On a cold Saturday afternoon in January 2016, artist Grace Harrison was sitting in a launderette.

As she sat alongside her neighbours and watched her laundry spin in the machine, she thought about how this warm and accessible place could be brought to life; and how the underused space had so much potential to be a place where people come together and do more than just their washing.

Since that first idea, a small team of Liverpool residents have come together to reimagine the launderette, as not just a place for laundry but a place for people to gather, talk and learn as well as creating good quality and well-paid jobs. Over the last three years the team have worked to develop their plans for the community business, choosing a worker-community cooperative business model. Based in the Anfield/ Everton area of Liverpool the team have been running events to engage with resident’s ideas for the space as well as listening to their past experiences and stories, all informing how the launderette has taken shape.

Kitty’s Launderette member Rachael O’Byrne said “We’ve had so many brilliant ideas for activities people want to happen in the space: knit and natter groups, life drawing classes, speed-dating, film screenings, children’s story time, art exhibitions, dress-making classes, poetry slams, and yoga. There’s so much excitement for the establishment of a new community hub.” 

Helping them get their project off the ground, the community launderette launched a Kickstarter last year, enabling them to convert a former builder’s workshop into the launderette space. Asking for £14,000, they surpassed their goal and raised over £20,000 with 366 backers, made up of individuals and local organisations. Grace said “It’s been a long journey to get here and we couldn’t have done it without the unwavering support from our neighbours, Councillors, community organisations, fellow community businesses, friends, local housing associations, funders and so many amazing people from across Liverpool and beyond that have helped us get here.”

As well as the launderette the group have launched a social history project which will be run from within the launderette, supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project will be led by local resident Kerrie McGiveron, a PhD. student at the University of Liverpool. Talking about the project she said, “Over the next 12 months, local people will be invited to share their memories and experiences of launderettes in the area to help us build a rich and varied illustration of the vital role of these services played and potentially continue to play in the City. The project will also communicate the untold stories of Liverpool’s forgotten washhouses and launderettes, recovering personal histories.”

Since securing a permanent space last spring the launderette team has been adapting their plans to their premises and completely transforming the old builder’s yard into a modern, efficient and colourful launderette space.  Lead builder Ehsan Vaziri has been part of the team from the early days, when talking about the renovation he commented “Over the last 5 months, our small team has created our beautiful launderette from scratch, from completing the structural works, installing the machine set up and all our detailed design finishes. It’s been a creative challenge but it was really important to make the space as beautiful and full of life as we could and we are all really proud of what we have achieved together.” 

As well as funding from their Kickstarter, the community business also secured start-up funding from Power to Change, a national funding body that supports community businesses to revive local assets, protect the services people rely on, and address local needs, providing money, advice and support to help local people come together to take control. The Launderette received a grant from the Community Business Fund, enabling the business to purchase their washing and drying machines as well as invest in-ecological dry-cleaning facilitates. The Community Business has so far employed 10 people, all of which are paid at the Real Living Wage.

Local Councillor, resident and Launderette Board member, Ian Byrne said “Kitty’s Launderette has become a template for the regeneration of our area; an ethical business immersed in the community, built by local people and offering a much-needed resource for us all to come together. Every penny made will go back in to our community, enabling us to create well-paid jobs, a quality service and social activities for all.”

Kitty’s launderette opens its doors the week beginning 13th of May for a film screening in partnership with Spirit of Liverpool. The official opening begins on Saturday 18th May with an exciting programme of social activities including live music, children’s story time, games and of course, Laundry!

Kitty’s Launderette Opening Hours

Monday

09:30 – 20:00

Tuesday

Closed

Wednesday

Closed

Thursday

09:30 – 20:00

Friday

09:30 – 20:00

Saturday

10:00 – 20:00

Sunday

10:00 – 20:00