In 2013 I took this rainy day walk around the University and the city as if I was back in 1973, the year I first turned up at the Eleanor Rathbone Building to study sociology. Never dreaming that five years later, in 2018, I’d once again be walking through those same doors to start a PhD.
It’s raining hard so I get the bus into the centre of Liverpool.
Today I’m going to walk through pieces of my own past, forty years ago, in Liverpool 1973.
I’d not thought of this urban walking I do as a revolutionary act. But this week a friendly blog reader, @PFurmo via Twitter, drew my attention to an article in the New Statesman that suggests it is. Talking about members of the Situationist International in Paris in 1968, John Rogers writes:
“The car was seen as a tool of capitalist propaganda, the city itself as a manifestation of hierarchies and power structures; modern urban planning was a mass exercise in “organising universal isolation” that shackled and oppressed the human spirit. The primary solution to combat this attack was to walk.
What the situationists recognised was the transformative potential of large numbers of people regularly stepping outside the matrix, taking to the streets and walking, becoming active participants rather than passive spectators. This “revolution of everyday life” is a radical shift that starts with placing one foot in front of the other.”
So I decide to start today’s Friday Walk at the place where I went to learn about societies and revolutions, only 5 years later than the Situationists were writing, in 1973.
In 1973 I’ve spent a happy and extremely educational year working in Liverpool City Council Housing Department on Scotland Road and Netherfield Heights, and think I might have found what I want to do. So when it comes to it, I’m not sure I want to go to University at all.
But, expectations being what they are, I turn up and start learning about Marx and Durkheim and Levi-Strauss.
And the founder of the Department will end up teaching me at least as much as those others thinkers listed above.
I go for a look around the neighbourhood.
Because a friend lives here I spend much of my university time writing and reading my course stuff in Falkner Street.
Many years later I will discover that this flat had been owned by Brian Epstein in the 1960s, and he had loaned it to John and Cynthia Lennon when they first got married.
In the evenings I walk down from here to Hardman Street to meet my Liverpool friends.
The place to be in 1973. if you fancy yourself as a budding poet or musician. And we do.
Going further down into town, Bold Street, as always, is crowded with small shops.
Church Street is very different though.
We now enter streets and walkways that are no longer as public as they seem. Having been leased to the Duke of Westminster, the developer of Liverpool One for 250 years.
The 1973 me is aware that this is privatised space and half expects to be stopped from taking these photographs by private security guards. But has to admit that these people from the future seem to love what’s been constructed here.
Leaving Liverpool One now.
Meaning the seven streets of the new town when granted its first charter by King John in 1207, since you ask. Chapel Street, Moor Street now Tithebarn Street, Whiteacre Street now Old Hall Street, Dale Street, Bank Street now Water Street, Castle Street and Juggler Street now High Street.
Run by Roger Eagle, later of Eric’s, putting rock bands on for us at this boxing stadium. David Bowie, Lou Reed, Free, Bad Company, Mott the Hoople, Captain Beefheart, The Kinks, Traffic, Curved Air, Chuck Berry, Joan Armatrading, the New York Dolls and so many more. It’s tatty but it’s cheap and we love it so.
In 1973 I often walk past this, noticing only the exclusively expensive restaurant in its basement. Failing entirely to see the beauty of the building. A great Liverpool architectural treasure, by Peter Ellis.
At which point the 1973 me leaves the business district, reflecting on how little time I’ve ever spent in it. Fascinating though its web of streets appears, I’ve never felt at home here, always felt as if this was the bit of Liverpool where the adults did whatever ‘business’ is.
So I return up to Bold Street, my place, to find some lunch.
Over lunch, at Leaf’s Garden Café in FACT I think back through this 40 year walk and feel all of the walking and all of the years that have gone into it. How in the new streets of Liverpool One I feel the old, lost, streets beneath them. And don’t much miss them. In my life they were a post-war mess of bomb-site car parks and 60s design disasters.
Nevertheless, successful and well-liked though Liverpool One is, I don’t much like it myself and hardly ever go there. Maybe in time and with patience it will come to feel like part of Liverpool to me, but it doesn’t yet.
Still, I’ll keep on with this walking through the streets of Liverpool, the public ones and the privatised ones. Watching what happens, feeling how all the places are doing, photographing them and reporting back. Revolutionary or not, this active caring for our place is too important to leave to the powers that be, be they political or economic. Liverpool is my home, and I take its well-being personally.
Written late in 2013 about forty years before then, back in 1973, when I began studying for my Sociology Degree at The University of Liverpool. To my own surprise and also my great delight, here in springtime 2018 I’ve been accepted back to do a PhD, starting this autumn. Be writing much more about it all soon.