As Granby 4 Streets, the last four original streets still left with their original houses, woke up this morning nothing was true or happening that wasn’t true yesterday. Builders from Plus Dane and Liverpool Mutual Homes were arriving to begin their day’s work. To be joined any day now by the builders from the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust. All of this long campaigned, thought through and waited for.
But today all somehow more true and somehow more celebratory. Because today we’re in The Guardian. Even me.
“What’s happening in Granby is an important prototype for northern councils, who’ve been so badly hit by the cuts,” says Ronnie Hughes. “Two years ago, the whole area was nearly signed over to a private developer, but now the people who live here have finally got a formal stake in the place. It’s an extraordinary achievement – and now it’s extraordinary forever.”
Ever since yesterday evening when the journalist involved, Oliver Wainwright, let us know that his long planned article would be published today and was already in the online edition, our phones and computers have been ringing and buzzing with messages of delighted congratulations. It’s like the 4 Streets Birthday. The 4 Streets birth day.
“With relentless rows of boarded-up windows, punctuated by half-demolished corner shops and purple shocks of buddleia sprouting from the rooftops, the streets of Toxteth in inner-city Liverpool present an eerie, post-apocalyptic scene.
It is the result, not of some great environmental disaster or mass industrial collapse, but of a series of failed regeneration plans since the 1980s, most recently New Labour’s “Housing Market Renewal Pathfinders”, that have drained the streets of all life, to make way for promised visions that never arrived.”
“But turn the corner on to Cairns Street, at the bottom of the Granby Triangle – where only 70 out of 200 homes are still inhabited – and a busy scene erupts into life, an oasis amid the desolation. A street market is in full swing, beneath a dense bower of trees and climbing plants, while trainee builders erect scaffolding across the fine redbrick frontages either side of the road.”
“We never thought we’d see this day come,” says Eleanor Lee, who moved to the area in 1976 and has witnessed its progressive decline since the 1981 race riots, which saw buildings torched and 500 people arrested. “After the riots an invisible red line was drawn around the area – it was an unspoken policy of no maintenance and no investment. Once houses are boarded up it sends a signal.”
“We were condemned,” says Hazel Tilley, who lives a few doors down. “It was punishment for the riots. Bins weren’t collected, streets weren’t swept and a mythology built up: people came here to buy their drugs or dump their shite.”
But now all that’s changed. And the local Council are firmly, practically and determinedly supporting what we’re doing.
“It’s a tipping point,” says Ann O’Byrne, Liverpool’s cabinet member for housing. “The council has abandoned these people for the last 30 years and left them to fester. But now we’ve gifted the homes to the CLT and they’re showing that this will be the place to live, right on the edge of the city centre.”
So I simply wanted to place some of the lovely Guardian article on here. So it can be a valued part of the story of what we’re up to in Granby. Thank you Oliver, thank you Guardian.
And next for the 4 Streets Community Land Trust? Well we’ve got to get those ten houses done. Together with the houses the other partners are doing. And then start building what’s effectively a new community in the place as all the new people start arriving. As part of this the CLT is planning to get hold of four of the empty corner shops. A living community will need a gathering place and some shops.
But all that’s another story for another day. For now it’s time to celebrate getting this far. And we’d like you to come and celebrate with us. A week on Saturday, 6th December, there’ll be a very special Street Market. Even by Granby’s standards. I’ll tell you more about it in a few days. But on this day, while we’re in the news, put the date in your diary. The date for us all to get together, on the 4 Streets of Granby, and celebrate the miracle of their rebirth.
So do come and see us and celebrate with us on 6th December. 10 ’til 3, Cairns Street, Granby, Liverpool 8.