Liverpool is a city that was built upon the strong bonds of community and new ideas originating in other places. At the height of community there was a city nucleus of some 100,000 people, working together as best they could to live and breathe unity. It’s something that has become lost on those who frequent our city centre today, because those bonds were broken long ago there due to the relocation of a large number of the central populous.
Communities like those who lived in Islington, Scotland Road, Chinatown, behind the Adelphi, Canning and directly in front of the Anglican cathedral were cleared away. With them went a way of life.
Nick Broomfield’s 1971 documentary ‘Who cares’ showed us what was happening then. Once people were moved to the outlying areas of the city a candle was extinguished.
Public Houses where people used to go and meet are long since dead in many areas, and every new one that closes speaks the same words about what is happening. Liverpool photographer Kevin Casey has documented the continuing trend towards the decline of community in his book ‘Closing time’, which you can buy here.
We need togetherness more than anything in the city today. With government cuts doing their worst on essential services such as libraries, leisure centres and mental health services people are at a loss as to what to do. People need support, and it is fair to say that with the advent of the internet it has compounded the sense of isolation felt by those most vulnerable in the streets of Liverpool.
If you remember Liverpool Biennial 2010 you will recall word-led graffiti being placed at visible locations in the city centre. They addressed Liverpool’s place in the world, and also it’s place within itself. For me, the piece that still sticks out the most is the question that posed “Do you like your neighbours?”. For most of us, that answer is that we don’t know, and we need to ask ourselves why.
Have we all become so insulated from the world that the elderly and poor surrounding us are now invisible? Is it that we don’t know them because we are shy, or that we are too busy with our own lives to spare a moment for them? Is it that the people who need help are weary of strangers?
There is hope though. On the streets of north Liverpool there is still community. I moved to Kirkdale around six months ago after having to leave my last address. The flat I now reside in is managed by Liverpool Mutual Homes, who have given up a house on the estate for residents to meet in and discuss the future of the area.
Every day up until noon there are regular faces talking about what they can do to make things better. They know the elderly and sick. They visit them to make sure they are ok, and if there is anything they need it is brought to them. The residents association were very proud of this fact when I moved in. They vet new residents to make sure they will positively contribute to the wellbeing of the area. The lady showing me around said to me “this is a good estate here; there used to be trouble but its almost gone now. It’s like a place your Nan would have lived in – proper community”.
Indeed it is good. This tight knit feeling is evident throughout Anfield, Bootle and elsewhere in the areas local to them.
In this time of trouble Future Liverpool would like to bring about initiatives to bring community together again. If you can think of anything that I could do, please tell me and I will do my best to facilitate your ideas.
Watch Nick Broomfield’s documentary ‘Who Cares’ below.
19th July 2016 by