A Question of Sport?

Walton Breck - 1Something’s been bothering me for a few days now. Something about Liverpool Football Club and its relationship with the people who live around it.

It was brought into particular focus this morning by a lovely story I read about another football club, not too far away, and how deeply embedded and appreciated it is within its own neighbourhood.Walton Breck - 2The story is of the floods the other week and of the players helping the people and then the people helping the team. Read it and ask yourself whether it would happen in your place and with your football club? Because in Liverpool I suspect the answer would be ‘No’.

I suspect this after a gathering I was invited to last Tuesday evening where we were told that Liverpool FC consider many of us, the people of Liverpool, to be their enemy.

We were told this by Wayne Hemingway.

We were told this by Wayne Hemingway.

Wayne was generally encouraging us to get over past difficulties and think positively now about the club and its plans for the neighbourhood.

And telling us to get involved with making this all work as what’s being done now involves the most money being spent in the area as we’re ever likely to see in our lifetimes.

OK, all a bit old-style top down taking on a celebrity to tell us what’s good for us, but well meant. The football club had even sent along someone to represent them and she seemed very nice and approachable. But, for me, the tone of the whole thing was wrong. I said so at the time but it’s carried on bothering me ever since.

Here’s the invitation I received early in December:

“A Vision for Anfield

HemingwayDesign have been appointed to create a Vision for Anfield  that takes a holistic view across housing, public space, green space, retail and commercial and LFC.

We aim to do this being engaging with current residents, potential incomers, current and potential retailers and the local stakeholders and institutions.

We will present some initial ideas for discussion and ask for your thoughts . 

We aim to wrap up by 8pm and you will get fed and watered by the lovely Homebaked folk

Hope to see you there

Wayne Hemingway MBE”

Understanding that the particular focus would be on Walton Breck Road I was keen to come and see how what was being planned would fit with the ‘Design Your Own High Street’ gatherings we’ve been running anyway at Homebaked over the past year or two.

Walton Breck Road having particualrly suffered from LFC's indecision and changes of owners and direction over many years.

Walton Breck Road having particualrly suffered from LFC’s indecision and changes of owners and direction over many years.

But at least we know the club is staying where it is now.

But at least we know the club is staying where it is now.

Further streets of people's former homes having been cleared to make way for the new stand.

Further streets of people’s former homes having been cleared to make way for the new stand.

People were immediately and deeply engaged in discussing their feelings and possibilities for the future.

People were immediately and deeply engaged in discussing their feelings and possibilities for the future.

Because it can be good to bring in an outsider for new perspectives and ‘fresh blood’ as Wayne called himself.

But I felt he profoundly didn't get what's happened here.

But I felt he profoundly didn’t get what’s happened here.

The sense of loss and bewilderment.

The sense of loss and bewilderment.

Of neighbourhoods obliterated.

Of neighbourhoods obliterated.

A high street that lost its people.

A high street that lost its people.

Of how long and hard people have been working here.

Of how long and hard people have been working here.

To build a future from their past.

To build a future from their past.

I took those last five photographs in 2005. Some of those same people were at the gathering on Tuesday.

Hearing about how low the property values in Anfield and Everton are, how we need new people to be attracted to want to come and live and work in the area, and how we’d better be positive about it all while we’ve got the chance – and that thing about us being the enemy. And many people were hurt by all this and said so.

And are still hurt in fact by the loss of their homes and the blighting of a beloved place over so many years.

Which Wayne profoundly didn’t seem to get. This deep need that the story of what’s happened here needs to be told as an integral part of working on what happens next. That for many it’s impossible to ‘positive think’ our way into a bright shiny future without a collective acknowledging of what has happened around here. And yes, some admission of a degree of responsibility for it from the football club.

There are great possibilities round here.

There are great possibilities round here.

Especially if we can talk openly and honestly with each other and work together.

Especially if we can talk openly and honestly with each other and work together.

So as I said earlier, I think Tuesday was well meant. And there was huge energy in the room to get involved in the area’s future in a properly community focussed way. But understandable scepticism that will need addressing carefully, as I’ve suggested, so everyone can move on without brusquely brushing people’s feelings and memories aside in the name of ‘positive thinking’. We’re all a bit more intelligent and opinionated than that.

Finally a note that although the Wayne Hemingway meeting took place in Homebaked and I’m involved there, these are my own views and not Homebaked’s.

Hemingway Design have been hired by One Housing, who are building a hotel there, to do this work around Walton Breck Road.

 

4 thoughts on “A Question of Sport?

  1. robertday154

    Ronnie, I think this shows up the difference between top-down and bottom-up models of planning, development – well, in fact, life in general! The bottom-up model (I hesitate to identify it politically, because the name that springs to mind is regularly misinterpreted by those with different small ‘p’ political backgrounds!) is, I think, gaining momentum in a whole range of walks of life, albeit under a number of different labels. For instance, I work in IT software development (on the testing side), and the current talk is about a technique often called ‘Agile’ but more directly called ‘Scrum’ by its practitioners. That centres on teams of developers taking hold of a project and deciding amongst themselves what aspects of it they are going to work on next, picking the jobs that need doing from a list of things that need to be done to deliver the project. There is much conflict between Scrum-based teams and organisations (public and private sector) who want to manage everything from the top downwards. I find it amazing how often discussion of Scrum techniques, projects and experiences lapses into situations and talk that I’m very familiar with from a trade union background!

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Good observation Robert. To use your word I think Granby and Homebaked are definitely ‘Scrums’. Which isn’t to say we’re rough and unfriendly, we’re always happy for anyone to join in and work on our software and even hardware with us, to talk ideas and possibilities as equals. But told, top down? No, those days are done.

      Reply
  2. Stephen

    Hi Ronnie

    I do see parallels here (and I’m not referring to those trendy jeans of the 1970’s) regarding your viewpoint & that of Ken Robinson’s argument re using an “agricultural” as opposed to an “industrial” model within the school system.

    Ken Robinson’s quote below…..

    “We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish” ~ Ken Robinson

    To my mind, Wayne Hemingway (and Liverpool Football club) consider “human flourishing” as a “mechanical process” as opposed to one that is “organic?”

    Stephen

    Reply
  3. Vera Verte

    One of the things that irritates me about these random celebrities (including celebrity garment designers, such as Wayne) – is that they lurch onto an activist bandwagon and then start telling ‘other’ people what to do.

    Reply

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