Thursday, August 25, 2011

You Will really Never Walk Alone

A lovely heart-warming story in tonight's Liverpool Echo that even a hardened Boro fan can appreciate, never mind an Evertonian.

Peter Halligan from the Swan was a keen footballer and supporter of Liverpool FC when, at the age of 19, he was paralysed by a cowardly hit-and-run-driver.

30 years later he remains in a vegative state in Jospice in Thornton.

To celebrate his 50th birthday the hospice, with his extended family, organised a party where "King" Kenny Dalglish was the surprise guest. He turned up with a special Liverpool FC shirt which says "Peter 50" on the back.

Experts believe that although Peter cannot respond to stimuli, he can hear, I do hope so. And I hope he knows how much everyone still loves and cares about him. A wonderful story. Well done Jospice, Halligan family and LFC.

Our Day Out

I am holidaying in Liverpool this year (again), and trying to keep a clear diary for as much of the next week as possible.

The sun was cracking the flags at 11am this morning when Colin and I set off on an unplanned, take it as it comes, "our day out". We started with a spot of shopping on Allerton Road. I bought a beautiful red New Guinea Impatiens from Chandlers, just like this one (this is the only photo that is not mine in the following collection), for the Bistro Yard. Some of the plants have looked very sad lately as I failed to water them quite as much as I should after the outside tap broke. So I am now having to buy some late summer plants to fill in some of the spaces.

And we popped into Max Speilmanns and printed four digital photographs, to be shown at the Deane Road Cemetery Art Exhibition which opens on October 6th - a date for your diary.

This is one of the four photos I will be displaying, which all show flora and fauna within the cemetery. This particular one shows Herb Robert and a Buttercup growing by a fallen stone just inside the cemetery wall.

With the clip frames that they will be displayed in, the whole thing only cost £8 which was a bargain. I had no idea that printing digital photos was so cheap and I may get some more done now that I know. The quality was much better than anything I can achieve on my own printer.

It was lunch time and it being such a beautiful sunny day I suggested we might go into town as I was interested to learn more about a restaurant I had spotted on the roof of the Mersey Ferry terminal at the Pierhead which I thought would have fabulous views.

It turned out to be a Pan Asian restaurant called Matou and we quickly found a table outside on the terrace. Unfortunately it was at this time that the sun went behind some dark clouds - which grew more significant as we ate our lunch. (Lovely food by the way but not much good to people on a budget, I would suggest).

It was wonderful to sit in front of the three graces though, definitely somewhere to take any visitors to the city in future.

I rather like this photograph of King Edward VII looking up at us as we were eating our Malaysian Chicken and Lamb Satay. It's not an angle you usually see him from. (You can click on any of these photos and see them in much more detail by the way.)

Over lunch we chatted about the new Museum of Liverpool, my first visit to which I have been saving. I have been looking forward to its opening ever since the old Museum of Liverpool Life closed its doors, leaving me bereft. It was always in my top five of favourite places to visit, particularly with out of town visitors.

Colin said he had been during the first week or so when it was bedlam and he could not get near any exhibits, while the queues were out the door for tickets to the Beatles and Football free film shows. I'd read in the Liverpool Echo that only half of the exhibitions are open so far and much more is due to come in the late autumn. So I had thought of waiting until then so that there was more to see. But then it occurred to us that it might be less busy now that the initial hype was over, and it was a Thursday afternoon, so we decided to give it a go.

Thankfully, although there were plenty of people around, they didn't hinder our enjoyment of the museum and we also got in to see the Beatles film relatively easily (okay but not a patch on anything in the Beatles Museum on the Albert Dock in my view).

I took as many photographs of the stunning views from the museum across the Pierhead, the waterfront and Albert Dock as I did of the exhibits inside.

There was this wonderful view of the Port of Liverpool building with a Yellow Duckmarine passing, which was just begging to be taken for instance.

And then I thought this view of the wonderful Albert Docks and Salthouse Dock with the Wheel of Liverpool rising above, and the roof of the old Museum of Liverpool Life in the foreground was fresh and interesting from this angle. The window was rain stained so the image is not very clear - I don't fancy their window cleaning bills to be honest! But you can still see what a great view it is - and look at those dark clouds building up too!

I am sure you will visit the Museum of Liverpool yourself, if you have not been already, so I don't need to share all my photos of interesting exhibits with you, but I thought these few might be worth reproducing here.

The People's Republic was probably my most favourite of the galleries opened so far. And I particularly enjoyed the Votes for Women display where I was delighted with this footnote.

