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Baltic Profiles: Jayne Casey

Baltic Profiles: Jayne Casey

Over the next few months, we will be publishing a series of profile pieces about key figures in the Baltic Triangle and the innovative and creative minds behind everything Baltic.

From digital creators, guitar makers and tech entrepreneurs (and many more). We will be exploring their personal and professional lives and their role in making the Baltic Triangle what it is today.

Our first Baltic Profile is with one of the founders of the Baltic Triangle (and Liverpool icon), Jayne Casey. Jayne has been an integral part of Liverpool’s artistic and cultural scene and has been heavily involved in some of the largest cultural and creative events in Liverpool’s recent history.

As well as pioneering the creation of Baltic Creative, Jayne also previously managed the A Foundation which funded the Liverpool’s Biennial Festival and was involved with Liverpool’s developing music scene and much more.

The challenges of developing an area & avoiding the gentrification model

Jayne has always been passionate about the artistic industry and noticed through her work with the A Foundation that many areas in Liverpool were being bought-off by large developers who would claim artist’s buildings and sell them on leaving the artists without a creative hub. So, she decided to invest in the Baltic Triangle; an area which had been neglected and had fallen into decline.

‘I was speaking to people and I realised that a lot of buildings had been sold to banks and corporate businesses because we’d bid for the year of culture.

‘With the Biennial we always thought ‘where are the critics going to walk, how are they going to get from one gallery to another’ and you knew that’d they have to walk past that one derelict building that you really loved, and it was the beauty in dereliction.

The first move in developing the Baltic Triangle

‘So, after noticing that people were enjoying this dereliction and that banks were starting to buy property, I took some money from the A Foundation, which I was a board member of and bought Greenland Street, which is Camp & Furnace, and it was a really old industrial area.’

‘The reason I bought it was because I did find great beauty in dereliction and I’d always found this area quite interesting.

‘The other reason I settled on this area is that I knew that all the property was in public ownership, so I started haranguing people to give us this area and that we would put money into a trust for the artists and then as development happens, we will never get thrown out’.

Experience in developing an area created for artists

She explained how her own personal experiences with developers led her to create a district where people could not be moved:

‘My backstory is that I’d been on Matthew Street in ’77, it was a derelict street, Eric’s opened, and people used to come down from London and then the developers moved in, so we moved over to the Cream area of town, which was again derelict. Then Cream opened and loads of people started coming in from out of town and the area re-developed again.

‘As the area was getting more popular, we tried to buy the building, but the man who owned tried to charge us ridiculous prices. Because we go into areas as artists, we set up our businesses, the area takes off because of our creativity but then the developers move in, and then you have to leave.

‘So, I’d gone through it in Matthew Street, so by the time we got to 2008 and the city centre had been given away for a quid, I made it my project to stop these things from happening.

‘I’ve built some fabulous things in this city which have either been destroyed or the areas have been taken off us by developers and I just really wanted to stop that. I was thinking ‘how do I make the artists the winners?’.’

Obstacles to overcome when trying to develop the Baltic Triangle

Although Jayne had now acquired property to start the Baltic Triangle, she faced another challenge:

‘I went to the council and asked about handing the property over to a trust, so then I had to set up a trust, which was Baltic Creative and it sort of took off from there.

‘I handed over the project, which we called the Independent District back then, to Liverpool Vision and said all the pieces are there now, so Vision then set up the trust. I applied to be on the trust and it became the Baltic Creative. But there’d been about five years of lobbying on my own before the property was actually handed over to us.

‘I did it as an artist, using my creativity to look at the way corporates operate around us and saying how do we flip that, how do we become the winners. The property is owned by the artists, we take the money from property and invest it so the area will just grow and grow’.

Once the Baltic Creative trust had been established, Jayne wanted to remain in the area which eventually led to the birth of District; an independent events venue:

‘After the A Foundation I needed to remain in the area, so I took a building on and had it as an art gallery throughout the Biennial. I liked the building because it had a bit of land next to it and there were no residents around it so I knew it would be great for music. The area was still totally industrial then, but we knew this was going to be a cultural hub.’

What happened to The Picket & the creation of District

‘The Picket, one of the oldest music venues in Liverpool had lost their building and they had a dry-bar for young bands, so for the kids, this area was really attractive. The skate-park moved in, so then we started doing the dry-bars’.

‘We have loads of bands in the city, who all started in the Baltic area. But then The Picket fell over, and we were left with all the debt, so I decided to keep the building going to pay off all the debt. But coming from Eric’s and Cream I had an idea of what an independent venue should be like. I’m very proud of District; it’s got a place for all different communities as is characterised by its inclusivity’.

