Dear readers — we hope you had a lovely weekend.
Today’s briefing looks at a string of new investments amounting to £10bn in Birkenhead, and asks how realistic the regeneration will be. We also have a home of the week in Albert Docks, a Covid-19 update, a recommended long read about an Anfield bakery and a great selection of things to do over the next week.
Our weekend read was an evocative piece by Robin Brown about the fight to save some of Liverpool’s most beautiful and decaying churches. Many thanks for sharing the piece with family and friends. If you missed it, you can read it here. Robin writes:
There are still wonders here, chief among them the rose window in the west wall. Facing towards the river it channels the setting sun beautifully, the odd glass fragment still visible. The spire seems untouched by the seasons (it ensured the building was Liverpool’s tallest when it was completed in 1867; peering up into its infinity is giddying).
We have lots more original reporting coming this week in our two members-only editions of The Post, which are sent out during the week. If you don’t want to miss out, sign up as a member now to receive all our journalism. Last week we sent members a story about the rapid rise of a swimmer from the Wirral, and a great historical piece about the lesser-known high-society Merseyside women who fundraised for slavery.
💨 This week’s weather
The case rate for the Liverpool City Region is 385.7, up 4% from the previous week, compared to England’s, which is 461.5, up 4.1%. Cases are rising a little faster in the city centre — the case rate for Liverpool is 376.7, up 14.3% from the previous week. Cases are highest in St Helens and Knowsley, around 400, and lowest in Halton and Liverpool, about 300.
The big story: Is £10 billion coming to Birkenhead?
The top line: A new report from Liverpool Business News details the new developments planned for Birkenhead, which could amount to around £10 billion investment. Business journalist Tony McDonough writes:
Thanks to projects such as Liverpool ONE, the waterfront arena and convention centre and the £400m Liverpool2 container terminal, the city has enjoyed an economic renaissance. However, just a mile across the River Mersey, Birkenhead has seen this new era of growth and prosperity largely pass it by.
The numbers: Wirral Council has secured £100m in funding from the government and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, which is thought could leverage around £4bn in private sector investment. The Wirral Waters project, which will redevelop the waterfront and docks, is worth an estimated £5.5bn over the next few years.
The proposed developments include:
150,000 sq ft of new office space in Birkenhead town centre.
A disused railway line will become a ‘linear park’ (a new walking route for walkers and cyclists, to you).
Two flyovers will be demolished to pave the way for the construction of 1,400 new homes.
The former House of Fraser department store will become a new market, replacing the current Birkenhead Market.
Here’s what Wirral Council’s head of regeneration and place, Alan Evans, said:
It was evident that we had to regenerate Birkenhead. But some people told us it was not possible and others said it would not happen. We have quickly gone from having a series of good ideas to a number of investable propositions. We are driving a new future for Birkenhead. Our role in terms of place leadership will be critical to delivering that. We are creating lots of little sparks that will turn into a roaring fire.
Birkenhead buzz: A Guardian article in August talked about a potential “creative renaissance” in Birkenhead when the new music venue, Future Yard, opened this year. Future Yard evolved from a festival into a live music venue, organised by local creative groups as part of a grassroots project to create a non-profit community space. In a recent review in Liverpool Confidential, Carol Emmas wrote: “It’s great that Birkenhead has a bunch of organisations that recognise its potential and can push forward new creative and progressive ideas.”
The bigger picture: Whether the investment in Birkenhead really does reach £10bn will depend on Wirral Council’s ability to drum up huge enthusiasm (and huge amounts of cash) from national government and the private sector. The council is in huge financial trouble after failing to deal with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic — it was only recently that it was told to consider selling off libraries, town centres and golf clubs to fill a massive £25 million budget deficit. A recent report detailed its failures were part of a “prevailing culture” of not wanting to make difficult financial decisions.
If you have any views or insight on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org or hit reply to this newsletter. Or if you have information about new exciting projects in Birkenhead, or successes and failures, we’d also love to hear from you.
Other local news in brief
Hundreds of people turned out for a vigil for Ava White on Saturday evening. Family, friends and others gathered on Church Street near where she was fatally stabbed on 25 November. The Guardian reports that there were many tears, heartfelt tributes and balloons, hoodies with her face on, and people singing You’ll Never Walk Alone and Imagine. Read more.
Boris Johnson joined Merseyside Police on two early morning raids in Liverpool today, carrying out warrants in Kirkdale and Anfield. The raids led to two arrests. It comes as the government recently pledged to break up 2,000 county lines drug gangs with a £300 million investment towards rooting out narcotics. Read more.
Three Merseyside schools are among the top in the North West, according to the Sunday Times Parent Power Ranking 2022. They identify the top schools based on academic outcomes in the three years before the pandemic. The ones that made the list are Bluecoat School (2nd), which is also 26th in the UK, Wirral Grammar School for Girls (6th) and West Kirby Grammar School (9th). Read more.
A Warrington couple at high flooding risk were told the council’s resources were being saved for those “at greatest risk” during the storm in November. During the floods last January, they had to move out of their home for six weeks, and say they had to pay to replace everything damaged by the floods themselves. When they received a flood warning text in November, they phoned the council to ask for sandbags. “After half an hour on the phone, they said ‘Is water coming into your property?’ I said ‘Not yet’ and they said ‘You're not a priority’”. Read more.
Chester Zoo researchers have saved a rare snail from the brink of extinction. The Desertas Island land snail, which was thought to have been extinct for around 100 years, was found near Madeira “clinging to survival”. The zoo’s breeding programme has produced 1,200 snails measuring just 1mm. Read more.
