Tristan Brady-Jacobs is a name you will definitely hear floating around Liverpool. With social projects, being heavily involved in all things to do with the Baltic Triangle, as well as his own art on the go… and his own shop, it would be hard to miss him.
We chatted to him about what he’s achieved and what he loves aboout the great city of Liverpool.
How long have you lived in Liverpool?
I have lived in Liverpool for over 30 years; drawn here by artistic forces. I always felt this city was Britain’s equivalent of Berlin or Paris, full of bohemians, poets, rebels, agitators and holy fools. In the 70’s as a teenager, I read of Antwakkis, The Armadillo Tearooms, The O'hallihgans art events and of course Ken Campbell’s Liverpool School of Dream, Mime and Pun, that put on 24 hour theatre cycles in old warehouses, or flooded the Everyman Theatre to make the 'War of the Newts'. Being at a loose end - I had been thrown off my fine arts course in Newcastle upon Tyne for performing too much. I jumped at the chance to come and work with an offshoot of Welfare State, the visionary poor-theatre group. I arrived to stay for 2 weeks, got cast in a Toxteth based film of Romeo and Juliet the next day and never returned to Newcastle. My friends thought I’d been abducted; I had disappeared so well.... The film never got made, but I stepped through the looking glass into the world I'd read about and became infected with that brand of idealism, cynicism and passion, which drives so many people in Liverpool. I never picked up the accent though!
What do you love the most about your city?
I love the people, friendly, honest, conniving, self-centred, outward going, opinionated and caring. Liverpool has been the repository of global culture for 300 years, all smashed together in a struggle of survival, love and ambition. The smallest city centre of any big city in Europe, I can walk across Liverpool in 20 minutes, but its rare to get far without being caught in the little whirlpools and eddies of human discussion. This can be infuriating if you’re late for a meeting, but from these chances come all manner of new initiatives. I am a director of the creative triangle in the city; I run several 'meanwhile' spaces for the arts and a street art festival. Liverpool is a city where working on the streets will lead to random conversations with curious pedestrian. Liverpool is where locals revel in being good tour guides; we all know the best bar or cafe and we hate to think of visitors missing out!
What is a typical day like for you?
My day always starts with coffee and BBC 6 music then it’s very varied from thereon each day. I am currently working on BREATHE; a group project using science and art to spark discussion about the declining air quality in the UK. I am collecting gasmasks and will be using local people as models for 'paste-up' figures I call Liverpool Glorms. I will photograph them at public workshops in the city; these will then be turned into paste-ups and pasted out on the walls of the city the following week. I run workshops for children and have just finished 4 exhausting days at MOSI in Manchester doing light graffiti and I am next working on a recycling project in schools and so I will take time to do some research to add to ideas around reuse of common materials. I have been running MilkGhost workhops for a few years but always need new ideas. I may skip dive in the afternoon on my way down to HOBOkiosk (our shop) to help my wife lock up and then we hang out in the BlackLodge or Baltic Social for craft beer and company. Evenings if I am not VJing or running artvideo for Frankie Phoenix and her digital life-drawing nights INKBEAT I will retreat to my living room under the wall of scissors and read or just think. I always try to build in sometime for having nothing in my mind. I am scatty enough as it is without getting more confused [laughs].
You have been involved in many different projects within the community, which has been the most memorable?
I loved a project I did with northfaced lads on a disused railway up in Norris Green. I was using photography and Photoshop processing to create heroic images with the lads and as well as passing on vocational skills, I wanted to use this process to help to combat their air of 'romantic' fatalism (most of these 15 year old lads seriously believe they wont be alive in ten years time). I worked with them on the Ralla itself around the famous Norris Green bridge and on ones session. Inspired by their tendency to steal and wear my hat and their strong aversion to appear on camera, I took along a load of hats and masks from my house. It surprised me that they accepted my direction, they played with poses and for one brief session they became something else. The final large posters were exhibited in the city centre. Over the reluctance of the arts organisation hosting us they were invited to the opening. Although studiedly 'unbothered' they were bowled over to be displayed in such grand surroundings, they brought their own 'anonymous ' mask which they each wore to have their photo taken in front of the posters. I have used the technique for years now with so many powerful and rewarding effects but nothing quite beats these lads invading the 'posh' Bluecoat arts Centre to see themselves on the walls. To cap it all they had no idea the guest of honour was Phil Redmond and got involved in an invasion of a tai chi demo with superb results!
