Recently in Liverpool & Merseyside Category

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering Princes Boulevard in Toxteth, Liverpool, was once a bustling avenue, the home of wealthy merchants and many townspeople. Then local fortunes took a desperate downturn, the nadir being the Toxteth riots in 1981. But more recently things have begun to look up, as demonstrated for instance by The Gathering of May 2008, and today's Big Lunch in this historic setting.

Liverpool & Merseyside

Quite recently, we acquired from a local auction room a print of the hustle and bustle which was Princes Boulevard in 1915:

Liverpool Princes Boulevard print 1915

It's now fully acknowledged that some of this wealth arose from the shame which was the slave trade, but by the turn of the last century this was a disgrace of the past (not least as a result of campaigns by other Liverpool citizens) and Liverpool was establishing itself as a great city for the right reasons - its entrepreneurial spirit and the cosmopolitan nature of its populace.

And then began the decline in the fortunes of Liverpool which reached rock bottom with the riots of 1981. July that year saw us driving to work past huge groups of police officers imported from all over the country, with the fear every day that friends and colleagues living nearby might be injured in the ugly confrontations which were Liverpool's nightly lot.

But that was nearly thirty years ago. How much more positive it is that this year we have been able to attend the Big Lunch and Gathering in that same place. This was a fun event for everyone. We've seen the preparations getting going over the past few days, and were even permitted a sneak preview yesterday:

09.07.18 Preparing for Toxteth's Gathering and Big Lunch

09.07.18 Toxteth Gathering and Big Lunch - sneak preview of the Mongolian yurt

Then, at midday today, the activities were launched for real, the Boulevard decorated with streamers, ribbons and bows, dream catchers (some of them I was told made from recycled materials) and other features of festivity.

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering 044aa 500x500.jpg

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering

Already, by lunchtime, the place was beginning to fill up, with local folk, older couples and strollers, mums and dads and babies and kids, teenagers on bikes and a good sprinkling of community activists, along no doubt with visitors who'd just dropped by when they saw that things were happening.... and all this in an area of just a few hundred yards, which is also host to the Anglican Cathedral, a Greek Orthodox Church, Princes Avenue Synagogue and the local Mosque.

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - the cupcakes on the table spell out 'The Big Lunch'!

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering ~ people meet and chat with the backdrop of Princes Road Synagogue, the Anglican Cathedral and the Greek Orthodox Church

There were singers, dancers and musicians....

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering ~ the choir entertains

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - jiving and drums, with a harp at the ready...

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - African drummers

... and representatives of several local organisations and services....

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - Hippie Hippie Shake Banana and her friends from Granby SureStart Children's Centre

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - police and ambulance officers

...not to mention people selling everything from jam, bread and cupcakes to plants, recycled clothing, paintings and jewellery ....

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - gooseberry jam and much else

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - Camp Cupcake

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - fresh bread

09.07.19 Liverpool Toxteth Big Lunch & Gathering - jewellery and rag dolls for sale

So, what next? Way back before the Millennium some of us were agitating with the then-brand-new Liverpool Vision to take a route from Hope Street through Princes Avenue (Boulevard) into Toxteth, making the area people-friendly and good to be in.

Today, with support from Arts In Regeneration and others, there have been celebrations of our living communities at the Bombed Church (St. Luke's) in Leece Street in town, right through to Sefton Park, some two or three miles distant, at the other end of Princes Avenue. Perhaps some of the action on Princes Boulevard didn't offer quite what The Big Lunch prescribed (Geraud Markets for example are not exactly a voluntary organisation), but The Gathering did promote imagination, enterprise and friendship.

Last year there was a first attempt at such an event, on May 25th (2008):

08.08.26 Toxteth Liverpool Princes Boulevard The Gathering

On that occasion the weather was cruel - blustery gales and very cold. This year it has been a little kinder, and the sun even shone for some of the afternoon. Let's hope that next year is a sunshine-all-the-way sort of event, and that this is the start, at long last, of something really, enduringly, positive.


See more photographs of Liverpool & Merseyside and read more about Urban Renewal.

Liverpool Edge Hill Stephenson Rocket train mural off Tunnel Road / Harbord Road junction (photo taken 4 July 2007) Liverpool Edge Hill was the location, along with its Manchester, Liverpool Road counterpart, of the first public railway station, opening on 15 September 1830. For some years more recently this historic site was marked by a large mural or relief of the 'Rocket' steam engine invented by George Stephenson (1781-1848) - an interesting vision in the grim context of our own contemporary Edge Lane access route into the city.

