What a difference a year makes!
Today – 29th July – marks one year since a group of residents, neighbours and businesses met up at Wavertree Cricket Club for the first in a series of ‘Community Conversations’. Over 80 people attended that first meeting and it was clear from the start that local people, and our collective community, care about Wavertree and care about each other. What followed became ‘Love Wavertree’.
The meeting had been called initially in response to some pretty grim reading in both the local and national press. The coverage described a failing High Street and a Wavertree that seemed far removed from the experience of the people actually living here. True, like many others across the country, our High Street had experienced some decline in terms of its physical fabric and visitor numbers and, at the time, the Wavertree ward was at the centre of some political turmoil – but! there is, and remains, one thing we in Wavertree are not at all short of and that is community spirit.
It was at that first meeting that local resident Sharon Bingham raised the idea of a community litter pick. One year later and our community litter picks are a regular occurrence and a valuable mainstay in our programme, visibly underpinning our commitment to our local area and environment. Every couple of weeks, in all weathers and recently ‘socially distanced’, you will see a dedicated squad of people armed with their trusty litter bags and pickers cleaning up the High Street, The Mystery, Picton Road and Lawrence Road. Thanks to the supreme efforts of Sharon, now known as our ‘Queen of Litter Picks’, Lynsey Wilson who wrote up our entry to the awards, and many others in our community, we have been named as a finalist in the forthcoming 2020 Liverpool Echo Environment Awards. Our next litter pick is this Sunday, 2nd August, 10am, meeting at ReLoved.
Just eight short weeks after that first meeting, our community and people from right across the city came together to celebrate Liverpool’s first Car Free Day, which saw cars diverted from Wavertree High Street and a varied programme of music, dance, food markets – and even a game of cricket! – attracting over 5,000 visitors across the day. Local resident, blogger and friend Ronnie Hughes, described it as “the High Street’s best ever day” and we were pleased to get some really positive coverage in the Liverpool Echo, both before and after the event. Needless to say it took a huge community effort to make this wonderful celebration happen within such a short time. People gave freely of their skills, time and resources, local businesses, musicians and dance groups all contributed their goods and talents for free and we were ably supported by our local Councillors and Mayor Anderson in securing the necessary permissions and diverting traffic away from the High Street.
We loved it so much, we did it again at Christmas! This time, for our Wavertree Winter Wonderland, activity centred on our beautiful library as the host venue for music, merriment and a seasonal market. We worked with The Mystery Junior Park Run team to hold a children’s ‘Elf Run’ around The Mystery in the morning, and Dena and the team at Assess Education gave us space for a nativity, carols and children’s activities in the afternoon. Despite the very wintry weather, a great time was had by all. Even The Grinch loved it!
And earlier this year, we realised a collective ambition of securing a premises to operate as a dedicated space for our community on the High Street – well, at 203 Picton Road (which is near enough!). VMM, the charity that had previously occupied the building was sadly wound up over the COVID-19 lockdown, and we are glad to have been able to step in and ensure that the shop remained open, with all profits now reinvested back into the Wavertree community. We were delighted too that Jean and the long-serving VMM volunteer team agreed to stay with us and lend their experience and expertise as we embarked on our shop-keeping journey.
‘ReLoved‘, our shop and community hub opened on 4th July 2020 (UK ‘Independent’s Day‘) and, once again, it was only made possible by the gargantuan efforts of our community. A particular shout-out to long-term shop volunteer Super Dave, who is the engine of our shop’s operations, to all of our friends and neighbours at Damien John Kelly House, who helped with shifting, lifting, sorting, clearing and painting for the launch, and especially to our Action Ian who has also applied his magical superpowers to all the DIY jobs we have needed doing since.
We are so proud of what our community has achieved in only twelve months, and can’t wait to see what we can achieve together going forward!
We have been particularly proud to see how our community has come together to support each other during the COVID pandemic and the lockdown period. We have always put safety first and have undertaken a full COVID risk assessment of the shop and hub space, meeting strict Government guidelines, and in fact introducing mandatory masks before the Government announcement! Luckily, our first featured local artist selling work in the shop is the brilliant Millie Sparkles, whose range of jazzy hand-made masks has been flying off the shelves!
We will keep doing our best to support and are about to launch a community ‘Borrow a Book’ club from the plentiful book stock at the shop, which will include delivery of selected books to our neighbours who are continuing to shield.
The ReLoved space is not ‘just a shop’, but has already been adopted by our community as a hub at its heart, with a weekly running group (Wednesdays at 6.30pm), book club and ‘Wavertree in Bloom’ group already underway, and an art club, film and photography groups and sewing/making workshops all about to launch. Look out for details on our social media and on our community chalkboards outside the shop.
[We have also been approached by the local Slimming World group to host their weekly sessions if anyone wants to lose those lockdown pounds!]
We welcome your ideas for how we can continue to work together as a community to improve, care for and celebrate ourselves, each other, our local area and our environment. We are working in partnership with ‘Placed’, who are hosting an interactive Ideas Wall and Map for us, where you can view, share, ‘vote for’ and discuss yours and others’ thoughts, comments and ideas: Love Wavertree Placed
Coming up, we have our ‘Love Local, Love Wavertree’ campaign running throughout August, we have The Mystery’s 125th birthday celebrations in September and our good friends and colleagues at The Wavertree Society are leading on exciting plans to bring a splash of colour to the High Street (watch this space!…)
We are looking forward to a brighter High Street – and to an even brighter future for Wavertree.
By Wavertree, with Wavertree, for Wavertree – Love Wavertree
29th July 2020