At the last Granby 4 Streets Market, local community organisation Writing in the Wall presented some of the work done at a series of events they’ve been running for us lately. These events were about people getting together and telling their Granby stories. Getting a shared sense of the history and the rich culture of the place as part of working on its future, specifically working towards what we’ll do with the Four Corners, where the shops used to be at the corners of Granby Street and Cairns Street.
Everything that was read was powerful and real and truly rooted in the place being written about. And one, this poem, struck me so powerfully at the time, painting such a vivid picture of what the Granby people have had to go through to get to where we are now, that I asked its writer if she’d let me publish it on here. She said yes.
A rant about the bins
(And how other people always seem to know the best way for us to live)
By Hazel Tilley
“So, houses are knocked down, because someone who’s never walked down Granby Street
knows how to improve our area, and the best way for us to live.
And people are moved out, because the shops are closing down
And the area’s neglected.
And the other people, the ones who know the best way for us to live, smell money
So, they ignore the history of each brick and slate and skirting board,
Of each life spent in each house.
They interfere with the little lives of little people, who don’t know the best way to live,
They neglect how each house, and life and family, how each street, came together.
And the people who know the best way for us to live remove the lead from the roofs of the houses they emptied,
To stop it being stripped and stolen and sold by us, who don’t know the best way for us to live,
So that we can’t buy drink and drugs or heating or food or pay our bedroom tax or buy a present for those we love, who also don’t know the best way for us to live.
And money and ideas and promises change hands between the people who know the best way for us to live and the people they consult
Because, they too, the expensively useless consultants know the best way for us to live.
And what of us? The people who don’t know the best way for us to live.
We remain unseen, unheard and neglected like the houses.
And rain penetrates the houses and the floorboards weep.
And the people who know the best way for us to live are shocked by our audacity and stubbornness
When we refuse to change the way we live – even though it might not be the best way for us to live.
When we refuse to leave our homes, and agree with their consultants,
When we ignore the wisdom of the people who know the best way for us to live,
And we make something of the neglect of shops and houses and people.
And build gardens in our streets and make space for a market and dreams
We can do this, because we don’t know the best way for us to live.
And other people visit us; they come to see the people who don’t know the best way to live,
And they write about us and film us and paint us and make art in our streets
And they congratulate us on our stubbornness and audacity.
And the plants and the dreams grow, in a messy, organic way, and our stubbornness and audacity grow too.
And the rain penetrates the houses and the floorboards weep.
And the people who know the best way for us to live, smell money.
So they pretend to listen and tell us, when they need publicity, how great we are,
Even though we don’t know the best way for us to live.
And they promise ‘to keep us together’ when they buy our houses from us
And we refuse to change the way we live.
And the politicians change, and the people who know the best way for us to live run out of money
And break their promises, and feel it’s a shame that we had audacity and stubbornness;
And they just don’t know how to help us and they shake their heads and walk away.
And the plants grow and our dreams shine
And the rain penetrates the houses and the floorboards weep.
And us, the people who don’t know the best way for us to live, cheered
And we carried on being stubborn and audacious and we gathered together and think we might smell money now, being a small part of the Big Sodding Society.
But the people who know the best way for us to live, fill our nostrils with bureaucracy and virtual paper and tell us ‘we are on your side’ and smile and say ‘we share your values’, and whisper aside, ‘but you can’t share our money’.
But they know the best way for us to live, so they give away the houses they let rot and scatter a crumb or two towards us, the people who don’t know the best way for us to live.
Listen up now, you don’t know the best way for us to live
And you don’t share our values.
You, who think you know the best way for us to live, who squabble over the bones of power and pose for the smell of money,
Who can’t imagine the way we want to live and whose values are such that they can’t be shared by our values.
You don’t know the best way for us to live.
You moved people who didn’t want to move, you tried to close us up and sweep us into corners.
You saw a ‘big picture’ and a ‘whole solution’, and where you saw messy, we experienced variety and home and life
And when you couldn’t shut us down, you left us, the people who don’t know the best way for us to live, with the rain penetrating our roofs and our floorboards weeping.
You, with your talk of the World in One City, break up the heart of it and leave its history to crumble.
And we don’t go away and bit by bit we reclaim our streets.
You don’t help, you can’t think small enough to know what to do with people and their messy, organic, piecemeal lives, with dreams and values and who have found a way to live.
And in a messy and piecemeal way the rain stops penetrating the houses and the weeping floorboards are comforted and people move in and streets light up.
And, sometimes, on Wednesday, the bin men drive round. And nobody gave much thought to where we keep the bins
Not even you, the lots and lots of you, who know the best way for us to live.
And what of the bins I hear you say?
Well that’s for another rant on another day.”
Hazel Tilley is a Board Member of the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust and lives in Cairns Street, Liverpool 8.
And of course everything’s going well in the 4 Streets at the moment. We’re on site with all of our partners and so much help. And the future is looking very positive. But I wanted you to get a sense of the energy it has taken, from so many people over so many years, to get us here. And also to get a sense of the energy that is still here now.
Of the people, by the people, for the people. Granby 4 Streets. Thank you Hazel.