Liverpool & Merseyside Camera & Calendar Historical Liverpool

09.07.05 Edge Hill & Stephenson Rocket

07.07.04 Liverpool Edge Hill Stephenson Rocket train mural (photograph taken 4 July 2007)

09.07.05 Edge Hill & Stephenson Rocket

The Stephenson Rocket was one of four locomotives which ran in convoy on the fateful day when the route was launched, the day which also saw the demise of the reforming Liverpool MP William Huskisson (1770-1830), when he and the Rocket collided at Parkside station.

Sadly, the Rocket mural of more recent times is now in a state of some disrepair; but at least the Huskisson memorial remains, standing proud in the grounds of nearby Liverpool Cathedral.

06.11.19 Huskisson Memorial Liverpool St James Cemetery & Cathedral

Less appealing however are the many boarded and painted-over windows of housing about to be demolished along the Edge Lane corridor which passes through Edge Hill, where crass management of highways and the public realm has resulted for far too long in mass desolation along the main access route into Liverpool.

These attempts at jollification through 'art work' offer a very different message from the solid magnificence of Huskisson's memorial - a celebration of the man and his work for the public good - or indeed the Rocket mural, an attempt made much more recently to celebrate the skills of engineering and invention which were the distinctive mark of northern British cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, two centuries ago.

09.01.18 Edge Lane boarded up painted windows, Liverpool

09.07.05 Edge Hill boarded up street alongside Stephenson's Rocket mural


Postscript (23 July 2009)
Excellent news for Liverpool and the whole of NW England: the Liverpool-Manchester route is to be electrified. As anyone who uses the M62 will know, the environmental value here is as important as the economic. Detailed planning work is to start immediately.
But there is already debate about which end of the line should be done first. Let's just hope that this isn't the start of another set of disastrous delays such as we've seen in developing the Edge Lane approach to Liverpool city centre. There has to be a better way, with mutual respect for views, based on real effort to communicate and get the right things done.


See more photographs and read more at Liverpool & Merseyside, Camera & Calendar and Historical Liverpool.

Sefton Park Liverpool Daffodils The past few days have convinced us that Spring is finally on its way. The daffodils in Sefton Park are a glory all of their own - the focus of hope in so many ways, at the equinox when people begin once more to populate our park's wonderful space, strolling by in chatty groups, with prams, on bicylces, running to raise funds for charity or simply stopping to enjoy. And then as the daffodils begin to fade, we see the promise of the next great gift of nature, the delicate blossoms of almond and cherry to delight us yet a while....

Sefton Park Liverpool Daffodils (29 March 2009)

Sefton Park Liverpool - first blossoms of Spring (30 March 2008)


See more photographs of Liverpool & Merseyside and read more about Sefton Park.

Wigan Pier canal historic statue of woman miller It's International Women's Day, an occasion for looking both back and forward. We have here some photos and text reminding us gently how grim life was for working class women and children in the mills (and often for their mining menfolk too) a mere century ago. Happily, Wigan Pier and the canals are now a tourist destination alongside a modern Investment Centre; but around 1910 a different story - not least about the uses of water - was being told. The challenge remains to secure the same progress as we've seen here, in ensuring healthy and constructive lives for women and their families everywhere, in the UK and across the globe.

Gender & Women, Sustainability As If People Mattered and Water.

Wigan Pier canal Trencherfield Mill historic notice

Here's the text of this notice, displayed by the towpath at Wigan Pier:

TRENCHERFIELD MILL
When cotton was king
as told by a cotton worker circa 1910

It's hot int' mill wi' lots o' noise. On a nice day, we'll take our lunch ont' towpath an' eat snaps* from't snaps tins.
It's a 5-and-a-half day week for us cotton workers, that's 12 hours a day and half a day on Saturday.
We've all got nimble fingers , especially the Piecers'. They're mainly children, who nip under the spinning machines to tie the broken cotton back together again.
Some of us work on the spinning machines and some on the carding machines. The mill takes a raw bale of cotton, cleans it, twists it and spins it into fine yarn.
The humidity in the mill keeps the cotton damp so it's easier to spin without snapping.
There are five floors of machinery - all powered by the Trencherfield Mill Engine.
The noise is deafening - we stuff cotton from the floor in our ears to protect them. We communicate using 'Me-Mawing' - a mixture of sign language and lip reading.
We work in our bare feet because our clogs could spark on the concrete floor and set the cotton bales alight.
We wake early doors to the sound of the Trencherfield steam whistle summonin' us t'mill for another day. But as they say - England's bread hangs on Lancashire's thread.

