Homeless support, shared reading and woolly hats for seafarers
Here’s where to make a festive donation — plus the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear readers — as a diminutive Argentine closed in on a career-defining achievement in the Qatari desert, a similarly spectacular feat played out in Liverpool this weekend. We scooped up ten new paying members (welcome if that’s you!) Though the comparisons are, to some, irresistible, we daren’t make them ourselves. We now have 720 paying subscribers, for example. Mr Messi has a slightly less impressive 706 career goals.
Today’s big story is a bit different. In fact, it’s not that big or a story. Instead, we’ve compiled a list of five charities and organisations that could use your support ahead of Christmas, and who we think are doing some phenomenal things to help people around our city.
At the weekend we wrote about local radio, which is — once again — under threat. We spoke to legendary former presenters and producers at BBC Radio Merseyside, who think the station’s latest plans are missing the opportunity to dominate an otherwise ropey local media landscape. “Cracking bit of writing about how local radio is changing,” tweeted one tweeter. “Every word of this” wrote another. If you to want to read (or re-read) every word of this, you can do so here.
Last week we sent out two great pieces to members. On Tuesday Melissa Blease wrote her first ever Post piece about growing up in the “groovy little windowless arts-world sanctuary” of the Everyman Bistro, which was run by her parents. Here’s a taster:
“Having spent his late teenage years at the Beaux Arts in Paris, dad wanted to recreate the vibe of the modest little diners around the Rue Bonaparte, where eating came way behind wine, women and song on the clientele's list of priorities. But in the first half of the 1960s, even pasta was way too avant garde for the Bistro's clientele, who hadn't even started to get their tongues around the word 'quiche'.”
Then on Thursday, we found ourselves walking through a “prehistoric serengeti” in an unlikely place: Formby Point. Archeologists have managed to use footprints on the beach’s mudflats to recreate in minute detail little scenes that took place 9000 or so years ago. If you fancy stepping into the distant past without the expense or faff of building a time machine, click here.
Coming up: This week we’ll have a slightly reduced schedule as we busy ourselves by diving into a vat of roast potatoes and Baileys. David Lloyd and Jane MacNeil have been on a covert photography mission in TJ Hughes, to find out whether the department and Liverpudlian institution has held onto its magic and Leo Hardwick has written a beautiful piece about the north Liverpool man on a crusade against loneliness.
Editor’s note: This is our last Monday briefing of the year, so just to say: A huge thankyou to everyone for supporting us this year and helping our mission to ensure the future of high-quality long-form journalism in Liverpool. It’s been a lot of fun. It would be amazing to return to a nice round 750 members to ease our hangovers and January blues in the new year, so please do consider signing up below if you haven’t already. Have a lovely Christmas and an amazing new year!
This week’s weather
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from the Met Office and it’s for Liverpool.
Rather than a usual ‘big story’ today, we thought we’d use this space to suggest a few charities in Liverpool that you may wish to support ahead of Christmas. Some are places we’ve written about over the last year, some aren’t. But they could all do with your help.
The Whitechapel Centre
After years floating through what he calls the “netherworld” of homelessness, “in an altered state” with “an ulcer the size of a small crater” from a needle infection, Tony ‘Chestnut’ Brown — better known as the “People’s Poet of Lark Lane” — eventually found The Whitechapel Centre. It was the Whitechapel Centre who got him into a supported bedsit, away from the frightening world of YMCAs and halfway houses he’d been living in, and eventually helped him to kick his two-decade heroin habit. Last year they worked with almost 4000 people across the city region who were homeless or in housing poverty and helped nearly 2500 access accommodation. When we chatted to Tony over the summer, he called them “lifesavers”. He now raises money for them at his gigs.
You can support them using this link.
Liverpool Seafarers Centre
Working at sea means making sacrifices, especially at Christmas. It means being apart from your family and it means long hours in often brutal conditions. Liverpool Seafarers Centre collects and distributes gifts to more than 1000 seafarers as tokens of appreciation. Your money goes directly on these (they like board games and woolly hats, apparently). They’ve launched their Christmas appeal and will be handing out the gifts to ships docked in the port over the next few weeks. John Wilson, the charity’s chief executive, said:
“By making a donation you can change the mindset of our seafarers who tirelessly and give up so much to ensure that we have all of our needs, wishes and desires met, without a thought.
