A few weeks ago we did our emotional ‘Everton and Liverpool’ Friday Walk. At the centre of this was Anfield, in the days following the release of the independent report on the truth about what happened at Hillsborough twenty three years ago.
In Anfield we stood at the Hillsborough Memorial and wept, of course we did. And walking around many of the destroyed streets of Anfield we almost wept too. Today I went back to Anfield, in the company of our good friend Eleanor Lee, to take a closer look.
We went on The Anfield Home Tour.
The tour is a drama, principally performed by ‘Carl’ who acts as our tour guide. And it weaves in several guest appearances by real people and their stories and places. And believe me, it works.
At this point Eleanor and I look at each other slightly nervously. It’s a small bus and we’re very close to someone who’s clearly doing a performance. At first we’re not sure it’s going to work.
First stop is somewhere familiar and magnificent.
But we are also shown what you used to see from this view. Before the now mostly gone tower blocks of the 1960s were built…
We’re getting the idea. Wave after wave of imposed mass clearances, where communities are broken up and sent to live in ‘overspill estates’ or entire new towns, miles away. In the past, maybe, done in genuine attempts to make life better. But this latest one, done not for people but for the market, the largely despised, discredited and now dropped ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’.
And here’s what it looks like. We hear the testimonies of people who lived happily in these solid, mostly owned and nearly paid for terraced houses. Forced out at low compulsory purchase prices, after years of steady blight and attrition, so they can go into new debt and buy the new houses going up in the background – and re-float the housing market. Like it’s their patriotic duty or something.
Just round the corner we’re invited into an Anfield Home.
So now, a few words about Liverpool Football Club.
I always know when they are playing. I always know how they are doing. And I always have. In the 1960s I would walk through these streets on the way to the ground to see them. And when the team was announced it sounded, to my boyish ears, like a prayer. I can still say it now:
“Lawrence, Lawler, Byrne, Milne, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, St John, Smith, Thompson and Strong.”
I wanted to be in that line-up as much as I wanted to be the extra guitarist the Beatles never had. (And yes, football fans, they’re not obediently sat in team order above. But if you’re a Liverpool fan I’ll bet you can name every one of them.)
So this is hard for me to say. The blighting of Anfield is not all about HMRI. The state these particular streets are in now is the direct fault of Liverpool Football Club. For the best part of twenty years they have prevaricated over whether and how to expand their ground, or move to a new one in nearby Stanley Park. In their indecision they have bought up properties in surrounding streets, and what you see above is the result.
Only earlier this week did they apologise for this prevarication and finally announce their decision to stay where they are and expand the existing Anfield ground. Good news applauded by most Liverpool fans. But deeply worrying for the people whose homes are still here. People like Sue. They wait to see what LFC will do next, to regain a place as a positive force for good in a blighted neighbourhood. Come on you Reds.
What the Community Bakery is all about is explained here, together with more details about the Anfield Homes tour and how you could come on one.
Here our friend Eleanor, one of the gardeners of Granby, listens while Maria from here talks passionately about what they’re up to.
The Anfield Home Tour is taking place every Saturday between now and the end of Liverpool Biennial 2012, late in November, booking details here.
It will make you think, and in parts, it might make you cry. But if you care about the future of our city, and would like to see what a diverse group of determined people are doing about it, then don’t miss this.