What Rethink thinks; Half Term Heroes and How to Help

Article by Tanya Leary

Ever since the Government voted against extending free school meals last week I have been churned up with a horrible mix of guilt and gratitude, rage and frustration and the constant question of ‘What can we do…? How can we help?’

Ever since I started working with children and young people my mantra has been; if it’s not good enough for my kids, it’s not good enough and so the idea that any child should be allowed to go hungry is unthinkable for me; and clearly, the vast majority of others. Almost as soon as the news broke cafes across the country took to social media to invite anyone that needed support to contact them confidentially and that food would be provided no questions asked. Compassion and empathy in action, it warmed my heart but I still couldn’t shake the sadness that it had to come to this in the first place; why don’t the Government understand the situation that some people are in? 

And then I remembered all of the questions and holier than thou statements that I endured when I was working with families at risk and I remembered that some people like to blame and pigeon hole and keep their distance from the reality because it makes them feel uncomfortable and, once you open the pandoras box of how has it come to this, you realise that there is a hell of a lot of work to do to level things up and perhaps that’s just not on their agenda. 

Take for example my day yesterday:

  • I drove my girls to their drama class meaning that I then had 3.5 hours child free and we all had a break from each other. 
  • I had the luxury of a run with my husband- we discussed plans for the week, caught up on each others news and enjoyed some kid free time in the fresh air. HEAD SPACE. 
  • I was able to write a meal plan and a shopping list and drive to the supermarket without them so I was spared all of the ‘can we have…can we have’ pestering. 
  • I was able to buy the biggest, best value bag of pasta knowing that not only did I have space to store it when I got home but that I could also take it from trolley to car, not have to lug it home or carry it on the bus. 
  • I was able to check the bargain aisle knowing that I have a freezer that I can afford to switch on and isn’t just an ice compartment at the top of a fridge so I can batch cook and freeze ahead and make the most of what’s on special offer. 
  • I was able to arrive at the till without having mentally calculated what I could afford all the way round or feel the panic and anxiety as each item it beeped through. 

If you’re living on benefits or you’re a low-income family almost all of that is off the table for you. It is a different world with less time, headspace, less fuel, less everything really and it is such a hard hard situation to claw your way out of. If you think I’m exaggerating for effect watch Growing Up Poor, watch I Daniel Blake. This is real life. This isn’t a level playing field by any stretch of the imagination so, this really, really isn’t about who provides some crisps and butties for a week. It is about making sure that people understand that we aren’t all starting from the same position and making allowances for that. It is about caring enough to understand why 1.4 million children desperately need these meals in the first place and figuring out what services and scaffolding and care is needed to support those in need when OR- better still, provide the opportunities so that less people are in that position because YES Philip Davies MP, I absolutely agree that parents should primarily be responsible for feeding their children and they are desperate to but until that time, thank god for all of those who understand that if it’s not good enough for their kids, it’s not good enough. THE END. 

Here is a list of the organisations providing free lunches- please do check on their social pages incase booking is needed or you have to make contact in advance. 

BIRKENHEAD:

  • Zero Clucks Given 
  • 3B’s Cafe  
  • No 7 Café 

PRENTON & TRANMERE: 

  • Tilly Mint Treats  
  • Born & Bred Coffee Shop
  • Nemesis Coffee Shop
  • Bella Rose Hair & Beauty

WOODCHURCH: 

  • Cathy’s hot & cold takeaway

ROCK FERRY: 

  • The Bedford ‘Luke’s’ 

WALLASEY: 

  • Stanley’s Seaview Road
  • Village Fish & Chips
  • Puddos 
  • The Lighthouse Inn 
  • Little Bear Fudgery 
  • Stollies Cafe 

UPTON: 

  • Bake My Day
  • The Stonehouse Cafe 
  • Charlottes Kitchen 

MORETON: 

  • Last Course
  • The Green Hut

BEBINGTON & SPITAL : 

