St James' Gardens in Liverpool

In the shadow of Liverpool's Anglican cathedral sits St James' Gardens, an oasis of green space in the heart of the busy city.

The Gardens have been several things over the centuries. It was first a quarry from which the docks and much of the city of Liverpool was built. Once all the rock that could be removed had been excavated, a large hole was left and so in 1829 it was consecrated as a cemetery for the city.

Young and old, rich and poor, the city's dead ended up here. Between 1829 and 1936, nearly 58,000 bodies were buried in the cemetery. But by 1936 the cemetery was considered full and it became a garden. Over time the garden fell into a state of disrepair and became derelict: a haven for the homeless, drug dealers, prostitutes, drinkers and addicts. It was a no-go zone for most people of the city.

But ten years ago a plucky bunch of locals decided to take matters into their own hands. Robin Riley, a local sculptor, organised a group of friends and neighbours and over time cleaned the park up, restoring it to the beautiful setting that it is today.

Now it's a place people go to find peace and tranquillity, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Alan Dein visits St James' and meets Robin and the team that have reshaped the space, plus the band of dedicated dog-walkers who meet daily in the park. Among the walkers Alan meets Tommy, Frank and Aaron, a trio who met at the park and have since forged friendships.

Aaron shares his experiences of living near and using the park and tells Alan how visiting St James' has been therapeutic, not just for him in helping him in the tough times he's been through, but also for his mother who is suffering from leukaemia.

Alan also meets harmonica-playing Kevin: the last of the park's rough sleepers, Kevin inhabits one of the garden's abandoned catacombs.

Presenter: Alan Dein
Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

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30 minutes

Last on

Tue 27 May 2014 23:30