Home as a Human Right: Ten Thoughts

On believing in everyone having a secure home as a human right. 

This is roughly the text of my talk to the Liverpool Walton Constituency Labour Party on the evening of 22nd May 2018.

From a lifetime working in and around housing and communities and at the request of the Walton Constituency Labour Party here in Liverpool, these are my ‘Top 10’ thoughts, a mixture of policies and practicalities, on how we might go about fixing the wide ranging housing crisis we are now in.

1 Establish having a secure home as a basic human right
2 Reinvent Council Housing
3 Be secure and safe from the cradle to the grave Continue reading “Home as a Human Right: Ten Thoughts”

Liverpool Pubs: A Personal Selection

liverpool-pubs-7Now in late August 2015 comes the news that the very seriously great Roscoe Head, featured below is in some danger. Therefore the people of Liverpool, including me of course, are gearing up to get it declared a community asset and then move towards some sort of buyout, along with the family who’ve ben running the place for many years now. To help us do this please sign this petition now.
Liverpool Pubs - 1At the beginning of his new book ‘Liverpool Pubs’ author Ken Pye explains:

“I have chosen what I consider to be the most interesting or significant for this book. However, I do recognise that this is very much a personal and subjective view, and I have had to leave some places out, but only because of limitations of space. I hope, though, that you will appreciate and enjoy reading about the ones I have been able to include.”

Fair enough as, though he’s limited his drinking area to in and around the city centre, there are still more pubs than he could have possibly fitted into his lavishly illustrated 100 page book.

Well for this article I’m going to reduce his selection even further. To those with particularly strong attractions and memories for me. Though I reckon that over time I’ve happily called in at around two thirds of the 25 pubs covered in here I’m only going to make a very personal selection. You’ll have to get the book to read about the rest.

So let’s set off then, good and thirsty with our Ken Pye guide in our collective hands.

Peter Kavanagh’s, Egerton StreetLiverpool Pubs - 2When I arrived at Liverpool Housing Trust in Falkner Square in 1975, on my first Friday afternoon there I found myself almost alone in the offices. ‘Because,’ as the only person I could find told me ‘Everyone goes round to the Grapes on Friday afternoons.’ Already thinking I’d arrived in Paradise I immediately walked round to Egerton Street to find it was Paradise with a Bar.

Continue reading “Liverpool Pubs: A Personal Selection”

Springtime in Walton Hall Park?

Walton Hall Park - 1
Walton Hall Park, Liverpool, April 2015.

So another springtime reliably arrives in Walton Hall Park in North Liverpool. Nothing special, just an ordinary miracle? Well maybe not. For reasons we’ll be coming to this could be one of the grand park’s final springtimes.

But to tell the full story today’s long and intensely photographed walk begins in another park a couple of miles away.

Welcome to Stanley Park. Just across the road from Everton FC's football ground.
Welcome to Stanley Park. Just across the road from Everton FC’s football ground.

Over there next to Diana Street, the place where I was born. Many of my baby days would be spent in here, the park at the end of the road.

Even though we lived in tightly gridded terraced streets, we were all just across the road from our beautiful municipal park.
Even though we lived in tightly gridded terraced streets, we were all just across the road from our beautiful municipal park.

Continue reading “Springtime in Walton Hall Park?”

The kindness of public librarians

A librarian at work.
A librarian at work.

I’ve often written about public libraries but not for some time. I have been spending a lot of time in them though lately, as I’ve been writing a book. It’s a book on the 50 year history of Liverpool Housing Trust, one of the ‘Cathy Come Home’ era housing associations and a place where I first volunteered and then worked in myself for 20 years from 1975. No doubt when the book comes out, which will be soon, little hints of what’s in it or long bits of what turned out to be too long to go into it will appear on here.

I’m not writing it on my own mind. My friend and ‘proper’ writer and publisher, Fiona Shaw of Wordscapes is doing much more of the writing than me and also editing the whole thing. But we divided up the bits we’d do and mostly write on our own, getting together occasionally to see where we’re up to.on-national-libraries-day22

And I’ve done most of my own writing of it in public libraries. In our grand and lovely Central Library when I wanted to lift my spirits and get going on what felt like a big project. Then most often in my local library at Allerton Road as I’ve settled into the work and enjoyed every minute of it.