The baltic triangle seems to be increasingly popular these days, are you involved in projects around that area?
The Baltic Triangle is a curious mix of old school industry (right next to the city centre) with boat builders, giant bronze works and shed makers as well as the cool venues and increasing numbers of creative businesses. We now have student accommodation springing up everywhere as well. Trying to keep the strands working together, stop developers building with no sound proofing for instance, provide more facilities for our new inhabitants and not crush the old ones, it’s difficult and gets me no money, but gives me what I call ' leverage' or soft power. Just keep talking, keep asking, keep being honest and look for compromise always. Through this process I got my hands on a giant warehouse and set up WARPliverpool to run it. We have turned this org into a charity and continue to manage 'meanwhile' spaces across the Baltic Triangle. I have my eye on some unused buildings which I want to get my hands on. Each space we control is different with different timeframes, conditions, facilities etc., so we shape the activity strongly to the building and attempt to blend our usage with the needs and objectives of the owners.
In addition to WARP I run the MARKIT street art festival (with Zap Graffiti and local artists Pamela Sullivan), we are planning the 2nd one, which will use the walls of the triangle and in locations further afield.
How would you describe your art and where can we go to view it?
My art comes from stimulus and from the city I live in. I collect the detritus and unwanted objects, from skips, alleyways, car boots as well as gifts and turn these into pieces, which trade off expectation. I like cultural collisions; Liverpool is the result of many of these, as each wave of immigration unloaded its rich culture upon these docks. I respond to the stimuli of other peoples needs and do not need to be the controlling centre of an arts adventure and so I love finding clever people and helping them to realise their vision. If all this sounds a bit worthy, the results are anything but and I have little time for the po-faced artist who takes him or herself too seriously. http://tinyurl.com/hobo-art
Finally, are there any secret places you love to go to in the city?
Oh there are so many and without a native guide, they are hard to find, not because they are a long way or difficult to get to, but because the tourism guides ignore them in favour of the same old same old. For instance you may have heard of the Philahrmonic pub, it’s rightly famous for its carved interior and its Victorian bling, but check out the Vine down on Lime Street; it’s a bit scally but the interior is just as fab and the backroom is stunning. Peter Kavanaghs pub, has the most gorgeous snug as well as real history, The Grapes, tiny but perfect with a mixture of Buddhism, Thai food, old school good beers and a top-notch Latin jazz group on Sunday evenings.
The Chinese area is one of the oldest in Europe and the arch is worth seeing, but in its shadow, is my favourite Chinese restaurant the Ma Bo. It’s a real old school experience; lino, Formica, outside toilets and the best-fried noodles in town… don’t forget to flirt with the scary, cheeky dragon-lady owner.
In the Triangle, Unit51 has the best coffee and best staff and Constellations does a neat line in food-coma breakfasts, oh my! The Baltic Bakehouse has the No1 sandwich in the country (according to buzzfeed and me), serving a cheese toastie, which feeds two happily. The Black Lodge a supercool craft-beer pub, Kitchen St, is like a mini Kazimier, specialising in art and media nights, rap, all-night raves and of course HOBOkiosk; my shop which serves weirdness and charm along with the coolest of old design and vinyl, automata, treated dolls and mannequins.
Generally though, if yore visiting don’t be afraid to ask about the best local knowledge and recommendations, you may have to put aside an afternoon for the reply but you won't be disappointed by the results!