It tells it how it is, it may not be the early 1900s any more but the sentiment still stands. More women are out of work now - over one million -than have been for 25 years.
Women of Britain, vote against the Liberal (Democrats), if you seek equality!

It was also great to be reunited with the SuperFiveADaylambanana produced by Kenny kids in 2008, which is now grazing permanently (and healthily) in the museum. Interestingly the photo you can see on the left end of the display upon which FiveADay stands shows a Trade Union march lead by Cllr Jack Spriggs, I wad delighted to see him so fittingly featured in the museum, along with John Hamilton. Two lovely blokes who fought so hard all of their lives for local people.

Having left the museum after several very enjoyable hours, we were driving home down Princes Road past the Jewish Synagogue for the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation who own Deane Road Cemetery when I was reminded of an image of a Madryn Street sign I had seen during the Beatles film, In the town where I was born,  at the museum.

Although I know the arguments have been raging across the city for all the time I have lived here, about whether the Welsh Streets should be demolished, I had never actually been to look at them for myself. I have driven up and down North Hill Street from time to time when I worked at Queens Dock and sometimes would take that route to Sefton Street for a change, but I had never been across to High Park Street. So, with a quick look at the A-Z Colin and I made a detour to Madryn Street to see for ourselves what it was that people want to preserve.

I have to admit to being surprised by what I saw. Five or so streets of very small terraced houses, with flat frontages: no bay windows for instance, and every house empty. Houses that nobody has wanted to buy in Smithdown or Kensington or Edge Hill for decades, houses that elsewhere have already been demolished. I am all in favour of fighting municipal demolition where it is not appropriate and indeed long-term readers of this blog will know that I submitted an objection to parts of the Edge Lane CPO demolition plans, but with the Welsh streets I could not see what the passionate defenders can presumably see. Richard Starkey lived at 9 Madryn Street until he was 4, I am not sure how many memories he can retain from that period. I also moved at that age and have only fleeting impressions of my first home. I saw nothing that should excite conservationists, given the removal of so many identical houses across the north of England.

I was interested however to see the graffiti on the boards against the window and door of this particular property, much of which was written by visitors from the South Americas, Brazil and Argentina being particularly prominent. It is clear that despite the general hostility and "pissed-off-ness" of Scousers to the continuing reminder of the Beatles who are 50 years in the past now, and where they feel that it is time to move on and celebrate other things, the Beatles clearly do remain a tourist attraction.

Mind you, clearly not everyone is a fan of Ringo, who controversially told Jonathan Ross that  he missed nothing about Liverpool on a late night TV show, despite having just tipped up for the opening of the 2008 Capital of Culture where he sang his song "Liverpool I left you but I never left you down"

Visitors won't feel that pain but locals are obviously still smarting.

It was a great day out with much to reflect upon, I can recommend a gentle walk along Allerton Road looking at the shops, some of which are still vital independents. You will enjoy the views from Matou, although you might want to save up before you visit to sample the lovely food, or else not be particularly hungry. You will love the Museum of Liverpool where the city's naked pride is centre stage (I may write about the edgy film on show at the entrance to the People's Republic on another occasion, but let me point that you wouldn't want to watch it if you are a famous yet unpopular Tory loving exiled Scouser). And if you like views of the Pier Head, both the restaurant and the museum have it all. If you have not been to see the Welsh streets then perhaps, like me, it is time that you did, so that you can make up your own mind about what people are so desperate to preserve.

And as the sun sets unseen behind those dark clouds I am left reflecting that nobody needs a RyanAir flight to the Algarve when you can have a day out in the 'Pool. (Unless of course you want a tan!) (One of the contributors to the edgy film I mentioned above talked about a terracotta army of women on Liverpool streets on a Saturday night out, LOL) 


Monday, August 22, 2011

Labour opens party conference to the British public

LP Press Release

In a groundbreaking new initiative, Labour will be opening its doors at party conference to the Great British public.

Ed Miliband has written to thousands of people across the country to personally invite them to an open day at Labour Party Conference. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet politicians and discuss the issues that matter to Britain, including the British Promise – the promise that each generation will do better than the last.

The open day will include:

· Ed Miliband answers Britain’s questions – Labour Leader Ed Miliband will answer the British public’s big questions in a Q&A with hundreds of people from across the country.

· Labour’s Young British Talent Showcase – an unprecedented event that will see 16-23 year olds compete to showcase their unique talents, ideas and skills. The competition will see young people compete to win a fully funded work experience placement that will allow them to fulfil their dream.

