Today, 22nd September is International ‘Car Free Day’. It marks one year since Love Wavertree hosted Liverpool’s first ever ‘Car Free Day’ celebration, on Sunday 22nd September, 2019. It was a fantastic day, full of fun and laughter and described by local resident and blogger Ronnie Hughes as “Wavertree High Street’s best ever day” . We were absolutely over the moon to welcome more than 5,000 people to Wavertree’s historic High Street to enjoy music, dancing, pop-up cafes and food stalls, a community bake-off, farmers’ market, baby yoga and even a game of street cricket. What a swell party it was.
The ‘Love Wavertree’ campaign started in late July 2019 when a number of local residents came together for a series of ‘Community Conversations’ held at the local cricket club. Coming, as the meetings did, on the back of high-profile political issues around Wavertree and some pretty damning and negative articles in both the local and national media, each conversation attracted over 80 residents. Passions, it is fair to say, ran high. Whatever people’s reasons for being there, we all had – and have – one thing in common: We Love Wavertree.
‘Car Free Day’ was held just eight weeks after that first ‘Community Conversation’. It was a huge undertaking for such a new and loosely formed collective, meeting up in people’s spare time. Like any party hosts, we were really anxious about everything that could go wrong – and even on the morning of the event itself, getting up at the crack of dawn to welcome market traders and do a final litter pick, we didn’t know if anyone would turn up! But turn up they did and, for us, it was a big and powerful statement about what a community could achieve – and underlined our belief in what we, as the Love Wavertree community, were doing.
In the year since ‘Car Free Day’, our community has gone on to thrive and grow. We have continued our regular series of litter picks, gaining recognition for our efforts as a finalist in this year’s Liverpool Echo Environment Awards, and organised a number of other community events including last year’s Christmas Winter Wonderland. Toward the end of last year and the beginning of this, it was great see our High Street attracting private sector investment again, including new owners for both the former Chillies and our glorious Town Hall. We like to think our community’s efforts contributed to that reinvigorated interest. It is gratifying to see our work referenced regularly by national commentators on social media in relation to new models for community-led High Street recovery.
Then, back in April 2020, an opportunity arose to secure a lease to a premises on Picton Road (which for the uninitiated is the continuation of our High Street). The charity VMM, a long-term resident in the building, had been wound down, meaning that its charity shop would have to close. As local residents, we were aware of the shop’s established role in our community, and also that a small team of local volunteers had worked in the shop for many years. We took the proposition to our wider Love Wavertree community and with their encouragement, moved quickly to make our community space a reality. Love Wavertree CIC was set up primarily as a vehicle to secure the lease. The CIC was registered in May 2020, we signed the lease on 1st July 2020 and – in keeping with our #TeamWavo spirit of doing big, bold things in double-quick time – we opened our ‘ReLoved’ shop and community hub on 4th July 2020.
Preparing the shop for opening in just 3 days took a gargantuan effort from a huge number of people, and none more so than our friends and neighbours at Damien John Kelly House, who helped out with all the lifting, shifting, skip-filling, painting, decorating, sorting, cleaning – everything. Huge thanks to the gents for all of their efforts (on that day and in the days since), and in particular to our ‘Action’ Ian.
We are delighted that we have been able to retain the team of volunteers who had previously worked for VMM as part of our dedicated ‘ReLoved’ shop squad. Led by Action Ian and supported on the shop floor by Queen Jean and in the stock room by Super Dave, our volunteer team stands now at 25, which means we are now able to open every day. In less than three months, our shop volunteer team has given almost 1500 hours of their time, for free – and only for the love of Wavertree and our community.
Obviously, it has been a tough time in which to open up any new venture. The safety and wellbeing of our volunteers and community members has remained paramount throughout, and we have always acted to meet and where possible to exceed any Government guidelines in terms of mandatory masks, sanitising and distancing.
Despite the difficult circumstances, working through the shop, we have been able to support a number of L15-based artists, makers and designers to sell their works and wares (at 0% commission), to open a ‘Uniform Bank’ and distribute second-hand and new uniforms to local families in need, to offer a 50% discount on baby and children’s goods to foster carers, to make up support packages for refugee families living locally, and to create book packages for local residents who are C-19 shielding.
Working through the hub, individual community members have started a weekly running club, book club, arts club, film group, photography group, crafting, sewing and making, poetry and writing groups. We worked closely with our friends at The Wavertree Society to develop an exciting online programme for this year’s virtual ‘Heritage Open Days‘, including drone footage of Wavertree and ‘Past’, a short film made by Love Wavertree, Love Arts Group (with WavSoc and DJK House). The ‘Wavertree in Bloom’ group has started its programme with the ‘Tram Tracks’ project and earlier this month, we brought Scouse Flowerhouse to The Mystery for our much-loved local recreation park’s 125th birthday (discussions are currently taking place around a wildflower sowing programme for 2021).
