Navigate / search

For the love of Winifred Street

In the last few years, an area at the top of Liverpool’s Wavertree Road has been subject to urban regeneration. The community has been dispersed. Streets of small, but serviceable, terraced houses have been torn down to be replaced by modern redbricks with city gardens and off-road parking.

Wavertree Road is a main artery into the city centre so the regeneration process was particularly public. Initially the small, independent shops on the main road began to close. Then residential streets emptied of parked cars and filled with boarded houses. In time, only the odd curtained window marked the presence of an isolated resident who couldn’t or wouldn’t be rushed out of their home. Rudely spray-painted Gas Off notifications signified impending demolition of a block. Then hammer drills and jawed-ended articulated arms arrived to break down the walls. Methodically, street after street was erased.

During all of the destruction, one tiny, touching act of creation happened. At the mouth to Winifred Street a hand-painted sign appeared. Painted white on black, the road’s name was re-established in thick, rounded letters. The painter had added a small white heart in declaration of the fact that here, amidst the destruction, remained a place that someone loved.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

That hand-painted heart touched me every time I passed. It gladdened my own heart. I often thought about the person who had painted the sign, who had loved that little street and who, one day, had to leave for the last time, knowing that their home would be destroyed. Who that person was, I’d likely never know.

Its long been in my mind to photograph that sign. I’m most often passing it in the morning when Wavertree Road is busy, making it difficult to stop. Its quieter in the evenings when I’m heading home, but the light is in the wrong place. So it needed a special trip, which I consistenly forgot to make. Until last Sunday.

I was heading into town when it occurred to me that the light would be right to get a picture of the sign. I parked opposite, crossed Wavertree Road and took my shot. Almost immediately, I spotted a van out of the corner of my eye indicating to turn into the road. The road is blocked off, so I assumed the van driver lost and turned to let them know. A girl in peaked cap leaned out of the window and shouted, in a south-of-London accent, “I painted that.” As I walked over to the van I recognised the driver as someone I’d met, only once, two weeks earlier at a life drawing class. Her name is Alicia.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

It turns out that Alicia had been the last resident of Winifred Street. One day she caught the workmen taking the original road sign away. She’d asked them to leave it as she was still resident, but they removed it anyway. She said the missing sign made her feel particularly isolated so she went home and got some white paint. She painted the sign to keep the little street alive.

Sadly, the tiny terraced houses of Winifred Street are now gone, along with the community that intersected the regeneration strategy. I know I’ll go past one day and Alicia’s sign will be gone too. But thanks to her defiant act of creation, for me at least, Winifred Street won’t be forgotten.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA