Metal at Edge Hill Station

This interview is part of a study exploring community use of railway buildings. The final report will be available later this spring, published by ACoRP and the Rail Development Group. The study was led by Professor Paul Salveson. This interview with Shaun Curtis, director of Metal Culture in Liverpool, is by Rachel Francis.
Steve Reich’s “Different Trains” performed at Edge Hill Station. Photo Mark McNulty.

Metal’s vision is to transform iconic, disused buildings into creative workspace for artists. In Liverpool, Metal work out of Edge Hill – the world’s oldest active passenger railway station.

At Edge Hill, artistic aspiration is coupled with down to earth ideas that engage the local communities – like inviting people round for a home cooked meal, or giving out free tickets for world class performance.

Metal completed the renovation of two historic buildings at Edge Hill in 2009.  The original 1836 Engine House, Boiler Room and Accumulator Tower have become a cultural and creative hub for artists whilst maintaining the aesthetic of the railway station and its historic roots. The main building on Platform One includes large communal dining area, exhibition/work spaces and office. On the opposite platform are studios and an incubation space for creative businesses. An outdoor area has become a garden for community projects with focus on health, natural world and climate change.

In September 2016, Metal held an open-air performance of Steve Reich’s Different Trains. Reich attended the performance, together with a packed audience from across the country. The performance took place on an unused area of the station – once an entrance for carriages – that forms a natural amphitheatre. The performance was widely acclaimed and attracted a high level of media coverage.

Tell us about your work at Edge Hill

S.C. Three permanent staff work at Edge Hill, supporting artists from the UK and overseas, hosting artists-in-residence and running intensive, week-long Culture LAB’s for peer-to-peer learning and exchange.  Following up from the success of Different Trains, a follow up  performance is planned – at the moment further details are embargoed.

Creative work is directly linked to people and place:

Our community at Edge Hill is Wavertree, Fairfield, Kensington(Liverpool) and Toxteth – the poverty in these neighbourhoods is a pervasive narrative – from Edge Hill Station we have begun to tell another story about the same area – about a place where passenger transport by rail began, a place of new ideas – ideas that have changed the world for the better.

What is Metal? 

SC. Metal started up in London in 2002. The founder is Jude Kelly OBE and her vision is to transform disused buildings into creative workspaces for artists of all disciplines. Metal at Edge Hill began a few years later, with a meeting between Jude and Ian Brownbill who was already working in the Edge Hill area and went on to become the first director at Metal Liverpool.

Included in the meeting was Columbian artist Luis Fernandez Pelaez . … he was planning to create an urban forest in a rundown area of the city … it struck them that the desire to transform spaces through art can have a powerful impact.

Community Garden at Edge Hill

This was the spark that bought Metal to Edge Hill Station. There was an engagement process and funding was raised to renovate the disused station buildings with support from Northern Rail, Network Rail, Merseytarvel, the Railway Heritage Trust and Kensington regeneration. The work was completed in 2009, achieving recognition for the beautiful contemporary spaces that embrace the history and aesthetic of the building. Funding for Metal Liverpool comes from Arts Council, Liverpool City Council, Northern Rail.

What form of lease or other agreement do you have with the landlord?

SC. We have a 25-year Tripartite Lease with Network Rail and Arriva Northern for the two buildings. They have recently acquired the space for a community garden and would like to develop use of the disused entrance that was used as an amphitheatre for “Different Trains”

What have been the positive impacts of the project for your organisation and the community/s you support?

SC. The key success factor is a focussed, authentic vison in which aspirational art connects with place – the history, the atmosphere, the trains and the people of that place. This has been achieved without any compromise on the creative intent or quality of the art, in fact the station and local community are a compelling element of the art. The station has become something to be proud of and also to get involved in – a positive, inspiring, welcoming presence in a rundown area.

Metal operates through a wide range of partnerships, including Arts Council, local authorities, agencies such as the Local Economic Partnerships. Local Community groups get engaged through particular projects and a strong local network has been established.  If this had been an arts initiative that was pretentious – or that didn’t have a connection to place – that parachuted in – felt like a UFO – it wouldn’t have worked.  The station has bridged the gap between art and community.

