By Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport
An exciting new Creative and Digital Hub is due to open its doors in Southport in 2024.
The Engine Room will be situated at the iconic Wayfarers Shopping Arcade on Lord Street in Southport town centre.
It will add to the town’s growth in co-working and creative spaces, with Werksy on West Street also opening in 2024 and work taking place to create the new Southport Enterprise Arcade on Eastbank Street.
Engine Rooms founder Dr Eric Lybeck, a Senior Lecturer at the Manchester Institute of Education, has been working closely with partners including Southport BID and Southport College to bring his vision to life.
He held two open events in December and is keen to discover what local people think of his vision – and what they would like to see in the space.
The Engine Room is situated on the first and second floors of the arcade, near the entrance to West Street.
There is lots of scope to shape the beautiful interior to the needs of those in the creative, digital, tech or artistic industries.
The broadband speeds available will be superfast – ideal for anyone who wants to call in and plug in a laptop, while connecting with like-minded creatives.
There will be a cafe on site. A room with a green screen upstairs will allow people to host and share learning experiences. There will be an area that can be utilised for meetings.
The spaces inside are flexible and nothing is pre-determined. It could be used for fashion designers; photographers; digital marketers; graphics designers.
The new venture will create fantastic opportunities for young people, start-up businesses and sole traders, helping in the ongoing work being undertaken by Southport BID and Southport College to tackle the issue of ‘youth flight’ by providing more opportunities for work.
Dr Lybeck said: “We would love to see people tell us what they would like this space to be.
“The Engine Room can be anything. If it is successful then we have the possibility to be able to expand into further units in the upper floors inside Wayfarers Arcade.
“It’s a beautiful arcade and we have some superb local independent businesses here already, with some very creative shops and some cafes.
“If we can bring more people to work inside the upper floors of the arcade and fill some of the empty units, then this can become a space that will really thrive.
“Southport BID has been very supportive. I have been speaking with Rachel Fitzgerald and Luke Randles from the BID who are very eager to create more opportunities for people and to look how they can bring empty units in Southport town centre back into use.
“I want to be able to talk with people in the local business community to find out exactly what they need from us.
“We need to work hard to overcome the issues of youth flight in this town and to develop opportunities like this.
“The current system of education points young people towards university – but we don’t have a university here, so young people often leave the town to pursue their next steps. We need to create opportunities for young people who want to stay.
“I have been speaking with Ian Parry, the Headteacher at Meols Cop High School, to see how we can involve local secondary school students in what we are doing.
“Southport has a very bright future with all the new investment being made at places like the new Marine Lake Events Centre, The Cove Resort, The Grand, The Garrick, Southport Enterprise Arcade and elsewhere.
“Southport town centre can really flourish if it continues to evolve.
“After the industrial revolution lots of the former mills in places such as Manchester have been repurposed and are very desirable now. It’s about creating the right mix.
“Southport needs spaces like The Engine Room. That is why we’d love to see people sharing what they think they’d like to see.
“Since we started work here, people have been very curious! There has been lots of interest.
“Lots of visitors have been asking what this unit is going to be. Some people have speculated that it might be a craft ale bar; or a shop; or other things. This is their chance to come and find out more.
“We want to have conversations with local residents to find out what they think this space can be best utilised for.
“Over the next six months we want to be able to demonstrate that there is a real demand, an interest and a need for what we offer here.
“We have been working with Chris Lee at Start Yard in Birkenhead to discover what they have done with their co-working spaces there.
“In 2024 The Engine Room is going to be quite an exciting place to be.”