[* a snack favoured also by the men of Wigan, many of them miners, usually bread-and-dripping, with cold tea, carried in a flat tin called a snap-can - see George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier]

And here is the towpath which a century ago provided fresh air and respite for those mill workers as they ate their lunch-time snaps:

09.03.06 Wigan Pier canal & towpath

Wigan Pier Quarter & canals notice
[Public display boards by Wigan Heritage Services]

The power of water
And so, strangely, we come full-circle.

Water - the canals, the steam - was the power behind the early production of textiles, employing many women and children in horrendous conditions, as the full logic of the Industrial Revolution took its vice-like grip on the emerging economies of what we have come to know as the 'developed world'; but even now in other parts of the globe water remains both a critical force potentially for good, and often an almost unattainable resource.

Women as water workers
Vast numbers of women and children in the developing world continue to toil many hours a day just to obtain water to sustain their very existence.

Life in places like Wigan was harsh and short for women and men, alike, a century ago. It remains, as Oxfam tells us in the topical context of International Women's Day, particularly harsh even now for women in places such as Iraq, where water continues to be inaccessible for many.

The gendered meanings of sustainability
This is where we begin to understand what 'sustainability' is really about.... the just and equitable distribution of basic physical resources and accessible socio-economic opportunities, for everyone, women as much as men, the world over.

In terms of future global sustainability and equity, as the Gender and Water Alliance also reminds us, water remains a critically gendered issue.


Read more about Gender & Women and about Sustainability As If People Mattered and Water; and see more photographs of around Liverpool & Merseyside.

Josephine Butler House Liverpool, ruined Josephine Butler House in Liverpool's Hope Street Quarter is named for the famous social reformer, and the site of the first UK Radium Institute. Latterly an elegant adjunct to Myrtle Street's The Symphony apartments, it sits opposite the Philharmonic Hall. But the intended ambiance has been ruined by a dismal failure and omission on the part of Liverpool City Council, who have permitted Josephine Butler House to be grimly defaced with little prospect of anything better, or even just intact, taking its place.

Liverpool & Merseyside, The Future Of Liverpool and Regeneration.

The Symphony, previously part of the City of Liverpool College of Further Education portfolio (and before that, the Liverpool Eye, Ear & Throat Infirmary), is a newly restored apartment block immediately opposite Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall. It is elegantly refurbished by Downing Developments and adds an attractive dimension to city centre living in Liverpool's historic Hope Street Quarter.

View of The Symphony from Liverpool Philharmonic Hall,  Myrtle Street Liverpool

But just a year ago this weekend (i.e. in the first few days of March 2008) residents of those apartments saw tarpaulin raised around their neighbouring building, the historic Josephine Butler House, home to the UK's first Radium Institute (which is celebrated in the Liverpool 'Suitcases' Hope Street / Mount Street sculptures) and named after the social pioneer whom Millicent Fawcett described as “the most distinguished woman of the Nineteenth Century".

Josephine Butler (1828 -1906) was an extraordinarily accomplished British social reformer, who had a major role in improving conditions for women in education and public health. She moved to Liverpool in 1866, when her husband, the academic George Butler, became headmaster of Liverpool College. Much of her work derived its inspiration from the death of their young daughter, and she has a national library, a collection at Liverpool University, an educational institution and a charitable trust named for her. Her life and work is also celebrated locally in the Suitcases ('A Case Study') public art installation a block up the road on the Hope Street / Mount Street junction in Liverpool.

Josephine Butler House with tarpaulin

So what followed after the Josephine Butler House was swathed in tarpaulin was almost beyond belief - with just days to go before a formal enquiry, Maghull Developments, who had recently acquired Josephine Butler House in partnership with the previous owners, Liverpool John Moores University, took hammers to its entire street-facing facade.

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool , Myrtle Street facing facade ruined

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool, Hope Street facing wall ruined

The Liverpool Daily Post reported Maghull Developments in March 2008 as saying, nonetheless, that the work under wraps on the frontage was “specialist restoration work to the stone facade” - a claim which is difficult to reconcile with the still intact stonework of the Stowell Street side of the building, unblemished to this day:

Josephine Butler House Liverpool, Stowell Street side wall, intact

But if the City Council had amended their omission, as many times requested, to include this corner of Hope Street in the Conservation Area, they could have protected the entire historic location at a stroke.

