Monday 6 May 2013

What happened to Liverpool?

About three weeks ago, I moved to Liverpool. Leaving Cardiff was difficult since I have lived there for more than a decade. I only say this because my affection for Cardiff may cloud my judgement a tad. My first impression of Liverpool goes back to the year 2008, when it was European City of Culture. I visited the city and really enjoyed my stay. I don't remember much about where I stayed but the city centre seemed vibrant and clean.

My second impression couldn't be more different. When I moved here in April this year, I was genuinely shocked. The areas to the north of the city centre are mainly rows of boarded up houses or large free spaces without any urban feel to it whatsoever. I ended up taking a place in Kirkdale, just around the corner from Everton (Goodison stadium) and nothing I have seen in the UK or anywhere else in Europe in fact, prepared me for this. There is practically no community centre left in Kirkdale. The area is marked by large open spaces or newly built houses (the usual boxy, faintly bucolic style that passes as homeliness in Britain), with broad dual lane avenues running through the middle of it.

The former Police and Post Station in Kirkdale
There are hints of former glory which produce a pang of nostalgia. Some of the corners still have grand brick buildings with intricate ornate brick work, but the buildings themselves are either run down, burned out or simply left to rot. They are also typically standing alone with no adjacent buildings, adding to the feeling that this is not an urban place at all. It is devastation on a grand scale. But how did this happen? And why? What happened here? I am at a loss to explain it. I have never seen anything like this level of deprivation and devastation in an urban space in the UK. It almost seems as if this is a city in eternal decline.

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