Tomorrow (31st October) is World Cities Day 2020
A day marked by the United Nations to focus on urbanisation as a central issue for development and to encourage cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing urban challenges towards sustainable development. This blog post, in which I adopt the persona of ‘The City of Liverpool’ (it was bound to happen eventually) was commissioned and first published by the School of Law & Social Justice, where I’m a PhD student, at the University of Liverpool.
In a city called Liverpool, on a day very much like today, the story you’re about to read opens with this music like it’s a film, and the city itself has a few words to say…
“I was glad of the rest from them. Rushing in and drive-timing out. Clogging up my roads like arteries that needed a rest, a clearing out. I was so much wanting and wishing I could see less of them for a while. And then it happened. One day as my springtime was arriving on the trees and in my open spaces, they were here and spilling about as usual. Then the next they were gone. Which left me feeling like a city after humans. Quiet. My traffic lights changing day after day for hardly anyone, and no planes in my sky. No rush-hour mornings and only the birds and weather to break my silence.
I was glad of the rest.
In the weeks afterwards there were some of them around. Only some though. Mostly the ones without homes and then the ones on bikes. New kinds of bikes, cargo bikes I heard them being called. Carrying food to the humans, and clean clothes for the ones at work for the others. Also something they were calling protective equipment. From their disease, for their nurses, who they started clapping about from their front steps. There were ambulance noises too, a lot of them, going into and out of their hospitals. And a sadness I could see in the air. As my springtime turned into the warmest and earliest summer I can remember.
And as the summer warmed they started to appear in the parks, so many of them having no outside spaces around their homes. And I listened in to them on the signals they would send to each other’s talking devices. About help and desperation, about ideas for afterwards and not going through all this for nothing.
Then there was something called an easing and the ambulance noises got less frequent. Some of their eating and drinking places opened for a while. But not so soon their offices, schools and never their football grounds. Except for the lonely footballers, shouting at each other and the emptiness around them. As my early mornings stayed quiet and some roads became bike lanes. Just before the easing tightened back into what they called Tier Three of the Second Spike. And the ambulance sirens began again. Crying all the way to their hospitals.
And I missed them so much, my humans, and was sorry I’d wished them gone for a while. Particularly I missed the Gazebo People, as I thought of them. Their many coloured market shelters all along their Granby Street. And their never ending happiness at meeting each other each month on their Street Market Days, over and over again. I missed their joy and looked out for them. So it was I saw their fire. One day at the end of the summer when some fly tippers came and caused the fire that burned all their gazebos. And I heard their sorrow, their sense of loss after all those years and grieved with them. Though I needn’t have. Because it turned out that despite all their own griefs and fears the humans of Liverpool and beyond had not forgotten the Gazebo People. As over the next not very many weeks at all, through their talking devices and even some letter boxes, they sent the good Gazebo People all the many thousands of pounds they would need to replace everything they’d lost. So their Market will once again stretch out along their Granby Street, some Saturday as soon as it’s once again safe.
Which won’t be yet but I hope will be soon. It being time now, more than time, for such a happy ending to happen. In such a quiet city, that’s been quiet now for long enough.”
I’m grateful to Ronnie Hughes, a writer who is also a friend of the Gazebo People, for writing this down for me. He says to tell you he is no way going to apologise for reifying a city, making a socially constructed object appear to be concrete, conscious even. Whatever that means? Humour him. He also recommends you listen to something called ‘Quiet City’ by Aaron Copland while you read our joint creation. He’s very keen on music and says “I think this piece sounds like now.” He would say that. I’m also grateful to Kiara Mohmed, an artist who’s also a friend of Ronnie and the Gazebo People, and who took the lovely photograph of Granby Street Market from the sky with her drone. Thank you Kiara. And to Abbie Goodwin at the University of Liverpool, for asking Ronnie and I to write this in the first place.
Best wishes to all,
From the City of Liverpool