Granby 4 Streets: Telling the Story

Since the news about our architects Assemble and the Turner Prize we’ve been getting a lot of requests from the media and other organisations to tell the story of what we’re doing in Granby Four Streets. Including a presentation and follow up discussion I’ve just done at a conference in Stoke. This was the 2015 annual conference of ‘Creative People and Places’ an initiative of the Arts Council.

As the presentation is all prepared anyway I thought it would be a good idea to put it on here and at the beginning of ‘The Story of Granby 4 Streets’ as a quick summary of where we’re all up to at the moment.

Here then are the Four Streets, the last four of the original Granby, Liverpool 8 streets to be still standing.

Ducie Street

Ducie Street

Jermyn Street.

Jermyn Street.

Cairns Street.

Cairns Street.

Beaconsfield Street.

Beaconsfield Street.

By early 2011 when the community around here asked me if I could come and help with their work on these streets there were something like 50 of the houses being lived in and 150 empty. Plans to demolish them under the ‘Pathfinder’ housing market renewal initiative had just stalled as the then new coalition government had cancelled the programme. So maybe, we thought, as we began to meet, there might be a chance to keep the streets up now? So we began to work on exactly what was wanted.

And instead of just notes from our early work we made this film, about Granby then and this possible ‘chink of light.’

In the film you can see the early guerrilla gardening residents had done to show there was life and welcome here. Plus early street markets and the painting up of empty houses by residents opposite to them.

The Street Market.

The Street Market.

Guerrilla gardening.

Guerrilla gardening.

 

A constant sense of new life and fresh growth in the 4 Streets.

A constant sense of new life and fresh growth in the 4 Streets.

Suddenly though and in the middle of what we’d thought might be a long process of engagement and eventual negotiation, Liverpool City Council decided the 4 Streets were not to be demolished and put the renovation works out to tender. Though we’d had the idea of forming a Community Land Trust by this point we couldn’t, of course, have tendered for such a large project.

So the City decided which developer to award the contract to.

But then it all fell through.

But then it all fell through.

Resulting in complete despondency here and more than a bit of a feeling that our last chance of saving the houses, the streets and the community might have just fallen through.

Still, we carried on with gardening and the street markets.

And patiently talking through what we all thought might work here.

And patiently talking through what we all thought might work here.

A range of tenures. Youth training and employment. No single developer. Break the place down into smaller projects. Some homesteading. Some land and houses for the Community Land Trust and a Co-op, community ownership in perpetuity.

We talked widely as we’d always said we would. With the communities of the place of course, with the City Council, with housing associations Plus Dane and Liverpool Mutual Homes, social investor Steinbeck Studios and funders the Homes and Communities Agency and the Nationwide Foundation.

And gradually gradually the future began to tilt our way.

And gradually gradually the future began to tilt our way.

We could all see it starting to shape up.

We could all see it starting to shape up.

And I’m saying it in a few sentences and showing it in a few photographs here. But this is the work of over three years so far in the story I’m telling.

Three years of talking, planning, details and dreams.

Three years of talking, planning, details and dreams.

Which all comes together late in 2014. The City Council back us and Plus Dane and LMH are the first to go on site.

It might look like scaffolding to you. To us it looks like a party.

It might look like scaffolding to you. To us it looks like a party.

A party we'd thought we might never get to see.

A party we’d thought we might never get to see.

We officially launch our Community Land Trust.

We officially launch our Community Land Trust.

The media gathers and begins to tell the story of what this whole group of community members and organisations are doing here.

The media gathers and begins to tell the story of what this whole group of community members and organisations are doing here.

We launch the CLT website, literally illustrating that we're about much more than housing.

We launch the CLT website, literally illustrating that we’re about much more than housing.

More like a community enterprise that’s all about the people and the place and its future possibilities now we are all filling it with people again.

The CLT houses go on site.

The CLT houses go on site.

The streets fill with scaffolding.

The streets fill with scaffolding.

In Jermyn Street, contractor Penny Lane Builders take this picture of an empty house upper floor before they start work.

One contractor take this picture of an empty house upper floor before they start work.

CLT houses are stripped back to bare basics.

CLT houses are stripped back to bare basics.

Before too long some of the houses begin to become homes again, for the first time in decades.

Before too long some of the houses begin to become homes again, for the first time in decades.

Ready for new families to move into.

Ready for new families to move into.

A good number of them local families with connections to Granby, like we’d always wanted.

Activity in 2015 contrasting sharply with most of the past 30 years.

Activity in 2015 contrasting sharply with most of the past 30 years.

Much delicate and detailed restoration taking place.

Much delicate and detailed restoration taking place.

When all of a sudden…

CLT architects Assemble, in the yellow here...

CLT architects Assemble, in the yellow here…

Are nominated for the Turner Prize for their work with us.

Are nominated for the Turner Prize for their work with us.

At which point media attention goes off any scale we’d previously imagined.

One week Assemble are working in a back yard in Cairns Street, making fireplaces for the CLT houses out og rubble from the 4 Streets skips.

One week Assemble are working in a back yard in Cairns Street, making fireplaces for the CLT houses out of rubble from the 4 Streets skips.

Two weeks later the workshop itself is a gallery display down town in FACT.

Two weeks later the workshop itself is a gallery display downtown in FACT.

Together with one of their fireplaces.

Together with one of their fireplaces.

At which point we all start thinking of the many ways that much of what we’ve done has been art all along?

Looking again at Assemble's brilliant idea for a winter garden in one of the houses perhaps too far gone to be a home and thinking?

Looking again at Assemble’s brilliant idea for a winter garden in one of the houses perhaps too far gone to be a home and thinking?

Maybe we could actually do that now? Maybe out there somewhere is the £100,000 or so we might need?

Meanwhile, the Street Market continues. The essential core of what we're about. Sitting together, talking and wondering 'What if..?'

Meanwhile, the Street Market continues. The essential core of what we’re about. Sitting together, talking and wondering ‘What if..?’

Forever new, forever young. Exploring the art of the possible.

Forever new, forever young. Exploring the art of the possible.

We are only just starting.

We are only just starting.

Then of course in December 2015 Assemble and all of us won the Turner Prize and Granby 4 Streets entered a whole new chapter.

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