The first of three “Build Your Own High Street” workshops was last Thursday evening. If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or are familiar with the work of the CLT, you’ll have heard about this already.
If not, these workshops are for local people to come and have their own say regarding the future of our block and part of our high street.
I wrote about our architect interviews in an earlier piece, and these workshops are a continuation of that. We have the possibility to do something positive with the block, and these workshops are a way to gather together ideas, see what we all want and start on the process of developing parts of our high street in community ownership.
Basically, the workshops are a chance for people in the community to become developers and the clients in the design process, and co-create our area, because after all: we’re the ones who will be living and working here.
I know nothing about architecture, but that’s the beauty of these workshops. You don’t have to be an expert in the field to know what a good community looks and, perhaps even more importantly, feels like.
I’ll be writing about all three of these workshops, for those who couldn’t make it, but if you are interested, please do try to make it along to one as they’re very informative, a lot of fun, and, there are plenty of pies to go around.
The evening kicked off with Britt introducing herself and telling a brief history of Homebaked, the Community Land Trust, and what it means to be a Community Land Trust (not for profit membership organization that allows a community to own and manage land and buildings). She explained that this project is an alternative to a large-scale regeneration (something myself and several other local residents are very familiar with, much to our chagrin), and it is community led – for the people, by the people. [https://homebaked.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Homebaked-design-28.jpg’ target=’_blank’>link] Homebaked, as a building, has been saved, and we have negotiated a long term lease. The Council do seem to be in favour of what we are doing, but it’s vital that we stay strong and continue to work hard to remain an important part of the plans for Anfield and Everton. Your support here is always welcomed and important to us too.
Unfortunately, the houses on the block next to Homebaked are going, and it’s down to us to determine what will replace them with the support of the architect we select.
Britt explained the design brief, and where we’re aiming to run with it, to give us an idea before the evening’s group activities and discussion started.
Then, Britt introduced Marianne Heaslip, who is an architect involved with the Co-op at Granby Four Streets as a future resident. Having been engaged in a similar project, and having worked with Homebaked for the past 5 years, Marianne had a lot to say on the subject.
She explained how we will become the clients for the development process, and the importance of not being afraid to share ideas and plans, however wild they may be. The bottom line is: unless we say what we want, the architects won’t know, and it’s vital that we inform them of what we’d like in our local community. The power of having a voice and having our own say is something that should never be underestimated.
We then all introduced ourselves, and explained where we’d come from and why we were interested in the project and Homebaked itself.
Some of the thoughts collected regarding Homebaked were as follows: opportunity, potential, vision, local people taking ownership, determination, growth, community and achievements. All very positive things.
I was actually last to introduce myself, and I ended up having to second what everybody else said about why they liked Homebaked – not because I was after everyone and stole their ideas, but purely out of agreement. The key thing that stands out to me is potential – there is so much potential not only in Homebaked and the CLT, but in all of us as a whole, and I think these workshops will really enlighten that.
Many of the people at the workshop were local residents who, like myself, had lived in one area in Anfield, seen its decline and had been moved elsewhere. Though there was a collective feeling of nostalgia and sadness about this, there’s no hint of anybody giving up. We are all determined to rebuild Anfield and see it return to a busy, friendly community once more.
Then, we looked at the idea of a brief in general. What is a brief?
Basically, a brief is a list of instructions from us, the client, to the architect about what we would like to see from a project, particularly taking note of Function, Form and Feeling. What the new building will be for, the shape and size of it, plus ideas of how we want it to feel when people go into it once its built.
Quite appropriately for Homebaked, Marianne compared it to a recipe. The Function is like the ingredients, the base on which we’ll mould our ideas. The form is the guidelines – how will we see our ideas come to fruition? – and the Feeling is something that is a lot less tangible. What does it smell, touch, feel or look like?
To figure all of this out, we looked at it in the form of an activity – ‘A Day in the Life’.
We got into small groups and took on the role of somebody in the near future who will be involved with the new block, whether they are a resident, a visitor or somebody who works in the area.
We thought about what they would do here, and what they would need. What sorts of amenities would they need to see? Are there local shops where essentials can be bought, instead of the individual being forced to travel into the city centre?
If the person is a resident who has lived through how Anfield used to be, would the new development have a touch of the traditional and familiar to make them feel more at home? If somebody is visiting the area, what will their first impression be?
I worked in a group with Carolyn Starr from the CLT, and a newcomer, Paul, who had traveled in from Litherland as he’d heard about us and wanted to be involved.
We decided to become a returning resident, somebody who had moved away before the decline/regeneration, and returned to see the finished results. Something that was clear in our discussion was the idea of keeping it familiar. I drew from my own experiences of how, even though it’s to be expected that the new houses and shops would be modern to keep with the natural progression of things, I would like for them to feel similar to the older ones. The concept of light and space was important to us. We wanted our house to feel spacious, even if it wasn’t necessarily as big as the old, Victorian-styled ones we had been familiar with, and to have a sense of privacy and identity. The idea that the individual could put their own stamp on the house and make it their own.
Each group presented their ideas. Though everyone had their own ideas and views, there was a sense of unity throughout as we had all been thinking very much with community in mind. The idea of rebuilding that sense of community and neighbourly spirit that seems to have been lost (or, at least, buried for a while) with the changing developments.
From the suggestion of a communal rooftop garden where everyone can meet and grow their own veg, a small parade of ground floor shops or workspaces in which you can see through them to take a glimpse at the other shops surrounding, to the idea of houses having a modern look on the outside but with traditional style features such as bay windows, there were plenty of great ideas across the board. Everybody emphasized how important it would be to have the old rec revitalized as a part of the development with spaces for play and for community use. Because even though of course Stanley Park is close by we do miss a smaller, more intimate green space for people to meet, do some gardening and have a chat. Maybe just after they have picked up their child from the nursery and picked up some milk in the local store. Someone else even said we should be slick and representative in the front and go wild in the back! She meant the design…
After all that hard work, we had a break with some delicious pies, as Sangeetha, a planner from Urbed where Marianne works, talked to us about housing need and the logistics of a community and how that might work.
She discussed with us the Keepmoat plan, and the City Council’s longterm plan for the next 18 years and the importance of accessibility and looking at whose needs reflect the houses produced. For example, there are a lot of single parents and single person households, so it might make sense that there would be smaller houses to accommodate this, and potentially the idea of communal areas (such as perhaps a shared laundry room) would help build the community and save everyone having to have their own washing machines? Just a thought.#
It’s fair to say that everybody left the event with a positive outlook, and more of an idea of what we can achieve as a community if we put our hearts and minds to it.
The next workshop is on Tuesday May 5th. You are all more than welcome to come along and take part, if you want to have your views and voices heard.
(Photo credits: James of Agent Marketing and Ronnie Hughes)