The day begins with breakfast. Not at home, as it does usually, but out somewhere. Get me, modern as well as urban.
I’d been supposed to meet a friend but as she isn’t well enough this morning to come out to play I decide to go out anyway.
It’s going to be a long cold walk.
And yes, the new camera’s with me and the good news is I’ve spent some time playing around with it yesterday and I’ve moved beyond the automatic settings!
Which brings me to today’s theme, housing. I’m basically going to walk out through the city’s South Docks. But not to look at their maritime history. I’ve already done that with a 1906 map, naming them and telling their past stories. No, today I want to have a look at their current story, as a place where thousands of people live.
But before we get to that, a bit of a meander around here.
Going round to the front, in Perry Street.
A friend used to work for an organisation called Novas Ouvertures and I remember them having this built around ten years ago. He told me they’d got specialist craftworkers over from China to do the tiling.
There were no signs saying what might be on or even if it’s used now. This little secret gem up a narrow side street.
And see all those apartments? Well someone’s told me recently that, from a population that dropped down into the hundreds only a few years ago, there are now around 47,000 people living in and around the city centre, mostly in apartments like those. People who bought one early in the development of the Albert Dock on the 1980s, to more recent developments. People who bought them when ‘yuppies’ was new word and are still there. Others who intended just to stay for a while when young, but have also stayed. Because they like it round here or because they got stuck by the property market. And are now having children here.
So children and pensioners in a place where millions of visitors pour through every year.
And I’m wondering, what must that be like? So I’m walking around their place as part of finding out.
Sarah used to come dragon-boating here on Sunday mornings, but I think they’ve just finished today.
But you wouldn’t wish that on anyone today. It’s literally Baltic down here.
I’ve always considered that, with keen competition, to be one of the ugliest buildings in Liverpool. Not sure what it’s being turned into now – apartments?
After the 1981 riots all this land and docks down here were taken out of the hands of Liverpool City, who were not much bothering with it anyway to be honest, and put in the hands of the newly set up Merseyside Development Corporation. This was largely a Michael Heseltine initiative, him disagreeing with his Conservative cabinet colleagues who’d have been happy enough to shut Liverpool down.
The thinking then being, apparently, that no uses would ever be able to be found for all these old docks and buildings. I remember, for example, a serious plan to concrete over the middle of the Albert Dock there and build a tower block in the middle to be the new home of Liverpool Polytechnic. It sounds too crazy to be true, but then so was letting the whole place silt up.
And on a beautiful day like this I could quite imagine living down here. So close to the river, so close to the ebb and flow that is the pulse of the city.
This was one of the first dock buildings converted down here. Into a warren of offices and workshops for the small companies and social enterprises that got the place working again from the mid 1980s. But demolished a few years ago and now? Just leftover space.
Space for what? Well, as you’ve seen, there are thousands of people round here. But we haven’t seen a shop or anything in the way of open public space for people to sit and gather and, well, behave like a community. And I keep thinking, like it says at the top of the post ‘Where do the children play?’
First ritual stop this year to stand and lament the municipal vandalism of 1957.
But we haven’t finished with possible places to live yet.
And on the other?
And people who live here love them, I’m told.
Because we haven’t finished with life on the riverside yet.
Built specially in 1984 for the great spectacle put on by the Merseyside Development Corporation.
But looking recently cleared so maybe they’ll start building soon? After all, half of the old Garden Festival site was opened as a sort of public park a few years back now.
Well they can certainly run around a bit. But there’s no swing park here, little open grassland. Oh and it closes at four o’clock. I’ve also seen them close it when it’s snowed. As I say, not really a proper park.
And all a continuing part of the antagonism that existed between Liverpool City and the Merseyside Development Corporation in the 1980s. Liverpool was led by the Militants then and of course they refused to have anything to do with the site of what they saw as a ‘Tory’ Garden Festival once it was over.
So this never became municipal land. Never, somehow, a ‘proper’ part of Liverpool.
Now I have issues with how this park is poorly staffed and maintained. But at least, as this South Docks walk ends, there is space here to breathe. Somewhere that could be precious. Somewhere for the people.
First time I set eyes on it, in the mid 1970s, it was a ghost station.
So maybe it’s the time we embraced the riverside? Recognised that it’s there? The Liverpool most of us never see. The Liverpool of 47,000 people. Who are as Liverpool as the rest of us. Discuss?
Meanwhile I walk home, through Sefton Park and Greenbank Park, on a Sunday afternoon. Both of them full of children playing. Some of them, no doubt, the riverside children. They’re their closest swing parks after all, along with Princes. Cue for a song?