  • Scoffee 
  • Kings Arms 
  • Muzzy’s Breakfast House 
  • Yankies Sweets and Treats
  • Big Chef 
  • Our Coffee Shop 

HESWALL, PENSBY & THURSTASTON

  • Wylde Coffee 
  • Barcode Café
  • Flissy’s Coffee Shop at GJ’s
  • Fine Fruits Direct 

WEST KIRBY & HOYLAKE 

  • Aubergine Cafe
  • Hectors Sandwich Shop
  • Nine Leaves Tea Lounge

Quirky Café

MEOLS: 

  • Heima Coffee  
  • The Railway 
  • The Grange – Moreton 
  • The Village Cafe – Bromborough 
  • Number 7 Cafe – Birkenhead 

LISCARD, SEACOMBE & NEW BRIGHTON:

  • Remember When Wirral 
  • The Willow Tree
  • Seacombe Social Club

If you are in a position to support this cause there are several ways that you can donate:

Supporting Wirral Food Bank– set up your own reverse advent calendar to make sure that no one goes without this Christmas 

Check out Wirral support during COVID which is gathering gifts and donations to support anyone in need at this time 

Follow Frank Fields Facebook page which regularly updates with details of where to access support or where you might be able to donate or volunteer your help 

Donate to the crowd funder set up by Jamie from Wylde to enable the cafes listed above to continue to support families across this half term and if necessary beyond. 

A friend of mine Sam has also set up a fundraising page and suggests that if you ‘Ate out to Help out’ but could have paid the full price, you donate the saving back to support those that need it. 

Rethink Now CIC will continue to add to this post as new suggestions and information comes in. 

Sending all of the half term heroes lots of love. 

#PeopleneedPeople 

#CommunityMatters #Everychildmatters

Has COVID called time on school traffic?

This article was originally published in the October 2020 edition of Heswall Magazine.

With driving such an easy option for many, and busy routines meaning lots of parents need to get straight to work, we have created the perfect storm of noisy, polluted, unsafe routes to school for our children.

My own morning routine might not be so different to many others. Where are their shoes? Have they brushed their teeth? Why aren’t they eating their breakfast?! These are all things that go through my head from 8am until 8.40am each week day morning before a mad dash to the front door and our short journey to school.

Our journey is done by bicycle which is not massively unusual. The bike sheds at our primary schools in Bebington are full of bikes and scooters each morning. Many others walk as well, in fact the majority of people at our school travel in a healthy, sustainable way. It’s easy to forget that though, as the noise and the smell from the mass of idling cars is often quite overwhelming, as is the levels of anxiety when we come to cross the various roads on our daily trip.

Rethink Now CIC was setup almost solely because of the horror of the school run. There came a point where my eldest son was too fast to ride on the pavement so we were left with a choice – take to the road or start to walk instead. Walking is a beautiful thing but I didn’t feel like we should back down, so we took to the road. If you haven’t cycled on a busy road with a 6 year old to look out for then I can highly recommend it. If you look at the pinned video at the top of my Twitter profile you’ll see what I mean.

We took this energy and ran a small scale air quality testing project with children and parents back in 2018. The results were not surprising. Each day we walked in with a different child and each day the air pollution dramatically worsened near to the school gates. We would rightly frown and (possibly) complain if a parent was smoking a cigarette near kids, so why don’t we react the same way when a child is forced to breathe in a lung full of diesel fumes? Driving is so habitual for many of us but I think we all know that a rethink is needed.

Help is now at hand thanks to ‘School Streets’. These are timed road closures around primary schools that restrict cars with the aim of reducing harmful air pollution, calming streets to enable more walking, cycling and scooting and forcing the issue on climate action (far too many car journeys are of less than a mile – a distance that can easily be walked or cycled). Hundreds of these School Streets schemes exist in London – Hackney have lead the way – and Wirral Council have agreed to test six schemes across our borough in the coming months.