The plans for the Josephine Butler House site had been in considerable contention even before these extraordinary events. There were public meetings and demands that proposals be returned to the drawing board because they were adjudged inappropriate for Hope Street Quarter - Liverpool's cultural quarter, the home of the city's two cathedrals, its two largest universities, its internationally recognised orchestra and several theatres, and a critically important gateway into the city centre.

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool, ruined ; next door to The Symphony

A comment, at the time of the 'specialist restoration', from Liverpool City Council's elected environment portfolio holder, says it all:

Why would they restore the stone facade when they are planning to knock the building down? Don’t treat us like we are dim.
The building is an intrinsic part of what makes Hope Street so special, but there’s very little the council can do short of me sleeping under the scaffolding.

So much for the 'legacy' of Liverpool's status as 2008 European Capital of Culture.

What worries some of us is not even just that the Josephine Butler scaffolding has now long disappeared and the damage surely done.

It's that, in brutal fact, the prospect of any action on the Josephine Butler site - beyond perhaps demolition to become a car park? - looks itself from where we sit to be exceedingly dim; and that the whole City Council seems still to be asleep on the job.

Josephine Butler House Car Park Liverpool (corner of Hope Street & Myrtle Street)

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool defaced


[PS This sad saga was taken up by Ed Vulliamy in The Observer of 20 March 2009, in an article entitled How dare they do this to my Liverpool.. There is also a prolonged debate about Josephine Butler House on the website SkyscraperCity.

An updated version of this article (here) was published on the Liverpool Confidential website, on 22 April 2009.]

See more photographs of Liverpool & Merseyside and read more about The Future Of Liverpool and Regeneration.

09.01.10 Liverpool European Capital of Culture ends Pierhead clock illuminated So it's all over, for now. Liverpool has handed on the European Capital of Culture title to Linz and Vilnius, after a rollercoaster year on Merseyside. There have been highlights and muddle, fun, exasperation and exhaustion. The debates and analysis will start soon enough - and we need them, to learn what worked and what didn't - but tonight the thing everyone, people in their thousands and from many communities, came into town for, was a party....

09.01.10 Liverpool European Capital of Culture ends Lanterns on the new Pierhead canal

09.01.10 Liverpool European Capital of Culture ends The Liverpool Orrery at Pierhead

09.01.10 Liverpool European Capital of Culture ends Pierhead buildings illuminated with projections of La Princesse ('The Spider')

09.01.10 Liverpool European Capital of Culture ends Fireworks over the Mersey (The Albert Dock) seen from  Liverpool 1 retail park

Read more about Liverpool, European Capital of Culture and see more photographs of Liverpool & Merseyside.

08.12.20 The Santa Carols Wagon, Liverpool Mossley Hill Scouts and Guides We're at the longest night and the shortest day - the Winter solstice. But that doesn't stop the goodwill shining through, as citizens of Liverpool get together to raise money for worthy causes. Every year at this time the Santa Claus wagon trundles past, tannoy blaring out the carols and youngsters running from house to house as they collect for charity. And private festive collaborations are evident too, with neighbours sharing brilliant illuminated phantasies to cheer us all up.

08.12.20 The Santa Carols Wagon, Aigburth

08.12.20 Mossley Hill Scouts and Guides Santa Carols Wagon, raising money for local charities

For many years at this time the local Scouts and Guides, and / or members of The Rotary Club, treat us to rousing blasts of carolling, as their respective wagons trundle up the street, with Father Christmas in all his illuminated glory aboard to urge us on to charitable largess. Here are people who give time and energy willingly to raise money for good causes: mums, dads and offspring, smiley teenagers, drivers and supervisors in luminous jackets; everyone has a job to do.

And it's not just the bigger organisations in our part of town who join in the festivities. Neighbours too - in both suburbs like Aigburth, and in inner city areas such as Dingle-Toxteth, so often pronounced less community-connected - play their part, co-ordinating Christmas illuminations to raise our spirits as we pass by in the gloom of the Winter solstice.

08.12.20 Neighbours share a herd of shiny 'reindeer'

08.12.22 Dingle-Toxteth family homes with Christmas lights

Who says the community spirit isn't stll alive and shining through to cheer us all in the darkest days of the year?


