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The Laz word

The street traders are back, but they are posher this time, writes Larry Neild

Published on August 10th 2009.

LIVERPOOL City Council had declared all out war on the Church Street traders, and yet another skirmish was about to be played out in public. My report in the Echo, as ever, was as thorough and balanced as it’s possible to be.

Ridding the street of the stalls became a cause celebre for the Lib Dems, one of the pledges writ in stone when they swept to power in 1998. How strange then that Liverpool One owners Grosvenor have asked the city council to give them permission to introduce street trading in South John Street

Sat at my window-seat desk in Old Hall Street, the phone rang out at around 5pm. It was from a kiosk. An angry sounding voice asked .... is that that Larry Neild. Confirmation brought the next line . . . “we’re going to kill you”. Death threats towards journos are not all that uncommon, though not to be ignored.

Asking why was my life to be prematurely ended, the mystery caller said it was because of the piece in the Echo. I argued it was balanced and fair and it turned out they were referring to an editorial I did not write or subscribe to. It was pretty horrid and insulting towards the street traders.

As my name was on the accompanying story, I was to pay the ultimate price. When are you going to kill me? I enquired, as one would. Tonight, we’re going to kill you tonight. Oops, that’s bit of a problem as I’ve got a ticket for the match at Anfield and was thinking of going. There was a rustling noise and whispering in the phone box as my would-be assassin consulted his fellow executioner. “All right, we’ll kill you tomorrow,” said the considerate mystery caller.

A while later I went to the Appeal Court in London where the traders won a sensational victory that was to keep them in Church Street for a couple of extra years.

At the end of the case, one of the traders approached me and said “Can I buy you a drink?” I said to him . . . “I recognise that voice.” Apologies were accepted – he was upset at the editor’s comments – and I supped ale with him in London’s Strand.

It cost the council millions of pounds in legal costs and court fees to shift the traders around the corner to Parker Street – where to this day they thrive. Halleluah!The council had argued that Liverpool’s premier shopping thoroughfare, Church Street, was no place for street trading. Ridding the street of the stalls became a cause celebre for the Lib Dems, one of the pledges writ in stone when they swept to power in 1998.

How strange then that Liverpool One owners Grosvenor have asked the city council to give them permission to introduce street trading in South John Street. In the decision that eventually saw the stalls moved from Church Street, all trading was barred except in designated streets.

That’s why some posh trading stalls have appeared in Paradise Street, it’s legally a trading street for license holders.

The biggest irony of all is that the wide pedestrian boulevard that is Church Street would thrive even more with some street trading. Maybe Labour’s pledge could be to return the traders to their traditional home should the party take control at the town hall next year. I could imagine the traders saying ... no thanks we’ve found Paradise and we’ve found Parker Street so we’ll stay here.

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Tarleton StreetAugust 10th 2009.

They were an eyesore! Photographers only ever borthered to photograph Mrs. Christian's fruit stall or perhaps the lovely flower stall (that was kicked off its pitch long before the others). Most were ugly stalls with ruffians selling cheap plastic tat and imitation footy scarves. I remember old ladies being sold bogus South Park merchandise so inaccurate that it would have horribly disappointed their grandchildren on Christmas Day.

DigAugust 10th 2009.

It may only get its facelift if there's traders and punters to facelift it for. Letting it die a slow painful death would be a disaster. If it closed what could be done with it? Filling such a huge void would be near impossible.

Truculent of ToxtethAugust 10th 2009.

They had eyesore stalls selling tacky junk, they were scruffy and foul-mouthed and not the sort of thing to have out in the open in a small city centre when the city is desperate to attract tourists.

Williamson SquareAugust 10th 2009.

Never mind the market - what's is there at all in St. John's Precinct these days? Is the Book Clearance shop still there, and Beatties Toyshop? The Mad Butcher- is he still there?

Mrs HewittAugust 10th 2009.

He was Bernie to all of us who regularly to sent dozens of dirty toothbrushes through the post to Rantzen after she stole his show. I once met Val Parnell where he wa the MC at a bare knuckle fight in Sparkbrook. It was Patrick Campbell getting battered by Arthur Marshall for the coveted Call My Bluff captaincy. A surpise victory for Marshall as campbell had the height advantage. It was the proper BBC way of getting on at the time, a fair fight. Not like that Rantzen getting a leg up and over at Bernies expense by the producer - a certain Mr Desmond Wilcox who of course later became Mr Esther Wilcox. That's Life I suppose. Poor Bernie. Ooh that's life i just realised what I said...ohh...oh I just did a little bit by accident while laughing. I'd better go before gets into the Professor's chair. he goes mad if its damp in the morning.

TV CuriousAugust 10th 2009.

How dare you, I've never owned a pair of roller skates in my life

TV CuriousAugust 10th 2009.

Shouldn't you be in beddybies by now, Kelly? I could tuck you in if you like.

Danny JesselAugust 10th 2009.

Hear hear! They made Church Street, our premier shopping street, look like Hogarth's 'Gin Lane'! Grosvenor won't allow that sort of thing on their land!

shopperAugust 10th 2009.

Street traders bring colour and liven up the streets. Lets bring them back to boring Church Street.

Billy BushAugust 10th 2009.

