The Headmaster, Warden Henry Corbett, Lesley Drew and members of the Lower Sixth at the Shewsy
(The author of this article, Joe Lafferty, is fifth from the left at the back)
At 3 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon I, along with my 11 compatriots and two teachers, assembled at the minibuses at the back of KH for one of many trips the School runs to the Shewsy. The Shewsy is a youth club in Liverpool - Everton to be specific - which was set up in 1903 by masters at Shrewsbury School. Every five years – in my case in the Fourth form – we all walk an incredible length on the ‘Shewsy Sponsored Walk’ - about 25 miles in total and in 2011 we raised almost £50,000. One of the many things that I learnt on this trip was that 53% of children in Everton live in poverty. In fact, in Liverpool, it trails only to another area called Princes Park at 58%.
When we arrived at the Shewsy, we were greeted by the local minister and warden of the club, Henry Corbett. He gave us a brief introduction to the history of the club, its activities in the community and an overview of the area as a whole – both past and present. We then threw ourselves into Kids’ Club. I have two little sisters, a three-year-old and a five-year-old, so I had a vague idea of what to expect. I went straight to the gym where I joined in a game of football with some seven-year-olds who were stratospherically better than me. There was a brief interlude when about eight or nine small girls (I couldn’t quite count, partly because of the mayhem but also due to my hysterical laughing) were chasing a fellow Salopian around the gym, tickling her with a maniac determination. Then came dinner cooked by the lovely and delightful mother/daughter team of Chrissy and Teresa. It was shepherd's pie and was quite welcome, considering I had two more hours of football coming up in Senior Club. It was at this point I met Dave and John, two of the youth workers at the Shewsy, John being a product of the Shewsy himself.
I woke up at 7:30 the next morning and jostled for position in front of the two showers with the other members of our group. The girls cooked breakfast on the condition that we wash up. At 9:30 we went on a minibus tour of the area led by Henry. We stopped off at the Hillsborough tragedy memorial at Anfield and then went into Liverpool for a spot of sightseeing. Due to my family links to shipping in Liverpool, I set upon the Maritime Museum eagerly. My great-great-grandfather T.W Hankinson was the Chief Officer of the Carpathia, which was the first ship to the scene of the Titanic and they managed to save 795 lives. This was followed by a brief visit to the Tate and then off to Liverpool One for lunch. We got back at 3:20 and went straight into Kids’ Club. I played more football and met Alex and Frank, two of the many volunteers at the Shewsy from the local area. We had curry for dinner and once again joined Senior Club. I gave my legs a rest and played snooker and darts and listened to the wonderful music of Joey Symes and his band: http://www.joesymes.co.uk/ We all had a big game of football before bed, which everyone enjoyed as it was filled with many funny moments and tired everyone out.
The next morning I helped with breakfast and soon we had a meeting with Jane Corbett, the local councillor for Everton and Henry's wife. One thing that has stuck with me from her talk was a story about a boy called Jack. Jack is five years old. His mother worked in two cleaning jobs to try to provide basic necessities for him. However, once she walked into his room and saw him peeling wallpaper off the wall to eat. Cue shocked and stunned silence and the statement from Huda, who is from Bahrain: "I didn't associate Britain with poverty". None of us did. We hear stories on the news about people in need. But then we hear ten times as many about benefits cheats and fraudsters. In reality, they make up a tiny minority of people who claim welfare. Much of it is unreported, as the truth about the situations people are in across the country, faced with cuts and the ‘bedroom tax’, and re-testing for disability benefits “is just too complicated to explain”, as one journalist told Jane. She thought they should try harder!
We were also told about the regeneration of Liverpool under Old Salopian Michael Heseltine and about how the city struggled under militant leadership during the 1980s.The Headmaster came to meet us in the last ten minutes of the meeting and spent the rest of the day with us. We then went to speak with Dave and John about the importance of community and how we would spend a government budget. I had a brief debate with the Headmaster over quantative easing. Later, we participated in a Geography lesson, a subject in which I am hilariously inept, about the differences in healthcare between Chicago and Kinshasa in the Congo. I thoroughly enjoyed the lesson and thought the newly-opened school, also in Everton, was marvellous. Having taken time to look at the amazing art on display, we headed back to the Shewsy. We took part in the final Junior Club of trip and said our goodbyes to all the kids on their way home.
I learnt a huge amount, not just about the Shewsy but the state of Britain itself, and am so immensely grateful for the opportunity to go there. As I type this on my iPad after dinner, I cannot help but think of Jack and the thousands like him. It has also helped me realise how incredibly lucky I have been in my life and that is a realisation that will be with me forever. I would wholly endorse this trip to anyone who either wants to learn about those less fortunate than the pupils of Shrewsbury.
Joe Lafferty (PH LVI)
For more information about the Shewsy, please visit www.shrewsburyhouse.org.uk