Matt Retallick Research Questionnaire 6: Elizabeth Challinor

Name: Elizabeth Challinor 

Location: Liverpool 

1. What is your relationship to Merseyside? 

I was born in Liverpool, and have lived/worked here my whole life. I wanted to move away to uni, but only went to UCLAN (Preston) so I could still be here all the time. (I would’ve gone to Manchester but the clashing footie teams was an issue for me.)

2. How does Merseyside impact or shape your practice? 

I think a lot of my practise is shaped by my own personality, which in itself is probably a product of being from Liverpool? I’ve always done a lot of written work in my practise, and I tend to write how I speak, instead of doing something too scripted/academic, so I think language does play a bit of a role in it. But then at the same time I think it’s hard cos I don’t really know what my practise is anymore, but it’s just nice being based in Liverpool to sit and send emails every day isn’t it. 

3. What’s are the positives and negatives of living and working in Merseyside? 

I think one of the positives is definitely how friendly the city feels as a whole. And the culture, there’s always so much to see or do, so much going on, so many galleries to visit. Like we’re not really a big city, but there’s so much on offer that it’s so easy to find inspiration and influence. And also, cos it is quite a compact city, everything’s pretty much in walking distance, and I am so down for that.

I think in terms of negatives, sometimes it just feels like there’s a lot of competitiveness, especially in the creative/cultural roles here. Like obviously there is wherever you go, but I feel like we don’t actually have a huge amount of option here, so it’s just intensified a bit. Also, sometimes things seem quite cliquey. And getting a taxi home from town on a weekend is a joke. 

4. What does independence / being independent mean to you? 

This would really depend on what you personally class as being “independent”, and that’s something I generally struggle with. For me, independence means control, like not of other people, but of yourself and your life. Like I had to move back in with my mum, had a bit of an existential crisis and quit my bar job, so at the moment I feel very much reliant on others and just about managing to keep my head above water. I think independence for me really just means financial stability, which right now, especially while trying to pursue/sustain a creative career, feels like a bit of a long shot. But yeah, personal/self-control. 

5. Is Merseyside a good place to be independent? 

Definitely. Even though I’ve just moaned about how hard it is to find opportunities here, there still is so much on offer. I hate the way people complain that you need to move to London to get ahead in the industry, cos then if you do that, it’s just adding to the whole thing that London’s where you have to go to pursue a career as an artist. If you don’t have the opportunities available in one specific place, you need to change it so that things are actually happening in that place, and that’s something that is really successful in Liverpool/Merseyside. 

6. What are your favourite examples of independence / the independent in Merseyside?

My favourite example is probably just the sheer amount of independent/local businesses we have. From like bars and cafes, to shops and galleries, there’s just a LOT. In between all the corporate chains and franchises, there’s so many little gems hidden around.

7. What is your favourite cultural organisation in Merseyside and why?

I really love OUTPUT Gallery, mostly because they’re really passionate about showcasing local artists, and being able to give opportunities to artists who may not have had access to them previously. They’ve worked with a lot of great artists, and the exhibitions are always so interesting.

8. What is your favourite place in Merseyside and why? 

My favourite places are literally bars, but I worked in hospitality for ages, and meeting up with my mates for a bev is just how we hang out now. I love the Jacaranda on a Sunday evening when they do the open mic’s, and Crazy Pedro’s in the summer when it’s dead hot and you can sit on the little outdoor roof terrace with a nice cold pint. But then I love going for walks around the docks and sitting off by the liver buildings/museum, it’s so chill and scenic. But as well as this, the trans pennine trail goes through Liverpool (through Halewood/Childwall/Old Swan all the way up to Southport) , and it’s boss to go for long walks with my dog along there. I’ve done that a lot over the past year with all the lockdowns, and it’s slowly became one of my favourite pastimes. And also Anfield. 

9. If you could make Merseyside different, what would you change, and why? 

Stop them from closing businesses and knocking down everything to turn into student accommodation. It’s just disgusting at this point. Like I’m struggling trying to find a flat in the city centre cos 90% is privately owned to rent out to students. Like I get we have a lot of students, but surely there’s not enough to fill that many accommodation buildings & justify developing more? And also just more funding for creative spaces (existing and new) and access to paid opportunities. 

10. Describe Merseyside to someone who’s never visited

Liverpool is the best city in the world.