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What are the ingredients that make a good place to live? Young Architects at Homebaked

06 June

On Thursday night, we hosted a team of local young people, as well as some architecture students from John Moores University and their tutor, Jo Hudson, for a tour of the Anfield area and an evening of discussion of what the ingredients for a good place to live for young people would be.

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The evening began at 7, but before we headed off on our walk, we all introduced ourselves and Britt posed the ever-popular question; “What is your favourite feature of your house?”

Those who’ve been keeping up with our Build Your Own High Street projects will know that this question is always the start of an interesting discussion, and this evening was no exception.
We noticed a few running trends again, particularly the conflicting themes of ‘privacy’ and ‘space to be social’, which just goes to show that everybody needs a bit of variety in their busy lives and the time and space to have each.
As well as this, gardens and kitchens were both popular, again knitting together nicely with those ideas of privacy and being social. One person mentioned how she liked to host people in her garden, and have friends round for drinks out there, while Britt mentioned her kitchen bar, which gives her the opportunity to interact with guests when she is cooking.

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After this, we had quite an organic tour around Anfield. We were encouraged to start off at random almost, with each of us stepping forward to take the lead and speak about an area or feature that interested us.
Louise chose to take us to where the old sports centre, Vernon Sangster, used to be, at the bottom of Stanley Park.
She remembered how, as a kid, it was the place to go to, with rock climbing walls, trampolines and even a room where you could “just do whatever you want” (I very vaguely remember this room too. There was a tuck shop there, and vending machines where you could get neon bouncy balls and rubbish temporary tattoos. It was great!). However, when the original plans to move the football ground to Stanley Park came about, the ‘Verny’ was on the chopping block, and though those plans changed, the centre was still demolished.
Nothing has been put back up in its place, which is sad as it really was a popular place for people to go with their kids.

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We walked back up through Stanley Park, though we didn’t have time to go to it, Britt spoke about the beautiful Isla Gladstone building and bistro. A few of the students had been there, and some even remembered how there were once bandstands (though long since out of use) in the park, which have now also sadly gone.

As we got to the top of the park, to the entrance nearest my old home in ex-Lothair Road, I was sparked with an old memory I just had to share.
The entrance leads down into the park on a slight slope, which is a key part to this story. When I was a kid, there was this slightly older boy who used to bully all the girls in the street, along with his two cronies (when I think about it, he was not unlike the character Nelson from The Simpsons! Maybe there’s a pattern childhood bullies stick to). One day, we were all headed to the park, when I decided to get my revenge. As he was running along in front of us, I stopped at the entrance to the park.
“Danny!” I shouted with menace, as I launched myself, at full speed, on my super-girly pink bike (complete with basket, bell and streamers). I collided with him, and I came off over the handlebars, almost in slow-motion victory, cheering as he scraped his knees all over the tarmac.
Jo asked if he stopped being so horrible after that.
(He did.)

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Coming out from Stanley Park, Britt lead us down to the road where our friend Sue, who is a longtime contributor to Homebaked, lives, and told us a story on her behalf.
Sue’s street was the first to be saved in the whole confusion of the regeneration project, and for a while, she was very unhappy at the sight of her old neighbours’ houses mid-being demolished. It was a sense of intrusion she didn’t want to be a part of, seeing into their homes as the process was going on. Now that the houses are gone, and the progress on the ground has really come along, Sue admits that she’s happy to be part of something quite exciting for the area, and that it’s really interesting to see it all come together.
Britt also told us the story about the hedge outside Sue’s house, which was her grandmother’s pride and joy when she lived there. Sue still tends to this hedge now in honour of her. Sue inherited the house from her, so when the original option was offered to renovated the front of her home, she asked if she could keep the hedge. When this was declined, Sue declined the front renovation all together.

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It’s things like that which I feel are very precious to people who have been directly involved with the regeneration process, and I think everybody has their own “hedge story”.

When we returned to Homebaked, we undertook our first activity, ‘Mapping’.
The students were put into two groups, and given two large maps of Anfield and the surrounding area (so, the likes of Tuebrook, Kensington, and the city centre). They were asked to mark off where they live and key areas (starting points being Homebaked itself, and the two football grounds, to give a sense of where everything was – the maps were totally unmarked to begin with), then asked to mark off places of interest. These could be anything – places where they have lived, places they’ve visited, places they go out, or even places they don’t like.