Read our latest members-only story on The Post: When high-society ladies supported slavery. A local researcher unearths details of the Great Southern Bazaar.
Home of the week
This two-bedroom flat in Albert Dock has lovely exposed red brick, open plan rooms and views over the River Mersey. It’s on the market for £425,000.
Our favourite reads
We liked this Financial Times interview with the 24-year-old designer from Liverpool who made his big break dressing Harry Styles. Steven Stokey-Daley’s designs offer a playful take on the tradition and elitism he saw while studying at Westminster Fashion Studios, while also taking inspiration from androgyny to create ambiguous silhouettes. “I’d see the boys filing in wearing their straw boaters and it just seemed very alien to me. I’d never experienced the kind of tradition that surrounds schools like Harrow or Eton. I wanted to expose and contrast that with my own education and life.”
This is a gorgeous profile of Rhoda Pritzker in the Times Literary Supplement, an art collector from a philanthropic Southport family who moved to New York, married well and devoted her life to collecting fine art portrayals of the industrial North in the 1950s and 60s. There are some lovely passages about her upbringing and her previous life as a blackjack dealer in Reno. “You learn the rules of the club, even if you think they do not apply to you. If you must smoke behind the table, do not hold the cigarette in your mouth while dealing. Do not make a habit of winking at anyone while dealing a game. Do not chew gum while dealing.”
Also in the FT, we liked revisiting this story of an Anfield Bakery at the start of the pandemic, hopeful they will reemerge after lockdown. Homebaked, whose most vital revenue stream is matchday traffic, staved off closure after the pandemic by securing some charity funding. They also said relying on local suppliers was helping them stay afloat. “It has been a big hit, but you have a reservoir of young, entrepreneurial people who will come back from this. The base of the food industry is still national chains, but the trend is local and independent businesses. If we are looking at who will have gone to the wall and who will have survived, it will be the ones who are committed [to Liverpool] with local roots and suppliers.”
Mike McCartney talks about photographing the Beatles in the Guardian. It’s a gentle feature that observes the camaraderie and fun of the early years before the Beatlemania kicked in. He also points out small details such as John’s slicked-back hair: “That’s not Brylcreem — it’s sweat.” He writes: “I would go everywhere with the Beatles. I was part of the act. It’s like if Rembrandt’s kid brother was in the corner with a pad and paper, sketching his older brother. I was lucky — you couldn’t have had a better group to practise on, could you?”
Book of the week
If you’re at a loose end for Christmas presents, we recommend the local photographer Tom Wood’s new photography collection, Irish Work. There are some stunning vistas of his Irish homeland as well as more personal shots of people and everyday interactions. The book explores the idea of home and how we perceive each other. Here’s what a review says:
Tom Wood does not aspire to the splendors of the Grand Canyon and its million-years-old grandeur. He is located, lodged, locked into the immediate geology, the grains of sand of human strata. [In Ireland as] in Merseyside he is outsider and insider at once… Embedded in the community, a participant observer.
Irish Work is available to buy here.
🎨 There’s a range of festive creative workshops at GPO Food Hall this week, including candle making, a fairy light workshop and a lino cutting course that uses block print ink colours to make Christmas cards. Visit Konjö for food afterwards — we recommend the Sichuan noodles with minced pork, pak choi, sesame seeds and a little chilli oil. Book here.
🎄 Hope Christmas Market is in full swing in New Brighton and it looks like a lovely day out — there will be mulled wine, mince pies and street food from local independent traders. More info here.
🎙 Barry Adamson is discussing his post-punk career at Leaf on Bold Street tomorrow evening, weaving in memories of the Manchester music scene with other more life-affirming stories. Tickets here.
🎶 Two Liverpool bands are playing at Content in L8 this Thursday, continuing the tradition of reuniting for a big show. Space are playing 90s Britpop and The Tea Street Band are picking up their dancefloor anthems again. Book here.
🎭 A new pop musical begins at the Playhouse this Wednesday. Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World is suitable for all ages and follows a heroine as she encounters great women across history. Book here.
🌎 Kirkby Gallery has an interesting new exhibition starting today which addresses the scale of climate change and the small behavioural changes we can make to address it. It’s made up of visual art, stop-motion animation and performance art created by children from primary and secondary schools in Kirkby. More info here.
🎞 And the latest pop-up cinema is in Huyton Village this weekend. They’re showing festive films for kids in the day and ones for older audiences in the evenings. Tickets here.
We are working on a story about the sexual abuse perpetrated by Father Thomas MacCarte at Bishop Eton Monastery in Childwall. If you know the congregation or have any insight to offer, please get in touch with email@example.com or just hit reply to this email. Or if you have information about similar cases elsewhere in the city region, we’d also like to hear from you.
If you have any friends or contacts in the Iranian community in Liverpool, or any insight into the death of Malak Adabzadeh, please hit reply to this newsletter or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s the latest on the mystery of her death, as reported by the BBC:
Members of a city's Iranian community who knew a woman who was found dead at a house have been asked to contact police “as a matter of urgency”. Iranian national Malak Adabzadeh was found at an address on The Green in Stoneycroft, Liverpool, on 25 November. A post-mortem examination found the 47-year-old died from head trauma. Det Ch Insp Simon Hurst said officers were “keen for anyone who knew Malak from the Iranian community within Liverpool to come forward”.
Letters from readers
Absolutely love this writing, and some great stories in here, Carol
I have been receiving The Post by email for a little while. It always has interesting articles to read and provides links to more in-depth coverage if you want to follow them. It's topical, local and easy to read. I really like that I don't drown in advertisements whenever I look through it. More power to The Post! Barb