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St Luke's Church in sell off. However....

Urban Strawberry Lunch claim 'first option' on £1 bombed-out church

Written by . Published on March 21st 2014.

St Luke's Church in sell off. However....

A Community Interest Company could be set up to protect and develop Liverpool's bombed out church after it was revealed today that Mayor Joe Anderson plans to sell it off for just £1.

St Luke's Church, at the bottom of Leece Street, was described by opposition leader Richard Kemp as “the last visible reminder of the thousands of deaths that occurred amongst the civilian population in World War II”.

But it is in a state of deterioration, says cash-strapped Liverpool Council, and is too costly to maintain.

St Luke's has been used as a base for the arts collective Urban Strawberry Lunch, who opened it to the public in 2006. It regularly stages performances, exhibitions and film nights in the space, Yoko Ono has exhibited in there and bands such as the Kooks have played as part of Liverpool Sound City.

The story of the planned sell-off was leaked to local media with reports that the council is in very early talks with an "interested party", along with speculation that the Grade II listed building could be turned into an upmarket wedding venue by a developer.

But Ambrose Reynolds, one of the founders of Urban Strawberry Lunch, with artist Liz Carlisle,  told Liverpool Confidential that this afternoon he had secured a first option on the site - dependant on coming up with a viable plan. The pair are now looking to set up a Community Interest Company that would raise money and secure the church's future as a community and performance space.

"The minute I  heard the news I went straight down to the Municipal Buildings to speak to someone in the Mayor's Office. The receptionists buzzed me straight through when I told them what had happened and why I was there."

He met with one of Joe Anderson's advisors. "I said 'you want to sell it off for £1, I will give you £2 for it now'.

"It didn't happen, but it was a positive meeting," he said. "Urban Strawberry Lunch have got first dibs on the building. It is a consecrated church and because of a covenant drawn up by the Earl of Derby in 1811 when the foundation stone was laid, it has to remain a church.

Earlier, Lib Dem Leader Councillor Richard Kemp said: "This iconic building should not be sold to a developer but transferred to a non profit making body, who will care for it and honour its role of remembering bombings and famines.

Drumming up support: Ambrose ReynoldsDrumming up support: Ambrose Reynolds

“We must be very careful of entrusting much loved listed buildings to the care of private developers. Just look at the long-running saga of The Church of Scotland building in Rodney Street which after 30-plus years is still not complete.”

St Luke's, which lay empty and closed up for decades, was CPO'd by Liverpool Corporation, from the Church of England in the 1960s. It had planned to knock it down, along with Georgian terraces in Bold Place, to create an M62 link road which never materialised.

USL are well known for their work in "taking problems and turning them into solutions". 

"When we first took over the church it was used as a home for addicts. When a building falls empty it becomes a vacuum for something bad so the council were desperate for someone to do something with it," says Ambrose.

"We were given training from drugs squad officers in dealing with addicts and removing needles, of which there were hundreds. We pumped out thousands of gallons of water from the crypt and created a pond with it. Young offenders groups came in and created a garden."

He says that visitor numbers are swelling year on year, with the church a magnet for tourists from all over the world.

"We are also fortunate that we have lots of well known and influential supporters. I am confident that we would be able to stage high profile fundraising gigs, if it came to it.   I would be very keen to get people like Lord Derby on board in some capacity.

 "Now we will be working flat out to get estimates on work that will make it safe and to stop it from deteriorating any further. Then we will have to explore avenues to see how we can make it happen."

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30 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Bill MajorMarch 21st 2014.

I have no religion but the threat to the Bombed out church reminded me of the philistine treatment of St Peter's nearby in Seel Street. One of the oldest churches in Liverpool was sold off and is now a restaurant. To turn St Luke's into a place for expensive up market weddings might seem to be appropriate for a church, though I think the founder said something about the moneychangers in the temple? It's present uses, including the surrounding gardens, have been far more successful in attracting a wider range of people than the sell off ever will.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 21st 2014.

There is always a knobhead with someone else's money willing to turn the city's crown jewels over

AnonymousMarch 22nd 2014.

"It had planned to knock it down, along with Georgian terraces in Bold Place, to create an M62 link road which never materialised." Jesus.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 22nd 2014.

Yes, the same council that knocked the Cavern down.

mickeydrippin'March 22nd 2014.

Joe Anderson was on Radio Merseyside the other day and Roger Phillips asked him about St Lukes. Joe said that the site is costly to maintain from public money but there is no intention whtasoever to sell it for redevelopment. He would only sell it to an organisation that would be totally committed to maintaining the church and gardens as they are now.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Tricky wooMarch 22nd 2014.

Well as it says in the report above, which incidentally is one of the more responsible I've read, it can't be anything but a church and it can't be knocked down. They just don't want to have to be responsible for its costly upkeep any more, which is fair dos. It might have been nice if they had informed urban Strawberry Lunch of their plans, given that they are the only people who have remotely given a toss about the place since 1942. But that's the way of the mayor and now he is bleating on about sensationalist reporting. This story was leaked to the Echo originally which is why. They didn't get to stage manage it. Hopefully Ambrose and Liz will find a way through this. They have a lot of support.

David LewisMarch 22nd 2014.

Good luck USL, you have opened up the church space to a wide range of people and groups and your hard work should be recognised and the site safeguarded against yet more developer mismanagement.

Beryl MillsMarch 22nd 2014.

Very good positive outcome. Where is the Money from past users who want it kept as a church building why haven't they stepped it, such as tiki into? Displays art for free but in a crises where are the wealthy when needed.!

Beryl MillsMarch 22nd 2014.

Not tiki but yoko

Beryl MillsMarch 22nd 2014.

The Cavern was a different situation this church building is protected and cannot be knocked down. The Cavern was a great place for groups and fans to enjoy traditional jazz & then the group's such as the beatles came along to add to the great atmosphere, but it was inevitable that the old cavern either was maintained, or knocked down,but somebody came along and made a quick decision, & we know the outcome of that. A brand new cavern further down was built to replace it.The younger fans were shocked when they were told its not the original building. Oh dear! Those were the days my friend but things had to move on, some say for the better as great groups continue to play & perform there. It's more pleasant not as smelly! BUT the atmosphere in my opinion will never be the same in the new cavern but it's a different generation of fans, from the 60s., and memories are all we have plus old photos and films.

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2014.

Joe Anderson, fat fucking useless walrus of a man, can't find money for the the church but the little Everton tower is illuminated like Hiroshima every bloody night, bask in that reflected glory all you want Joe it's not the trophy your worthless club will never win!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyMarch 23rd 2014.

That's because someone other than the council got the money and lit it up. www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/…/time-light-up-evertons-famous-6553677…

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2014.

It actually says Everton and the council JB so wrong again, we know how these "community" projects work the club gets some free press we get stuck with the bill.

HcMarch 24th 2014.

Please Sign the petition: Save the Bombed Out Church you.38degrees.org.uk/…/BombedOutChurch…

AnonymousMarch 25th 2014.

Sounds great on a superficial level though doesn't it, all cosmopolitan and well read?

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