The Idler Magazine


Posted in Crap Towns Archive on 4 August 2005

In the sixties, a concrete holding centre for Liverpool’s working class was run up in the greenery of West Lancashire.

With the skill and cunning of a top matador, the government tempted around 40,000 Merseysiders to leave their homes and follow the promise of big firms and steady pay, breathable air etc, only to see their jobs and prospects whisked away inside a decade. 40,000 people, most too poor to get a car, were trapped in sinister concrete playground without so much as a rail link, hospital orcounty court.

I wanted to make a documentary about it for Granada, but John Carpenter bought the rights and remade it as ‘Escape From New York’.

I still have both my eyes (unlike some) but the place looks like an East German Butlins – grey, hopeless, empty, full of beaten-in, grim�eyed proles. Skem’ is that rare place where a fully-grown man can physically resemble an old woman. Even the wannabe thugs are listless. The place is pretty safe, except for the occasional despair-fuelled riot. The older ex-pat scousers get a tear in their eye, now and then, when, carrying their Kwik Save bags back to their grey shoe box estates, they vaguely remember something before they moved here, something else�

Postscript: Last year, the local council decided to spent almost �100,000 on several ‘art installations’ for the town’s many roundabouts, the most prominent of which was a �25,000, 18-foot monolith. This, apart from its purple colour, was almost identical to the monolith in ’2001: A Space Odyssey’. Yes – in their eyes, we were monkeys, twatting each other about the head with each other’s bones. One brave young scally, in a last act of defiance, grabbed an aerosol and gave ‘em some instant art criticism. “Crap”, he scrawled on the side.

Stephen Parry

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