Grand plans to turn iconic Littlewoods building into film studio

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet to vote on £70m film studios redevelopment project.

Littlewoods Studios CGI. Image: CAPITAL & CENTRIC

Plans have been announced to turn an iconic art deco Liverpool building into film studios and an education space for local students who want to work in the film industry.

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet will vote next Friday on the £70 million redevelopment of the Littlewoods building, which would include major studios, creative office space and new media facilities.

Sign up to our LiverpoolWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The City Council claims the scheme could create almost 4,000 jobs and would be in addition to the The Depot, situated adjacent to the Littlewoods building, off Edge Lane, which opened in October.

The Depot has two purpose-built, 20,000 sq ft sound-proofed film and TV production units and is part of ambitions to cement Liverpool as the ‘Hollywood of the North’.

However, the Littlewoods project will be subject to planning permission and investment from a commercial lender for it to be completed.

Inside one of the studios at The Depot. Image: Liverpool Film Office

What is the redevelopment plan for the Littlewoods building?

Built in 1938, the building, believed to have been designed by Scottish Architect Gerald de Courcey Fraser, was the headquarters for Littlewoods, which started out as a football pools company in 1923.

The dilapidated building has been empty for decades and was damaged by a fire in 2018. Proposed plans for the site have been circulating for years including a 2012 proposal to make it into a hotel.

If the new redevelopment plans are approved the work will take place in two phases.

How will the project be funded?

Phase one, which is due to take 12 months, has a planned start date of early 2022 and requires £8 million for developers Capital and Centric to carry out site investigations, remediation and design works.

The money would come from a £17 million funding package already agreed by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

For phase two of the project to go ahead, both Liverpool City Council and the Combined Authority will need to invest £12 million and a commercial lender is being sought for the remaining amount.

How will the building be used?

It is proposed that 75,000 sq ft of space would be used by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to deliver an Entertainment Technology Centre to give students in Liverpool skills to work in the film industry.

A total of 85,000 sq ft of studio space has been earmarked for Twickenham Film Studios, which has worked on films such as The Italian Job, Calendar Girls and the latest Bond film, No Time to Die.

There will also be 95,000 sq ft of ‘flexible employment space for creative industries’.

The city has hosted film blockbusters and tv productions such as Sky’s Funny Girl starring Gemma Arterton and Channel 4’s The Curse from the team behind People Just Do Nothing, as well as recently investing and supporting Channel 4’s Help starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham and BBC’s The Responder starring Martin Freeman.

Reaction from Liverpool

Professor Joe Yates, LJMU Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Arts, Professional and Social Studies which includes the Liverpool Screen School, said: “This development would give us the opportunity to provide the very best facilities to our students and industry, creating new opportunities for both.”

He said the new facility would mean the university could train people from Liverpool with the “latest technology from Hollywood”.

“The world’s filmmakers will come here, confident that they can make a blockbuster movie with the right equipment and the right people,” he added.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region said: “Our region is a vibrant, innovative hub of creativity and talent. I want our funding to give local people proper opportunities to succeed.

“Our heritage, architecture, talent and people mean that we will always be able to attract film and TV productions from across the globe. But why can’t the actors come from Kirkby, the camera operators from Runcorn or the editors from Bootle?”

He said he would like to a production written, filmed, acted and produced in Liverpool “clearing up during awards season”.

The Littlewoods building was damaged by fire in 2018. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Councillor Sarah Doyle, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet member for Economic Development, said: “The Littlewoods Studios scheme has the potential to be a real game changer for the city’s tv and film sector, underlining our growth as a truly world class location.”

She explained: “The opening of The Depot studios last month was a great start but Littlewoods is on a different scale, which is underlined by the calibre of the partners like Twickenham Studios and John Moores University waiting in the wings.”

She said the announcement was the “first steps to bringing this sleeping giant of a building back to life”.

Adam Higgins, co-founder of Manchester-based developers Capital and Centric, said: “This is a pivotal moment for the Littlewoods project and will kickstart activity on site.

“We’ve worked hard to get to this stage, investing in developing the vision for the site and securing key tenants. We can’t underestimate what an important regeneration project this is to Liverpool, which is shown in the support we’ve had from the City Council and Combined Authority.”