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After this mapping session, we looked at each group and the key locations marked off. As with the question posed at the beginning, there were some repeats and common interests. The university was marked off on each map, as well as popular venues like The Empire Theatre, the Philharmonic, Bold Street & the Baltic Triangle (these places as a whole, as they are so rich in variety with regarding to restaurants, bars, independent shops) and parks, like Newsham and Sefton.
Everybody marked off their own journeys from home to work, or home to university, as well. Mine was probably the most embarrassingly short one, though most people lived near where they worked, or took the time to walk or cycle to work.

I then asked, “What is it that attracts you about Liverpool?”

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Again, some common themes came up, such as the friendly and welcoming nature of the city, and how ‘concentrated’ everything is. One student mentioned how he noticed “all the streets go down to the docks”. I’d never thought about that before personally, but it is quite a unique feature of our city, along with the docks themselves, which were also mentioned as being highlights about Liverpool.

As well as this, everybody was keen on the idea of independent businesses being prevalent in the city, and several said that, because of these features, they would happily come back to Liverpool and live here permanently. Most of them who already live in Liverpool wanted to stay, apart from one lady who said that, as much as Liverpool would “always be her home”, she wanted to also get out and travel, and see the world.

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It was clear from this mapping session that Liverpool is “a significant place in which social change is happening”, according to Chloe, who has also been involved with Homebaked as a volunteer on our Thing On The Rec project with myself and Britt, and she also is keen on “bringing people to the North” again.

It was interesting to see that a lot of the ‘places of interest’ were marked in the city centre or around Smithdown Rd and Lodge Lane. And there were lots of complete blanks, bits of no-mansland for this particular group, especially a ring around the city centre, where there is mostly student housing and bits of blanks between South and North so along Edge Lane for example.

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The next session, “What makes a good place to live?” involved us being in small groups again, and being asked to look at a selection of photographs, which were of various features and things – interiors, exteriors, gardens, play areas, bars, shops – much like the sessions we have done in our High Street design meetings.
We were being encouraged to become planners for the place we would like to live in and to cut out and put together images as a form of collage.

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After this, we had a brief pause for drinks and sausage rolls, then reviewed the collages.
Everybody had a lot to say about their chosen images, so I’ll leave it to the students’ own words themselves to explain:

“Green space is essential. We like the idea of one large city park, as well as the three ‘main’ parks and smaller ones dotted around the city. Outdoor spaces also lead to interaction, even if it’s a vague space with no real purpose to it. We can use the landscape to provoke interaction.”

“We need to have something playful, to give people an outlet. Something to do.”

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“There are so many parks in Liverpool that are not being used properly. There’s a lot of potential for festivals or open mic nights, with all the local bands and talent in the city.”

“People need space for themselves, and good storage facilities. We don’t want repetition in our houses, and people should feel they can make their home their own, and make it unique. Small havens and open spaces. Time to ourselves.”

“Sadly there is a stereotype of Anfield not being a safe area. If there are more shops and less boarded up properties, like there used to be, people will be out in the community more, and it would feel safer.”

“We need a bit of flavour and street life, but a mix of both cosmopolitan and unique, and big businesses.”

“We have to create shops that people want to go to. Supermarkets and big chains are good, but maybe not welcome in Anfield. They have a place in the city centre, but in the local community, people should have their essentials there for them, and easy to get to. Fresh food, fresh produce and local businesses would help boost the local economy again.
This gives money to family business, rather than a businessman who probably already owns three yachts or something.”

“We could all wish for a bit of simplicity in life.”

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The session drew to a close with everybody discussing what their ‘perfect’ shared flat would be like and if they could imagine living at Homebaked above the bakery, thinking about the desires and necessities discussed in the previous activities. The main question many of us had, was how to create shared living accommodation that is loved and cared for. An idea that came from one of the students was to invite the future young tenants to help build the interiors and to maybe offer cheaper rent in exchange for helping out at Homebaked.

It was really exciting to see how creatively the group thought about how to integrate our first tenants into Homebaked.
Whilst devouring their sausage roles everyone in the group agreed that living above a bakery is definitely a great selling point.

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We had a fantastic evening together and for me, the most inspiring outcome was the realisation that ‘a sense of community, knowing your neighbours and being able to contribute’ was actually at the top of the list of ingredients for most young people in the room.

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