Croxteth And Norris Green, Liverpool
Croxteth and Norris Green in Liverpool have recently become tragic headline news. But the no-hope issues behind the grim developments in these areas of North Liverpool have been simmering for many years. The Crocky Crew and Nogzy ‘Soldiers’ are not new. The challenge is how to support local people to achieve their higher expectations and horizons.
My first ‘real’ job post-college was as a junior social worker in Norris Green and Croxteth, Liverpool.
The task allotted me all that time ago was to visit every one of the 200+ people in the area, many of them living on the Boot Estate, who were on the Social Services list and had not been seen (‘assessed’) in the past year or two. And so, equipped only with the list, a degree certificate and a bus pass, I set about my first professional posting.
Nothing, not my inner-city school, not my academic training, not my voluntary work, could have prepared me for what I was to see.
Here were elderly men who seemed to survive solely on Guinness, bread and marg; here were children with disability so severe that they had to live day-in, day-out in their parents’ lounge; here were old ladies who promised fervently to pray for me, simply because I was the first person they had spoken with for weeks.
Here, in fact, was a land, originally designed as the vision for the future, which, by those far-off days of the early 1970s, few knew, and almost everyone had forgotten.
For some, a zero-expectations environment
This was a Liverpool where there were people who, expecting nothing, eked an existence. It was the home of the dispossessed, the displaced and the despairing. Every day was like every other day in that concrete wilderness of dust, derelict front ‘gardens’, broken windows and enormous, fierce Alsation dogs.
No-one, or so it seemed, went to work. No-one ever seemed to leave the Norris Green ‘estate’, designed as a circular enclosure with concentric streets of council housing and no indication of via which road one might depart – urban planning surely to guarantee future disaster. There were few amenities (I had to take the bus to get even a sandwich or coffee at lunchtime) and even fewer shops.
Cut off from Croxteth
Until the 1980s Croxteth itself didn’t feature much in the Liverpool mind map as an area to live. Norris Green, the near-neighbour, was cut off from almost everywhere by dual carriageways on every side, and beyond them, on to the South-East was the huge, green Croxteth Estate – to this day the location of a fine country house and gardens open to visitors and in the ownership of the City of Liverpool.
Also near Norris Green was the North-East Liverpool Technical College (which co-incidentally turned out to be my next employer), a provider of day-release training for local Fords apprentices and other ‘tradesmen’ (the only women were student radiographers) and set on a large piece of land. Later, when then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher effectively abolished apprenticeships, the NELTC site was sold and became, with the farming land next to the Croxteth Estate, the location of a private development of pleasant housing for people who worked in the surrounding areas.
Broken hopes and promises
And later still the Norris Green council housing residents were promised their own improvements, as part of the Boot Estate programme – a programme which raised, and then dashed, the hopes of those from this place of quiet desperation who had dared to look to beyond their immediate horizons.
Little surprise – though unspeakably sad – that from this strange amalgam of development and despair have arisen the Nogzy ‘soldiers’ and the Crocky Crew of Liverpool’s current tragic troubles. Set alongside an area of new (relative) affluence, Norris Green is an enclosed place still, it must feel, without either hope or many stories of success.
Nothing excuses the illegal drugs economy and vicious violence – the fatal shooting by a local youth of Rhys Jones, who lived in Croxteth and was aged just eleven – of which we have all recently read; but one does begin to see through this disturbing grey blur how it might have come about.
Facing the future
There are many serious and good people who live and work in Norris Green and Croxteth. Life for them at present must feel extremely difficult, and the way forward by any account challenging. Support for what they do is obviously a critical first requirement.
But beyond that, I look back to a conversation between my supervising senior social worker and myself, when I left the employ of the Social Services.
I was leaving, I told my boss back then, because I believed that resolution of the issues required deep economic and political engagement, as well as the personal approach.
Strategies for hope
Many years later I still hold that conviction. Since that time Government and European funding of multiple millions has come to Liverpool; and now – in theory at least – we know so much more about positive strategic and sustainable intervention that we could ever have known then.
The traditional challenges of all-embracing absolute material poverty are in truth behind us. No longer can poverty alone be used to ‘explain’ the grim situation that we see.
What we now face in Norris Green, Croxteth and some other city areas in Liverpool and elsewhere is the gang-led imposition by the few on the many of a sometimes suffocating, stultifying local culture; a culture, it is said, created intentionally by illegal drugs dealers who enforce it via the callous manipulation of alienated local children.
Nothing can change what has already happened. But I hope one outcome of recent awful events will be a compelling sense of urgency about getting things sorted, before more people’s lives are ruined and even more people believe that for them there is no hope.
Posted on September 6, 2007, in Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Liverpool And Merseyside, People And Places, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Sustainability As If People Mattered, Travel and tagged Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.