Living for the City, going back to Granby

08 CultureFive years ago now Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture, oh yes it was. And that year one of our proudest and most loved cultural items was the Superlambanana, a surrealistic cross between, well it’s obvious. But where has this beloved beast ended up? Read on to find out.City01

June is here and it dawns on a sunny Saturday. Far too cool to go around calling it ‘summer’ but a bright and welcome day nonetheless to go and see how Granby is doing.

The field of wildflowers on the demolished side of Ducie Street.
The field of wildflowers on the demolished side of Ducie Street.

City04 City07 City05

Guerilla gardening by the Granby residents.
Guerilla gardening by the Granby residents.

For anyone new to the blog, a quick introduction to where we are. These are the last four remaining original streets of Granby, Liverpool 8. Streets of tree-lined late 19th century terraced houses, where about 60 of them are being lived in and 140 are empty and bricked up and have been for years. There used to be many more streets like this, but over the last 30 years they’ve all been cleared and developed into new houses of varying standards and not a few cul-de-sacs, or left as empty fields awaiting regeneration someday.

And these four streets? Well, a mixture of strong resident determination, guerilla gardening the area, running street markets and happenstance has left them standing. Blighted by the loathed around here ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ but somehow outliving it.

I got involved a couple of years back, helping residents to decide what they’d like to happen and being part of moving towards that. And you can read much more about that by typing ‘Granby’ into the search box on the right. There’s been a lot of Granby on this blog and it’s been a pleasure to be here.

Today though, we’ll be finding out how things are going now. Because the future’s what matters most.City09

New houses are nearly completed at the end of two of the streets.City10And in Beaconsfield Street a row of terraced houses is nearly done. These have retained the facades of the original houses, whilst being essentially new houses behind.

More housing talk in a bit, let's go to Cairns Street, to the market.
More housing talk in a bit though, now let’s go to Cairns Street, to the market.
Books, bike repairs and clothes.
And 'Bob'.
And ‘Bob’.

Yes, the Superlambanana, the beloved cultural icon is here in Granby. So has the promised ‘trickledown effect’ of the ‘Capital of Culture’ year happened and is ‘Bob’ the proof on a trolley?

Meet Bob’s owner.

Joe Farrag.
Joe Farrag.

Joe is one of the Street Market organisers and coined its memorable and forthright marketing slogan:

“Of the people, by the people and for the people,”

And staunch activist and organiser as Joe is,  Joe and Bob are inseparable. They go on days out and to Festivals together.

And today they're keeping Granby tidy.
But today they’re keeping Granby tidy.

Well done Joe and Bob. Lovely to see a cultural icon ‘giving back’ to the community.

And how’s it going with all these empty houses you see in the background? Well, it’s looking more promising than it ever has.

After the last regeneration of the whole place proposal fell apart last October, the residents and City Council began talking about a more varied approach. Where instead of passing the whole place over to one developer, it would be done in smaller and more interesting pieces and would involve the Community Land Trust the residents set up for themselves a couple of years ago.

Discussions on precisely what will be done are apparently going well and there is a higher confidence than I’ve felt before that the Four Streets have a definite future. Ann O’Byrne, the City Council’s lead cabinet member on housing was at the market, clearly on good terms with everyone. So, well done all. Let’s see the Four Streets safely into the future now. One set of empty homes empty no more.

We walk on.
We walk on.
Along Princes Avenue.
Along Princes Avenue where the tour buses pass by.
And the Cathedral appears.
And the Cathedral appears.
Into Percy Street, where a terrace of Georgian houses is worryingly empty.
Into Percy Street, where a terrace of Georgian houses is worryingly empty.
While just across the road we have this, the beautiful Cathedral Mansions Co-op.
While just around the corner we have this, the beautiful Cathedral Mansions Co-op on Huskisson Street.
Sitting at the top of Mount Street watching the horses pass by.
Sitting at the top of Mount Street watching the horses pass by.
On their way to the other Cathedral?
On their way to the other Cathedral?

I go down Mount Street to catch a bus.

Passing the Grapes, one of Liverpool's finest.
Passing the Grapes, one of Liverpool’s finest.
On my way to Sefton Park.
On my way to Sefton Park.
Where a gospel Choir is singing on the far side of the lake.
Where a Gospel Choir is singing on the far side of the lake.

I’m here because I’m worried about the park’s babies.

As you might know I’ve been doing my own personal ‘Springwatch’ the last couple of weeks since finding this enchanting sight at the side of the main lake.

Four tiny goslings.
Four tiny goslings.

Well, I’d passed through here yesterday, Friday evening, and found only a pair of adult geese, no goslings and lots of notices about taking extra care for the young.

But today I find them.
But today I find them.

Sadly though, one of the four goslings has gone. Nature’s like this sometimes.City28

But everyone's grateful for the 3 that remain.
So everyone’s grateful for the three that remain.
And the cygnets are fine too.
And the cygnets are fine too. Still seven of them.


So all's well on this halcyon day.
So all’s mostly well on this halcyon day.

Living for the City isn’t easy sometimes. For all of us creatures who live here. It takes great care to care for the place, to govern it, to fix the streets and houses, and raise the children, in joy and freedom. And we don’t always get it right.

But today, today felt good. Well done Liverpool.