Rachel Francis,

Shared Meal at EdgeHill Station







Shaping business for C21st – Riversimple Governance

Interview with Estelle Clark, Riversimple Governance. Written for Riversimple


Estelle Clark joined Riversimple to take a leading role shaping the business as it develops. She is Head of Profession at the Chartered Quality Institute, which is the chartered body for quality management professionals in Britain, and Chairman of the Technical & Advisory Board of Lloyds Register Quality Assurance. Her work has a particular focus on quality, safety, sustainability and innovation.


On Process

“This is about developing the fundamental principles for a new governance model and it could not be more timely.  As Steward, ensuring the balance of interests of the 6 Riversimple custodians, a key step is to agree a code for:

How the six custodians work together for the success of the business

How we clearly identify our different ‘constituents’ – in particular for the environment which doesn’t have “a voice” per se

How we consult with these constituents and bring the results back to the head table where decisions are made.

This process must be based upon sound principles– just like the engine of a good car. I think all of the custodians are fully aware of how challenging this is, we all have our feet firmly on the ground.”


On Multi Stake Holder Governance

“We don’t know of any other business that is articulating the kind of broad reaching structure for stakeholder engagement that Riversimple is working towards.

There are highly successful modern businesses, such as the Fairtrade Movement and the John Lewis Partnership that are governed by a principles-based constitution with a number of other stakeholders. What we are advocating now is a business model that thinks in advance, with everyone that has skin in the game – including the environment – involved.”


On the Financial Lens

“The investors are normally the focus of a business and their needs are considered paramount. This has led to bad behavior at the top of some companies – JB Sports, BHS.

But even leaving aside these big news stories, if the customer, the community, the environment etc. is only seen through the lens of the investor, then a poor decision may only be recognized further along the line when things start to go seriously wrong. By the time customers are complaining about a product or people are protesting about the way a business operates on social media, the damage has been done.

So there is a real opportunity here to do something better for everyone, including the investors. I would rather know where the pressure points are before a decision is made than act on problems retrospectively when they manifest.”


On the Bigger Picture

“The Brexit vote really rocked the foundations of business, exposing widely held public doubt about the role that business plays in society today. This is stark. Key public figures are already debating how to rebuild public trust. It begins with the businesses themselves. A cohesive society relies upon businesses that are well-run.

Largely because of the impact of social media, there is nowhere to hide when a business makes poor decisions. People can make their own purchasing decisions based on the experience and reviews of others. A huge percentage of consumers read online reviews before buying a product or service – or applying for a job. For the social media generations, everyone has a viewpoint and everyone gets a say.

There is growing opinion that a well structured and well tested multi stakeholder model could be the solution for getting business back on the front foot. So the Riversimple model is developing at a prescient moment in history.”


A Code for Better Business

“Meanwhile at Riversimple an exciting new model is evolving. How can you argue that staff or customers or any one of the constituent groups represented by our custodians should not have a say in what a business does?

Business with impact, business that earns trust, sustainable business that will stand the test of time – that is what this is about.”


Riversimple is an engineering company that designs and builds super efficient hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Their first poduction prototype,  Riversimple Rasa, was released in February 2016

Screenshot 2016-07-07 07.38.41

The company is based in Wales, UK.



Riversimple Custodians #3


Peter’s  background is in business, working for the CBI, DTI and Business in the Community. He became the first Commissioner for Sustainable Futures in Wales in April 2011. Peter has taken a key role in the development of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, leading a national conversation on “The Wales we Want” and using the findings to create a framework for long term goals.

Peter Davies RF Custodian

On What Makes Riversimple Unique

I am especially inspired by the depth and breadth of the Riversimple vision.  I believe the governance system could help to rebalance the relationship between local and global from a business context.

On ‘Community’

Community – simply put – is about being connected. Community contributes to our sense of who we are and what we care about.  

