The Friends Of St James’ Cemetery And Gardens, Liverpool
The Friends of St James’, who are restoring the historic cemetery and park next to Liverpool Cathedral, have achieved much in the few years of their formal existence. The inner city becomes, by the hard work of volunteer environmentalists and gardeners, joining with equally committed volunteer lobbyists, a place where green space can thrive to encourage the naturalist in us all.
The Friends of St James Cemetery And Gardens held its third AGM this evening. Reports from the Chair, local resident and sculptor Robin Riley, and the Vice-Chair, Prof. Tony Bradshaw, a noted emeritus researcher from the University of Liverpool, were incredibly encouraging – programmes of volunteer engagement, plans for children’s educational activities, accounts of excellent public engagement events during the past year … all warmed the heart and gave us hope for the future of this unique inner-city environmental resource.
St James’ is a space dug out by the masons of yesteryear (I suspect that blocks of its red stone comprise the wall at the back of my house), and situated right next to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. It holds about eighty thousand graves, relating in their stony way the history of the city for many decades up to the 1930s.
The cemetery, now also a park or ‘gardens’, hosts the Huskisson Memorial and much other testimony to Liverpool’s history. Amongst the other very interesting things to be found in this hollow scooped from the innrer city are a natural well and many exciting nooks and crannies. But until recently it was a no-go area, somewhere that most of us were rather afraid to explore at any time of day.
Pulling together to reclaim the space
The opportunity to reclaim this large space arose at least in part from the Bishops’ Conference on Social Responsibility which was held at Liverpool Cathedral in 2001. The environmentally aware theme of this conference resonated with the ambitions of many of us at the Cathedral and in HOPES: The Hope Street Association to develop the St. James’ site (which runs along the southern part of Hope Street) as part of our long-awaited Hope Street Millennium Public Realm proposals. In this ambition we found sterling support from David Shreeve of the national organisation the Conservation Foundation, a keen environmentalist who was much involved with Liverpool Cathedral and in this conference.
David worked with HOPES and others to encourage the City Council to see the value of developing the historic site right on our doorstep, and so the Friends of St James was formed. Here is an example of how having someone beyond the local scene to act as a champion can work wonders. What is declared by influential people beyond the locality to be precious may well be similarly perceived also by local decision-makers before too long.
Building for the future
So now we have a very active organisation for St James’ which will soon be a registered charity, and we also have buy-in from the City Council and Liverpool Vision, as well as from many ‘ordinary’ citizens of the city.
We also have big plans, including the imaginative Bridge of Hope, a project for a glass bridge which is intended to take people on a walkway at street level, high above the cemetery, straight into the Cathedral – thereby at last realising a dream which has been part of the Hope Street ambition for many decades.
What prospects for green space in the city?
Liverpool has been very slow to treasure its parks and green space. Sefton Park, for instance, has been left quietly to ‘naturalise’ for many years until very recently; but the Friends of Sefton Park, like those of St James’, have campaigned long and hard to develop these parks a sensibly managed public space once more… And it’s happened, because citizens of the city living around and enjoying these green spaces, cared enough to make a fuss and involve other, generously helpful people.
Let’s hope the same success can now be achieved by people who are campaigning for improvements to Newsham Park and other superb parks and green spaces in Liverpool. Newsham Park, for instance, has hard-working Friends as well. They need support!
The critical thing is, unless people can enjoy green space for themselves, they probably won’t be able to value it as they could, indeed should. It’s become a generational thing. If you haven’t seen it, you probably won’t want it, whether its allotments, parks or simply somewhere nice to walk.
Inevitably we must accept that Liverpool’s parks and open spaces cannot all, and unreservedly, be ‘set in aspic’ (to use a naturalistic metaphor); but I applaud wholeheartedly those who fight to ensure that the children of today have the opportunity, by example of fellow local citizens, to become be the enthusiastic users, and indeed guardians, of inner-city green space in the future.
Liverpool’s Two Cathedrals
Hope Street Quarter, Liverpool and
Camera & Calendar.
Posted on January 19, 2006, in Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, HOPES: The Hope Street Association, Liverpool And Merseyside, Photographs And Images, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Sustainability As If People Mattered. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.