Eventually answering some of the market trader’s and residents complaints below, on 31st January 2015 Liverpool City council announced plans to expand the new Greatie site to create extra parking and space for more traders.
Today Liverpool’s oldest and largest street market moved into its new home. So I decided to go on a circular walk which would include a housewarming visit to the new Greatie.
When I was a boy, in the 1960s, this was part of Liverpool City Centre. And visits to ‘town’ with my parents would always involve trundling between here and Lewis’s and Blackler’s. Then trundling back the other way if TJ’s up here had the right things at the best price, as they often did and still do.
This part of the city is the friendliest to people without much money to spare.
Bulky Bob’s is the social enterprise in Liverpool that collects our unwanted bulky household items. And if they can be recycled they end up on sale here, together with other new furniture.
I used to sometimes work in one of those houses when it was the Council Repairs Office. I wrote about it in ‘Housing in Liverpool and me’.
“Some days I’d be sent off to the sub-office in Netherfield Heights, at the top of the hill in Everton. On the way up there I’d pass The Piggeries. These were three high-rise blocks, built as recently as 1965 and already on their way to being uninhabitable slums. Crosby, Canterbury and Haigh Heights, as they were really called, had recently staged a rent strike, because of the appalling conditions and the Council’s failure to maintain the blocks. Most Council employees entirely blamed the tenants, of course. But, spending some time at the local Repairs Office, on Shaw Street, I was shown how to prioritise and file repair requests. And told to put requests for Piggeries repairs ‘in that box down there’. At the end of the day ‘that box’ was emptied into the bin.”
Obviously when I worked up here you couldn’t see this view for all the tower blocks in the way.
Though then it was never looked on as ‘heritage’ – just a piece of old stuff that had somehow avoided being cleared. Probably what saved it was that it was, and still is, the symbol on the badge of Everton Football Club.
Along here, looking uphill is the site of the huge slab block that was Netherfield Heights.
Fair rents had just been introduced and my main job was to work them out and sort out the rent rebates many people had become entitled to. This of course caused widespread joy and made me briefly popular. Unfortunately, at the same time, the City had disastrously decided to impose a fortnightly rent system, which most people simply never understood. They’d obediently come in, once every two weeks – and pay their rent, their one week’s rent. Debts therefore quickly mounted and all of us staff’s popularity plummeted accordingly.
And at the bottom of Roscommon Street here it is.
That’s right. It’s been branded up. Attractively too, but ‘Greatie’ was our word for it. Never written down, let alone graphically designed.
Anyway, I’ll cross the road in a few minutes to see how things are going. But first I want a look around on this side of the street.
Even on this side there was once an attempt to ‘tidy’ the market up.
But as you can see, it was never big enough and so people continued trading on the street.
One of the traders in those days was my Uncle Arthur. Arthur Gerrard, known to everyone as Gerry was the family spiv. Sharp suits and tiny moustache. Whatever you wanted Arthur could ‘put his hands on it’ for you. When Dad’s Army started on the television I was shocked. I thought Uncle Arthur had got a part in it!
OK then, time to cross over and see the new Greatie in its new home.
I talk to some of the traders who think the aisles are a bit narrow. Or maybe it’s this crowded because it’s the first day?
One trader I talk to tells me of one teething problem. They were all only given access to the site at 8:00 this morning, very late for a market that opens to the public at 9:00. Must do better there, because obviously when the market was on the street access was no problem.
I asked him about the rents and he said that at the moment they’re the same as they were over the road but there’s a fear that Geraud, the organisers might soon raise them. (I’ve since been told by Liverpool Market Traders that the rents are being increased in December.)
Thinking of over the road, I keep wondering where those remaining traders would fit over here? Unless much of the parking area could be used the place is jammed full already.
Though there’s also a juice bar in here and another café.
And it’s fair to say most people seem pretty happy with the new place. Trading seems brisk, and friendly as ever.
Though it’s not a street market any more. With space to expand along the road on busy days. And I’ll miss that. Last time me and Sarah came I called it ‘a swaggering beast of a street-market’ and had no idea that by today its swagger would be a little constrained and contained.
But it’s here, it lives and I’m grateful for that.
Right next to it is something else that would get in the way of further expansion.
The other side of where the tunnel is now used to be another market when I was a boy.
I decide to walk into town, there’s a Leonard Cohen LP to be bought.
Time then to put the camera away and head down to Probe Records for that LP.