The Battle for Madryn Street
A delightful review of a visit to Liverpool by a Stoke Ferry Resident
It's become an annual pilgrimage to Liverpool for my Mum and I. The European City of Culture 2008 is heralding a certain degree of regeneration for the City, perhaps not all for the better.
There is much to do and it certainly isn't all about The Beatles (though it helps if you are a fan): museums, galleries, historical tours, the Albert Docks, shops, great restaurants....Above all it is the wonderful culture and the people genuinely are warm and good humoured. As a Londoner I can appreciate how Liverpool has retained a lot of what London has sadly lost, the pubs retain the great atmosphere of yesteryear, characters abide: the occasional Irish accent, the odd political opinion, an open sociability - we were even invited into the company of some folks
having a sing-song around a pub table.
Now I could have submitted to the editor my snaps taken with John, Paul, George & Ringo but sadly I was 40 years too late. During the Magical Mystery Tour of Beatles locations - we were sadly informed by the guide that one area we were driving through was to be completely demolished. Four hundred and sixty properties are to be eradicated as part of a 'regeneration' scheme. It just happens that one of those little Victorian terraces was the birthplace of Ringo Starr. I knew that I had to take my time on foot to explore this area further so the last morning of our visit, armed with my camera, I returned.
The area is part of Toxteth, a rough part of Liverpool - scene of the Race riots in the early 80's so expected something quite different to what I found. A quiet series of streets aligned with Victorian terraces. A few had been allowed to fall into disrepair, others were obviously very well cared for homes that residents had invested a lot of time and pride in.
Opinion has been divided even among residents. Liverpool City Council maintains that the area is of 'no historical importance'. To justify the Renovation over Demolition cause citing one property may seem a little excessive, certainly to those with no interest in 60's music, and afterall Ringo did not live at the Madryn address very long before the family moved across the road to Admiral Grove, where incidentally, residents wishing to be rehoused in similar terraces are being offered accommodation - however it is much more than this. The area was built for Welsh dockers who came to work in Liverpool back in the 19th Century, indeed all the streets have Welsh names such as Wynnstay Street and Rhiwlas Street. There has even been a Welsh Streets Home Group opposing the regeneration plans together with the Liverpool Welsh Society.
Ringo also has voiced sadness at the demolition plans saying "Years ago they knocked a lot of Liverpool down but they forgot to build it up and bring them back...And I think the same thing is likely going to happen... Why are they knocking them down? If it is economically viable, they should do them up. Are they going to knock out the centre of Liverpool again?"
Some of the houses are already boarded up. I felt a bittersweet removal from the modern day. It was like stepping back into a time when community reigned over anonymous city dwellers. I watched one old lady shuffling along, crisscrossing the road tapping on a several neighbours windows to exchange gossip. Another busy with bucket and broom scrubbing down the pavement in front of her house, I stopped and chatted with her about the situation however she insisted she would continue scrubbing her front until they throw her out. She told me that there was to be a final council meeting the next week, one
last chance for a reprieve (unfortunately this was not to be). One chap left his house, an irate wife could be heard tapping loudly on the window trying to catch his attention, I called after him "'Ere Mate, you've forgotten something I think", "Oh, I probably forgot to scrub the toilet bowl around after me!" came the quick witted scouse retort. How can they so ruthlessly bulldoze such a large chunk of our heritage, oh yes and the latest news is that Ringo's house will be taken down brick by brick and rebuilt in one of the City's Museums (!), it's not the house though, it's the whole niche, this corner of old Liverpool - once it's gone it is lost forever. I remembered back in the East End of London, seeing the houses I grew up around being demolished. I remembered sheets of corrugated iron where once were doorsteps, empty milk bottles and twitching curtains. I remembered the kerbs and lampposts clinging to faded paints of red, white and blue - remnants of some jubilee or royal wedding. No more street parties. Even after those areas were rebuilt on, the people were different, the spirit was gone. As I finished my roll of film I realised it was time to say goodbye. With the long drive ahead I was catapulted back to the fact that I wasn't going to see these streets by gaslight, or some dark smoggy winter morning as the dockers set off for work, neither would I join in a group of young teenage girls walking down Madryn Street in the 1960's planning to visit the Cavern later that day. I returned to my car, Mum busy arranging maps for the navigation home "You've been ages, where've you been?"
Where had I been indeed.
Lisa Jane Turner