Having been keeping a very careful eye on Liverpool’s libraries over the past few months, I decided I go and see how our neighbours are getting on with their’s over the water in Wallasey.I don’t know Wallasey very well at all. I know New Brighton, which is part of it, and was last there a few weeks ago, but to get to know as much of the rest as I reasonably can in an afternoon I decide to walk around, almost aimlessly, other than knowing I’ll try and find a couple of libraries in the course of my wandering.
I think walking is the only way to really get to know a place. To see it and feel it and work out how it fits together and how it’s doing. So let’s go.
Paying my respects to the dead of the place, before going to see how the living are doing.
I remember there had been a proposal to close 11 Wirral libraries in 2009 (yes, that’s right, when we had a Labour government) which was resisted and eventually dropped. And have recently noticed promises from the Council Leader not to shut libraries:
Phil Davies said libraries were a vital frontline service, and added: “We will not be closing libraries – I’m very keen to knock that on the head fairly urgently.”
He said if no community groups or volunteers came forward to run or help operate any of the libraries they would remain open.
Cllr Davies added: “We know there are ‘friends’ of libraries or volunteers who are keen to do this, and I think there will be interest – but we will absolutely not be closing libraries – because they are a vital frontline service.”
So a different approach to Liverpool, where the decision to close 11 libraries is now close to being taken, and where the discussions with alternative groups are only now underway under that level of duress. So we may each end up with similar austerity-driven results, but is the Wirral approach perhaps friendlier, less anguished, more politically astute?
Anyway, let’s have a look around.
It always saddens me these days when I see a library with a small collection of books displayed in cases around their outside walls. Like the place literally has its back to the wall. Wavertree Library near where I live is like that and it’s on Liverpool’s closure list.
Our first encounter today with Mersey Ferry boats called the Royal Iris.
And here’s another.
And I do go in, but me and my camera are glared at so fiercely by the researchers at work that I quickly retreat. And do some interesting research of my own out on the landing here.
Let’s treasure these words and the permanent responsibility they placed on us:
“Provided a site is found by purchase or gift without touching the proceeds of the Penny Rate, and also provided that the full Penny Rate is levied for the support of the libraries and that no further monies are taken out of it for other than maintenance, excepting the margin of increase above the present yield.”
Notice too the hand amendment there changing the gift to plural. Did he also pay for the other library I’m hoping to find later?
Well, like in Liverpool a day earlier, here I am in another Andrew Carnegie ‘Gift’.
Now let’s go and walk around.
Into Seaview Road and this parade of local shops.
Further along the road there’s a large car park with a supermarket at the end of it which seems to have decimated the quality of much of the local shopping offer.
From the bus this had looked reasonably bustling and thriving. Closer inspection paints a more difficult picture. Beginning with two of the chains that often squat in the modern corporate hight street.
I always think of this last as being called something else that rhymes with ‘Bright’.
I walk on.
Where Wallasey feels more at ease than in the middle of Liscard. Though most of these shops are really offices.
And just down the hill from here, the second place I thought I might find today.
A small library and, like many, now closed altogether some days of the week.
But remembering the plural alteration in the letter before, it might be?
But I’ve just about walked my legs off for the day now given I’ve not been feeling 100% lately.
By this point I’m deliberately lost and know I’m very unlikely to happen across one of the Tunnel buses to take me straight back home. To my joy serendipity finds me something even better. A bus that takes me to a bit of Wallasey I haven’t yet been to today, the Mersey shore.
And whilst waiting here for the ferry to arrive I find this picture of the Royal Iris, as seen earlier upstairs at Wallasey Central Library.
Then as my here today modern ferry arrives?
This too as we dock briefly at Birkenhead Woodside.
Until we get a bit closer.
Yes, and of course, they play the song:
“We don’t care what your name is boy
We’ll never turn you away”
Which reminds me to mention that film club in Wallasey Central Library again. Soon they’re showing ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’. And I haven’t seen that since, oh, 1966? Anyway here, to finish, is their full 2014/2015 programme. Support everyone’s local library, wherever it is, go on!
Friends of Wallasey Central Library Film Club 2014/15 programme:
On Merseyside Season:
30.9.14 These Dangerous Years 
28.10.14 Ferry Cross The Mersey 
25.11.14 Gumshoe 
9.12.14 The Reckoning 
27.1.15 I Thank A Fool 
24.2.15 What’s Good For The Goose 
31.3.15 The Clouded Yellow 
16.9.14 Bicycle Thieves 
14.10.14 Madame De 
11.11.14 World War Film Special: Western Front 
13.1.15 Wages Of Fear 
10.2.15 Pepe Le Moke 
10.3.15 Diary Of A Country Priest 
14.5.15 Tabu [
12.5.15 Summer With Monika 
9.9.15 Le Plaisir 
13.10.15 Forbidden Games 
10.11.15 La Grande Illusion 
8.12.15 Umberto D 
British Towns & Cities Season:
28.4.15 [Manchester] Hell Is A City 
26.5.15 [Newcastle] Payroll 
29.9.15 [Torbay] The System 
27.10.15 [Rotherham] Tread Softly Stranger 
24.11.15 [London] Night & The City 
Doors open at 7pm. Films start at 7.30pm.
All films are free.