What inspired you to map out all of the independents in the city?
MG: The Independent Map Company (IDMC°) was created from Lee and my own personal experiences. I visited Tokyo several years ago and found it difficult to find the types of shops, restaurants and bars I was looking for. This was a combination of the unfamiliarity of the city's geography, the language barrier and even finding wifi spots proved very time consuming. On my return to Liverpool, I visited Lee's menswear store Weavers Door, he discussed the concept of a physical map with me that would highlight independent businesses across many categories including food and drink, arts and culture, retail and hospitality.
We wanted to create a physical map that both locals and visitors to the city could use to find those lesser known independents who in our eyes offer authenticity and diversity to Liverpool. To spread the word we launched the IDMC° website and before we knew it were featuring independents from around the globe. Currently we're highlighting independents in over 50 cities including London, New York, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Tokyo and Melbourne.
How long did the the first map of Liverpool take to develop?
MG: We knew from the start designing a topographical map of Liverpool featuring independent businesses wasn't going to be an easy task. We designed the map from scratch- you'd be surprised how inaccurate the likes of Google maps can be, and more often than not the independents are on side streets that aren't well presented on standard maps.
It took 12 versions of the inaugural IDMC° Liverpool map before we went to print; we wanted it to be our best first version. The map features a well-considered selection of independent businesses from various categories including well-established venues such as Bold Street Coffee, Lost Art, Hope Street Hotel, Puschka and The Quarter. More recent additions included Mowgli Street Food, Golden Square Coffee and Slim's Pork Chop Express which is the latest eatery by the Santa Chupitos and Salt Dog Slim's team.
We didn't want to create a map that was throwaway, hence us sourcing a synthetic paper from USA to not only offer a high-quality print finish but water and tear resistance properties, which when you're carry a map around with you comes in handy!
How did you decide on who to include on the map?
MG: The IDMC° Liverpool map acts as much as a travel guide as it does a navigational tool. It was important to us to highlight a varied selection of independents to offer a cultured insight into the city. We wouldn't want to recommend places that we wouldn't recommend to our family and friends. The IDMC° Liverpool map also aims to highlight the independent community that exists, and it's great to see independent businesses working together be it on pop-up events and collaborations.
Do you have a favourite Liverpool independent?
My favourite independent is Open Eye gallery. I always looked at OE as my version of a comic store, allowing me to find new photographers. It was the first place I saw Richard Mosse's work, documenting the democratic republic of Congo, shot on infra red film - it blew me away. I found the British Journal of Photography magazine there too, and also discovered one of my other favourite photographers, Rinko Kawauchi who creates these wonderful optical illusions in her work. You should definitely check out her book Illuminance.
This is always a tricky question but I'd say my favourite independent is Maray on Bold Street. I think Dom, Thom and James have done a fantastic job and have a strong, honest concept in Maray.
Your website showcases a wealth of independents across Europe and America. How does Liverpool fare against these cities?
MG: Being able to highlight independents from around the world has allowed us to see clear trends between cities as well as truly unique concepts that just wouldn't work in Liverpool. One of Lee's favourites is Groed in Copenhagen, an eatery dedicated to porridge! We've definitely seen Liverpool's food and drink scene increase rapidly since we started IDMC° with the likes of Miyagi's on Bold Street, the Pen Factory on Hope Street and the Botanical Garden in the Baltic Triangle. What's really positive is seeing how an independent grows and introduces new, refreshing concepts around Liverpool.
Would you like to map out these other cities?
MG: We're currently preparing the next IDMC° Map which will be of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Having recently returned from our first New York trip the reaction to IDMC° was overwhelming. We found some really inspiring independents met the people behind them, and heard their stories be told. Alongside New York we're collaborating with creatives in Berlin and Tokyo - it seems everyone has an inner map geek hidden away somewhere.
With the map now successfully in print, how do you hope to keep up with Liverpool’s ever-expanding community of independents?
MG: From the start we knew keeping up-to-date with the physcial map was going to be testing as there's always going to be boundaries with anything printed. The independent directory on the IDMC° website allows us to keep ahead of any new independents. We do plan to print issue two of the Liverpool Map, but at present we're looking to broaden our map series with the likes of New York, London and Berlin as we've already gained a loyal international audience.
Build Your Own, our current exhibition, is all about collaboration. What other creatives have been involved in producing the Liverpool map?
MG: Each IDMC° Map we create is a lengthly process of research, design and collaboration with like-minded creatives based in the city we're 'mapping out'. It's important we offer an original, inspiring guide to a city based on recommendations we'd use ourselves when visiting. For Liverpool we worked with several graphic designers and illustrators to create a concise, well-designed map that highlighted Liverpool's independent community without scaring the user. If someone is only visiting the city for a day, or even a weekend, time spent getting lost and being unsure where to go is time wasted in our eyes. We hope each IDMC° map offers the user information to give them a memorable experience while supporting the featured independents.
For the IDMC° we're collaborating with several photographers, writers, and artists who offer invaluable local knowledge into their own city, aptly known as IDMC° insiders.
Get your copy of the Liverpool Map here. Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing is open until 31 August Tuesday -Sunday, 11am - 6pm.