Would schools in Heswall benefit from this? Can you imagine a Heswall where parents, teachers and children all arrive at work on two wheels or on foot? It happens at scale in other parts of the world and it can happen here too. I’m writing this in the midst of ‘Bike To School Week’ in the UK. The weather is turning but still the bike sheds are full. I imagine a future where masses of extra bike/scooter parking is needed. A future where even staff cycle to work and car parks are given back to pupils to learn and to grow things.

Imagine! If you’d like to learn more about School Streets and sustainable transport then please do get in touch via rethinknow.uk.

Still banging on about bikes… join us- PLEASE

Yesterday we did something amazing as a family for the first time.

We went on a bike ride.

ALL TOGETHER.

ALL ON BIKES.

ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!

AND…FURTHER MORE…WE WENT ON THE ACTUAL REAL LIFE ROADS. WOWZER!

I am made up- this is a big deal for us and, even bigger when I consider that today the girls and I did it again, without the aid of the most able and confident cyclist in our gang- Mr L.

Our girls are 7 and 8 and I am 40 this year so it’s not as if we are breaking any world records or anything but for us it is note worthy and, judging from the conversations I have had with lots of other parents, we aren’t alone! Not everyone is as confident as Will and Ed on two wheels; they are the exception rather than the norm- in this country at least.

This might not sound major to many people but, for me, the prospect of riding on a main road with my children would have been pretty much unthinkable until lockdown. The roads were too busy, too noisy, too dangerous, too damn scary for me to even consider it – despite being a director for a CIC whose principal focus is getting people out of cars and reducing our carbon footprints. I am happy to walk, happy to run, happy with public transport and, as a family we actively try to live active and environmentally conscious lives so, it is saying something if I lacked the confidence to regularly ride on the roads.

Infact; quieter roads have not been the only plus point of lockdown in my opinion. It has given us the opportunity to really explore some of the gorgeous green spaces we have on our doorstep- Caldy Hill and Arrowe Park, Heswall Shore, The Dales and Dungeons to name a few. Having lived on Wirral for much of my life I knew the usual suspects- West Kirby, The Wirral Way, The Marshes at Parkgate but so much more opened up to us as soon as the option of jumping in the car was off the agenda. During the past 12 weeks we have run, walked, cycled and scooted closer to home far more than we ever made time for previously and we are all the better for it.

Getting out alone and into some green space has been a real balm for me over these last few months. Watching the sunrise, hearing the birds, seeing the squirrels, it has all enabled me to retain or more accurately, regain, a sense of calm. Without it, I think I would have found this time much more challenging.

This enforced ‘lockdown’ or ‘slowdown’ has afforded us the opportunity to glimpse at how life could be with

  • The option to work from home regularly
  • Flexitime
  • More family time
  • More time in nature
  • Less traffic on our roads
  • A slower pace of life generally and an opportunity to really access what is important.

It is a life I believe we could all gain so much from and, as the lockdown continues to ease it is imperative that we don’t allow all of these gains to slip away. For so many of our European neighbours cycling is a way of life- far more common than the car for the school run, the commute or the shopping- could this be a part of our ‘new normal’?

Rethink Now are determined to be a part of the “What now” conversation- the discussion on what needs to happen to keep people cycling, keep people walking and make sure that people don’t automatically revert to the car whilst public transport services are squeezed due to social distancing measures.

To do this, we really need your help;

A tool has gone online to enable you to highlight locations that need to be improved for pedestrians and cyclists across Wirral during the COVID-19 crisis and potentially longer term if the changes are well received.

If there is an area that you feel needs to be changed or improved say, due to excessive pavement parking, too many cars near your kids school or feeling roads are unsafe for cycling PLEASE do take the time to comment- you can highlight as many locations as you want and provide as much detail as necessary to help the council decide what changes will be made where. The more people that comment the more evidence there is to say that as a peninsula we want access to safe, green modes of transport. We want an alternative to the car that feels safe and convenient. We want to enjoy our local area on two wheels or on foot- whatever our age or ability.

