So the judging panel have met and the awards are made. In some strange and convoluted ways, as you’re about to find out. But this is Liverpool. We do things in our own way here.
A panel of ten, selected by the random chance of who felt like turning up on a brightly cold night. Still, as many people as no doubt pick many another Booker, Oscar and what have you award. We set to work, not so much looking for winners as to glory in shining our mutual lights on places some of us might have overlooked or forgotten in the place we all so love.
Best place in Liverpool
Granby 4 Streets, Eldon Grove, Homebaked, Top of the hill in Everton, Plot 44 – Sarah’s allotment, Hope Street, the Palm House, Sefton Park, Lark Lane, the bombed out church, Lime Street vista especially the new steps, Fairy Glen in Sefton Park, Albert Dock padlocks, tunnel in St James gardens.
So we began the evening’s journey around our knowledge and opinions. Not everyone had heard of or noticed all these places. Not everyone thought they were all good, but we began colouring in a different and more collective view of the small corners of Liverpool than the one we arrived with. And when we came to decide on a ‘winner’ – as we were to find in other discussions to come – we found ourselves varying from ‘traditional’ awards behaviour and coalescing together a collection of choices.
Winner – Sefton Park
Several people had suggested elements of the Park. The Glen, the Palm House and walking through the Park to get to Lark Lane. With only one suggesting the whole of the place. But with people from the North and South of the City sharing memories of how much the place has meant to us most of our lives, we decided to bring all of these together and declare Sefton Park as a whole the Best Place in Liverpool.
Best place in Liverpool that’s not actually in Liverpool
The Shining Shore at Thurstaston, underneath the Runcorn Bridge both sides of the River, Atkinson Gallery in Southport, Waterloo Seafront Gardens, Another Place, Nicholl’s ice cream shop in Parkgate, the sand dunes at Formby and Ainsdale, Vale Park in Seacombe, the view of Liverpool from Seacombe, Port Sunlight. And outside our geography but inside our minds – New York.
So this was the wider Liverpool. The ‘city region’ that centres on Liverpool but is in fact the place we think of as ‘home’ rather than the mere politically defined boroughs that go to make up the whole of the place. And again we combined several thoughts in selecting a winner. All of us urban but valuing the wide open spaces and big skies so close to us we defined our choice as ‘The Beaches of Liverpool’.
Winner – The Beaches of Liverpool
From high up the Dee Estuary, along the Shining Shore at Thurstaston, up to West Kirby, around to Harrison Drive and New Brighton, through Seacombe and New Ferry, then across the River from Waterloo and Crosby along to Formby, Ainsdale and Southport, we have beaches that do so much to make the whole of this City such a great place to live our lives, the Beaches of Liverpool.
As you can imagine we spent a good amount of time taking our overviews of the whole place to arrive at these first two decisions. Some quicker ones followed.
Route of the year
We decided to combine possible Awards for best walks, buses, trains, boats and bike rides into one ‘most enjoyable way of getting around’ award.
Lost Liverpool walk, walking home from Norris Green, The North Docks, walking out to Hilbre, the Shining Shore Walk, from Greenbank Park to town all off road, 27 Inner city circular bus, the 433 to New Brighton, 62 bus from Penny Lane to Crosby, Speke shore walk, the Wirral Way, bike ride Runcorn and canal into Cheshire back through Shotwick and top of Wirral, then ferry to Liverpool – known as the Wirral Gran Fondo, West Kirby park up into the hills and down to Gayton.
‘Our day out’ of the year
Newborough in Anglesey, Chatsworth, Buxton, Ormskirk, Wirral Grand Fondo, Formby Dunes, Port Merion, Abersoch beach, Delamere Forest.
Winner – Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Newborough in Anglesey
Picked equally as beautiful and interesting examples of historical land grabbing. Chatsworth, the grandest of grand houses. And Newburgh, windsweptly beautiful and where the people of Beaumaris were driven when the English wanted to build their castle there. Fascinatingly gorgeous both, and you can be home to sleep in your own bed by the end of each day out.