· Policy Workshops – members of the public will have the opportunity to debate policy on areas with members of the shadow cabinet including: the British Promise; the cost of living crisis; getting the economic moving; and building stronger communities.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, writing to thousands of people inviting them the Labour Party Conference, said:

“Many of the vital services that we all rely on are under threat from the Tory-led Government. Family budgets are being squeezed, young people find themselves with fewer opportunities and the economy continues to stall. We need real solutions to the problems we face, not explanations and excuses.

“This is why the Open Day is so important - it is our opportunity to listen to you and to discuss how we overcome the challenges facing Britain.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said:

“Ed Miliband is opening up Labour Party conference to the British public to ensure that Labour stands for the issues that matter across our country. At a time when the British Promise, the promise at each generation will do better than the one before, is under threat Labour will be the voice for the hardworking majority who are feeling the squeeze.”

For more information go to:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Card making course at Kensington Community Learning Centre

Thursday 1.00 – 3.00 p.m. (10 weeks),

Starting 11th August 2011
Each week we will show you how to create beautiful embellishments, using a range of techniques. These will be used to create lovely cards, but can also be used to decorate calendars, scrapbooks and gift boxes.

The course will show you the following techniques:

  • Paper Weaving
Weaving different colours & textures of paper.
  • Teabag Folding
Folding small pieces of paper to make flowers, snowflakes and other detailed shapes.
  • Dry Embossing
Using a light-box & brass stencils to emboss shapes and edgings.
  • Decoupage
Creating 3D pictures from card templates.
  • Spirelli
Wrapping different coloured yarns around shapes and patterns.
  • Pop-Up Cards
Creating pictures which pop out of your card to make your card more fun and entertaining.
  • Brads & Eyelets
Use metal eyelets and funky brads to add detail and interest.
  • Masking
Creating effective patterns and pictures by masking images, shapes and stamps.
  • Lace
Using techniques of cutting and folding card into a variety of shapes.
  • Tags / Boxes
Creating gift tags and gift boxes.

This fun, creative course is designed for everyone of all ages

- from 16 to 116!

To book your place call
0151 260 1006 or email us at

The course costs £20.00 for 10 sessions or students can pay £3.00 per session and just attend the sessions that particularly interest them J

Shipperies Pub and Fire Station on Durning Road

A project to fire the imagination!

Heritage Works is working with Liverpool City Council to identify potential end uses for the Grade 2 listed former Fire Station and the historically significant Shipperies pub on Durning Road in Edge Hill. As a Building Preservation Trust, Heritage Works operates as a not for profit developer to deliver regeneration projects. We are hoping to find a way to repair and upgrade these buildings and are searching for end users, end uses and potential fundable projects to bring them back to life.

The two historic buildings have been retained because of their local importance, architecturally and socially. Now that new housing is springing up in the area, Liverpool City Council is seeking to find a new use for these buildings so that they can once again play a role in the local community.

The Fire Station was built in 1884 as a Police and Fire Station, with some police officers acting as ‘Fire Bobbies’ as well as being on the beat. The station closed in 1976 and was converted into tyre fitting garage. It has been empty since 2003 and severely fire-damaged. In 2009 the City Council implemented emergency repairs and mothballed the building. The existing building is capable of providing approximately 168m
2 (1,800sq ft) of accommodation over two floors. There is potential to add an extension and provide car-parking to the rear.

The Shipperies pub was built to accommodate visitors to the International Exhibition of Navigation, Travelling, Commerce and Manufacture (known as the Shipperies Exhibition) which held in the nearby Exhibition Hall on Edge Lane in 1886. License registers record the names of several early publicans and then in 1903 the owner was recorded as ‘Peter Walker of Warrington and Robert Cain & Sons Ltd’. The Shipperies remained as a Cains pub for many decades but was sold off by the brewery (in the 1980s?) and continued to trade as a freehouse until 2010. It has three interconnected rooms on the ground floor, served by a central bar, and residential accommodation on the two upper floors. In total it contains approximately 530m2 (5,700 sq ft) of accommodation.
Heritage Works is currently undertaking a review of previous studies exploring the costs of repairing these buildings and the potential to find a viable future use. We are keen to hear from organisations that are interested in working in partnership to deliver a fundable project.
Do you have a community project to bring to these buildings?
Is your organisation looking for a new home?
Can you help us identify future occupiers?

Our study deadline is mid September 2011 so please email Heritage Works before 24 August at with an outline of your project or to discuss potential ideas further 
so please email Heritage Works before 24 August at with an outline of your project or to discuss potential ideas further.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fairfield First!