The “Wales we Want” conversation engaged 7,000 people across Wales. We found that feeling disconnected, in particular from decision making, is a significant issue for communities today. Many people don’t feel in control of what is happening to them. Many younger people don’t feel there is a future for them.  The Riversimple model represents an opportunity to shape business in a way that re-connects with community, creating new opportunities, engaging young people in particular – and enthusing them.

On the best and worst things that a business can bring to a (geographical) community

A business can bring investment and jobs to a community – it can help to develop a local skills base and local supply chains. It can bring prosperity, not just in the form of jobs, but the long term resilience of the community and that brings with it a sense of pride.

But all businesses should consider the wider impact they will have upon a community. Its not just about winning support in the short term.  Political and media rhetoric can tend to focus on job creation but whilst important, that is not the whole picture, quality of life for a community is dependent on the nature of those jobs.

Wales is a country that knows all about the adverse affect of heavy industry – the effect that it can have on air pollution and the long term health of the community. We’ve had that experience and hopefully we are much the wiser. So a company like Riversimple, at the leading edge of socially and environmentally responsible business, is exactly what Wales needs to fulfill the ambitions of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

What are you looking forward to?

Its very exciting that this radical change is being led from a company based in the heart of rural mid Wales. I’m looking forward to the first pilot in Monmouthshire – our first community. I have great regard for the leadership in Monmouthshire and together we have a chance to test out the car and the business model – demonstrate its value.

There is a huge groundswell of local support. Local people really want Riversimple to succeed. We want to show that we can attract the very best engineers and new technology to a rural area. That we can bring young people back to rural communities because there will be a business growing there offering careers that appeal to them – without damaging rural ways of life or the environment. I am very excited about that.


Riversimple’s ‘place by place’ pilot, it is hoped, will begin with trials of the Rasa car in Monmouthshire.  Following both rural and urban-based trials, Riversimple could then expand via regional, small scale manufacturing units, producing 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles per year. Each unit could create high quality local jobs for c200 people.

This article was first published in the Chartered Quality Institute monthly newsletter “Knowledge.”


Written by Rachel Francis

In my mind’s eye I try to picture the kind of railway station I love. It has a kind of rural simplicity. But also a buzz. This station includes people. It may not be a London Euston or a Manchester Piccadilly, but it is still a place where we pass in transit – whether we are on our way to the office or a rugby match or auntie’s house or the other side of the world.

I am trying to turn this idea into something with more shape. I’m writing the first word onto the first blank sheet of paper. Gateway. And this word seeks other words, in an effort to say something precise and uncomplicated. And now I have a sentence. A small gateway to the world. I am struggling with the way this sentence sits with other sentences …

A small gateway to the world. Not another shopping mall. But perhaps a local trading post – with a commitment to not damaging the world. Because when you leave this gateway to travel somewhere, you need to know that you are not damaging the very place that you’re discovering.

I would like the idea contained within these words to be delicious to people. Consider the Café des Fleurs at Rye Station


At Rye Station in Sussex, an empty station building has become a Café and Flower Shop. An old empty building can be a sad place. A deserted railway station after dark or before dawn is especially empty when you have to wait there for a train. It’s not much of an incentive to leave the car at home.

But this café, not designed by Pumpkin Cafes, or Starbucks, but by Lucy Forrester and her gran, opens up early for commuters, serving great coffee and homemade porridge, and very good scrambled eggs on toast. The florists occupy the other side of the cafe, where they make displays for weddings and special events. Local people actually come to the café so that they can watch the flower displays being made. By combining the two business ideas the whole thing becomes viable in a small town.

From Rye, you can travel by rail up north to Yorkshire and the town of Settle – gateway to the legendary Settle and Carlisle Line.

Version 2

Settle Station was first opened in 1876. It had a Station Master’s house, goods shed, weigh office, cattle dock, signal box and water tank, but goods facilities were dismantled in 1970. Today the station might be too small for the corporates, but it has a ticket office, a shop selling local produce, and a waiting room which is about to become a micro pub, complete with honkytonk piano. A unique community-based company runs the station facilities at Settle and also further along the line at Appleby. The same company operates locally sourced on-train catering, creating jobs and valuable contracts for small suppliers.

