The Anfield Home Tour is a piece of theatre that takes place largely on a minibus, in an effort to get us city centre types out to the Biennial’s ultimate hidden gem, the 2Up2Down/ Homebaked project in north Liverpool.
Artist Jeanne van Heeswijk has been working with residents of the area for two years — since the last Biennial, in fact — to develop a “people-centred re-imagining” of an area that has been devastated by regeneration attempts that have instead driven out communities and left entire streets boarded up awaiting demolition. Not least of all, the neighbourhood’s fate has been intertwined with that of Liverpool FC’s Anfield stadium, which has kept everyone in limbo for some ten years while deciding its own future. Today, coincidentally, LFC announced they will not be moving after all, and will be redeveloping the existing stadium. Will it be poetic justice?
At the heart of van Heeswijk’s work is Homebaked, the reopening of a disused bakery that will, in the next few months, become a going concern once again as a community-run social enterprise. Get on the Anfield Home Tour, which runs every Saturday, and this is where you’ll end up, with a cuppa and a bit of cake and the chance to chat with everyone you’ve met along the way.
The tour, written by city author Debbie Morgan, directed by Fool’s Proof Theatre’s Britt Jurgensen, and performed by Graham Hicks, uses the stories of real residents — some of whom even invite the tour literally into their homes — to illustrate just what the community (or what is left of it) has had to endure, from compulsory purchase orders, to abandoned streets. Some will say the area was put into managed decline by those with vested interests; others will tell you the money from the CPOs were simply not a fair deal.
Hicks, better known as one half of comedy act Random Acts of Wildness, is Carl Ainsworth, a local tour guide you can even follow on Twitter (@carlainsworth1).
Along with bus driver ‘uncle’ Alan, he plays us Madness and John Lennon as we drive through the streets; he introduces us to people with stories to tell, and over the stereo we hear testimonies of former residents forced out of their homes; we pile on and off the bus to take in tales of times gone by and have our pictures taken outside the local landmarks. Sue, practically the only person left on her street, even shows us into her immaculate home — far more spacious, grand and well-built than any modern luxury flat, and owned by three generations of her family.
We finished at the bakery, where we got to chat with everyone involved in the production. It’s a hands-on, interactive and rather emotional experience. The seemingly indefensible absurdity of what has happened to what we’re told (and can easily imagine) was once a safe, close-knit neighbourhood in times gone by, is really quite hard to take in.
An unique and touching experience that could make you see the city in a whole new way, the Anfield Home Tour runs every Saturday of the Biennial (until November 25) and is free, although places must be booked by emailing email@example.com.