Once you step foot into a Costa, a Pret, or a Starbucks, you could be in any city anywhere in the UK. Nothing about them screams the character of the place they inhabit. Whether you are in Liverpool or London, the Starbucks looks the same and the coffee tastes the same. We absentmindedly trust the green twin-tailed mermaid, because we find her on every corner. She lures us to a place of predictable coffee and a ‘sit down, drink, get out’ arrangement. Their primary purpose is to sell their product as quickly, efficiently, and cheaply as possible.
Stepping out of the high-street crowds and escaping the fog of retail clones, I find the unusual and charming independents; the places that allow for a unique and homely experience. Rather than a global organisation established elsewhere squeezing itself into the cityscape, these locally owned businesses started right where they stand today, or at least not far away from where it all began. Its owners have developed a small idea into a fully functioning business through trial and error, learning what works within their city and what its citizens are seeking. Whether its Instagramable and quirky décor, a cup of coffee or a unique product, you are bound to discover something that you were unable to find elsewhere, delivered with love from a business that shares a mutual dependence with its local community.
Whether I am sat amongst fellow coffee drinkers and food lovers in Leaf, under the fairy lights in Free State Kitchen’s garden where the burgers are better than Byron’s, or nipping into News From Nowhere to find my next book, there is no doubting which city I am in. I know these specific spaces do not exist outside of Liverpool. Whilst working with and complementing its city, the best independents often grow their own unique environment that transcends the outside world. The Italian Club is Liverpool’s very own tiny Italy with high ceilings, hanging chandeliers, and a warm golden glow even on a grey day, whilst climbing the stairs just off the high street leads me up to café Rococo; an unexpected maze of sitting rooms filled with potted plants, humbly sat atop an EE store.
Camp and Furnace is a prime example of an independent venue that accommodates a number of its city’s needs. It sits snugly inside a building that boasts a number of rooms to fit any purpose. From hosting music events to support Britain’s suffering nightlife culture, to Friday night dinners in the fantastical Night Garden, Camp and Furnace is an integral part of Liverpool’s global identity and other city’s alike have their own gems. Without them, cities would lose their diversity and cultural essence, leaving us instead with concrete clones of generic and convenient organisations.
The independents greatly contribute to Liverpool’s kind and welcoming character. They are built into its intricate, diverse fabric with Liverpool in mind, directly benefiting the local economy and community. These are the places I can rely on and in return they can rely on me as customer and promoter, even if I would like to keep them a selfish secret.
Photo of Liverpool waterfront taken using iPhone 5S.
For more on Liverpool’s independents, see Independent Liverpool.