Jayne has always been involved with the music scene and played a vital role in Cream in the 1990s:

‘The first time I heard dance music was at Quadrant Park, I was heartbroken and raw, but dance music had amazing songs.

‘When Cream decided to open, I knew that drugs were becoming a problem, so I introduced first aid rooms, and on-site doctors, which was a big move because it was saying we know what’s going on, but we want to make it safer, not just close the culture down. I love my Cream kids. It was just a nightclub, but we built it into a brand.’

When asked about the community in the cultural hub which she created, she replied:

‘The Baltic area is so experimental and so independent. This area gives people the chance to experiment, open up tiny little bars and cafes, maybe grow them, maybe not.

‘I was the lightning rod, but everything you see has been created by the people, the artists who’ve come in and made it was it is.’

Growing up in Liverpool

Before the Baltic district started, she remembers her time as a teenager growing up in Liverpool’s changing society and how her rebellion to the ‘mainstream’ norms led her to become who she is today:

 ‘I had left a children’s home with my belongings in a black plastic bag and within 12 months I was the centre of the scene.

‘I hit adulthood at 17 with a really bad attitude, I had an abusive background and had ended up in a children’s home, so I wasn’t really trucking with mainstream society and I just happened to hit town at the time where it was really cool to have a bad attitude’.

‘I was really sweet and lovely, so it was a bad attitude in terms of I wasn’t interested in the mainstream. I felt like I’d been abused by the mainstream and I wanted to create a new world. So, I shaved my head and I guess I was the first punk in the city.’

‘I had a little vintage shop on Matthew Street and in the 70’s a lot of the shops still had 60’s swag, so I used to buy Beatles jeans and go to London and sell it King’s Road, and I met Don Letts and I’d buy my clothes from SEX before coming back to Liverpool.

‘I remember me and Pete Burns would go out in our finery and we’d turn a corner and these men who were working on the Docks would want to batter us.’

‘But I remember seeing loads of young kids, and one day someone went to hit me, and these little kids jumped out in front of me and stopped it. These kids wanted to be us, they didn’t want to be like the mainstream.

‘I have had unique experiences in the city, to do the Baltic was a combination of everything I’d learnt and seeing that you didn’t have to fit in with the mainstream, you could make the mainstream fit round you…’

Music career & Liverpool pioneer

Apart from establishing the Baltic Triangle, helping create an internationally recognised nightclub and being the proprietor of a successful independent venue, she was also the front-woman of three successful punk bands:

‘Big in Japan was fabulous. That was my first band, I was about 18 and I couldn’t sing, I could never sing ever, but I used to scream and that kind of fitted, but I wrote great songs. Big in Japan songs are great, and I feel like they are so now, it was a funny band. I learnt to be a team player.’

‘I went on to be a bit more experimental with Pink Military, and I was probably about 22 or 23. Philosophically, Pink Military was quite interesting…I was on the button, but I wasn’t creating the music that I loved.’

‘With Pink Industry, synthesisers were still really hard to get hold of, it was still pre-digital, but we recreated the sounds of technology without actually having the technology, and that’s made Pink Industry live a long time.

‘When I wrote ‘Don’t Let Go’, I’d just had my son, and I didn’t have time to write it down, I was doing the house-work and I wrote it from beginning to end with the melody and everything.

‘I wrote it because I’d been walking down Bold Street and I’d always competed with the boys, but I didn’t know what would happen now that I was a mum, so I went upstairs and wrote it because I was just like ‘do not let go!

‘Converse had a Pink Industry song ‘Don’t Let Go’ feature on their purple converse ad, with skater Louis Lopez and when dance music happened DJ’s started mixing in a lot of Pink Industry because of the pre-digital sound’.

Present day Baltic Triangle & what it has achieved

Coming back to the present, Jayne is passionate about the Baltic Triangle and its continuing growth, she believes that it’s the people in this area that makes it a hub of creativity and freedom. It has been hugely important for Jayne to create a district where all types of people have a home:

‘Right from the beginning, I didn’t want anyone to know I did this, I wanted artists and people to come in and own the area. I didn’t do this for us I did it for you, I want everyone to own something and bring something to the area.

‘For me, when we were trying to put it all together, I was saying, I want somewhere where my people can live forever. Where my people in the future can find a home, and when I look around now that’s what it’s become’.

About Russell Gannon

Marketing Director for Baltic Triangle Area CIC and Entrepreneur with businesses located in the Liverpool City Region