Damien John Kelly House
“Recovery is a fucking beautiful thing,” Sam Batley, whose journey to recovery from addiction at Damien John Kelly House was recounted in the award winning film One Day at a Time, told Mollie back in September. The project is based on Wavertree High Street and focuses on abstinence-based recovery, having helped huge numbers of men in Liverpool get clean as they live together, play football, make art and whatever else. And what’s the secret to making it work? “Tenderness, patience,” said Sam. Beautiful indeed.
You can vote for them to win the quarterly ILFORD Photo Analogue Community Grant of up to £500 with this link (vote for One day at a time boys — Sam Batley).
North Liverpool Foodbank
The truth is that we could’ve chosen any one of the many food banks dotted around the city region here. One in five people live below the poverty line in the UK and the increased usage of food banks, warm banks and baby banks has been well-documented in the past few months. Working alongside local churches, North Liverpool Foodbank provides three days worth of “nutritionally balanced emergency food” and support to local people who are referred to them in crisis. Like ex-military police Richard, who was unable to work after suffering two major strokes, and said: “Without the foodbank, I don’t think I would be here today.”
You can donate here.
To these guys — who host shared reading sessions at Calderstones Park — literature is more than words on a page, it’s a “tool for helping humans survive and live well.” They use reading to support “schools, families and looked-after-children, adults in community spaces, people in care homes, people with physical and mental health conditions, those coping with or recovering from addiction, and people in the criminal justice system.” It’s also there for people experiencing loneliness, who can support each other through the sessions, and the books. Founder Jane Davies MBE explained the concept in a TED Talk a few years back…
You can donate to The Reader here.
Your Post briefing
Staff shortages at Aintree University Hospital are leading to the neglect of patients, according to striking NHS nurses. “Patients aren't getting their teeth brushed, they're lying in their own waste because there aren't enough of us,” said one staff member on the picket line. The Royal College of Nursing is asking for a 19% pay rise, which the government deems unaffordable, but nurses told the BBC that many of them have started using foodbanks or were going without food to feed their children. They said that alongside the low pay, understaffing was causing a number of issues at their hospital. "You've only got to come into A&E and see the queues, there's no beds,” said one staff member. The action is the first of two day-long strikes over pay, during which staff will provide some urgent care, but not routine services.
You might remember our piece from last month about the Echo’s attempts to get a journalism student, Helen Wilkie, kicked off of her course at The City of Liverpool College. Wilkie had been ejected from a placement at the Echo by the paper’s editor Maria Breslin for a series of old tweets criticising the paper, and subsequently turned up to her course the next day to be told by her tutor: “they [The Echo] don't want to continue with the partnership as long as you are part of the course”. On her blog, Wilkie has since revealed that she submitted a subject access request to Reach Plc, which owns the Echo, to view any internal correspondence at the paper relating to her. It’s almost entirely redacted (over 95%) but does reveal Echo journalists calling her “the pure definition of woke nonsense” and “the type who would deffo glue herself on the motorway”.
Steve Rotheram is “devastated” that Merseyrail’s new fleet of trains will not launch this year. The roll-out was initially delayed in 2020, but the metro mayor had promised the 52 new trains would be up and running before Christmas and blamed a number of issues, including the cold weather, floods on the tracks, Brexit, ongoing strikes and “rep tape”. The Swiss-built trains will replace the current 40-year-old fleet and have space for 50% more passengers and wider seats. They had been undergoing safety tests until the latest strikes kicked in but Rotheram said it was right that people were blaming him as he “genuinely believed” they would have launched by now. “I'm absolutely gutted,” he said.
The Baltic Triangle is one of the 15 coolest neighbourhoods in the country, according to The Telegraph. Whether or not the Baltic has lost its magic in recent years is a hot topic of debate in Liverpool, but evidently at least one renowned and famously uncool broadsheet thinks it certainly hasn’t. It ranks alongside London’s Walthamstow or Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter and is described as a “seriously cultured “development zone”. They recommend the Chinese cuisine served up in Lu Ban in Cains brewery and the cosy maritime themed Baltic Fleet. Seriously cultured indeed.
