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

    Thursday, October 15, 2009
    On the Tapscott trail with Iain Sinclair

    The crocodile, says Iain Sinclair, seems to be a ubiquitous presence in grafitti protesting against the devouring of communities by sharp-tooted predatory redevelopers. He has seen it often painted on the blue-panelled wooden walls encircling the Olympic site in Hackney. Yesterday I walked him around Liverpool 8's Welsh Streets, a vast area of working-class terraces reduced from a living, active community to a tinned-up wilderness by one signature sweep of John Prescott's hand.

    The rock-faced stone steeple of the Welsh Presbyterian Church still shines in the Princes Road afternoon sun but its roof is down, its stained glass windows out. We two Welshmen-of-sorts (Sinclair Cardiff-born, me Cardiff-educated) noted that the place still carries its voice: its security fences are a billboard for nonconformist opinion, dissidents of temperance objecting to the developers' voracity, dissenters with a hold on local truths protesting the developers' deceptions: NO MORE DEMOLITION - NO MORE BULL.

    Our walk was informed by Bill Griffiths' epic Liverpool poem Mr Tapscott (see previous blogs here) which weaves the story of the city together with a case of murder and false imprisonment which contributed to the general atmosphere of distrust between police and people in L8, pre-riots 1981. So we took in riot hot-spots (including the Rialto corner, now site of a city council-sponsored pavement etching quoting Psalm 133: 'Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!'); we marvelled at the glory of Princes Park and its surrounding roads with their grand Victorian / Georgian designs; and we enjoyed our walk up Lodge Lane where one person noting our stopping, pointing, asked us if we needed help, and another group seeing us photographing the facade of the Middle Eastern Restaurant, said: 'Take our picture if you like, we're from Lodgy you know'.

    In MT BELLY'S ENGLISH CAFE AND SANDWICH BAR we reflected on how a place of such notoriety could feel, in actuality, so safe and so friendly. In reading Bill's poem I'd been taken by how in history, Lodge Lane was both the site of the 1981 Coral Bookmakers murder, and previously the home of city philanthropist William Roscoe. In reading this part of the city as we walked its streets Iain had come to see it as a place of peace and potential, and was surprised at how few people were out enjoying its delights.

    The brooding unrest of the neighbourhood's downtrodden people bred riots in 1981 and emerges in dissident graffiti and anti-Pathfinder Programme protests in 2009. The regeneration which matters here bears no relation to the glistening empty apartments rising above the swank streets of Liverpool One, but is seen in men making a tenuous start in business (MT BELLY'S host was generous in his helpings of dripping sandwiches and free mugs of tea) and by the recent emergence of groups of people like The Friends of Princes Park, reclaiming territory previously lost to (unfounded) fears of crime in public places.

    Pics from my On the Tapscott trail with Iain Sinclair Flickr photoset