Wednesday, December 30, 2009

West Derby Road underpass/subway art project

The words of the prophets are written on the subway wall - or in this case, the paintings of the young people are displayed there.

I want to tell you about a wonderful project that was unveiled during RESPECT week in Kensington - and some of the background to it.

Early last year, I was contacted by Margaret, the caretaker at St Michael's RC Primary School on Boaler Street/West Derby Road to say that the underpass serving their school was filthy dirty. I went up to the school, met Peter, one of the learning mentors and had a look at the underpass, it was indeed dirty, with broken glass, old rubbish and litter, graffiti, all sorts of mess. It was obvious it had not been cleaned for a long time.

Scuff marks in the grass at the side of West Derby Road made it clear that parents and children were risking their safety by crossing the dual carriageway trunk road road above ground, rather than walk through the dirty underpass.

I phoned the council and explained that chldren as young as 4 were having their safety put at risk by not being able to use the underpass. Enterprise Liverpool were there with a scarab within a few hours and I went to meet them on site. After talking to the cleaning staff, it became clear that there had been a breakdown in communication between the inner city team and the suburban team, with each believing the other responsible for cleaning the subway, and neither doing it. Thankfully that has now been resolved, long since, and the cleaning is kept on top of.

The next issue was the drug dealing going on in there, which I seemed to be reporting to the police on an almost daily basis. However, when the big police raid took place in April, that dried up. In fact the Inspector did say to me on the day of the operation, that he had had police officers, undercover, buying drugs (and thus gathering evidence) in the underpass for weeks, while I had kept phoning him.

I asked our LCC neighbourhood dedicated officer, Cathy Patterson, to get involved with the problems in the underpass at about this time and she convened a small working group at the school, with the Headteacher, Peter, me, her, Michael from the Clean Team and Larry Murphy.

Together we all agreed that our ultimate aim is to close the underpass and replace it with a pedestrian crossing across West Derby Road. I invited senior members of Community Safety to meet me at the underpass and they agreed it was a priority for children's safety that we replace it. Consequently, we jointly approached Highways, but they said there was no money for a crossing here, it would have to go on a waiting list, determined by the scale of accidents at the spot. That is the stock response.

So, at the next working grup we agreed we needed a plan B for the meantime.

That plan B basically involved making the underpass a cleaner better place so that children and families would be more likely to use it, while we are waiting for a crossing above ground. We arranged for the dirty graffiti walls to be painted over too, and the lighting cleaned up and refreshed (we still need new lighting but there is never any money for that either).

Larry agreed to develop an educational project with some of the children within St Michael's school, also nearby Central Youth Club and Kensington Youth Inclusion Project, to talk about the potential impact of their behaviours on our environment. What happens if you litter, or write graffiti, how this might drag the area down etc. These workshops were well received and from them came the idea that we might create murals for the walls of the underpass that the young people would hopefully respect, if they painted them themselves. We thought that if they were proud of their work then they would not graffiti or dirty the underpass themselves, and would encourage their mates to keep it clean too.

We had little money for the project, we were using our devolved budget for the cost of the paints and boards etc, so we had a long think about how we were going to afford an artist to work with the chldren and young people, and how we could ensure that it was someone who understood the local community and had good links. This was tricky and many names were bandied about, people who had created murals before in the city or in Kensington.

However, Larry had a brainwave. He had heard that one of his colleagues on the Environmental Enforcement Team, Cath Morton, was a former art teacher, and he suggested he ask her to see if she would be interested in leading our project. There was much rejoicing when she said yes! She had six weeks to work with the young people at the YIP, at the school and in the Youth club, working on six large art boards, creating designs, painting and finishing them. The kids were still painting the boards at St Michael's the day before they went on the subway wall!

Cath encouraged the young people to think about what how they see their local environment, what they like about it and what makes them proud, and these wonderful art boards are the result (these four painted by the older young people were photographed before they went up on the walls, there are others painted by the children of St Michaels)

On the Thursday of RESPECT week the art work boards were fixed up by the Clean team and covered with perspex to protect them. And we had a lovely little ceremony to unveil them, with all the children and young people present, teachers, members of the clean team, youth workers and some community representatives. There were lots of thank you's all round, particularly to Cath Morton and Cathy Patterson who made so much happen, and the young artists were all given a certificate of thanks (from Wendy and me) and some art brushes (from Cath). Some really good community links have been made over the project and I was delighted with it.

The press photographer came and took hordes of photographs but I dont think the story made it into the press, which is a shame. The photos would have been really good, with lots of kids and paintbrushes in the mouth of the underpass. Please enjoy these instead, photographed when they were still in the YIP drying off. I may have some more I can show, taken by one of the attendees, I shall ask her for them later

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

KVFM, December 2009

So much to say, so little space, so little time.

KVFM December 2009 was a triumph and it has strengthened my commitment to fulltime community radio for Kensington and Fairfield.

For two weeks in December, KVFM was broadcasting from a glass box in McDonalds on Kensington.

Wendy, Liam and I had our own show on Saturday 12th December, which we decided we would use to launch RESPECT week which began on the following Monday. We invited Police Inspector Paul Harrison to join us as a guest, to talk about those aspects of RESPECT week that involved the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour. We invited Cathy Patterson from LCC to talk about the environment work we were undertaking that week, and we asked Lindsey from the Merseyside Fire Safety Network to talk about her work with the detached workers Youth Team in Kensington and Fairfield. The show was a great success and I will be linking to it via a podcast once they have been uploaded on the KVFM blog.

