There is magic all around us. Stories waiting to be told. In every park & street the future is waiting. Listen, while I tell you a story.
“In what would yet come to be looked back on as the early years of the 21st Century the people of Liverpool woke up to the beauty all around them. Gathering first in small groups in Autumn 2017 and telling each other stories of what they might do, in the parks and other places that had been around them for all of their lives, and many lives before but in the huddle and muggle of everyday busyness had been all but forgotten.
Here they began the re-membering and the re-doing of their place.
From early 2018 they started. Small things at first & many. The growing of things, the gatherings and re-gatherings. A litany of possibilities and a story-tellings of dreams. Dreams that got planted, stories that grew. Knowingly and quietly they began the re-growing of their Liverpool.
Listen, I’m telling you a story…
Before the story started there was an invitation, posted through inboxes and into the ears of the curious by The Beautiful Ideas Co. It read:
In the early 21st century, we all need to get out more. So how can we make our parks the centre of local life? From village greens to Victorian parks, for hundreds of years they’ve been a focal point for the people who live around them. We want to make them open air enterprise zones again – the thriving heart of local communities.
We talk a lot about protecting our parks and green spaces, but sometimes we end up protecting them so that nothing can happen in them.
For centuries, they were used to grow veg and graze sheep; park wardens made them safe..(.And yes, there were once sheep pens in our parks containing Liverpool Wool, Liverpool Lamb and maybe there could be again?)…
So the gatherings from the Invitation happened in late October 2017 and the story began. Small things at first & many.
Listen I’m telling you a story, let’s imagine…
The things that then started to happen were not just in the obvious parks. It turned out Liverpool had green spaces all over the place. Down so many streets and forgotten corners, allotment plots and, yes, the obvious parks and all the others that no one lived too far from in our greenest of cities.
People knew they were not starting from nothing. The awakenings of groups of friends and the ‘let’s just try it’ of small beginnings had so much to build on. The plantings of so many new trees, the herb gardens, the existing park runs and junior runs, the craft shows and markets, even a dog show. Plus of course the big park events that had grown from such a small beginning so long ago like Africa Oyé.
Listen, I’m telling you a story of growth and abundance.
Early in the change and the trying out of things the plantings multiplied. Filling the empty and unobserved green corners and engaging the wonderments of the children. Market gardens quickly flourished, as well as more wild flower meadows and even a few animals began to graze again in places they’d grazed long before.
Gradually the city rediscovered the earth beneath its feet and remembered how to go about feeding itself. Fresh local food began to turn up in the foodbanks while they were still needed and in the schools as a matter of course. People fairly soon became used to the food they could see growing around them and the children began to bring food home that hadn’t been used, as the city’s sense of abundance grew.
Listen, I’m telling you a story of life and its living.
As the abundance grew and needed working on and harvesting people became less sheltered, less inward-looking, remembering each other. No one was left out, as more and more people were needed to bring in the harvests that began to see off austerity, and to organise the beginnings of the social stuff that started happening naturally as the gathering grew.
Early on, as life changed, typical days around the city might start with some exercise, runs for young and older, some Tai Chi, yoga, even martial arts for the little ones. Then there’d be breakfasts from the mobile kitchens before some work. Planting, weeding and cultivating, advised and helped by some of the local allotment holders. With all sorts else to do during these days.
Much got tried out that everyone remembers:
The ‘Scouse as Streetfood’ movement; building the mountain bike trails; the community acupuncture and so many other health sessions started; the touring café began round the parks with no catering; brand new bandstands got built, along with deck chairs and anyone do a turn 🎶; the bandstands (hi tech, fireproof, noise-limited, solar powered ) also got used for early morning yoga and tai chi; the Dog Agility Training started as well as the Dog Shows; the Forest and Wilderness Schools got going; the Mystery Literary Festival that started so small then grew; including using the idea as part of that first prototype springtime event early in 2018; then came all the Harvest Festivals we love so much, as well as all that market gardening and food production in our green spaces, taking root and taking off (Liverpool chefs & restaurants being early and welcome customers saying ‘This is our idea of a local Utopia’).
So many new social and community enterprises coming up with so much that got tried out and so many things that seemed obvious, afterwards. Once we all started to get used to them and began to live much more in the outdoors again.
As these early outdoor days grew late the story-telling would start, and the dancing, the bonfires and yes, the suppers as the sun set. Food we’d grown ourselves, stories made up by us, music from the whole rich mix of us and days we’d only dreamed of. Days the children quickly grew to think were the way of things in their Liverpool, never having known otherwise.
Listen, I’m telling you a story but I can’t tell you everything.
I can only tell you these beginnings that happened in the years just following 2017. Some of these beginnings took root, some of them didn’t, as is the way of things. But all of them began, and they provoked what came to be looked back on as a time of great curiosity. Of so many asking “Why weren’t we? Why couldn’t we? What if we? And then?”
Well then everything began changing. The chapters of this story still to be written got started by small groups of people all over the city. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” we’d think quietly as we gathered in the libraries, schools, churches and other holy places, church halls, community centres, allotment sheds, glass houses, your house and everywhere else we lived and worked. Making up the stories of what came next and not deterred by the occasional doubting voice. “Trust always, repair if necessary” we’d always say about the supposed risk of putting new things in our outside spaces.
An additional and surprise bonus of all this outdoors talk was that this then became the new golden age of our libraries. The storehouses of our memories turned into the locally-driven, open access, co-lab engine houses of our plans, dreams and culture as we worked on the continuing details of the future we’d started. The future of Liverpool.
Listen, I’m telling you a story, the story of Liverpool.
The city that grew so much of its own future by beginning to lay its hands on its own lands. The common lands, the green lands, always there and just waiting to be remembered. Waiting only on the imaginations of the dreaming people of the place. Waiting for us. Waiting for you.
Do you think you could grow things – or mow things? Watch performers; eat, drink and exercise? Create a gallery or a workshop space? Teach, tell a story or train in a new sport?
Or you might need a building as part of your idea – there’s also an opportunity to explore ideas for some community-facing buildings. The limit is your imagination. But your idea should be designed to do good in that place.
Thank you for listening to my story. Soon there will be new stories being born. Stories you might be a part of…“
More about The Beautiful Parks Project is on their own website.