If you haven’t been there, you should consider a visit.

And finally to Llandeilo on the Heart of Wales Line

At Llandeilo station there was once a station pub called “The Refresh.” Old locals still remember it with a smile, but the building is long gone. Llandeilo Station has been a lonely platform at the end of a lonely road for a long time.  In my mind’s eye I try to picture the kind of railway station I love. It has a kind of simplicity. An aesthetic.


The Llandeilo “Station Hub” is a small, transportable building with a covered aisle, leading to a modern composting toilet. It was designed along the lines of the old freight wagons and built with FSC Welsh wood by David Bamford and a build team from Presteigne. The idea was to create a space that could be run on a tiny budget, by and for the community.   The design includes a rainwater harvesting system and optional renewable energy unit. The result is a stand alone, multi purpose, mini-building. Not another shopping mall. But rather a gateway with a commitment to not damaging the world. Because when you leave this gateway to travel somewhere else in the world, you need to know that you are not damaging whatever it is you’re discovering.

Already a new company are starting to distribute local and organic produce from the station hub at Llandeilo. And it has recently been shortlisted for a national award for the most enhanced station.

So this has already happened. But what if we built more of these hubs, for other lonely stations, and for other community enterprises? The builders of the Llandeilo Hub are up for it, so the Heart of Wales Line Development Company will help them market this idea to the rail industry. With several stations already expressing an interest, it could just happen.

To find out more about hub sales, you can contact On behalf of D.S Bamford and the Heart of Wales Line DevCo.

This article, written by Rachel at  was first published in Broad Sheep Magazine and the Weekly Salvo.

Shaking up the Car Industry


Screenshot 2016-04-08 16.05.38In February Riversimple Movement Ltd launched a ground- breaking fuel cell prototype, the Rasa, from a small workshop in the hills of Wales.  News travelled swiftly, starting with an article in the Financial Times, spreading to Sky News, BBC News, a host of media outlets and into Europe, then around the world.

This blog post was written by Rachel Francis on behalf of Riversimple Movement Ltd,  for ‘Circular Economy News’ in association with RESOURCE.


At a time when the unremitting issues of resource depletion and climate change are converging … at a time when a meaningful response to these crises is the subject of much debate but not enough action … at a time when it is not good enough for corporations or governing bodies to sit upon their hands … or their money … there exists an opportunity.

Resource depletion and climate change are the issues that will define the 21st Century.  A space has opened up for smart, credible and sustainable new businesses to pioneer and produce the solutions. This is the coal face for genuine 21st Century innovation – the place where we strive for, grapple with, create, design and fight for the businesses, services and products that are really needed and the solutions that could, one day, be commensurate with the size of the problem.


Screenshot 2016-04-08 16.34.25The Riversimple Rasa is built around a hydrogen fuel cell that powers the car via four motors, one in each wheel.  Kinetic energy from braking is recaptured and stored in a bank of super capacitors. Riversimple software manages a precise and highly efficient network energy system that controls the flow of energy, and will redistribute energy from braking to provide maximum acceleration.

It is the network energy system, coupled with a super-strong, super-light framework made from carbon composites, that is allowing us to achieve a step change in energy efficiency. Early tests measure fuel use at an amazing 250mpg (equivalent) in tests, cutting carbon emissions to c.40g CO2/km (Well-to-Wheel).  Riversimple Rasa cruises at 60, with acceleration of 0-60mph in 10 seconds. Tank capacity is 1.5kg of hydrogen, giving a 300 mile range and the Rasa can be refuelled in 3 minutes.



