My verdicts on all of Liverpool City Centre’s quiet places for a peaceful sit. Warning, it’s not very complimentary.
The news from Liverpool Confidential that this little area of trees in Victoria Street is to be turned into a multi-storey car park, rather than, say, a little area of trees with seats, has got me thinking.
Where are the breathing spaces in the centre of Liverpool?
Not the great ring of parks that surround the city, but the centre itself? Where can we go for a break, a sit, a quiet read, to watch the world go by, in the middle of town? Not somewhere that’s a café where you have to pay, but somewhere free and open to all of us, where we can breathe in the open air and be at one with each other and our place? The garden at the back of The Bluecoat springs immediately and obviously to mind, but where else?
Well I’m about to make myself some butties and a flask of tea, then walk around town and find out. So if you see me later on looking around forlornly with my camera, then help me out with your suggestions. Otherwise I might be reporting back later with a very short blog post?
OK then, here we go. Getting off the bus at the Bombed Out Church.
Anyway, I decide I’m only going to consider spaces in what I call the city centre. Which is all on the town side of Berry Street, Renshaw Street and Lime Street. It’s my walk and that’s the rule.
Verdict? Lived in.
Being one of the few public places in Liverpool with some shelter it’s a popular sleeping place for the rough sleepers our brutal economy keeps creating.
So we’re not doing very well so far in what seems a simple enough search. For places welcoming enough to want to spend some idle time in? Where next?
Looks like it would have seats but it never has. And anyway Cream there is now a demolition site, so who knows what might happen next.
We do have lots of squares though don’t we? We just don’t seem to know what to do with them. Maybe we should ask the average French village?
So European you can almost see the group of elderly Frenchmen over there playing boules. But with not a seat in site and no Frenchmen when you need them it’s a sad disappointment.
Verdict? A load of boules.
Verdict? Welcome, though I didn’t feel like sitting down here for some reason. Windswept?
This corridor over to the Albert Dock looks like it would be a good breathing space.
Verdict? Privatised public space.
Verdict? Useful but brutal.
There’d be no end of trouble if I were to plonk myself down over there and get my flask of tea out.
Verdict? Well that’s just bleak isn’t it.
Noticing how us breathing spacers and rough sleepers share some common interests, in free space for people to use.
Verdict? A monumentally stupid waste of what should be a lovely and interesting space.
Verdict? Better than nothing, just.
Verdict? A waste of space.
This is getting tiresome isn’t it? But don’t give up on me yet. We’re about to walk into one of the best places in Liverpool City Centre.
Surrounded by the City, a real oasis, a place to breathe in.
In the middle of the City, in the midst of remembered deaths, I am at peace here.
‘The Rise and Fall of the British Empire’ by Lawrence James. Where I’m delighted to find this bumptious quote from an Empire military type in Lagos in 1898. Speaking about the traders who’ve turned up after the military and the navy have stolen Nigeria in the name of Queen and Country he says:
“The type of Englishman, in the shape of the trader, whom we meet in these parts, is too awful for words to describe; they are all more-or-less counter-jumpers of the worst type and biggest bounders into the bargain.”
‘Counter-jumpers?’ Never heard that before or thought it might be a useful insult. But I’ll be looking out for opportunities to use it now I know!
Verdict? As perfect as it’s possible for a breathing space to be. One of Liverpool’s greatest treasures.
Verdict? A wasted opportunity.
Could be an ideal little breathing space, except whoever owns it obviously doesn’t want it to be.
Verdict though? Bleak.
Yes it’s a personalised Car Park with its very own bloke looking after it. Should clearly be a little garden instead.
Verdict? Pompous as well as stupid.
A friend on Twitter, Stuart Fitzgerald, has recommended I look here having trailered this walk earlier in the day. Looks promising and useful.
See I’m already turning these rambling thoughts into an academic theory? I’ll be charging you to come on courses about it before you know it.
In fact I think we’ve met our fellow travellers the rough sleepers again haven’t we? Clearly they’re not welcome to sleep here. It is private after all.
Verdict? More than a little unwelcoming.
Must do better.
As an aside and while we’re here. A memory of my first job in the City Council Housing department. I was a temp and every week I’d get the bus in from Scotland Road where I worked and would knock on a little window at the back of Municipal Buildings over there and collect my wages in cash, around about £20.
Big enough in fact for rough sleepers not to be bothered as they safely get their heads down during daylight hours.
Verdict? Valuable but not particularly lovable.
Even on a sunny day, when there’s a choice between reading here or going across William Brown Street to the Library, I always go into the Library and have spent very few hours of my life sat here.
I sometimes forget it for months at a time.
Next is a bit of a secret.
I virtually never come to town without spending some time in here. Good for peace as well as people watching.
A mere two completely perfect breathing spaces in the whole City Centre. Some ‘not bads’ and ‘could do betters’ – but only The Bluecoat and the garden at Our Lady and St Nicholas beyond reproach.
A bit of sunshine might have improved one or two of my verdicts back there, but what can you expect? That old sun’s always been a bit of a counter-jumper!