Dr Clare Kinsella
Dr Clare Kinsella

New research by an Edge Hill University academic has delved deep into the hearts and minds of Liverpudlians to uncover what ‘home’ really means to people living in the city.

Dr Clare Kinsella, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Edge Hill, has studied the meaning of home to people in Liverpool and how widespread regeneration in the city has impacted their sense of place.

Her new book ‘Urban Regeneration and Neoliberalism: The New Liverpool Home explores how various phases of regeneration following World War II have altered people’s relationship with their hometown.

Dr Kinsella said: “Home is one of the simplest, yet most difficult words to define. Home is not only the bricks and mortar that shelters us, but it also provides us with a sense of identity and belonging. This study has attempted to uncover what home means to people in Liverpool whose lives have, in one way or another, been affected by the city’s various re-housing initiatives.”

In total, Dr Kinsella conducted 30 life history interviews with people about their experience of being raised in the aftermath of a war-damaged Liverpool in the 1950s and 60s.

Dr Kinsella explores how the Nazi’s bombing campaigns in WWII had a significant and long-lasting impact on Liverpool’s built environment, leading the city’s authorities to begin a major rehousing process that would continue up until the 1970s.

As a result, thousands of families would subsequently be rehoused to new-build estates in areas such as Cantril Farm, Kirkby, Speke and Skelmersdale.

For many of the participants, growing up in the so-called ‘slum’ housing estates in the city evoked strong emotions and fond memories of a childhood where community played a central role in daily life.

She added: “I’ve never liked using the phrase ‘slum’ housing, as for many people, these were their homes and it was all they had ever known. Many of the respondents I interviewed recalled family members being devastated about having to uproot their lives and leave their homes, friends and community behind.

“The various rehousing processes that stemmed from Liverpool City Council’s post-war regeneration was clearly designed to improve the quality of life and living standards for people in the city. Before this, many families were living in insanitary conditions with outdoor lavatories and no hot-running water.

“Despite these difficult living conditions, we found that the respondents reflected fondly on their sense of home during this period, drawing on the close-knit communities that bound them together.”

Dr Kinsella also examined the city’s post-1980 ‘forward-facing regeneration’ phase, which saw a major shift in Liverpool’s focus from modernisation, to instead focusing on the preservation of the city’s history and heritage.

She added: “Among all of the respondents, there was an agreed consensus that the shift in investment from the immediate home and neighbourhood to the city centre was desirable for all, accepting that the city centre and waterfront are the Liverpool home that must come first. However, it remains clear that the Liverpool we see today is beyond recollection for many of the respondents and the hometown that they recall from their youth. In the case of Liverpool, it would be true to say that home emotions have, to some extent, been manipulated by the city’s urban regeneration.”

Dr Clare Kinsella’s research interests include cities, particularly Liverpool; home and homelessness; place; space and regeneration. She is a member of Coming Home Liverpool, a social enterprise committed to bringing Liverpool’s 9,000 empty houses back into use, with high-standard renovations, permanent tenancies and fair rents.