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Listen to the Radio Merseyside interview

SIMON HOBAN: …a TV guide coming up a little bit later in the show because there’s lots going on on the telly over the weekend, The Apprentice final for one thing, and Strictly Come Dancing, as well, is on the telly, so Mike Ward will bring you the best of the box over the weekend and, as I say, I met my hero earlier today – I’ll play you a record from him a little bit later on…and also toys – toys that you wanted but never got – is our other subject after 6.00, so we’ll bring you that too. But, first of all…I’ll release that music now, as good as it is…let’s talk about some good news which happened today because it’s been hidden away behind padlocked gates, a large wall and surrounding houses, but an historic Jewish cemetery is to be restored to its former glory, thanks to nearly half a million pounds from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The site in Deane Road in Kensington, which contains the grave of Lewis’s founder, Dave Lewis, has been derelict, overgrown and vandalised but, in recent years, local community groups began a clean-up and today’s announcement means a big part of Liverpool’s history will be restored, including its Grade II listed archway. Well, cemetery committee chairman and professional genealogist Saul Marks told BBC Radio Merseyside’s Marc Gaier about the cemetery’s history:

SAUL MARKS: The cemetery has so much historical significance, not least of all because it’s the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the city, but also because of the people who are buried here; there are so many famous names – such as David Lewis, such as Charles Mozley – people who really contributed so much to the development of Liverpool a a major international city in the 19th century.

MARC GAIER: Tell us a little bit about David Lewis.

SAUL: Well David Lewis was born in London. He came here as a teenager to be apprenticed to a ladies tailor [I've been corrected that it was a gentlemen's outfitter, not a ladies' tailor - Ed]. When he finished his apprenticeship, he went on to found his own chain of department stores. He was a brilliant entrepreneur, he always knew how to make money, he gave a lot of charitable institutions, he set them up for the benefit of the city and, when he died, he had no children, and he left the vast majority of his money to the poor of Manchester and of Liverpool.

MARC: Half a million pounds nearly, you’re getting today from the Heritage Lottery Fund so what’s the vision? It’s a lot of money, where’s it going to go?

SAUL: Well, the majority of that is going to be spent on the restoration of the Grade II listed archway at the front of the cemetery that faces onto Deane Road, and also the boundary walls that attach to it, that run round the side of the cemetery, so that will take up a great deal of the funds. The gravestones that have fallen over are going to be put back up, the pathway is going to be taken up and relaid, so people can get round easily; we’re going to establish a visitors’ centre, so that we can welcome groups in and gives tours of the cemetery.

SIMON: And that’s Saul Marks then, Chair of Deane Road Cemetery Committee. The project co-ordinator is Councillor Louise Baldock, who represents Kensington and Fairfield on Liverpool City Council, and she told Marc Gaier why restoring a derelict cemetery will mean so much to the area.

LOUISE BALDOCK: Well, first of all, they’ll have Kensington on the Heritage Trail, which isn’t a sentence one would expect to put together very often. Kensington is only a relatively new suburb of Liverpool, it’s only been here 100 or so years; the cemetery was opened in 1837, so it was here before almost anything that you can see around you. People have asked us in the past, can they come in; it hasn’t always been safe for them to come in, it’s been unsteady underfoot. It’s going to be compliant for people with wheelchairs, people that are walking with sticks will be able to come and have a look round, we’ve going to throw it open to local schoolchildren for visits – we’re particularly keen on the educational aspect, so children who go to school in Kensington and indeed anywhere else in Liverpool and in the North West will be able to come with their teachers and spend time here, learning about the people who are buried here, learning about Jewish customs, learning about the Victorians, the history of the city, they’ll have an opportunity to think about art, ecology, they’ll be able to do drawings and paintings, they’ll be able to have a look at some of the lovely insects that are here in the cemetery.

MARC: And, I suppose, Kensington is now going through a process of regeneration – you only have to go down the road only Edge Lane so, slowly but surely, it’s turning round.

LOUISE: It’s incredible. As I say, I’ve only been on the Council for four years and the change is significant. Only last month, we opened a brand new community fire station, for example, that’s across the road from the cemetery. The new district centre, new shops are opening, the Edge Lane Retail Park has had the go-ahead from the planning – the whole area is changing for the best.

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(IDENT 2): BBC Radio Merseyside!