A council officer unfamiliar with our ward, asked me about statistics generated by national software showing that parts of Fairfield are identified as housing the urban comfortably well-off. (It was probably phrased slightly differently but that was the general gist). She wondered whether the data was correct, and if it was, whether I could help shed any light on this interesting phenomenon whereby those parts are next door to areas of high poverty and deprivation.

I took her for a drive around the area, showing her the lovely houses on Prospect Vale, Fairfield Crescent, Elm Vale, Carstairs Road, Newsham Park, Holly Road, Fairfield Street, Deane Road (technically in Kensington but originally in Fairfield) etc... She thought Fairfield was delightful, she was stunned by some of the fabulous properties and declared it an unsung beautiful area that should be given a much wider profile.

I absolutely agree, I am seriously thinking about launching a campaign to promote the area and in particular its Georgian and early Victorian housing,  built long before neighbouring Kensington on what were originally fair fields in the countryside outside of the city.

Anyone care to join me?

It's not codswallop, honest!

There was an interesting contribution to last week's Environment and Climate Change Select Committee on Liverpool City Council when a question was raised about the sad story of hundreds of fish being found dead in Walton Hall Park Lake.

The Assistant Cabinet Member, Councillor Tim Beaumont explained what had happened to the fish, and how changes in weather conditions had lead to changes in the lake's oxygen supply, and that this coupled with the over-stocking had resulted in the disaster.

We all took his word for it, if anyone should know he should, because he informed us he has a PhD in Stress in Fish. Now that is what I call relevant expertise in the role...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Disorder in Liverpool - more questions than answers

The blogosphere and newspapers are full of people making attempts to explain the riots and disorders of last week. I thought I would add a contribution particularly about Liverpool, using the small knowledge I have, both as an eye witness, having read local reports and having followed the work of Merseyside Police on Twitter in particular over the last few weeks @MerseyPolice.

However, I have no answers, only a lot of questions...

As we know, events in Liverpool, thankfully, were on a different scale to those in London where people lost their lives. Although the situation was very scary, particularly for people living and working in the affected areas, we did not see injuries. Damage, though very difficult for those concerned, was broadly directed at property rather than people - although the situation on Myrtle Parade in particular could have resulted in loss of life and it is vital that those responsible for trying to set fires at Tesco, with its flats above, are caught and taken off our streets.

What I have found particularly thought provoking about the disorders (not sure whether I can use the word "riot", there seems to be some suggestion that it is a legal term only applied in certain circumstances, anyone who can explain the various differences are invited to comment below), is the orchestrated nature of the events last week.

Wheely bins, cars and businesses are set on fire, bus shelters are smashed up, shop windows are broken, police are taunted and bricks are thrown at fire engines in Liverpool from time to time, as they are in any city. What made this so shocking and disturbing is that this happened not singly and sporadically, but in an organised way in targetted parts of the city by people who travelled there for the purpose in many cases. It was the sheer scale of numbers of those taking part, and the amount of crime they committed simultaneously in those areas that make this so startling.

A study of the 87 charges so far reported here shows some interesting data (NB the police have said that not all of these charges are directly related to the disorder, some are as a result of their wider proactive police work during this period, but we dont know which, only one was specifically identified thus in the Echo).

Approximately a third of those charged thus far are aged under 18 years (31 in number, ranging from 14 years to 17 years) with a further 56 being adults (aged 18 years - 60 years). Of those 56 adults, 38 are aged between 18 and 30 years while 18 are aged between 30 and 60 years.

Home address
Post codes are given in some cases and not in others, so without a map of the city it is not possible to quickly say where those charged live, but it is clear that they come from right across the city, and not just from the places where the disorder took place. Toxteth, Dingle, Wavertree, Old Swan, Garston, Edge Hill, Anfield, Tuebrook, West Derby, Birkenhead, Bootle, St Helens and some others are mentioned.

Charges are varied; breach of the peace, public nuisance, drunk and disorderly, obstruction, violent disorder, possession of a controlled substance, an offensive weapon, cannabis, explosives, theft, burglary, aggravated vehicle taking, going equipped, racially aggravated public disorder and criminal damage.

84 of those charged thus far are male, but only 3 are female (two 15 year old girls charged with aggravated vehicle taking in what looks like the same incident) and one 30 year old woman charged with a breach in her bail conditions.

So the perpetrators have little obviously in common; if their surnames are anything to go by, they come from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds, although mainly British, and certainly no race related cause has been identified. Their ages vary, they don't come from the same parts of the city, they don't all appear to have committed the same kinds of crime. It would seem that some were arsonists, while others concentrated on taunting the police, and perhaps while the disturbances were underway, others took opportunist advantage of the situation to burgle and steal.