Our ‘Love Local, Love Wavertree’ campaign will continue throughout this year. We have become regulars at the Allerton Road Farmers’ Market, selling a range of goods from ReLoved and homemade bakes and cakes, hosted our first photography exhibition featuring works from the ‘One Day at a Time Boys’ at Damien John Kelly House and started a campaign to save the iconic Abbey Cinema building. The ‘Save the Abbey’ campaign was featured in the national press (read The Observer piece, here) and – thanks to the Abbey’s Beatles links – in the international music press too, including Rolling Stone magazine in Germany and the NME in Japan! Rock n roll.
Despite the fact that we are a very young CIC, still now less than five months old, and although ‘ReLoved’ has not even been trading for three months, we are regularly questioned about how the shop/hub is funded and our reinvestment plans. One thing we are sure of and that we have stated from the very start is that all monies and profits generated through ReLoved are – and will continue to be – reinvested into the Wavertree community.
We are committed to openness and transparency and all of the CIC company documents, monthly Directors’ meeting minutes, policies and procedures are available to view via the ‘Contact & Info‘ page of this website. All of the Directors of the CIC are local residents. We have all invested into the CIC, firstly, like all of our volunteers, by freely giving vast amounts of our time and effort, and additionally by loaning £250 each to cover the initial deposit for the premises. We understand the need for scrutiny, but hope that people can also appreciate that you would need to sell a lot of bric-a-brac to buy an island in the sun. The only driver for any of us who are involved in the CIC and our wider Love Wavertree community is our commitment to a happy, healthy and positive present and future for Wavertree, where we all live.
As such, and to mark one year since our ‘Car Free Day’ celebrations, we are proud to release our Outline Action Plan and Investment Strategy, which sets out Love Wavertree’s vision, mission, our investments and projects to date and our plans to reinvest in our six strategic priorities over the next one, three and five years. It is presented in outline as we continue to work with our community and through our interactive online engagement platform (in partnership with Placed) to gather thoughts and ideas for the Love Wavertree programme. We intend to work up the detail and re-present a full and co-created Action Plan in January 2021, taking us into the the New Year on a sure and positive foot.
The outline Action Plan lists our values, the first of which is that Love Wavertree is non-political and not affiliated to any political party or religious organisation. Individual members may, and do, have their own personal beliefs, but our neutrality and independence is critical to the success of Love Wavertree. We are keen to neither be political nor to be used politically, by any parties. Additionally, we are positive and community-led, open, networked and transparent, committed, inclusive, collaborative and shared.
As per the outline Investment Strategy, future reinvestments into the community will be made in response to a monthly applications process, overseen by a community-led awards committee (inspired by the Awesome Liverpool model). Once we have reached a contingency buffer of £3000, to cover three months rent and bills for ReLoved – with a target of January 2021 – we commit to increasing reinvestment in community projects from a current £300 minimum per month, to a £500 minimum per month.
Reinvestment will focus on Love Wavertree’s six strategic themes, drawn from our early ‘Community Conversations’ and incorporating initial feedback from the ‘Placed’ engagement platform: Heritage, Creativity, Intergenerational, High Street, Environment and Wellbeing.
All proposed and planned activity is subject to C-19 considerations and restrictions. We intend to continue to trade online as ‘ReLoved’ in the event of a full lockdown.
For the remainder of this year, our activity programme will focus primarily on community safety, including road safety. We plan to work with partners in delivering age-friendly exercise and wellbeing programmes, to promote safe cycling and – where last year our focus was on making our road ‘Car Free’, this year our focus will be on keeping our pavement’s car free!
Next year’s activity will focus on seeding small enterprises (January – March), ‘In Bloom’ and greening (March to May) and – as we head toward evaluating our first year of ‘ReLoved’, on health and wellbeing (May-July).
In the medium term, we will seek to secure additional, and currently lacking, shops and services for our community such as a Community Post Office, a ‘Community Shop’ discounted supermarket (like this one in Walton, launched by Mayor Anderson earlier this month) or a Fare Share food shop (like the new ‘Everyone’s Aigburth’ shop, funded by Liverpool City Council through the the Mayor’s Neighbourhood Fund) and a regular Wavertree Farmers’ Market (alongside the other districts who hold monthly licences).
Longer term, we plan to expand Love Wavertree’s community hub activities and to secure additional premises in order to support more L15 artists, makers, small businesses and independent traders, to host community courses and workshops and to offer shared workspace. We hope over the next year to further extend our community governance model and over the next three to five years to explore community property ownership and land trust models, inspired by (awesome) initiatives like Granby4Streets and Homebaked.
It has been quite a year. It’s hard to believe it has only been twelve months since the ‘Car Free Day’ street party, a year of course made stranger still by C-19 and all that it has brought. We hope that our outline plan for future activity makes good and exciting reading. As we look to the next twelve months and beyond with a similar anxiety and trepidation as that morning of ‘Car Free Day’ – well, we hope that you will join us!…
For a happy, healthy and positive present and future for Wavertree.
Love Wavertree, September 2020