Saturday dawns. I put on my wet weather gear, get my camera and leave the house. I know where I’m going first, but after that, who knows? I’m living for the city, rejoicing in my place. And, as ever, I’m about to walk through its history and think about its future. Let’s go.
I haven’t been to this in a few years but it seems to have got bigger.
The City Council is proud that markets like this one, and there are several take place around Liverpool each month, are truly local.
And I’m happy to see them with their crumbly cheese and many and various pies and produce. But today I’ve set myself the task of seeing if I can buy my lunch here from independent Liverpool traders only.
And are happy to confirm my suspicions that they’re about to open a shop on Allerton Road. ‘Yes, in about a week. Not a café as well like down in the Baltic, but a shop.’ Good.
And do you know what? They’re all Liverpool Independents and not once did I use my Independent Liverpool Card! Oh well.
Past Lucerne Street.
Lunch over, I’m full and satisfied, but restless. I decide to go up to just north of the city centre, to Great Homer Street.
Now, there’s been a market along here and continuing into Cazneau Street (when there was more than just a stump of it left) forever.
It might still look like a market to you. But it’s now the site of what’s to become a new ‘District Centre.’
‘Greatie’ won’t die, but the current plan, recently approved by the City Council, is to move it away from the Centre. And a good number of the traders here think that will in fact kill it.
But Greatie’s not dominated by food. In fact it’s more of a classic street market, like the one me and Sarah visited the other week that’s been running in nearby Ormskirk since 1286. (Yes, markets can be so permanent they shape the places they’re in.)
Last time I was round here, on a Sunday, I thought these had all been abandoned, but no.
‘Liverpool Confidential’ here, I think.
‘SevenStreets’ in particular have long been deeply involved and concerned about what the City Council’s up to here.
So I come here to the newly opened Everyman. For a pot of tea and a reflect on what I’ve seen today and on how to bring this piece to a conclusion.
There are options.
Lazy journalism? To pitch the markets against each other. Saying either Lark Lane’s food based approach clearly represents where street markets need to go, and that Greatie is now fading gently into the past. Or, on the other hand, that Great Homer Street is a real market and Lark Lane’s merely a passing fad for dilettantes.
This second option butting neatly into the ‘populist campaign’ get-out. Where I conclude with a howl of righteous working-class anger about what’s being done to Greatie, and condemn all other markets to rot in the leafy-laned middle-class suburban ghettoes where they belong.
But being who I am and where I am I decide, of course, to conclude with none of these things. Because, being here on Hope Street, in the Everyman, after my day at the markets on Great Homer Street, Lark Lane and Aigburth Road, I realise I am sat tangled deeply in the DNA of what makes Liverpool be so very much itself. And I think we need all of these things for us to stay being so very Liverpool.
I think if we can get our Everyman back, and we have, then we, the Everypeople of Liverpool, can have what we want. Writing about it a couple of weeks ago David Lloyd of SevenStreets said:
“When a city gathers together to hug a theatre back into life you know you’re in a place with soul to spare, and with better days ahead.”
I think that too. So let’s pause for breath, ask our City Councillors to calm down, and let’s all of us grab our better days. Let’s collectively decide to have Lark Lane and Greatie and all the other street markets, as well as our lovely new Ev. Let’s opt for real life and not bland everything out and sell everything off to the corporates. It’s called celebrating difference. It’s called urban grain. It’s called being a great city. It’s called Liverpool.
As our John once wrote
“You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one…”
So maybe there will be a Sainsbury’s built there on Great Homer Street after all. But maybe, for once, the corporate, as a condition of moving in, will have to agree to behave with a sense of place, a common decency respect for where it’s arriving. So that after it’s built – ‘in perpetuity’ as the legals will say – it agrees that on Saturdays, forever and ever, there will be a great street market snaking along both sides of the at least partially closed off road every Saturday. Because that’s the way it is here in Liverpool.
Let’s see if we can’t work it out somehow. It’s your basic sense of place, after all. Living for the city can’t always be about short-term pragmatism. Sometimes it’s about walking around, all day in the rain, getting a feel for the long term good of the place and it’s people.
These are my thoughts and my photographs. I hope they help.