In the early days of this blog we had a look round Liverpool in 1953, the place I was about to get born into. In this follow up to that one we’re going to come in a bit closer. Having spent much of my life with no early photographs of my early days, I’ve recently gathered up a few, courtesy of my Dad. And they’ve got a story to tell.
But before I arrive, of course, my parents have to meet.
In this lovely picture Joe is eight and Terry four. Meaning it’s 1936. They are living in North Liverpool down by the Dock Road.
“Even at that age, in those days, we were allowed to roam wherever we liked and I was trusted to look after Terry’ Joe says now. ‘We’d go to church on our own and then go off wandering around the docks and streets and even into town. I remember me and Terry being in town together even after it had gone dark. We had a much bigger Liverpool to play in than children seem to be allowed now. It was great.”
Now we’re precisely half way to Leeds and taking a weekend’s break from canal walking, Sarah and I have done a bit of reflecting on the eight walks we’ve done so far and a few things we think in general. So here they are.
1 Canal time is different
Now we’re far from home it’s been taking us a good while to get to the canal to start each walk where we finished the last one. But once we get there and slip onto the tow path we enter a very different place, where we’ve never walked before and yet it feels like we’ve never been away. Like setting off from the Harry Potter platform into our own magical world. A slow world too, where us and the occasional canal boat all move along at pretty much the same pace. Except we have the freedom to stop frequently, smell the flowers and gaze at, well, all the beauties and leftovers and canalscapes we’ve been showing you this year.
Losing track of the time and even of the century, because canal time is different.
2 Bikes are a problem
It pains me to say this, though I’ll say it anyway, because most of my best friends are enthusiastic bike riders. But bikes on the canal path are a nuisance. Not all of them of course, but too many of their riders to be comfortable with think us walkers are in their way. We might get an imperious ‘Get out of my way’ ring of a bell, but we pretty well never get a thank you. Two ‘thank yous’ I’d say we’ve had.
Local authorities themselves might be part of the problem here, including stretches of the canal in things like ‘The Chorley Trail’ to encourage bikes onto the tow path. But it means that particularly around towns, and because we’re walking at the weekends, we’re walking in single file to the side of the main path because of the bikes. Which are in turn, by the way, turning much of the main path into a narrow rutted groove of a path by their over use of it.
Just a few words on behalf of Make Liverpool, a few friends who are leading what I think is one of Liverpool’s best ideas. A large space, in Liverpool’s North Docks, where you can go and make things. In space you don’t have and with tools you can only dream of owning yourself. Simple and brilliant.
No apologies, this is a big blog post about a big subject. The continuing revival, reuse, regeneration and renewal of a large area of North Liverpool, down by the docks.
It’s also where Sarah and I have the idea of walking to Leeds along the canal.
Having been involved in what’s going on down here for the last year or so I got myself invited to a corporate launch thing last Thursday morning. At which and after which people naturally started asking me what I thought of it all?
I said “I don’t know. It’s complicated. I’ll need to have a think about it and get back to you.”
This is the day our ideas go public and we’ve invited lots of politicians, business leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, general friends – oh and two football clubs – to come and discuss them with us and how we’ll be using them as part of creating a new and alternative economy in North Liverpool.
The invite to the day says this will be:
“One day with people who are doing social and economic change differently, to talk about how we could all do it even more differently and effectively in North Liverpool.
Taking place on Friday 8th April in a new maker space being opened up and renovated in Liverpool’s North Docks. So taking place inside a Beautiful Idea in the making.
This will not be a day of power points and presentations but of linked discussions and debate about ideas, needs, opportunities and possibilities here in North Liverpool, now and for the future.
How we are going about creating an economy for everyone who lives and works here not by simply waiting for investments from elsewhere, but by investing ourselves, our skills and our imaginations in the future of our place.
Makers, bakers, bikers, creators, engineers, gardeners, fixers, builders, artists, actors, organisers, thinkers, dreamers and doers. Working together on a new economy, here in our North Liverpool.”
In North Liverpool I’m involved at the moment in helping to make one the most exciting ideas I’ve heard about in a good while, a maker space called Make Liverpool.
This will be a space where you’ll be able to join and come and make whatever it is you make with the tools they’ll have and also, if you want, rent office space and be part of a whole community making things and being part of a thriving new economy for North Liverpool.
Or ‘Seaport: A Life in a Book’This book came out originally in 1964 when I was ten years old. And though I had my adult-side library ticket by then it must have been a reference only book, as I have no memory of bringing it home. Instead I would sit in the North Liverpool library of my childhood and pore over it for hours. Fascinated by such a gorgeous book about the place that, even then, I considered myself lucky to have been born in. Much of which I hadn’t yet seen. My Liverpool was a Ribble bus to County Road and Stanley Park, near where I’d first lived, or all the way into town, with occasional rides on the ferry, back and forth, back and forth.
My parents, having lived through the war years in Vauxhall and Bootle next to the decimated docks, had been glad to move their little family out to the new northern suburbs where everything was new and life could only get better. And Maghull back then was a fascinating place to grow up in. Between our house and the library there was still a farm where you could watch the great big sow suckling her piglets. And the surrounding streets as they got built filled up with footballers from Everton and Liverpool who we would constantly pester for autographs. But also, of course, by 1964 the Beatles were among us and together with this book only added to my fasciation with the place I was actually from, my Liverpool.
So I would sit there in Maghull branch library, gazing at places I hadn’t yet seen and dreaming of finding them. Then over the decades that came I would find the book occasionally in the Liverpool libraries I by then lived near, and notice that in a way, the book and those early dreams were shaping my life.
Eventually a copy of the 1993 reprint of the book entered my life. The father of my partner Sarah, Frank Horton, was dying of lung cancer. And having seen how often I would look through ‘Seaport’ while visiting him, tenderly passed the book over to me, saying “I think it’ll be more use to you than me now.”
On Thursday and Friday this week I’ll be helping out at two events aimed at being the LaunchPad for new and enterprising ideas for North Liverpool.Me and North Liverpool go back a long way. In fact I was born here.
The second guest post from blog reader John Viggars today.
A few weeks ago when photographer Tricia Porter graciously let me publish her 1970s ‘South Docks’ collection on here, one of the first comments on Twitter came from regular blog reader John Viggars who immediately said that most magical of all historical story phrases ‘I was there.’ He went on to mention he had some photos of his own from his days sailing in and out of our dying South Docks.
Well we had a good look at those and heard some of John’s stories about life in the South Docks in those days a week or so back. Today, in Part 2, John has some more South Docks memories, but first turns his attentions to the North Docks in the 1980s.
Venturing into the North Docks.
“I can’t remember who told me about the Dock Board photo pass but I’m glad they did as when I found myself without work a couple of times in those tough periods in the early 80’s it gave me somewhere of interest to go. I didn’t always take photos, I just went get some fresh air in my lungs, watching the traffic passing through the locks. Gladstone & Langton were still busy but as you worked your way through the system towards town the vista changed. I remembered how the South Docks had felt a few years before as this area was also on the wind down. Continue reading “‘I was there’ – My time on the Docks, Part 2”