A strange throwback to a previous era

Kirkby Unemployed Centre is a strange throwback to a previous era. It occupies a former infant school, built to a standard postwar design reminiscent of children’s junk modelling. On the walls is an exhibition celebrating Merseysiders’ involvement in the International Brigade during the Spanish civil war. Pictures of Nelson Mandela and trade union banners adorn the walls.

Kirkby itself is like something from the past: swathes of identical low-rise housing punctuated by tower blocks and slashed by arterial roads, and rows of shed-like factories on industrial estates. It was built as an overspill estate for Liverpool, and still feels like overspill – stranded in the flat Lancashire landscape, disconnected from the world around.

But the world around is coming home to Kirkby. Unemployment has always been a big issue here, but in the last few years jobs have been relatively plentiful. Now, though, the squeeze is on.

Paul, an advice worker at KUC, reveals an important indicator of tough times: ‘Last month I’ve seen half a dozen electricians who are out of work. These are skilled blokes. One fellow was in shock. He was 28 and had never been out of work. He just didn’t know what to do.’

If electricians and plumbers are being laid off, you know there’s a recession. And while most can quickly find work again – there are still plenty of vacancies – it’s less secure, less well-paid. For those without such prized skills, getting back into the job market may prove a harder challenge.

What KUC offers is advice and guidance, business support and help with issues like debt and IT skills. But it offers much more than that. As a centre that’s rooted in the local community, that has survived through good times and bad, it offers solidarity.

That word, too, has echoes of a bygone age. But the empathy of people who have been through the mill themselves will soon become as important as an electrician’s certificates.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top