Outdoor spaces, community places: Liverpool’s green communities
In January, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson reportedly confirmed that houses will no longer be built on Sefton Park Meadows and instead called for ideas on how the green space could be used by the community. Should that vision be realised, it’ll join a growing list of community space enjoyed by Liverpool residents.
Your Move looks at the benefits they bring.
Words by Christine Toner
Community allotments and a therapeutic space are among the suggestions so far for Sefton Park Meadows.
Of course, Liverpool is no stranger to such initiatives as Elaine Cresswell, project manager of social enterprise Engage Liverpool’s My City initiative, knows well.
My City helps Liverpool residents make use of wasted assets via the Bluegreen Liverpool project.
“Bluegreen Liverpool helps residents to transform vacant land on their street corner,” says Elaine. “We are currently working on a horticultural therapy garden with the Brink, Field to Plate and a community meeting place with the City of Liverpool College on Cornwallis Street, a healthy breakfast orchard with St Vincent de Paul school, The Baltic Green community park on Jamaica Street with Hobo Kiosk and a lunchtime parklet with Baltic Creative.”
Funding for the project previously came from the National Lottery and Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme but Elaine says the organisation is currently looking for new sponsors so that it can continue its work to create a green corridor between Bold Street and the Baltic Triangle.
“Our other projects include Living Libraries,” explains Elaine.
“We transform our open spaces into arboretums, unlocking the knowledge that is stored – for example through a simple tree label or QR code or a larger geocache exploration.
“People can get involved by volunteering time to help with our pallet furniture making projects, gardening, cataloguing our living library or mapping their daily walk.”
The benefits of such schemes are undisputed. Stephanie Chopra is a health psychologist and owner of The Life Development Coach. She says both the opportunity to work with other people and the chance to be outdoors can have a big impact on health.
“Ecotherapy (being outdoors) can significantly improve self-esteem and mood, leading to better wellbeing.”
“There are so many benefits for everyone involved in community projects. Not only does it encourage friends and families to interact and bond with one another, it also encourages the experimentation of fresh produce. This can only have a positive impact on attitudes towards both physical and mental health.
“This form of ‘ecotherapy’ (being outdoors) can significantly improve selfesteem and mood by reducing feelings of depression, leading to better mental health and wellbeing all round.”
Stephanie says ecotherapy plays a key role in life coaching as it is a simple and free way to inspire personal growth.
“As humans, we are intrinsically connected to nature; most obviously through the changing of the seasons. As part of my coaching with clients hoping to de-stress, I always establish a routine which involves finding some time each day to visit a green space – whether that’s sitting in the park for half an hour or visiting the countryside for a long walk. Clients almost certainly come to their next session feeling balanced having had that time to think through their emotional states and process what nature has to offer. It is no surprise that we are effortlessly drawn to areas of natural beauty when we want to escape.”
The benefits of outdoor community spaces are recognised by the team behind the We Make Places social enterprise, whose initiatives include The Friends of The Flyover project plus an array of citizen-led initiatives in communities in Liverpool and beyond; all their work is around public space or buildings and how citizens can become empowered to join the conversation and make decisions.
“To be outdoors, to have space for our thoughts, conversations and interactions that is not based on consumer transactions is vital to our wellbeing.”
CEO of We Make Places, Kate Stewart has recently been selected by the British Council and other partners to be one of 15 international creative producers in a three-year programme exploring the values of play and unexpected interaction in cities across five continents. This involves engaging with artists, citizens and city leaders alike to produce creative projects that help transform conversations in their city spaces, and this week she was working on a provocation for Tokyo later in the year.
“It is important that we retain public space in our towns and cities that small organisations and community groups as well as families and individuals can ‘programme’, occupy and interpret over time,” says Kate. “So much of our lives are spent working and living in buildings with poor quality light and air that the ability to be outdoors, to have space for thoughts, conversations and interactions that are not based on consumer transactions is vital to our wellbeing.
“To give the community and individuals within our cities the space to just be is a true act of bravery and one that more developers and civic leaders need to embrace. So much of what we call public space has been sold as part of development deals and so this becomes contested space in which we are told how to behave or how not to behave.”
City success stories
Granby Winter Garden
Few areas in Liverpool demonstrate the power of community spirit as much as Granby Four Streets. The neighbourhood underwent a remarkable renaissance thanks to the tireless campaigning and hard work of residents.
The latest initiative in the area is the Granby Winter Garden – a sustainable, creative community space owned and managed by and for the local community. Consisting of two properties – one housing an urban indoor garden opening and the second combining a meeting space and a studio that can be used for creative activities – the project has been funded by Arts Council England, The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, PH Holt Foundation, The Granada Foundation, The People’s Health Trust and Veolia Environmental Trust.
The garden should open by the summer after problems with the previous builder led to delays.
“We are very much looking forward to the opening of the Winter Garden as this permanent addition will be a fantastic community resource for Granby and the wider area,” says Rebecca Lawlor, project manager for the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust. “It will complement the hard work that residents and members of the Green Blooming Triangle group do to green Granby’s Streets.”
Waterloo Forest Community Garden
Waterloo Community Forest Garden is an initiative set up by local residents in an effort to make use of a neglected local parkland on Somerville Road, L22.
The group meets every Tuesday and Saturday at the garden and says its aim is to “create an educational nature space that can be accessed and maintained by all the local community” and “a place where we can grow food, make friends and enjoy the environment”.
Philip Hughes is a volunteer at the garden and teaches bushcraft.
“I don’t live in the Waterloo area but my girlfriend does and I’m always envious of how community minded the area is,” he says. “I enjoy teaching bushcraft in these two small strip woods, it’s like being in a forest miles from civilisation even though we’re surrounded by houses and parks.”
Rotunda Community Garden
The Rotunda Community Centre in Kirkdale says its community garden was designed with local residents in order to create “a collection of top notch spaces for everyone in Kirkdale and beyond to come in and use”. The area includes theatre space for talks and performances and a secret garden especially for youngsters.
As the centre houses a café for the community too there’s also a kitchen garden where food is grown for the eatery by volunteers and groups of local residents.