The site is really quick and easy to use – click the orange ‘Have your say’ button, scroll/zoom to the part of the map you want to comment on, drop a pin and fill out the quick form before submitting.

https://wirralliveablestreets.commonplace.is

There is also one for Chester if that is applicable for you, and Liverpool too!

And- if furlough is giving you more time than you know what to do with; you could also email your local councillors regarding any safety concerns and the importance of walking/cycling- what difference it has made to your area in lockdown and why you feel it is necessary. Councillors just aren’t hearing enough from people about this stuff and unless it feels like a priority to them other things will take precedence.  – quite often they are hearing a lot by way of complaints about not enough parking, lack of access for cars, complaints about pesky cyclists on the pavement, etc. We need to turn the tide on this in a massive way as we face down the COVID crisis that will merge into our environmental crisis. Find your councillors here and let them know that this stuff is important.

https://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

Covid has been a truly horrific time for so many – it is important that we do all we can to capture any grains of goodness and help them grow. We believe this is possible; do you?

Join us on our mission:

  • Cleaner, greener places
  • Connected communities
  • Happier People
  • Healthier Planet

Please use the links above to share this post across your social and encourage as many people as possible to share their views – positive or constructive on the site. You can also tell any friends and family that aren’t on SM too- it is important to reach as many people as possible. The deadline is 31st August but, now is good!

Bike to the Future

Just as lockdown began, Rethink Now began work on an exciting bid for eCargo bikes. Working closely with Wirral Environmental Network, Wirral Council, Peel L&P and others we submitted a proposal focusing on reducing the number of short distance deliveries undertaken by motorised vehicles. Deliveries which have been so important over recent weeks to get vital supplies to vulnerable members of our communities.

This method of delivery was the norm in the post-war era with lads on bikes whizzing orders across towns and villages- they were quick, clean and efficient means of travel and a brilliant way to promote the company but, as roads became busier, they fell into decline.

1905 Alldays Standard Carrier Tricycle

Well, no more! The bid was successful and Wirral, along with 17 other local councils will shortly take ownership of a fleet of ebikes and trailers for use by local businesses and educational establishments.

Once the bikes arrive, we’ll be working directly with Wirral Chamber of Commerce to get these bikes into the hands of local business owners to enable the shift to low cost, low emission deliveries on Wirral.

The Covid 19 crisis has forced a vastly different way of life on all of us and, as we begin to feel our way towards a return to ‘normal’ we have the opportunity to work with our communities and businesses to ensure that it is a future we have created with intention and purpose. A future that works for our physical and mental health and that of our loved ones.

“eCargo bikes are great for not only business but also the environment, helping to lower costs and emissions.” 

“This funding will see groceries and other shopping delivered to people’s doors by bike instead of vans, helping ensure that as transport increases and we recover from Covid-19, it’ll be cleaner and greener than ever before.”

Chris Heaton-Harris, Cycling Minister

Tim Anderson, Head of Transport at Energy Saving Trust, said: “eCargo bikes are an attractive low carbon transport solution that are becoming more widely adopted. They offer significant benefits, most impressively fuel cost savings and contributing to improved local air quality which are particularly attractive as we work towards a green recovery following the Covid-19 outbreak. With more deliveries to our homes than ever, last mile delivery is an important area for consideration in our journey to reduce transport emissions to net zero by 2050. We expect the eCargo Bike Grant Fund to support wider and longer term uptake of these light vehicles.”

At Rethink Now CIC we want to be part of the team pushing Wirral towards a cleaner, greener future and the e cargo bikes are a brilliant first step on this journey. If you’d like to be the first to know when the scheme launches, as well as other Rethink Now news, join our mailing list today to be kept up to date.

Watch this space.

