Seacombe’s new social supermarket provides a lifeline for Wallasey’s struggling families

When a vicar and a pharmacist moved into Seacombe in 2015, they were welcomed into the community with open arms.

However, not long after settling in, Peter and Maggie Cooper soon came to realise the hurdles faced by their new neighbours.

Stricken by high unemployment levels and substantial levels of deprivation, Peter and Maggie vowed to do something to bring the community back on its feet. 

Four years later, and the duo have set up the town’s social supermarket, providing a vital lifeline for local families struggling on a tight budget.

Peter Cooper and Maggie Cooper, pictured, have set up a social supermarket in Seacombe to ensure that nobody in the area feels ‘forgotten’ about.

Wake Up Wallasey is a membership-based, not-for-profit supermarket set up in St. Paul’s Church in Seacombe.

Rooted in Christian ethos and values, the organisation seeks to bring out the very best in the community by empowering residents physically, mentally, financially and spiritually.

The programme is run in partnership with Magenta Living and the Wirral Development Trust and visitors to the supermarket have the opportunity to purchase food, shampoos and toiletries for a third of the retail price.

Peter told Mersey Community News that their primary focus was to spread hope in a community that often feels ‘forgotten’.

Peter said: “Wallasey has been at the forefront of a series of cutbacks which have really isolated the community. Although some areas have seen improvement, towns like Seacombe often feel forgotten.

 “I have worked in the area as a vicar for years, and poverty is a very big taboo in this area.

“It’s even worse when you point it out. When we first set up Wake Up Wallasey, I had messages from people saying things are not that bad, and that it is a nice place to live.

“Wallasey is a beautiful place to live, full of history and wonderful people – but poverty is still a real issue here, especially here in Seacombe.

 “Unemployment rates are higher than the national average, but when people are employed, they are often in unskilled jobs, working unsociable hours.

The social supermarket takes place in St. Paul’s Church in Seacombe, where Mr and Mrs Cooper hope it will help residents ‘back on their feet’.

“People don’t go to university. There’s an attitude that it is not cool, or that it’s not something people around here do.

“So people end up stuck in limbo without qualifications, and that this leads to child poverty, poor mental well-being and low aspirations. We hope that the market is a step – however small – to changing that.”

“Setting up a social supermarket is not about giving food away for free, or about making a profit off other people’s misery… it’s about building and rekinding future hope.”

Maggie Cooper, founder of Wake Up Wallasey

In Maggie’s mind, setting up a social supermarket stands in line helps to give people equal footing in society.

“With so many families in the area struggling, it made sense as a Christian to provide home goods to those who desperately need it.  

“Children are going to school hungry, parents are working endless hours to make ends meet. Never mind things like money to catch the bus to the job centre – they cannot afford the basics.

“People turn to drugs and alcohol to cope, and there has been a spike in depression and suicide cases on our doorstep. 

“Setting up a social supermarket here is not about giving food away for free, or about making a profit off other people’s misery. Any money we make goes straight into supplying more food and products, so for us, it’s about building and rekindling future hope.

“We want to remind people they matter, and that their life has value.”

Maggie, founder of Wake Up Wallasey, serves a new member of Seacombe’s new social supermarket.

Poverty has long cast a shadow over Wallasey.

Consisting of six districts – New Brighton, Egremont, Liscard, Poulton, Seacombe and Wallasey Village – Wallasey enjoyed massive industry growth when New Brighton became one of the UK’s best-loved holiday destinations. 

After the Second World War, the ferries to Seacombe and New Brighton became less busy, leading transport routes to disappear and local businesses to decline.

This, in turn, led to substantial industrial loss and an unsustainable spike in unemployment. 

To this day, four of Wallasey’s six districts suffer from chronic deprivation, ranking in the top 5% of impoverished areas in the UK.

My partner and I both have low-paid jobs, so we’re on Universal Credit… sometimes we have had nothing but jammy toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner, just so the kids can eat well.

People are constantly worrying about how to get on with their lives without someone thinking: they’re a scrounge.

