Creating a creative space with Constellations Liverpool
From unemployed freelancers to setting up Constellations. Becky Pope and Nick Baskerville talk about reaching for the stars.
Nestled deep within the throes of the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool’s ‘creative playground’, lays Constellations, a venue full of character and intrigue with an unfinished charm purveyed through chipboard walls and the rising warehouse space above.
Pegged as a ‘community driven creative environment’, this is more than just a venue, an aspect afforded wonderfully by business owners Becky Pope and Nick Baskerville. An idea first conceived by Becky in a bustling Festival field, Constellations has enjoyed natural growth and expansion since the opening of its garden area in July 2014, and continues to evolve as a business alongside the community and culture driven philosophies of its owners and environment.
I spoke to Becky about the origins of the business, and what the first steps were in making the venue a reality. It was clear from the off though, this was never going to be straightforward; ‘The building came before the plan…’ confesses Becky. ‘When the offer of the building came up, we said yes, then rapidly started to write a business plan.’
Not usually where things begin, Constellations development as a project has been nothing except unconventional, and the businesses community elements are completely intertwined within its progress. Becky states how everyone involved in developing the space was from the area; ‘Our builder was from next-door, our architects were from down the road, our suppliers were the other side of the road, the forklift truck school came to help us, everyone helped us to build the business.’
For those who aren’t aware, Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle is one of the fastest growing hubs for creative development and arts culture in the city, located in a previously worn out industrial district, the area is filled with hidden gems and curious locations, and would prove invaluable to Constellations’ eventual strategies.
Nick mentions the lack of outdoor space that was available in the Baltic, and after identifying this gap in the market; they developed their Gardens, a wide open space surrounded by scaling brick walls, with the central focus being on the curious wooden architecture above and around the outside bar. I spoke more to Nick about how the business has developed over time, and how they evolved their business philosophy; ‘We had an idea, and we expanded on that as we went, and then it suddenly became this machine that we didn’t really intend to start out with.’ It became more and more evident as the conversation continued how natural and somewhat personal the fruition of the venue was, Nick stating how they ‘responded to people’s wants and needs’ as they arose. ‘As people have approached us about doing particular styles of events we’ve realized there was huge gaps in the market – people weren’t being catered for in the city centre. Our mission statement wasn’t to run a business, it was to run a creative community.’
It’s this attitude that really helps Constellations to stand out from other startups, and highlight the business as being heavily driven by its community and environment. Community is a word that’s really thrown about sometimes, but it’s something you can really feel within the venue, and it’s an approach put across excellently by the two owners. Becky states how the pair came in as unemployed freelancers, and it was through the support of the people and businesses in the area that they’ve been able to realize their ideas; ‘We’ve now ended up having a massive warehouse, employing lots of other people, generating an interest in the area, but I guess we’re different to other spaces in the city because we’re not a music venue, we’re not a café, and we’re not a bar, we’re more of a community centre for waifs and strays.’
With a tight knit team, and a welcoming environment, Becky and Nick tend to say yes to those that others would turn away. Even during our conversation, I could hear the murmurings of a theatre group rehearsing nextdoor, a collective not only provided with a space to practice, but who were also helped with funding and staffing. There’s a real focus on networking here, something Becky feels is an important aspect of Liverpool’s culture, and not an aspect necessarily available in every city.
Becky goes on to talk about the business model itself, and states that whilst ‘it’s not always the biggest financial return’ it does mean that their ‘reputation is strong, and people want to help and support the space and bring ideas to it.’
Maybe this isn’t the best way to go about it for everyone, but it’s a strategy that’s clearly worked well for Becky and Nick, who’ve managed to build a truly unique and expanding community from the ground up, all on their own terms. But what would they recommend for someone else looking to start their own creative business or project?
‘Do your research. Really research. Really think about what your competition is, what your location is etc.’ Becky continues, suggesting learning from other businesses is a good way to go. Nick develops on this, stating you shouldn’t be afraid to ask other businesses for help, because they’ve been in that position, and that many see the value in other venues opening locally. It’s not always about the bottom line, and useful information is just waiting to be found, all you have to do is ask.
And most importantly of all? ‘Be prepared to make mistakes.’
Words: Adam Pirmohamed