It has caused quite a sensation in the media – the Rasa is not, nor will it ever be, for sale. We believe that if you want to get serious about the future, then the protection, not the squandering, of valuable resources is a must.  Our solution is to replace car sales with sale of service in the business model. This simple idea solves a number of problems.  Firstly, we make it possible to take Rasa to market at an affordable cost, even when up against the behemoths of the industry. Secondly we make it desirable, from a business point of view,  to design a car built to last using top quality components. Thirdly we leave behind (at last!) the unsustainable practice of “designing for obsolescence.” Instead the Rasa car will be available on subscription as a complete and cost-transparent service.

For our customers this offers further advantages:

  • Affordable – priced to be competitive with total cost of ownership of a mid-sized hatchback
  • Hassle Free – Customers will pay a monthly direct debit to cover all costs: maintenance, repairs, insurance, software upgrades and fuel based on a mileage allowance.

We are working collaboratively with partners across the value chain to strengthen the commercial proposition for long-lasting components, through this same “sale of service” model.


We know that sales of cars that run on clean fuels are growing rapidly.  We know that the automotive industry has to change to survive.  And we know that it has to stop wasting valuable resources. We have prepared the way for low risk entry into the market, with a car that is fit for the future.  Now we are opening our doors to new investors, who would like to join Riversimple in the systematic pursuit of sustainable personal transport.


You can find out more about Riversimple and the launch of a new share offer at



Deep Heat

This summer I travelled to Andalucía. I arrived in a heat wave, early and intense even by Spanish standards. It was 41 degrees by the time I reached Seville on 10th July and the walls and pavements were still radiating heat at 11.oo at night. The mountains beyond Seville were fresher, but the heat was taking its toll upon local crops.

2015-07-11 17.39.11

Europe by Train

Popular opinion says the easiest way to get to Spain from UK is to fly. But I wanted to travel from Knighton to Seville by train. I was going to do some writing, and it was climate related. I had come across a new company called Loco2 that sets out “to make booking trains across Europe as easy as booking a flight.”

The small team at Loco 2 have put together some clever software that simplifies booking trains in and across Europe and they now work with many of the big train companies including Renfe in Spain, SNCF in France and Eurostar. You can plan your journey and order the whole thing online, with print-at-home tickets for many routes. Loco 2 have also developed a tool that tells you the carbon dioxide savings you can make by taking the train in comparison to flying the same route.

Air travel is still the fastest growing contributor to climate change. The huge increase in aircraft pollution is mostly because of the growth in air traffic since the sixties, but Eurostar recently commissioned independent research to assess the CO2 per passenger produced by a London-Paris Eurostar journey compared to a London-Paris flight.  They found that taking the train to Paris instead of flying cuts CO2 emissions per passenger by 90 percent.

Changing Landscape

Despite all the dire warnings about hold-ups at Calais, the only real problem was the London tube strike. I walked from Euston and just managed to catch my train from St Pancras International to Paris. 

The next morning it was the high-speed TGV to Barcelona. This is a long journey, but from the upper deck the views, especially along the coast, are fantastic.

2015-07-09 18.51.51 2015-07-10 10.13.18

The changeover at Barcelona was a bit rushed and in future I would plan to stay at more destinations along the way.

Another thing it helps to know:  Spanish trains are on time. They are also very sociable with friendly, lively bars.

And something I will never forget:getting off the air-conditioned train at Madrid to walk into a wall of heat. There is no preparing yourself for the 25-degree temperature change between Wales and Southern Spain.

From Madrid to Seville takes just over 2 hours in an AVE train. The scenery along my route had steadily transformed from lush in Mid Wales – through the patchwork crops of central France and vineyards to the South – and finally into sun baked mountains, scorched earth, magnificent solar arrays and lunar landscapes between Madrid and Seville. I was picked up by car and taken by Sam to Finca Buenvino. Time to get writing.


Turning Point

By the time I left Spain, temperatures were peaking at 48 degrees. This extreme heat is unimaginable until you experience it. In Spain the weather is getting hotter, in Wales – mostly wetter. This December is the Paris climate summit. I hope UK will follow Obama’s lead and commit to real action towards clean technology and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. I’m not saying we don’t benefit from some deep heat from time to time – but there are limits – and – the world has reached them.