Home of the week
Straight from the pages of a glossy magazine you might find yourself gawking at whilst you wait to have a tooth yanked out. This slick spaceship in Barton, north of Liverpool, has things like “Expanses of lawn and herbaceous plants” and “bespoke cabinetry” and “an open-tread stairwell”. It’s also a place where “where floor-to-ceiling glass walls retain a visual relationship with the surrounding landscape”. If you now want a relationship between your walls and garden, you’ll need to find £1,275,000.
🎷 Big brass and jazz at Seel Street’s favourite dive bar — The Highball Club — on Thursday, fronted by Sourmama, one of Liverpool’s most exciting jazz quartets. You can expect everything from “Jazz standards to more recognisable bangers with a Brass twist”. More here.
🗣️ Also on Thursday, a debate likely more courteous than the ones you’ll be having with drunk uncles and nephews over the festive season. The South Liverpool Debating society are holding their final event of the year at (as always) Keith’s on Lark Lane. The motion is: “This house Believes that Climate Change Campaigners are Acting Proportionately”. Arrive at 6:30pm for the pre-debate dinner.
🐦 Lunt Meadows is the place to go if you love birds. Brave the cold for this wildlife winter walk — guided by conservation experts — and you’ll find lapwings, redshank, dunlin and oystercatchers jostle for position with herons and egrets. Bring binoculars and wellies.
🎭 An iconic tale in an iconic venue as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is performed at St George’s Hall. The adaptation has earned several five star reviews, telling the rich and evocative candle-lit tale of greed and redemption in a true-to-the-book manner. The final of the five showings is on Friday.
Our favourite reads
In the Financial Times from a few months back, a profile of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s mercurial conductor Domingo Hindoyan and his stark rise from his Venezuelan childhood to becoming the main man with the baton in Liverpool, face emblazoned on billboards and buses. Hindoyan’s background has involved playing in two of the most politically charged orchestras in the world: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela and then the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which was established to bring together “equal numbers of young Israeli and Arab musicians”. He describes the opera as having a social mission as much as a musical one: “You do not become richer day by day when you pick up a violin. It is the [person’s] soul that becomes rich.” Read our own profile of Hindoyan here.
From one of our own, David Lloyd’s piece on loneliness for SevenStreets, ever more relevant at this time of year. Liverpool is one of the most lucrative cities for bizarrely dystopian “Rent a friend” services, where — no surprises — you can do exactly that, paying for someone to hang out with you. The city, as it happens, has some of the worst mental health figures in the country and high numbers of young and old people reporting consistent feelings of loneliness. The piece looks at a few organisations dealing with this problem, like Care Liverpool, who run social events for older and younger neighbours or The Sea Shanty, a cafe with a “cross-generational stew of customers, homespun aesthetic and the genuine warmth”.
Perhaps you still haven’t come down from the high of obsessively watching a short Argentinian man for the past month, and need something to tie you over until the return of league football. This Guardian piece from 2020 is one of the best reads for the inside story of Jurgen Klopp’s transformation of Liverpool, including his obsessive attention to detail (it notes how he appointed a throw-in coach, Danish Thomas Grønnemark, “after hours research[ing] the Dane’s world-record throw on Google”). It’s fair to say that any man who spends hours researching throw-ins probably deserves his slice of success. It’s a fascinating picture of a charismatic character.
Photo of the week
Different shades as the sun rises over Lee Park Golf Club. Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images.
Letters from readers
My sense is that the BBC can't take as many risks now and therefore is in danger of losing its vibe. Radio Merseyside did take a risk in interviewing me on the breakfast show about free speech and the Ukraine situation (re our local debating society) earlier in the year and I was really grateful for that. However, I had a real sense that there was a kind of underlying terror of me saying something too political or controversial, which might hyperthetically then get spread around the internet and get everyone into trouble, ‘Trouble on the airwaves’, Ming-Ko
It seems that some of the BBC Core must be protected even though it is failing against other providers while local radio suffers death by a thousand cuts. There is a deliberate policy to chip away until they can say "look at the state of it - not worth saving". The BBC management must take their lead from the uncaring institutions that think they know what is best for us little people, ‘Trouble on the airwaves’, Mr Ian Kenyon