I then appeared as a guest on the Merseyside Polonia show, with the delightful Gosia McKane talking about why the K&F ward councillors thought it important to help fund the project through our devolved budget.

I was also a guest on the St Michael's RC Primary School show, talking about our fantastic art project in the subway/underpass that runs beneath West Derby Road between the school and the old Ogden's factory - more on this project later. The interviewers asked some really tough questions and threw quite a few curve balls but I think I got on top of most of them, I even did a Lenny Henry impression at one point (you probably had to be there).

And then for our piece de resistance, Wendy and I did a show with young people from the City and North Liverpool Youth Advisory Group (the YAG) all about politics. Not Party Politics of course, the licence does not allow for that. It was about the nature of representative democracy, what kind of person young people would like to represent them, whether we should lower the age of voting to 16 - that sort of thing. They were thrilled that the Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Hazel Williams, was able to join them in the studio, she was really good with them and I think enjoyed it as much as they did.

The radio project went really well as it always does.

We were graced with good presenters (Cath Taylor on the last day was my favourite, looking at carers and those they care for) and great guests. We had Billy Butler to open the radio and the Lord Mayor at hand on the last day.

What a shame that the organisers had to run the project at cost this time. We supported them from our devolved budget because it is easy to see the benefits for our local schools and pupils, for our local organisations, businesses and individuals. But sadly some previous funders did not cough up this time. I hope they will come to see how special this project is and put their money behind it in the future.

And what a scandal that a project so precious to local people has never been supported by Kensington Regeneration. Something that has brought together literally thousands of local people who live within the bounds of the New Deal, has never once been deemed important or special enough for them to fund even so much as a poster.

Well done to everyone, as soon as the podcasts are up, I will link to them.

Labour Group Christmas Party

I know you are all dying to hear about the Labour Group Christmas Party (the Labour Councillors on Liverpool City Council).

We went to a party at Knowsley Safari Park in a marquee. Or at least that is what I thought we were going to. I was worried that December, in a marquee was going to be perishingly cold and that the sides of the tent would flap and that my feet would freeze. But actually, it is not a marquee in the way that you would think. It is huge for a start, several rooms, luxury loos, bars, dining area, dancing area. We had probably the best dinner I have ever had where there was a large number of diners. There must have been 1000 seated diners. It was gorgeous, hordes of staff in attendance, everything that should be hot was, everything that should be cold was.

And the cabaret was fabulous.

There were lots of other people there, celebrating Christmas, including some nice people from Merseyside Fire Service and even some LCC staff.

Everyone behaved impeccably, there was lots of dancing and we had a fab time. It was quite cheap too, all things considered, about £30 or so, and we got a shared bus back to Liverpool too.

I can definitely recommend this for your Christmas party next year.

(Laurel and Hardy had a lovely time too)

Project Triangle

I finally got the chance to see the Project Triangle documentary (thanks to Bev and Lou for the private screening at their house). It is a wonderful film, very uplifting and thought provoking, about a group of gay young people from Merseyside who went to Poland with the staff of Homotopia and police officers from the SIGMA team (hate crime investigators)to visit Auschwitz and also to meet other gay young people and exchange stories about their experience of homophobia in today's world.

We will be screening this film as part of Kensington Remembers in January when we think about the different ways in which our failure to celebrate difference has caused holocaust and genocide at its worst and bullying and neglect at best, in the last few centuries, and still today.

I have a copy of the DVD if anyone wants to borrow it. It is great - and Tracy O'Hara who is the International Police Woman of the Year (from Liverpool Police) and went on the trip, is a Boro fan too, how cool is that?

Two commissions, count them!

The fledgling Louise Baldock Marketing free-lancing has advanced this month.

I have had two commissions.

I did the internal newsletter for Liverpool Vision (I know, it is amazing, I was thrilled). I cannot link to it because it was hard-copy - 12 A4 pages printed on 6 A3s in full colour. If blogger let me upload a PDF, I could show you it, but it doesn't allow for that, which is a real shame. It was a huge amount of hard work on a very tight deadline, but it was delivered to the staff just hours before their Christmas Party. They really loved it. Result!

And I did the second Eastern Approaches Business Leaders Group newsletter. Give it time to download. I am very proud of it, especially the article about Councillor Berni Turner and her waste management programme. You see, in the freelance world, I can be as magnanimous as the next man - last edition Gary Millar, this edition Berni Turner - and some pics of Warren Bradley too.

I am really pleased with how the freelancing is going and the calibre of my clients. I am speaking for 2 minutes (on the clock) at the next Business Breakfast (special guest Prof Phil Redmond) about my business, so hopefully will pick up some new clients there too.

December 2009 - the month when my diary combusted

I am always busy, you know that, never short of stuff to do, people to see, places to go, but December 2009 has broken all records I reckon. I lost count of how many times I was still up writing reports, designing newsletters, sending emails, working working working at 2am. One morning I slept in, I was so exhausted. So, the next few posts will give you some idea of some of the huge mountain of exciting and interesting stuff I have been up to. With photos, where I have them to hand. Thanks for hanging round for three weeks waiting for me to post, your loyalty is very humbling!