Local by Rail

Sugar Loaf Station on the Heart of Wales Line

What if

It’s June in the year 2020 and you are standing on a Railway Station early in the morning. You are dressed for work and heading for Swansea, and you have purchased a Heart-of-Wales-Line- Saver online, so you have ticket in hand, jacket over one shoulder, and the birds are singing. Also it’s not raining.

Just beyond the platform, the Local By Rail Hub is opening up. Operated from a building reminiscent of the old GWR wagons, the hub acts as a distribution point for local produce. Local by Rail staff manage and receive orders and then re-distribute freshly gathered and prepared food to chefs, hoteliers etc.

The 8.15 into Swansea draws into the station and comes to a stop. Behind two smart passenger carriages is a guard van. A man in his twenties, wearing a “Local by Rail ” tee shirt and pushing a large trolley open up the door. Inside – lamb shanks from Builth Wells, strawberries from Craven Arms, apple juice and pear schnapps from Knighton, stone baked pizza from Llangybie and gourmet cheese from Llandysul. Crates labeled for different restaurant chefs and hoteliers are neatly transferred to the trolley. The door is closed again.

You board the train in one of the clean and airy passenger carriages and take a seat. The familiar whistle sounds and the train pulls out of the station.

You arrive by train into Swansea at 8.15 am – time to grab a coffee along by the Waterfront before your first meeting. A text message from your boss – “Stuck in traffic. Please send apologies”


Later, on Shrewsbury station

Your old mum and dad are on their way back home after a few days holiday.   They’re waiting for a train with all their suitcases and paraphernalia and your mum listens carefully to the announcement in Welsh and also in English whilst your dad grapples with the suitcases and drops his smart phone:

The next train to arrive at Platform 4a will be the 10.45 from Crewe, travelling from here along the Heart of Wales Line, stopping at Church Stretton, Craven Arms, Hopton Heath, Bucknell, Knighton, Knucklas … the microphone crackles loudly … passengers wishing to visit the Elan Valley Dams should leave the train at Builth Road where they can hire an electric bike for the last leg of the journey.

Passengers are also advised to tap old mud from their walking boots before boarding the train.

For passengers wishing to bring mobility scooters on the train please use the cycle carriage. This facility is located between the second carriage and the buffet.

The buffet on this train is run by third year students on a Powys catering course. This award winning service has been especially popular and the home-made “Breakfasts-by-Rail” are delicious.


Weekend Special

On your way home, you pick up a leaflet from Swansea station about the Local by Rail Weekend Special. You think it would be perfect for your Cousin Elise and her friends who are coming over from the US for a month and you haven’t a clue what to do with them.

There are different options and this one sounds good – travel on the first day from Swansea along the line to the Local by Rail Hub, catch a hydrogen fuel-cell powered local network taxi to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, stopping off at Wright’s Emporium for an extraordinarily good lunch not to mention the cakes. Back on the train and a short journey to Llandovery. Evening meal and stay over at “The Level Crossing” which is a posh bunkhouse.

Take a ride in the acclaimed “viewing carriage” with floor to ceiling windows which make for great viewing, especially across Cynghordy Viaduct. Arrive at Llanwrtyd Wells with an option to try out bog snorkeling or explore Wales’ “smallest town” before cycling back to Llandovery on electric bikes and catching the last train back to Swansea. Final meal at swanky hotel and inclusive overnight stay in rooms overlooking Swansea Bay.

Perfect for your visitors. You book it.

Just as you pull into your station a helpful announcement

“This train will stop at Sugar Loaf Halt. For passengers leaving the train at Sugar Loaf please remember that the new compost toilets at the station still don’t have locks on the doors. The Train Company apologises for any inconvenience that this may cause.”


You arrive home, tired and hungry. You have received a text message from B, who was supposed to be cooking a special dinner for you.

“Stuck in traffic. Please buy chips”

Written by Rachel Francis. First published in Broad Sheep Magazine. June 2015