Café of the year
Quaker Meeting House Café, Onion on Aigburth Road, Homebaked in Anfield, Mello Mello, Everyman Street Café, The Egg on Newington, the Kasbah Bold Street, Unit 51 in Baltic Creative, 81 Renshaw Street, and the Bluecoat garden with a picnic.
After discussing ‘What’s a café and what’s a restaurant?’ and deciding we were simply looking for our favourite eating places, opinions varied widely on these. With the eventual winner surprising us all. Never fashionable, never a noted gathering place for movers or indeed shakers. Just solid good food with a friendly and casual attitude for as long as any of us could remember. Turn off Bold Street at Oxfam. Across the railway bridge on the right. Up the winding stairs past tattooing places and all sorts. The Egg.
Winner – The Egg
Shop of the year
Dig Vinyl, News from Nowhere, Abakhan/El Kilos, Allerton Road fishmonger butcher and veg shop (‘The Triumvirate’), Central Hall, Tunnel Road antique shop, Mattas, Dafnas.
After a discussion that veered off wildly into subject like quality of service, where Garston Leisure Centre got a special mention for their excellence, we arrived at the importance of high streets and independents. Bringing us to the now sadly unusual and almost storybook row of shops on Allerton Road that contains a fishmonger, a butcher and a greengrocer. All doing well and all in the shadow of the inevitable (in Liverpool) nearby giant Tesco. In our discussion we started calling these the Triumvirate. Sadly noting that the bakery that’s opened in the same row in recent times isn’t up to much unless you’re positively looking for nostalgia cakes from the 1950s, we gave a special welcome to the Baltic Bakehouse, open in the afternoons Tuesday to Friday and adding greatly to the Allerton Road independents.
Winner – Allerton Road triumvirate
Eccentric idea of the year
Friends of the Flyover, Monkey Map, Post Code Honey, Liverpool Giants (plus memories of the Liverpool spider).
Explaining that I mean ‘eccentric’ as a good thing. An idea so good that you look at it and think ‘Where did that one come from?’ – we set about discussing which of these add the most to Liverpool. Sarah’s ‘Monkey Map’ website, her mission to log every monkey puzzle tree on Earth from her Liverpool base, was as ever fascinating to all and rightly recognised as an ongoing mission of breathtaking eccentricity. But no more about Liverpool than it’s about everywhere else where the trees grow.
So awarding this one to the Friends of the Flyover for the richness their idea will add to Liverpool life was an easy decision for us all. One of the very best days of the year was the day the flyovers were closed to traffic and we all tried the idea out by going for a play around on the skyroads. It’ll cost less to make this idea a reality than it would to knock the things down. So let’s get on with doing it so before long the flyovers are competing for Place of the Year at future Liverpool Awards.
Finally we looked back at all the awards and decided on:
‘The Top thing of the year’
After the richness of the conversations all evening, by now we were all pretty well talked out. So Sarah wisely suggested we do the decent and democratic thing on this and go for a straight vote on the main two we were beginning to argue over. And so we got the narrow result.
The beaches of Liverpool just pipped Friends of the Flyover for ‘Thing of the year’
We loved doing this, the subject was good fun, and I think we all walked off into the night feeling enriched and informed about the place we call home. Well done Liverpool.
Of course looking back in the cold light of morning I think the likes of – ‘What no libraries?’ and ‘Why didn’t more people agree with me about Granby 4 Streets?’ And you might well be wondering how we could have missed your place. Well the answer is we did and if we did it all again another time the nominations might be very different. But the job we’d set ourselves was to shine some lights on Liverpool and enjoy ourselves doing it without getting all precious and official about it. Eccentric, informative, passionate – and a good laugh. Thanks to all who came and to the Everyman Bistro for giving us the space.
Big thanks to ‘the panel’ – Cathy, Lenka, Leon, Dom, Steve, Elaine, Jane. Mark, Sarah. And then there was me.