Image: Bike Hugger

Rethink Now CIC awarded up to £10,000 and place on learning programme to improve local community

Ed Lamb, Director of Rethink Now CIC a Wirral based community interest company, is one of 71 leaders across England selected for a competitive learning programme and grant of up to £10,000.

The Community Business Trade Up Programme is run by the School for Social Entrepreneurs, in partnership with Power to Change. The programme supports people working to improving their local communities through trade.

The programme will help Rethink Now founder Ed, and fellow Director,Tanya Leary to grow Rethink Now CIC, which focuses on reducing short journey car commutes and strengthening communities, both of which have been brought into sharp relief of late.

Ed Lamb began his nine-month learning programme at the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) in May via Zoom calls and distance learning and is already feeling the benefits of the support. SSE helps people develop the skills, strengths and networks they need to tackle society’s biggest problems.

Ed says: “I am delighted to have been accepted onto this brilliant programme and I feel like now this is more important than ever. At Rethink Now we are totally committed to supporting people on Wirral and having the chance to flesh out our plans and develop the necessary skills and networks to do some really meaningful work is really important to us. The Community Business Trade Up Programme and the grant is a key element of our next steps.

Amber Sorrell, programme manager at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, says: “We are thrilled to welcome Ed onto the programme, where he will learn alongside other community leaders how to create lasting social impact for the region. We are confident Ed has the entrepreneurial qualities and motivation to increase theimpact Rethink Now can have on Wirral and beyond, which is why we have awarded them a highly-coveted place.”.

Find out more about the programme and register your interest for the 2020/21 programme at https://www.the-sse.org/courses/community-business/

Enter The Bicycle

All it took was the end of life as we know it.

For years (decades!) campaigners, planners, experts and even the odd MP have shouted from the sidelines about the power of the bicycle. Name me a problem and the bicycle will fix it. Air pollution? Bikes! Noise pollution? Bikes! Physical health? Bikes! Safer streets? More Bikes! Climate change? BICYCLES!!!

I’m quite new to the campaigning game but I’m told that there have been more than one false starts in recent generations. I’m also new enough to it to get excited when announcements are made. On Friday 8th May at 4pm, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made a very big announcement. Well, big if you’re a walking/cycling nerd like me. The announcement could have profoundly positive impact on all of us, irrespective of how you move around.

The horror of COVID-19 has thrown up a unique opportunity for sustainable transport. With public transport capacity restricted to as little as 10% of pre-crisis levels for months, if not years into the future, we need to find different ways of getting around. The idea of our roads being flooded with cars initially filled me (and many others) with horror, but as convenient as driving can be, cars have an Achilles heel – they are incredibly space inefficient. Forget about issues around air pollution – Shapps and his advisors have crunched the numbers and realised that if everyone hops in their car our towns and cities will be paralysed.

Enter the bicycle.

There are folks online who are doing a far better job of explaining why this announcement is a big deal. Adam Tranter, Bicycle Mayor for Coventry, explains it well here (Sidenote – Liverpool and/or our City Region needs a bicycle mayor).

There is lots to drool over in the updated Traffic Management Act. Pavement widening, 20mph zones, road closures around schools, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, additional cycle parking facilities… it’s all in there! The important thing is to remember that the crisis around COVID-19 is the catalyst for these temporary changes but check THIS out for a line from a Conservative minister:

Authorities should monitor and evaluate any temporary measures they install, with a view to making them permanent, and embedding a long-term shift to active travel as we move from restart to recovery.

Wow.

You should certainly think hard about sending it to your local councillors and MPs and ask what is being done in your area for the health, safety and future prosperity of your fellow citizens, both in the weeks ahead and beyond.

Councils will no longer be able to water down schemes or ignore you. If they fail to act, government will step in and act for you. But why wouldn’t they want to? Walking and cycling should be the easiest ways to get around – they both keep us healthy, our air clean and our streets safe and quiet. What’s not to like?

