It’s the story of this city. And it was played out perfectly yesterday when, in the aftermath of the me-too riots scarring our city streets, an immediate and resounding response mobilised hundreds of us to the scene. So, what are you doing Wednesday morning?
With plastic bags, gloves and brushes supplied by a local supermarket the Liverpool Clean Up team tied the community together and proved that, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction around these parts: and a determination to clean our streets of the crap, and wash away the detritus before the stains set in. And they’re set to do the same Wednesday morning, following tonight’s riots.
The idea came – as all great ideas tend to – from the hazy, alcohol-soaked mind of local resident (and Bumper quizmaster/bartender) Charles Jupiter.
“I was at home on Mather Avenue, so hungover I could cry and suddenly three different social network tabs started going berserk with pictures of fire and kids running in the dark,” Charles tells SevenStreets. “I turned the news on and the story was the same in London too.”
“The cleanup idea came partly out of spite for my mother because she says no good comes from social networking. Probably because she saw that the riots were partly organised by it,” he says. “So I made an event that anyone could join to bring shovels, brushes, bins and gloves to help clean up our streets.”
In a matter of hours, Charles’ facebook page had 600 members, ready to give up their morning, get down and dirty, and get the city moving again.
“At 8 o’clock I drove around to see where needed cleaning, and a 9 o’clock we met outside the Asda on Smithdown Road to get stuck in.”
By 11.30 it was job done. In fact, if we’re honest, the place looked better than before…
“The aftermath was ridiculous, I was embarrassed and disappointed,” Charles says of Monday night’s events. “This is their own community, sure there can be political reasons for protesting, but that was just wanton destruction of their peers’ property and their community.”
Charles – and his volunteers’ – actions caught the city’s mood perfectly, and before long, TV cameras, bloggers and journalists were swamping the unassuming clean-up champ with support, coverage, and offers of help.
“It was pretty nice realising that I’d lost control of the event. Local politicians, celebrities, popular twitter users and local radio got really involved into making sure that this was well publicised and that anyone could get involved. It made me happy to see that all people needed was a little nudge and the snowball effect took place,” he says.
“The community of Lawrence Road, Smithdown Road, Myrtle Parade and Grove Street have been truly amazing. From people driving past, getting out their cars and helping brush up a smahsed bus shelter, to refreshments provided by local cafés and bars and even chain shops like ASDA and the co-operative, everyone’s done their bit.”
Asked about a high point from the day’s work, Charles recalls a couple of residents from Grove Street stopping and asking if they could take a photograph of Charles and his helpers.
“It’s just a really nice feeling to see that everyone was so appreciative of the help coming from local people,” he says. “It really felt like we banded together.”
But what of the flashpoint itself? Does Charles detect darker forces at work? A signal of something coming down the tracks?
“No. I reckon it was just mindless vandalism and greed at work, nothing to be proud of, it’s not big or clever.
“What’s worse is the belief that the poor chap that got shot in London was a reason for men my age (21) and younger to attack officers who are in reality, there to protect them.”
With fires and looting along County Road and Smithdown Road (time of posting, midnight), Charles has just posted on the Liverpool Clean Up Facebook page that he’ll be cleaning up the same route again, Wednesday: meeting at the Asda, Smithdown Road, 9am.
“There has been a legacy to this,” he says… “And I reckon it’s that if criminals or vandals ruin things, normal people will retaliate, not necessarily with force, but in their own way.”
And if that means picking up every last shard of glass, and every last chunk of rubble, Charles and everyone out on the streets yesterday proved we’re the city to do it.
Pics: Pete Carr – read his account here