Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Ian Jobling, Picton Councillor

An email landed in my inbox from an Ian Jobling wanting to buy “People in Liverpool”. This is not a name that you forget easily and I was sure he had ordered something from me before. He had. Two calendars.

We got to chatting and it turned out that apart from working in the caravan industry, Ian dedicates his spare time as a Lib Dem councillor for the Picton Ward. So, when Ian said how much he enjoyed the calendar, and I said, how much flak I had received for the naked girl, he said some of us are open minded, you know, and I replied, how about posing for me then, but in an open minded manner?

As Ian is particularly interested in urban regeneration, and there is a lot of that going on in his ward, we agreed to meet on the boarded up Thorburn Street, which is in Phase Two of The Edge Hill Regeneration Project. This is not to be confused with the controversial Edge Lane West CPO which continues to be halted by the plucky Kensington resident Elizabeth Pascoe.

Ian explained that in 2003 John Prescott backed controversial plans to demolish swathes of Victorian housing across the North, and replace it with modern housing. As absurd as demolition seems, rejuvenation would not have addressed the fact that many of Picton’s existing terraces are tiny and lacking outside space, and therefore not so adaptable for modern family needs.

Ian said he was not surprised that on this side of Edge Lane the residents took their golden handshake and moved out without a murmur. I pointed out that that some houses still appeared occupied. Are those squatters, I asked? No, some people waiting for housing nearer by, or wanting more money. They should have left last year, when the prices were higher, he added as an after thought.

We walked into a small park and looked around at the forlorn buildings whose windows had been replaced by industrial metal shields. “Elec Off” and “Gas Off” was scrawled across the bricks. Council graffiti, no Banksey this, and a serious deterrent to entry. At the far end a derelict pub seemed to flap ghosts into the chilly afternoon. I could almost hear the people singing inside and it reminded me of Terence Davies emotive masterpiece “Still Lives, Distant Voices”.

What would this area look like in ten years? As if reading my mind, Ian, said, where we are standing was also housing just one year ago. This park is to give people green space, somewhere for children to play - it will stay.
Two lads in hoodies scuttled past and I clutched camera to my chest. It’s ok, Ian said, there is nothing to worry about – turns out he is a member of the Merseyside Police Authority too!

We started to take pictures, in front of the council graffiti, by the pub, in the central green. Ian was very compliant and appeared to have no ego whatsoever. He was certainly open minded, the only problem being that he is such a nice person that his tendency is to smile. No smiling, I chided, this is a serious matter, you have to show you are here to help. So Ian stopped smiling, and, like a marionette, did everything I asked, even jumping up into the air.

The shoot finished, we talked about the pub, and how it is was no longer the centre of community life, and then, twenty minutes later, we got into our separate cars and drove down off in different directions.