The crisis this pandemic has brought to our doors will morph into the environmental crisis that was finally being understood by a sizeable percentage of our population. We should applaud the government for recognising this and not shying away from it. A government ‘Decarbonising Transport‘ report that snuck out a week or two into lockdown showed that the scale of the challenge is understood.

It was Churchill that supposedly first said “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. For those that are alert to the tidal wave of chaos the climate emergency could bring, this is not an opportunity to be wasted.

Follow Edward Lamb on Twitter for more.

A global pandemic and the chance to rethink everything

Sometimes situations arise which force us to look a life through a different lens. Like an unwelcome invitation to assess where we are; as individuals, families, communities, businesses and countries. 

When Ed set up Rethink Now late in 2018 it was on the back of his frustration around the daily commute and how unsafe it was for him and his family trying to get to school. The hope was that Rethink Now could inspire and encourage people to begin to rethink the way they lived day to day; 

  • The way we travel
  • The way we interact with our communities 
  • The way we look after our little corner of Planet Earth in the hope that it might have a bigger impact globally

We never expected that a global rethink would be forced upon us all

So far 2020 has thrown up some serious stinkers. The fires, the floods and now COVID-19 and the chaos that only a global pandemic can bring – empty supermarket shelves, nationwide lock downs and a particularly strange shortage of toilet rolls.

As a CIC we have already had to rethink our events and community interaction. We have lost income as so many of you will have but are so full of hope that this massive global crisis will genuinely lead to a step change in the way we all live and we will be left with more connected and empathic communities and that we will all come through this stronger together. 

When we’re on ‘lockdown’ there is plenty of time for reflection and introspection, which, in too large a dose isn’t healthy. This enforced slowdown is causing anxiety, confusion and uncertainty but it is also enabling parents to spend more time with their children, it has led to families forgetting feuds and has seen our NHS workers recognised (finally!) as the heroes that they are. For our own mental health it is really important that we look for the positives wherever possible and actually, there are LOTS…

We would really LOVE to hear the positive stories in your area so we can start a positivity pandemic; here are some of our take aways.

Community Care

As soon as the news started to get serious about C-19 messages began to pop up on my village social media feed. People were offering shop runs, telephone calls, newspaper drops and so on. There are print outs doing the rounds so we can drop notes in to the neighbours with our name, contact number and a tick list of what we can help with. For those that live some distance away from their own families it is offering the opportunity to do for others what we hope will be done for our parents and vulnerable family members. It has taken a global pandemic for many of us to learn our neighbours’ names but whatever the reason, now we’re connected, I don’t want wellness to get into the way of these new relationships. They’re the little things that make up the fabric of daily life that for too long many of us have been too busy for. 

Conscious Consumerism

As supply chains dry up and even common products become more difficult to come by small, local businesses are coming into their own. Milk men and women are making daily deliveries of bread, milk, juice and an increasing variety of goods to those self-isolating. Independent shops are offering to wrap, pack and hand deliver gifts and care packages to those self-isolating or to friends and relatives that have a birthday or occasion if you can’t get into the shop because you’re ill or self-isolating. Swathes of festivals, fairs and events which independents would usually get a large proportion of their sales and income from have been cancelled so people are turning to social channels to prop up sales and sell gift vouchers for future dates and experiences. I was really moved by a post from Jack Monroe recently who has helped so many with her budget recipes and, now some of her contracts have been cancelled, it is her turn to be helped. Such is life and her fans and followers are coming through. Buying less, buying more locally and buying more consciously has been on the fringes of many peoples minds for some time- it cuts plastic, cuts carbon and helps the high street but…. Online and supermarkets are just so easy…until they’re too empty of products or too full of other people. Local is personal, it is supporting our community and it really needs us! 

Controlled Commuting

Businesses have moved heaven and earth to ensure that it is possible and profitable for staff to work from home because now it’s about theirsurvival and convenience, not yours. A few businesses have been the exception but in the main, historically flexible working is a fight.  Motherpukka has been championing flexible working for years but nothing has had the impact that C-19 has. So, once life settles down again, flexible working will still be possible- for parents, for carers, for anyone looking for a better balance so lets hope this is something that sticks. 

