A recipe for resistance at Granby 4 street market

18th Oct 23 by Lucy Antal

It is a fantastic example of community in action, taking matters into their own hands to rejuvenate and invigorate their environment.

During the last thirty years the proliferation of supermarkets across our every aspect of our lives has caused a seismic change in how we purchase everything from food, to clothes and more. At first an exciting time-saving proposition where food could be bought in one “big shop” rather than needing to visit lots of different, smaller shops, consumers embraced the convenience offered by these super spaces. It’s taken a few years for the damage done to sink in. High streets and local shopping spaces have been decimated, with greengrocers, bakers, and other food providers unable to compete with the one stop shop. This has been exacerbated by the expansion of the supermarkets into other territories beyond food. Clothes, household goods, bedding, plants, flowers and more. The smaller businesses can’t mirror the loss leader prices used by supermarkets because they don’t have the same economies of scale. Supermarkets are not rooted in communities, they move to wherever they can extract the most profit – they are not of the people so they can never truly be for the people.

There is a small glimmer of hope on the horizon, however. Communities are taking matters into their own hands and reinventing the high street with pop up markets that serve the local community in a way that supermarkets can’t. Indeed, these spaces are often notably where the supermarkets are not. Areas where the communities have been left behind with the boarded-up shops and need to travel to access the amenities they used to have within walking distance. A great example of this, which we are highlighting as part of Black History Month, is the Granby 4 Streets market.

Granby 4 Streets is in Liverpool. Toxteth to be exact. Most people have heard of Toxteth, but usually only in the context of the riots which took place in the early 1980s. There’s much more to it than that. Originally a deer hunting park for the Kings of England, Toxteth has a long history stretching back to the 12th Century. Today it is a hodgepodge of gracious but dilapidated Georgian and Victorian mansions and terraces, mixed with new build housing; with long tree filled avenues that lead to the city centre. Traditionally it has been a multicultural area, on the edge of Chinatown, housing the first mosque and Islamic centre in England, with Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Quaker and Protestant churches, synagogues, and chapels offering a range of spiritual succour to inhabitants. It’s always been an area settled by people whose heritage included sailors, enslaved Africans and their descendants, and migrants from the Commonwealth . In this space you will find the Merseyside Somali and Community Association, the Liverpool Arabic Centre, the Kuumba Imani Centre, the African Caribbean Centre, and the Islamic Cultural Centre at Al-Rahmi Mosque. It remains the most ethnically diverse area of Liverpool.

The Toxteth uprising took place in 1981, protesting the police enforcement of stop and search measures which unfairly targeted young black men. Buildings burnt, windows were smashed, people were detained. The aftermath saw the stigmatising of the whole area, leading to a severe decline with boarded up shops and houses left to rot. During the 1990s and early 2000s, attempts were made to cleanse the area by demolishing the old Victorian terraces and building new houses to entice a middle-class community into this space, so close to the city centre. The remaining residents of the Granby 4 Streets, which were at this time mostly “tinned up”, referring to the security metal sheets covering doors and windows on the abandoned properties on these roads, came together to form the Granby Residents Association, which later evolved into the Granby Community Land Trust.

They resisted attempts to demolish these streets through community actions – working with artists to paint murals on derelict houses, planting gardens in the abandoned streets and hosting summer markets.  Liverpool is a charter city, which means markets cannot be held without express permission from the council. True to the spirit of Granby, which has always been one of act first, ask for forgiveness afterwards, these “illegal” markets evolved further into the monthly Granby Street Market, held every 1st Saturday in the month.  Starting as a table sale, outside people’s homes on Cairns Street L8, the market now stretches the length of this road and has around 70 stalls, offering food, bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, and homemade crafts that reflect the diversity and creativity of the community it serves. It is now firmly established within the council’s calendar of markets, with brightly coloured gazebos, art, and music to accompany the browsing public. It is a fantastic example of community in action, taking matters into their own hands to rejuvenate and invigorate their environment. It is Black led, with people who of Black heritage proudly claiming this space as theirs.

What can we learn from this? It’s okay to take a risk, to take initiative and bring your community with you. You don’t always need permission, there is power in taking action. There are great examples of this across the world – look at the guerilla gardeners of Detroit, who faced with their city’s steady decline after the great automobile industries faltered, have reimagined their environment with urban farming, or agri-hoods, in derelict streets.

Closer to home we had Esiah Levy, a young man from Croydon who created SeedsShare in 2016. Esiah grew vegetables in his back garden, having learnt how from his Jamaican father. He saved the seeds and then swapped them all over the world with other gardeners for the cost of post and packing. Esiah passed away suddenly at only 32, but he left an amazing legacy of seed swapping and inspiration that led Edward Adonteng to write: “And for me, like a young black man, looking at someone I can look to and his dedication to his plants, based on what I’ve seen so far, is astronomical to me… Like, he’s my direct inspiration to horticulture. So, when you were talking about his legacy, to me it’s now my duty to spread his name, like the seeds, just spread it.” Esiah came to Liverpool in 2018, to visit The Grapes community garden in Toxteth and share his knowledge about how to seed save. That garden still exists. Food is still grown there; seeds are still swapped.








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