The majority of people in the city wanted the street traders out of Church Street. It was the Lib-Dem Council that wasted millions fudging the issue, even trying to misrepresent the results of a readers' poll in their semiliterate free 'City' magazine. Despite a deliberately confusing choice of options to vote for, the overwhelming majority who wanted the traders gone from Church Street was quite clear. The typical street trader was in arrears with their rent and rates (if they bothered paying at all) and infuriated proper shops (who paid their rent and rates) whose frontages were hidden or disfigured by shabby market stalls and their detritus.I should think that Grosvenor will not deal with street traders on its property in the same, bungling, incompetent way that the Council dealt with them on our property.

Bargain HunterAugust 10th 2009.

Thanks your Dukedom for having more sense than the council. Street traders give small businesses the chance to work in the city centre where property rents are sky high. The traders are decent, working men and women with families, mortgages to pay, trying to earn an honest living. The way they were hounded and persecuted by the Lib Dems is a scandal. The money it cost to shunt them around the corner is a disgrace. I hope Grosvenor will even introduce a niche craft market with L1, it would go down well.

TV KellyAugust 10th 2009.

Chapel Street in Southport has just been pedestrianised. It's actually quite convenient as the tumbleweed rolling down the middle of the road is in little danger of being crushed by a bus.

Karen TAugust 10th 2009.

We seem to have moved away from the issue here- street traders.I was so sorry to see them go- they brought character and colour to the city centre.At least there was a bit of variation from other shopping streets with their same-y shops. W H Smiths, Marks and Spencers, BHS, Boots, W H Smiths, Marks and Spencer, BHS......and on and on .....

St. JohnAugust 10th 2009.

Hear hear Dig!

Harry JolsonAugust 10th 2009.

If the Labour group in the Council wanted to change Church Street in such a way as to attract voters, they could do a lot worse than to promise re-open Church Street and Lord Street to bus routes and selected other traffic to relieve the congestion caused by the Lib-Dem cock-up of the city centre road system. It would be convenient for non-driving shoppers to the Liverpool One shopping centre as well as the rest of the city centre. It was noticeable how the city centre died off in chunks and shops closed down or moved away as the gangrene of pedestrianisation spread through it. Westminster Council would never dare enforce pedestrianisation in London’s prosperous, vibrant, premier shopping streets, so why is it OK for it to be inflicted on skint Liverpool?

DigAugust 10th 2009.

St.Johns Precinct is half empty. Street traders and their tat should get off the city streets and help turn St.John's back into what it once was. A busy shopping centre selling tat.They should get in there soon before it gets its megabucks facelift and put the rent up accordingly.

Professor ChucklebuttyAugust 10th 2009.

I told you Mrs Hewitt it was because Braden started doing adverts on ITV that cost him his show. The chapter The cost of campbells soup is in his autobiography even the condensed version by jove. Funnily enough his autobiogtaphy is called The Kindness of Strangers, so named after the time he spent on stage in a production of "A Streetcar Named Deidre" which brings us back to Larry's subject this week. the Trams! For goodness sake why does everyone go off the point when Larry does a piece here? ...Oh no it's not the trams - it's the traders Mrs C says. Well somebody said something about pedestrianisation which is close enough - look what happened to Alan Bradley. No you don't want a tram ploughing through your stall sending all your sports socks into the air. Anyway Larry, that should get things back on track - Back on track! By jove. So yes, very good, very interesting.

Liverpool wagAugust 10th 2009.

You seem very familiar with your "Bernie" Braden, Mrs Hewitt. Very luvvie. As I once said to Val Parnell, if my name doesn't go above Noel Gordon's, you can forget it

Mrs HewttAugust 10th 2009.

TV Kelly, the problem with pedestrianisation is it attracts these exhibitionist old fools on roller skates who want to weave in and out of shoppers who then get all uppity with you if you belt them across the head with your brolly. Plus I have to drag my shopping for miles to the bus stop now and as my shopping cart has a wheel missing it makes sparks on the pavement. In fact a stray spark set fire to the Bridal Gown shop the other week. Pedestrianisation will be my defence in court. By the way, you are not Bernie Braden's wife Barabara Kelly are you? If so do you still have any of the Campbells soup he used to advertise only they don't do it by me anymore - you must have got cases of it. Or if you are Henry Kelly with the 2012 Olympics looming - any chance of Going for Gold coming back? That and the young scottish boy with the big conk who did Catchword were my afternoon favourites.

Runcible SpoonAugust 10th 2009.

Does that man still sell fresh coffee beans in there? It was also a good, cheap place to buy crockery and shopping trolleys. It seemed to get taken over by hundreds of stalls selling either tracksuits or handbags and nowt else. Even the stall selling pet food and pet toys went.

Jacko SpadesAugust 10th 2009.

I can understand Grosvenor wanting street stalls to break up the grim, bleak prospect that South John Street has become. But they'll be colourful, upmarket stalls with courteous, polite staff selling upmarket goods that will be required, not foul-mouthed tattooed louts with grubby shanties selling cheap tack and pounding the pavement into dangerous rubble with their vans, as happened in Church Street.

RooferAugust 10th 2009.

Does anyone remember the idea from Lady Doreen Jones to build a roof over Church Street to make it a huge undercover shopping mall. Hey she sure was a forward thinker. Bring Lady D back I say.

Mr. Punch (with injunction against him using his stick)August 10th 2009.

Bernard Braden was responsible for the rise and rise of professional busybody Esther Rantzen.

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