Right now we are all on some rollercoaster of emotion and changing details and directives are tricky to handle; Sometimes I’m very keep calm and carry on and at other times I am a nervous wreck wondering about where my next pay cheque will come from and when but, as the messages and meme’s are reminding me- I’m not in the trenches, I’m not on my own and we will get through this together.

Fingers crossed, come September this storm will have passed and we will be well ready for some serious social interaction and some well deserved fresh air and fun. 

Hang in there guys. 

Loads of love, 
Ed and Tanya

What can be done to Regenerate Birkenhead?

This is an age old question without a simple answer and yes; we are aware that there have been schemes and ideas before AND, some people are really tired of these questions being asked, conversations being started and promises being made that never seem to come to fruition but… set aside your cynicism for a moment and imagine this:

Birkenhead is reimagined as a town that has its community front and centre. We design people back into the spaces and traffic out. Over 60% of Birkenhead residents don’t own a car so how about we make walking and cycling a priority as opposed to the additional 920 car parking spaces the proposed MUSE development would bring. We use cycle paths and walking routes to properly, seamlessly connect the ferry to the train, the train to the bus and the bus to the shopping and social precinct.

Our Climate Emergency will mean a dramatic rethink in transport. Walking, cycling and public transport only in the near-future

How about the further development of cycle paths on major routes into our town and the installation of electric vehicle charging points working towards Wirral becoming the first clean, green and carbon neutral council the UK?

Currently we have an amazing amount of gorgeous green space, beautiful waterfront views, free exercise opportunities and a world class park. With the correct planning and management wouldn’t this become a real selling point?

Couldn’t we take a lead from the likes Bristol, Brighton, Manchester and Glasgow? These cities are considered disrupters and rule breakers in the best possible way; can’t we find a way for our peninsula to sell itself as a forward thinking, positive and proactive place to be a part of both from a business and residential perspective? Birkenhead deserves to be the urban centre of our area. Forget the money for a moment. With the right vision, investment can and will follow.

Part of the incredible Glasgow Mural trail. This piece was created by Rouge-One.

Birkenhead market used to be the pride of the town, it was a social hub a place to meet friends, pick up your shopping  (no plastic or excess packaging) and chat with the stall holders who were (and are) fonts of knowledge on how to feed a family on a budget or how to serve a show stopper to impress. With higher rates of child poverty and childhood obesity alongside lower life expectancy, having the opportunity to pick up a weeks worth of groceries at the same time as finding out more about how to prepare, serve and store them – perhaps even taking part in a cookery session or demo – there are tonnes of examples of groups like this making a really positive difference in areas that face similar struggles to Birkenhead.

Some of the principal concerns raised by the residents of Birkenhead pertained to feeling safe, issues with crime, antisocial behaviour and drugs. These are not concerns unique to us; In the late 20th century, New York City was blighted by serious crime and drugs – residents were rightly afraid to go to certain areas but; those areas, which people found ugly and intimidating were reimagined with pots of paint, planters and community initiatives. Some of this was done without the say so of anyone in authority – it was simply people with ideas taking back their streets and they have flourished, as have the communities around them and the difference this has made both to the individual areas and the cities whole reputation has been incredible. This idea of community led ideas was promoted by Janette Sadik-Khan who was in charge of transport and urban issues in NYC whilst Mayor Bloomberg was in charge of things. Her book ‘Street Fight’ is chock full of examples of low cost solutions to repurpose our public spaces and roads to make them cleaner, green, healthier and better for business.

Not only that, the development needed isn’t about broken street lights… I mean obviously it is, but it is SO SO much bigger than that. For this to work it needs collaboration and a joint effort and some seriously brave and bold decisions which need to consider the peninsula as a whole.

