garden Festival site re-opensTuesday 26 June 2012
Dr Martin Carey, Chief Executive of Hope Business Gateway and Urban Hope, looks at the re-birth of Liverpool's Garden Festival site.
I was one of thousands of excited people in 1984 who lined up to see the Garden Festival and I was not disappointed. The Festival was developed as one measure after the Toxteth Riots as a way of stimulating investment. While rightly criticised for having a minimum impact on the BME communities of Liverpool, it did open up the river, creating outstanding garden landscapes and attracting over three million people to Merseyside.
The slow abandonment of the site since 1997 left a derelict wasteland and, having driven down past the site many times, it seemed incarcerated, surrounded by high wire fencing which locked in a secret garden. Over the years it seemed as if the growing life within was waiting to be restored.
Having been involved in regeneration now for over twenty years it is easy to see, particularly in challenging times, how the restoration of a garden might not be a top priority. Nevertheless, as Liverpool Hope’s own garden and estates strategy shows, the mind, body and spirit all benefit from the development of outstanding landscapes.
The restoration of the Garden Festival site by Langtree, to be managed by the Land Trust, is to be applauded. Liverpool deserves to have outstanding open spaces, not just in terms of positioning the City to become even more a visitor priority but also in terms of offering the people of Liverpool the very best gardens in the world.
The river for Liverpool has always been a special place which draws people from near and far – it is therefore right that it should be the location for a festival garden which restores even more life back to the Mersey.