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