I had a fascinating day in Liverpool on Saturday, looking at the construction site for the new Everyman Theatre and having a whistlestop tour of the city, after visiting a photography project to use pictures of local people on the building's facade. What was extraordinary was the level of engagement, the fact that although this is a relatively major project that has had to jump through the usual hoops of funding and planning, it was loved, on an individual level, by so many people.
The contractor, Gilbert Ash, had been brought in because of its exemplary work on the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. The artistic director of the theatre, Gemma Bodinetz, was excited and on top of every detail if amazed she was in charge of such a project ('My husband told me it took me five years to get the colour of our kitchen wrong,' she said). The architect, Steve Tompkins of Haworth Tompkins, is so 'hands on' with his projects that on several of them he has actually completed bits of work to his satisfaction - a bit of deliberately rough plastering, washing off just the right degree of fines on the concrete, or getting his entire office making light fittings.
All these people have track records, so their attention to detail is evidently commercially viable, if not a way to get rich. It just takes dedication - and giving up Saturdays. At a time when we are so oftentold finance demands the lowest common denominator, it was inspirational to see such a different approach.