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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, April 02, 2003
    Getting the city going again
    Interesting meeting today at the Cathedral with Louise Hopkins, Director of Mersey Waterfront Regional Park and Jim Gill, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision.

    These are people deeply involved in the regeneration of the city; good of them to spare their time to address a motley and non-too-sizeable gathering of clergy folks, sharing their visions and plans with us, inviting comments and (though it hardly got to this) discussion, debate.

    Louise has £9million with which to achieve her ambition; which is "for the Mersey Waterfront to become the North West's most enviable asset." She showed how the massive stretch of coastline between Runcorn and Southport is rich in natural, cultural, industrial assets, which are presently underutilised, vandalised, physically and socially disconnected from the region's inner areas. Her chief asset is her enthusiasm for her task, and for the area itself; and no doubt a fair amount of nous too. She has big visions. When it came to David Gavin's question about whether uniting the disparate communities in his parish (old 'Bread' streets vs. new dockland pads) was desirable and/or achievable, it was her new colleague, just arrived after years of inner-city community work, who had the practical understanding. Between them they inspire some confidence that we can get our waterfront(s) thriving again.

    Jim spoke more generally about the issues and challenges around regenerating the city centre. Again, many good ideas afoot. Some insights too - like, the Pier Head has never been a place which people visited, as such - rather its function is a place which people pass through - making the question 'how do we attract people there?' doubly challenging.

    Most of the discussion later inevitably centred around not neglecting the outer areas in our excitement about the much-vaunted 'return to the city', and gratefulness was expressed that the language of redevelopment used by these two included thought-out notions of human wellbeing, culture, community, etc. Barbara Glasson wanted the 'spiritual' to be in there too. I'd've liked a longer, broader, two-way conversation with more such folk involved, around these deeper issues. We may have to settle with what we got today. Which was pretty good really.