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.
Yesterday I published my arguments about the dangers of over regulating social enterprise in ‘Sectors are where movements go to die.’ Saying at the time that I’d be happy to publish the counter arguments of my debating partner in this inaugural Ethos Paper debate at Baltic Social a few days ago. Good enough, Matt Donnelly of Health Equalities Group has sent me what he said and here it is. Over to you Matt.
Recently Ethos Paper invited me to take part in their first public debate here in Liverpool on the question of whether we’re in danger of over-regulating social enterprise?
The brief from my friend Fiona Shaw of Ethos Paper being:
“Why bother with “Social Enterprise”? Why not just be social and enterprising?
We want the debate to be generally about the regulation of ’social enterprises’ and purism, and if you can be a social enterprise without specifically being set up as a CIC, and – if you are – whether it hampers the way you operate, in fact?!
I thought you might be interested in presenting the case against too much regulation?”
She knows me well!
So I had a walk around and a think, wrote some notes and people gathered one evening at the Baltic Social on Parliament Street for the debate. Matt Donnelly of Health Equalities Group spoke in favour of regulation and me against the motion.
Now 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. At 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 StreetWhen 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Three weeks ago now, at the beginning of March I come here late on in an afternoon.
Still soft-stripping the Community Land Trust houses at this stage, so this side of the mostly empty street relatively undisturbed.
In 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.
City 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.
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”