See more photographs in Camera & Calendar.

08.12.18 Liverpool St George's Hall & Capital of Culture Xmas 2008 Liverpool's great St George's Hall offered a splendid setting for the event at which Andy Burnham MP, Secretary of State for Media and Culture, offered thanks and encouragement to the people who had made such an effort to deliver the 2008 European Capital of Culture programme. Volunteers and officers alike congregated to hear the Culture Secretary say well done, and to muse on the challenges of 2009. This he opined, as do many of us, is only the beginning...

08.12.18 Liverpool St George's Hall & Capital of Culture Andy Burnham  at the Thank You Reception 08.12.18 Liverpool St George's Hall & Capital of Culture Thank You Reception

08.12.18 Liverpool St George's Hall & Capital of Culture Thank You Reception

So, after the celebrations, the thank yous and, no doubt, the elaborate analyses of all that's comprised Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008, what, we wonder, will happen next...?

08.12.18 Liverpool St George's Hall & Capital of Culture Christmas lights for 2008 (09)

Read more about Liverpool European Capital Of Culture 2008 and The Future Of Liverpool

08.2.16 Sefton Park boating lake with dumped bike The upheavals as Sefton Park is 'restored' have been grim. Trees and habitats destroyed, birdlife disrupted and months of mud and noise - though at least, we all believed, for future benefit. But will the Boating Lake, largest and most public of the waterways, now remain a dumping ground for waste as before? Apparently the money may be running out. If it does, I'd say, so is our civic pride.

08.06.27  Sefton Park boating lake with heron and rubbish

Is this (above) the view of Sefton Park Boating Lake which will stay with us after all the heritage and landscape restoration is finished? Will the people of Liverpool, already said by Bill Bryson to have celebrated a 'Festival of Litter', permit what is arguably the City's most significant park to retain within it a dumping ground for anything their careless fellow citizens have over the decades jettisoned into the Boating Lake?

... and this proposed 'cost-cutting', so it is said, all for a saving which is probably less than the amount already spent on destroying perfectly healthy trees in Sefton Park because they 'block the view'?

The photographs below show some of the garbage which lies below the normal waterline of the lake, together with a view of the area which the dredger has cleaned up (by the top island), and the boating fence which, as things stand, may delineate the divide between the restored area and the much larger part of the lake which it's feared will be left in neglect.

Will the powers-that-be ensure, despite the rumours, that the whole lake will be cleared? Or has this City really still so little civic pride? We await the evidence that all will be well, hopefully very soon.

08.05.18 Sefton Park boating lake with swan and rubbish

08.05.10  Sefton Park boating lake with dredging machinery

08.05.26 Sefton Park boating lake half dredged

08.2.17 Sefton Park boating lake with dividing fence by island (icy)


Read more articles on Sefton Park
and see more photographs at Camera & Calendar.

 Gateway to the World   In England, but not of it Much of the outside of Liverpool Lime Street train station is clad with art work celebrating the UK's choice of the city as European Capital of Culture 2008. So what should we make of the cladding's message, that Liverpool is 'In England, but not of it?'

The idea of covering ugly and unused buildings with celebratory artwork is excellent.

Lime Street, as Liverpool's railway terminus, epitomises our 'Gateway to the World city' (as Liverpool's ports did and, commercially, still do). It is therefore fitting that visitors in 2008, our year as European Capital of Culture, be greeted on arrival with vibrant images reflecting Liverpool's arts and cultural offer - an offer which draws on the traditions and experience of centuries of migration to Liverpool, with people arriving from across the globe:

Liverpool Capital of Culture 08 hoarding by Lime St Station, view from St George's Hall

But what are we to make of the claim, as part of this greeting, that Liverpool, whilst still 'Gateway to the World', is also 'In England, but not of it'?

Liverpool  Gateway to the World ... In England, but not of it

How can we, the people of this historic port, expect to progress and prosper, if we choose consistently not just to be 'on the edge' of Britain, but so it seems actually over that edge, in another place altogether?

What sort of civic identity and message does that give to our own fellow citizens?

And, critically, what does it say to those in the rest of the country with whom we must do business and confer on many issues, if Liverpool is to move forward successfully in the twenty-first century?


Read more articles on Strategic Liverpool
and on Liverpool, European Capital of Culture 2008.

More photographs: Camera & Calendar

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