The next Granby 4 Streets Markets will be on the first Saturdays of the summertime months, 6th July, 3rd August, 7th September. Culminating in a musical extravaganza in September like last year:

Contact Rosa for more information about the markets and to book a table: 0151 726 9379. Or email

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place:

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  1. I’m sitting here grinding my teeth as I think about those attractive Victorian terraces with gothic doorways and in some cases windows (guerilla gardening). I like the wild gardens particularly the blue flowers not doubt seeded from some long ago carefully tended small garden. What a waste and the fate of those boarded up Georgian terraces looks ominous but perhaps reason will prevail.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the safe journey to adulthood for the 3 little goslings.

    Again lovely photographs – what else can we expect from Ronnie.

    1. News from my run yesterday morning, I’m afraid it’s 2 goslings now. They’re looking bigger and stronger, but obviously still vulnerable. Hard to be a baby wild animal in the city.

  2. What simply lovely pictures Ronnie. We tried to save the place in 1969-1972! I am now especially upset to see your pics of Ducie Street. These properties were known in UK housing law books as “The Granby Decision” – since in 1969 it was mainly horrible and overcrowded multi-lets (without the most basic amenities), and mainly owned by rotten absent landlords. But in spite of City indecision we then got the then Government to approve CPOs (“Compulsory Purchase Orders”) for the purpose of “transfering housing to responsible ownership” – a national UK case law innovation. So many of them were then taken over and passed to local housing associations who converted them into modern self contained flats – some indeed opened by our own Ken Dodd! Alas I fear the then associations did not manage and maintain them as they should have done – and especially given their importance as a national case law precedent.

    By the way there were at least four goslings in the lake at Sefton Park the other day – but I think their parents are about to decide that it is time they found their own lake.

    1. Thank you Des, so you were involved in Granby around the time Shelter were there, the SNAP project (Shelter Neighbourhood Action). I remember you from my early days working at Liverpool Housing Trust, around 1975, arguing with the LHT people in the Grapes, as it then was, in Egerton Street!

      I think LHT and the other housing associations did a reasonable job there until the 90s when, after my years with them, they all turned their backs on the place calling it ‘hard to let’. Anyway, there are a good number of rants, photos and even a few films on the blog I’ve made since I got back involved with the people in Granby over the last few years – just search on Granby in the box down on the right.

      And the good news is that at the moment the people there are cautiously optimistic that the remaining four streets could be ‘improved’ once again. Even the remaining side of Ducie Street may yet be saved.

      Very good to hear from you.

      1. Thanks Ronnie – nice to find someone who recalls those days. I had money from Shelter for a three year project (SNAP) from April 1969 – which was always viewed with suspicion by Liverpool City Council (formally our partners!) but which eventually prompted a whole new Whitehall programme starting with the so-called “Total Approach” in the 1972 Westminster Budget Debate. Of course Whitehall being Whitehall there was nothing “total” about it!  Yes at SNAP I had to work with two housing associations – LHT and LIH. At that time LHT was simply one manager (Eric Morely) and his secretary in a couple of rooms in Falkner Square. Eric Morely once said to me of one couple, “I had to give them a flat Des, though it was obvious they had to get married”!! LIH on the other hand had a couple of secretaries and, you may recall, Barry Natton. Very small beginnings! And yes we got the housing associations deficit funding (initially a disgraceful 100% HAG and 100% RDG!) and they ( the housing associations) “never looked back”!!  But I cannot recall the argument with LHT in “the Grapes” (Peter Kavanaghs). Happy days! I am really impressed by your photography Ronnie – and so far enjoyed your record of the Wirral coast (where we frequently walk), and so much of the diverse park-lands and river views of South Liverpool. Further afield (our OAP walking group!) of course there is Delamere and a truly fantastic diversity of gorgeous scenery – before one even starts into Snowdonia and the Lake District National Parks.  Many a time I have thought how good it would be if somehow put together and publish a succinct visual account that might do real justice to this unique diversity – and I guess that is pretty well what you are doing.  Well done! Many thanks Des ps – I seemed unable to effect the above via your website reply mechanism – but publish if you like: Des (I should explain I am in my 83rd year: verb. sapiens!) pps- By a very strange coincidence earlier this moth the photographer Nick Hedges sent me his book “in the shadows” (photographs 1968-1972 (blurb-come August 2012) and just the other day Des Wilson sent me his “Memoirs of a Minor Public Figure”. Nicks pictures are pretty wonderful – a great record of those days.

      2. Thanks Des, and for all your enthusiasm about the blog. Back in the 1970s my girlfriend then was Barry Natton’s secretary. That’s how I got to hear about housing associations. I wrote to Eric Morley at LHT for a job in 1972, but he said no, so I went to university instead, and talked my way into LHT as a volunteer in 1975. More about these early days here and here.

      3. Thanks Ronnie. Like I said – simply lovely photographs. I would like to really explore your site but I am (myself) pretty hopeless at the practicalities of websites etc. – just very impressed by the lovely pics I’ve already seen!  I myself went to an art school for a year back in 1949 while I was waiting for a 1950 Liverpool university place -(attached election to Ulster Academy 1949 – and note the annual subscription fee!!) but now I do wish I had stayed an artist. Well done yourself. Des

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