The High Street: How’s it doing, really?

A closely observed walk along a local hight street here in Liverpool, with statistics, to see and feel how it’s doing.

Our high streets are in trouble. Some blame austerity politics, others supermarkets and more still the passage of time, saying we shop differently now. What’s in less doubt than these various causes is the importance of a good high street to how happy we are with the places where we live.

Elsewhere on this blog I’m starting to look at the insides of people’s houses, looking at how we live and the necessity, a human right I call it, of us all having a secure and properly affordable place we can call home.

But we don’t only live inside of our homes do we? The quality of our lives has a lot to do with what else is around us, including the high streets of shops that run through and bind our neighbourhoods and, often as not, give them their names. So in Liverpool we have areas of Walton generally called County Road and Walton Vale, for example. In Anfield a place called ’round Priory Road’ and in Aigburth one called, well, ‘Aigburth Road’. High streets whose general health is an important part of how their neighbourhoods are doing. Continue reading “The High Street: How’s it doing, really?”

A Very Good Friday

Realising I haven’t had a day off working for two weeks, when I get up on Good Friday and the sun’s out, I go out too. Walking to town on one of my circuitous routes. Beginning a few roads from where we live in Wavertree.

On Lidderdale Road.
On Lidderdale Road.
From where a path runs alongside the railway.
From where a path runs alongside the railway.
All the way to Lawrence Road.
All the way to Lawrence Road.

So just a couple of hundred yards away from always busy Smithdown is this peaceful stroll.

Past pieces of almost rural past.
Past pieces of almost rural past.

Continue reading “A Very Good Friday”

Now With Added Bollards!

Added Bollards - 66The Bollards of Liverpool 8: Part Two

The day dawns sunny, unlike the deluges of yesterday’s post and it’s nearly time to set out on Part Two of our weather interrupted tour of Liverpool 8’s bollards. This one walking through Lodge Lane to Granby and Canning.

Before we do, a couple of clarifications in response to discussions over the past day or so on Twitter. Firstly I don’t for a minute think that ridding Liverpool 8 of its bollards is the most important issue facing society or even Liverpool 8 today. Of course it isn’t. But I am pointing out that there are rather a lot of these bollards, most of them have been here a long time, and I think we should consider getting rid of most of them as they are producing arid and blocked off neighbourhoods. Blocked off for reasons of authoritarian convenience, bordering on social control as I pointed out yesterday.

Secondly, I certainly do not want to turn the bollards into any kind of art project or even any kind of campaign. After what I’m about to write I will have had my full say on Liverpool 8’s bollards, and I’ll move on to other things. So let’s get going.

today's walk begins on Hartington Road, another of Liverpool 8's borders.
Today’s walk begins on Hartington Road, another of Liverpool 8’s borders.

Now you may remember from yesterday’s post, which was mainly around the Dingle and the Welsh Streets, the beginnings of a theory that there are bollards around the borders of Liverpool 8. But can this be true here too? Continue reading “Now With Added Bollards!”

The Bollards of Liverpool 8

Bollards of L8 - 34Yes, it sounds like a learned historical essay such as ‘The Lollards of Pre-Reformation England’ doesn’t it? But it isn’t. Part One here of a two part quest to find out why Liverpool 8 has so many bollards.

The other day someone contacted me through my friend Marianne who’s an architect, and asked me this intriguing question:

“Why are there so many bollards in Liverpool 8?”

Well why are there? Do you know?

Continue reading “The Bollards of Liverpool 8”

A new kind of bleak?

I’ve just finished reading a book about architecture and urban design that I quite enjoyed. At first I set off reading it at a great pace, describing it to Sarah as ‘thrilling.’ In hindsight that was probably because the author was describing walking around places that I’ve walked around myself. He was having similar opinions to me too, which also helps generally.9781844678570 New kind of bleak

But as the book wore on I found myself tiring. Doing imaginary walks around places I’ve never been and, I felt, focussing too much on aspects of architecture and not enough, for me, on the lives people are living in the places.

So in the normal course of events I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning the book on here. But towards its end, when he reaches Belfast, he makes an extraordinary claim: Continue reading “A new kind of bleak?”

The story of A Sense of Place 8: Places by design

It makes obvious sense that the people who live, or are about to live, in a place that’s being built or radically changed should have some say in its design. But although it makes obvious sense it hardly ever happens. We’ve all been to or heard about ‘public consultation’ events where a community is shown what are effectively final drawings and are told what will be happening and when by housing officials who expect them to then be grateful – or at least quiet.

Well we were once a part of something that attempted to change all that, on quite a large scale, wonderfully.

Let me tell you about ‘Places by design’.

Trafford Hall, in between Chester and Ellesmere Port.
Trafford Hall, in between Chester and Ellesmere Port.

Beginning in 2001, around the same time as all that social enterprise work I wrote about in the last episode, people start arriving from all over Britain and Northern Ireland at a country house near Chester. Groups of people from up to 5 or 6 places at any one time. Places in the process of change. And over the next 3 days, at a more or less free event, they learn from each other, us and the other people they work with – urban designers and architects – plus the places we take them to visit, about how to be properly involved in the changes about to happen in the places where they live. Not just about how to respond to the plans of others, but how to create their own proposals and take part in something we all eventually call ‘Community led design’.

Over the next four years many of these events are run and hundreds of people come on them. It’s often hard, messy and emotional work, with so many people from so many places in one place, at the same time. But practical learning gets done, eyes are opened, minds are changed and, eventually, places are changed and buildings are built, in ways different to how they might have been if the community hadn’t got involved.

And looking back on it all now, it’s some of the best work a sense of place is ever involved in. Continue reading “The story of A Sense of Place 8: Places by design”