Rethink think – no, Rethink honestly, hand on heart, believe that Birkenhead can be a brilliant town again. We think that the ideas and the passion needs to come from the people living there day in day out. They know where the problems are, what won’t work and what is worth a try and, engaging with them is the absolute key to any redevelopment that happens. We can take courage from places such as Mulhouse in France which has gone from ‘Bleak to bustling over the last decade and shares more than a few similarities with Birkenhead;
Just over a decade ago, Mulhouse, a town of 110,000 people near the German and Swiss borders, was a symbol of the death of the European high street. One of the poorest towns of its size in France, this former hub of the textile industry had long ago been clobbered by factory closures and industrial decline. It had high rates of poverty and youth unemployment, a shrinking population, and more than 100 shops empty or boarded up. The centre had become associated with gangs.

A reimagined Argyle Street, linking the Town Centre with Hamilton Square and Woodside

Read the full article here.


As an area it makes no sense for us to be talking about greenbelt release in one breath and empty homes and shops in the next. Naturally, developers are more likely to be interested in building in desirable areas that don’t require demolition and don’t need land to be tested for contamination. Naturally, councils are keen to bring in revenue and that means council tax which is more in desirable areas so… let’s make this area desirable again! Currently it is unlikely those with the luxury of choice would opt to buy in most parts of Birkenhead which ensures that the redevelopment of the town and the creation of properties around it may not have the deep and long lasting impact that it should and could. 
Let’s take Hamilton Square as an example. It is the largest example of Grade 2 listed buildings outside of London. There can’t be another town or city in the United Kingdom today that doesn’t make better use of such an incredible asset. Properties such as these sell for around £700,000 in Edinburgh and upwards of £15 million in central London, even in Liverpools Cathedral Quarter (which you can practically see from the top floor of the town hall) go for thousands more. In Birkenhead they are often vacant, divided up into offices or used as social housing. When they come up for sale as whole properties they are available for around £250,000.
These beautiful properties are a short hop from the train, ferry, bus and motorway; commuters could be in Liverpool in less than 10 minutes! London in less than 2.5hrs – the place should be buzzing every weekend, not two or three times a year for one off, costly events. There should be cafes and boutiques for mooching in on the way to the town centre or the ferry. There was an agreement made over 18 months ago to develop a Heritage plan for the Square but so far… not much… (as far as we know).

Wirral’s history is built on innovation and bold ideas and we need some of this now. We need an identity, a real USP to ensure that we get the right developments in the right areas maintaining what green space we have as far as is possible whilst enhancing our existing urban spaces. Wellbeing, mental health considerations and work life balance are becoming ever more important when people look to relocate either as individuals or businesses; this is the type of lifestyle that the peninsula currently offers in abundance. If we do not take this opportunity to genuinely do something bold and different the chasm between the two sides of the M53 will continue to deepen and everyone will lose out.

Imagine this; Wirral as a peninsula with Birkenhead as its principal town and urban centre. A rebrand which reinvents our area as a place where wellness and work life balance are at the top of everyone’s agendas. Where we work to live and have the time to enjoy the coast and the countryside with our friends and family. Where we feel safe enough to cycle (and not just on the Wirral way) and where productivity doesn’t come at the cost of missing your child’s bedtime for the third night in a row. The possibility of a 4 day week doesn’t need to be a pipe dream- if it’s good enough for New Zealand….
One of Wirrals best known and best loved attractions; Port Sunlight is a prime example of innovative urban planning, built with the needs of the residents and workers in mind. Isn’t it possible that with some bold ideas and brave decisions we could achieve that again, in Birkenhead? Reimagining and redeveloping existing spaces to create a new era and create a new legacy to reinforce the idea that we are an area and Wirral Borough Council are a council that cares about the people as much as the pounds. After all, everything seems impossible until its done…

Rethink Think that all of this is possible, over to you, we would love to hear your views…