About the Friends
This page of the Friends of Birkenhead Park blog aims to tell you something about how we were formed, what we do and who we are.
The Friends of Birkenhead Park was formed in 1976 by Lord (Griff) Evans of Claughton, as he perceived the need for someone to speak for the interests of the Park, which he clearly saw as part of our national heritage. At that time some of the buildings on the Park perimeter were derelict though shortly after this, the Park became a Conservation Area and the “Friends” became its official consultative body. However, the process of change is not without controversy. The Friends have the obligation to give their views on planning applications for new buildings and on modifications of uses and structures, and the challenge remains to protect the quality of the Park and its surroundings. Over the years successive chairmen have taken on the responsibility to ensure this is done in a constructive and fair minded way, consistent with the Friends’ motto “That which is good should be preserved“.
The partnership between the Friends of Birkenhead Park and Wirral Council started when the Friends were set up in the mid 1970s, but it has seen a huge leap forward as a result of the restoration of the park in the last decade.
The partnership arose because we all have broadly similar goals for the care and improvement of Birkenhead Park and for its visitors. The park staff and the Friends of Birkenhead Park (together with its trading-arm, Park Roots CiC) have cooperated on a number of key projects and programmes, including the development of a volunteer programme, an education programme and a community involvement programme. It is perhaps the volunteer programme that has had the greatest long-term impact with currently over 80 volunteers working in the park. The partnership works extremely well because of we have a mutual respect for each other and we recognise that we can bring a wide range of skills to the partnership in a way which complements each other.
Birkenhead Park – the world’s first municipal park – was created as a ‘Park for the People’ and this partnership working is a key element of delivering that original aim which is as relevant today as it was 165 years ago.
It is widely recognised that partnership working is increasingly important for effective local government and the collective benefits are enormous in terms of inspiring great ideas, reaching a wider audience and strengthening the local community.
Inevitably, each organisation has a different culture: Wirral Council and the park staff are accountable to the local electorate via local councillors, while the Friends are accountable to their members. But they are all passionate users of the park. They bring complimentary skills and resources to the park, and by reaching consensus on key projects they are able to achieve more than if they worked in isolation.
The volunteer programme is a good example. It was started five years ago with a monthly cleanup task, but it has now grown to include dozens of opportunities every week for people to contribute to the park. It is a model which is being rolled out to all of Wirral’s Parks, but although many have volunteer programmes, none have been as successful as ours in Birkenhead Park.
Who knows where the future will lead us, but I am confident that as a result of the partnership between the Friends of Birkenhead Park (and Park Roots CiC) and Wirral Council, together with our commitment to work in a spirit of openness and trust, the future of Birkenhead Park is secure.
Birkenhead Park Manager.
Visit the Friends of Birkenhead Park website