So we went to have a look at a potential site for our first step down the rabbit hole…
A few years ago I was cycling back to the shared house I was living in. I was going to cook something nice for tea, and had a rucksack on that was full of ingredients. My route from town took me through the Dingle, an area I didn’t know very well and which always looked a little rough and intimidating.
Just after I cycled past The Florrie, one of the brake handles fell off my cycle and got stuck in the front wheel. The bike stopped; I didn’t. Whatever I had been planning on cooking that night included potatoes. There were rather a lot of them in my rucksack, which hit the back of my head around the same time as my face met tarmac.
The next thing I remember, was coming to, at the side of the road. The memories are vague, but piecing it together afterwards, people came out of their houses, stopped the traffic, and carried me and my bike out of the road.
I vaguely remember apologising for bleeding profusely all over one lady’s lovely white towels. I was told that my bike was safe in a local shop, and that they had called an ambulance. They used my mobile to call my partner, prevented me in my concussed state from leaving to walk home. They made me wait until the paramedics arrived, gave me something to drink and tried to keep me conscious.
I have very little memory of the subsequent three days. Happening to have an accident in a residential area that I was a little wary of, instead of on a deserted stretch of road, may well have saved my life. It also reminded me of the amazing nature of the people we share our streets with. When I found myself looking for a new place to rent, I moved to the Dingle.
That little story is an example of what we think of, when we talk about home. Sustainable Liverpool is concerned with the idea of making a place for us all to call home. ‘Home’ is more than just bricks and mortar. It is a communal ideal, and something worth aspiring to in wider circles. Streets, neighbourhoods, cities, countries; the principle is the same. A catalyst (ideally a more pleasant one than my accident) can lead to better communities, a greater understanding of each other, and more powerful ways to make change.
Last week three members of Sustainable Liverpool met up to have a look at an area that is in need of a catalyst. A few blocks of houses that were once a thriving, vibrant community are now a few hundred empty shells, boarded and shuttered. And yet…
As we walked these stricken streets, we found that there was still life. Kids were playing football and riding their bikes in the near-deserted roads, clearly enjoying a space that felt almost like a well-kept secret, hidden from the busy main road a few steps away. The odd house had curtains and new double glazing instead of sheet metal covering the windows, although at least one of these had no less than three security cameras outside.
Other houses were being brought back to life; there was scaffold, fresh paint, new roof tiles. As we walked past one such property, a car pulled up and two people got out to peer through the window. A husband and wife, who had two kids in the back of the car. They are already living in another house on that street, and have invested in developing a second one.
After exchanging contact details so we could speak again at a later date, we continued our wander by speaking to a shop owner whose premises lie just in front of a street full of empty homes. He is a carpenter who has worked in the same place for over twenty years, and while the shops either side of him were currently empty, and a number of other shops on the strip in a serious state of disrepair, he was optimistic for the future and spoke of work already being done to bring the retail units back to life.
We left enthused, excited and determined. Already, here, there is a feeling that people are starting to reclaim these once-abandoned spaces. We saw a lot of buildings that interested us, and in trying to fit our ambitions into the reality, we were able to develop our concept and see how it would be able to fit with those who are already working to build a community here. So much potential.
Whether or not Sustainable Liverpool is successful in making this the home for our first project is yet to be seen, but again, we saw that there is community out there to be found, and to be built on. All it needs is a catalyst.
What now? We have already contacted the local councillors to arrange a meeting. We are speaking to a number of other organisations about putting together a battle plan. It may feel to some as if this is impossible…
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – The Queen of Hearts