The only thing they share, as far as I can see, is that they are almost entirely male, they were intent on trouble and something drew them to the target areas on the nights in question.

Common consent has it that the events were a copycat of the riots in London, that the violence on the first night in Liverpool was a response to a weekend of their news. It is the organisation of that first night that puzzles me so.

I would imagine that the events of the second night were more likely to have involved people who were not on the "grapevine" on the first evening, but having seen the local news, came along in the hope of joining in with any further trouble that might occur - this would not have required any organisation or networking. But clearly the first evening must have.

Much has been made of the use of Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry Messaging to organise and co-ordinate the trouble. I wonder how it is that the offenders were connected to each other in order for the word to go round, not within the local area, but across the city.

I use all sorts of social media, and as a user I know how the systems work, I understand about being friends with people or following them, and I understand how networks develop. I am plugged into various networks, political or social, but they build themselves naturally around memberships of existing organisations. So for example I follow lots of Labour Party members because I know them and we have something in common already before we start to connect on social media.

The idea of a network that exists for potential rioters is frankly almost incredible but that seems to be what is being suggested by the police and has not been denied by anything I have read thus far. I dont understand how these lads, young men and adults would have found each other without being members of a pre-established group. But equally, without some kind of a network, how else can we explain that these reported several hundred people knew to come together, particularly on the first night, in the same part of the city? Some it is reported were first-time offenders, so they were not all obvious members of criminal gangs. Did they have something else in common? Are they all fans of the same kind of music? or sport team? or some other social phenomenon that would have brought them together? Or did a much smaller number organise on that first night and others come out later during the night only after the first reports began to filter through and others latterly joined in? Did the numbers swell significantly as the night wore on? It will be hard to understand these events until we can get to the bottom of any organising that took place.

The other question, that will be taxing sociologists for years to come I am sure, is what it was that motivated them. Some were school-age, some were in work, some were unemployed, some were living with their parents and some were parents themselves... how can we find a common denominator? Some of those arrested admitted to coming along as observors who got a bit carried away, but others came equipped with petrol for instance.

Were they motivated by anger and despair like those involved in troubles across our history? Or were they looking for trouble as a source of entertainment? How relevant is it that it was the school holidays, or that the football season had not quite begun? How much was motivated by the thrill of the chase and achieving notoriety? What does this tell us about male self-esteem and how it might be satisfied within this group?

My final questions are around how we deal with future small-scale, local arson attacks and criminal damage etc, such as I described above, occurring sporadically here and there across the city. Will they be tackled differently from now on, seen as a possible prelude to bigger problems? Will there be more effort to detect and resolve vandalism like smashed windows and bus shelters for instance? Will wheely bin fires and burnt out cars be taken more seriously following last week? Or will they continue to be a regrettable but generally accepted part of the general landscape from time to time as they were before last week? If it is a single car (or  Edge Hill Youth Club's minibus) that is burnt out, is that less of a priority than where a number are attacked together? Will we take new steps to protect the fire service from attacks when putting out fires for instance, now that more people are aware of it, now that the concern is more widely felt, or will it go back to being part of their regular experience, unremarked?

I saw a tweet from the police late last week saying the fire service had successfully tackled a wheely bin fire that evening - if they were to keep up this practice they would be tweeting more or less every night, but how long would it be newsworthy? How much of a priority will it be once the dust has settled a little?

These questions all really interest me as a representative for an area where all of these things do happen periodically but on a smaller scale.

Politicians and social commentators have been rushing to contribute their views and explanations for the riots and disorder, pointing at Government cuts, at the absence of discipline in schools, at a hatred of the police, at greed and general criminality, at a broken moral compass, at the youth service, at the dole queues, at parents, teachers, prison regimes, the demise of corporal and capital punishment and national service, and so it goes on.  I wont be offering any explanations because quite simply there is so much I dont yet understand about what happened.

But what is absolutely clear is that while several hundred Liverpool/Merseyside males were involved, several hundred thousand more were not. 99% of our residents were quietly going about their business - or tucked up in bed - while these events took place. The impact was great but the numbers were small. We must not run away with the idea that society is broken. Many more people were involved in a massive voluntary clean-up following the disorder than were involved with it - including large numbers of young people.   Any legislative changes that are made must be proportionate and thoughtful, knee-jerk responses taken before we understand exactly what happened and why, will only make things worse and contribute to future lawlessness.