Enjoyment much helped, as it’s turned out, by the kindness of public librarians. Continue reading “The kindness of public librarians”

In Granby: On site

This blog hasn’t done a site visit to Granby 4 Streets since early February, so I thought it was about time we did. Because things have been moving on.In Granby: On site01Three weeks ago now, at the beginning of March I come here late on in an afternoon.

In Beaconsfield Street Plus Dane were still at work.
In Beaconsfield Street Plus Dane are still at work.
Up high on the roof.
Up high on the roof.
While round in Cairns Street work had finished for the day.
While round in Cairns Street work has finished for the day.

Still soft-stripping the Community Land Trust houses at this stage, so this side of the mostly empty street relatively undisturbed.

In the site house though, work has not finished. The drop in session for local residents trailered in the February CLT newsletter being in full flow. Continue reading “In Granby: On site”

Is Cathy never coming home?

002In 2014, 13th November was to be #HousingDay. 24 hours on Twitter of stories from the world of Social Housing. I thought it couldn’t do any harm and might even do some good. It had been Twitter that morning, after all, that had led me to two savagely upsetting articles about life in the housing world.

First Aditya Chackrabortty’s story of the millionaire Tory MP forcing tenants on the New Era estate on the edge of the City of London to ‘seek alternative accommodation’ so that their £600 a month rents can be jacked up to four times that. The ‘alternative accommodation’ being most likely several years in a homeless shelter followed, if they’re lucky, by a move to somewhere well out of London. All to add to the personal wealth of someone whose existing riches are well and lavishly documented in Aditya’s brilliant but heart wrenching article.

Followed shortly after in that morning’s Twitter feed by something just as distressing. Polly Toynbee’s article from within such a homeless shelter, in the prosaically but factually named ‘England’s Lane’. It reads like a dystopian and Dickensian tale from a land we might have imagined was long gone, but is right here right now. It reads like Ken Loach and Jeremy Sandford’s classic sixties tale of ‘Cathy Come Home’. Except it’s happening now and it once again sounds as if Cathy never will come home.

Stacey Thomas and her family in England's Lane Hostel. From The Guardian article.
Stacey Thomas and her family in England’s Lane Hostel. From The Guardian article.

Please read both of these. And if they don’t break your heart? Then there’s something wrong with your heart. Continue reading “Is Cathy never coming home?”

But Beautiful

Wavertree Library01City Council consultation on Monday 6 October, 6pm to 8pm, The Conference Centre at LACE, Croxteth Drive, Sefton Park, L17 1AA – this will be to discuss Sefton Park and Wavertree libraries.

In 1958 Billie Holiday recorded ‘Lady in Satin’, her last but one LP and the final one to be released during her lifetime. It divides opinion still, many feeling that her wonderful voice is too far gone by this time to be a pleasure to listen to any more. I love it though, and consider it a late work of great dignity. A particular favourite track is the Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen song ‘But Beautiful’ where she sings these lines of aching longing and regret. They came back to me a few days ago when Sarah and I were standing inside Wavertree District Library:

“And I’m thinking
If you were mine
I’d never let you go,
And that would be
But beautiful, I know.”

The last time I’d been here it was a forlorn place. Half of it was taken up by a City Council ‘One Stop Shop’ of various council services. And what was left of a library was shoved to one side, containing few books, all displayed with their backs to the wall. It felt to me then like it was in its late days.Wavertree Library02

Now it may really be in its late days, it’s in the list of eleven libraries down for possible closure as one result of the Government’s ‘austerity’ policy. But walking in we immediately see that it has flowered again wonderfully. Continue reading “But Beautiful”

Liverpool 8: From the air

Much of today’s post will take place high up in the air and back in time.

We're going down the side of O'Connor's and up to the top of the Cathedral. It's 1973
We’re going down the side of O’Connor’s and up to the top of the Cathedral. We’re imagining it’s 1973. I’ll explain why in a bit.
Passing the great bells of the Cathedral as we climb the tower.
Passing the great bells of the Cathedral as we climb the tower.

The highest peal of ringing bells on all of the Earth, a sign up here tells me.

But the Cathedral is not our subject today, it’s merely a vantage point.

Neither is our subject the magnificent views of the 21st century city Centre.

Merely to observe in passing how ridiculously close we allowed suburban cup-de-sac housing to get to the middle of our city.
Merely to observe in passing how ridiculously close we allowed suburban cul-de-sac housing to get to the middle of our city in the late 20th century.

No today’s subject, today’s Friday Walk, is Liverpool 8. Continue reading “Liverpool 8: From the air”