Write up on our visit to the Bidston Observatory

Blog post for the Bidston Observatory visit

A couple of weeks ago eight DIY Space For London members went up to Bidston, on the wirral near Liverpool to visit the Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre. One of our members, Matt McQuillan had recently moved up to Bidston to become more fully involved in the development of the project and had invited us to come along.

The board now managing the building and project set out with the idea of investing in a building to be a residential artistic research space, looking across the country for suitable buildings. Upon looking in Liverpool, initially at another building they found encouragement from the local arts community and happened upon the amazing Bidston Observatory building.

Based on a hill in Bidston, a beautiful building itself with amazing views, the observatory was built in 1866 to replace a observatory previously on Liverpool’s docks. The observatory had telescopes in its two iconic domes and dormitories, computer rooms and more. Its a building of cultural significance both to the local community and scientific history.

Matt had invited us in June, prior to the centre’s official opening in July, to test out the dormitory quarters, having guests staying generally and for us to exchange ideas across both of our projects.

When we arrived (after a long drive from London!) we were greeted by Friday evening’s wonderful communal vegan meal, different residential members make the food each night and each attendee is asked to donate £3.50 which covers the cost of ingredients. Friday night we had a wonderful curry and on Saturday ramen, which some of us helped prepare.

On Friday night Matt gave us a huge tour of the amazing building, taking us up to the former observatory domes on the roof (which are now listed, which the centre are taking care and investment in restoring) its weather station and amazing views of Liverpool and the wirral, showing us the extensive building work they had done building bespoke dormitories, shower rooms, kitchen and soon an accessible toilet and dormitory. We also explored the buildings extensive basements (and sub basements!), dreaming of the amazing creative projects yet to come.

On Saturday, we got up early, some of us visited the neighbouring Bidston Lighthouse and some of us headed into Liverpool to have a look round. We had met some members of Liverpool’s Next To Nowhere social centre previously so were keen to visit the space. We visited Next To Nowhere (underneath radical bookshop News from Nowhere) which holds a drop in cafe on Saturday daytimes, and had a wonderful serving of vegan Scouse.

We headed back to Bidston to be involved in the Saturday evening meeting, mixing with other visitors and the group’s leaders to workshop some of the ideas of the Centre’s tension between artistic residency research space and its community focus, as both a building of cultural significance and an interest in being a space that is welcoming to any curious visitors.

Check out http://www.bidstonobservatory.org/