This will make the world of difference to my week – it’s one less headache.

Anonymous source – visitor at St. Paul’s social supermarket

Seacombe and Egremont rank particularly high, being placed in the top 1%. 

Unemployment remains a significant issue, with at least one in three youngsters in the area being raised in substantial childhood poverty.

Furthermore, Seacombe has been marked as one of the most “depressed” communities in the country, with high rates of suicide – second only to Birkenhead on the Wirral.

One visitor, who wished to remain anonymous, said new supermarket has already made a ‘world of difference’ to the start of her week.  

She said: “My partner and I both have low-paid jobs, so we’re on Universal Credit.

“Once you take the rent, electric, gas and the rest of it out, sometimes I have to choose between feeding my family and paying for my medication.

“Sometimes we’ve had nothing but jammy toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner, just so the kids can eat well.

“People around here are in real need, and yet they feel embarrassed to get the help they need. They don’t want to be judged, and people are constantly worrying about how to get on with their lives without someone thinking: they’re a scrounge.

This will make a world of difference to my week – it’s one less headache.” 

The supermarket will sell a collection of toiletries and sundries for a third of the recommended retail price, giving local residents a chance to pick up the essentials without breaking the bank.

“The beauty of Wallasey is that there is an incredible sense of community.

People are friendly, they look out for one and other, and so many people are willing to lend a helping hand.

It’s an exciting time to be in Wallasey, and it is the people who make it the wonderful place it is.”

Peter Cooper, founder of Wake Up Wallasey

“The beauty of Wallasey is that there is an incredible sense of community.

“People are friendly, they look out for one and other, and so many people are willing to lend a helping hand.

“It’s an exciting time to be in Wallasey, and it is the people who make it the wonderful place it is.”

Wake Up Wallasey is aiming to empower local people by boosting residents’ physical, mental and financial well-being.

Peter and Maggie say that they have hopeful for the future of Seacombe – and that they have further projects in the pipeline to help the community.

Peter said: “The beauty of Wallasey is that there is an incredible sense of community.

“People are friendly, they look out for one and other, and so many people are willing to lend a helping hand.

“It’s an exciting time to be in Wallasey, and it is the people who make it the wonderful place it is.”

St. Paul’s Church Social Supermarket – open and ready for business (Credit: Wake Up Wallasey, Facebook)


Jamie Martin, Head of Community Regeneration at Magenta Living, told Mersey Community News that, by working in partnership with organisations such as Wake Up Wallasey, they can create projects that relieve the impact of poverty in vulnerable neighbourhoods.

Jamie said: “As a social landlord, Magenta Living does far more than simply let houses and through Magenta Communities we work in partnership with local people and organisations within our neighbourhoods.

“One of our objectives is to relieve the impacts of poverty and we have a network of 15 community facilities staffed by volunteers and social enterprises who help us deliver this and our other social objectives.  

“Seacombe is a neighbourhood where we do not have a permanent facility so we have provided a small level of start-up funding to help kick-start this project and support the local community to address what they have identified as a need. We hope we can play a small part in helping them achieve their aims.

“Magenta Communities has identified over £16million of social value within our neighbourhoods in our latest social value statement and we are committed to working in partnership with local residents to create even more.”  

Looking to the future, the duo made a list of the organisation’s future plans, such as providing free Rickshaw rides along the promenade and a Pint of Praise – where local Christians can celebrate God over a pint in the pub.

In the meantime, Wake Up Wallasey will continue to host the social supermarket every Monday from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm and every Thursday from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm.

The social supermarket is open to all members of the public living in the Wallasey area, and anyone wishing to join needs to fill in a membership form.

 You can find out more about Wake Up Wallasey on their website at www.wakeupwallasey.org.

One comment

  1. I strongly disagree with people in this area don’t go to university as they think it’s not cool, people can’t afford to go in this area, I no lots of peoples children who would of loved to go but there parents couldn’t afford to fund a lot of it, our daughter went and it cost us a lot of money to fund her degree, this is why they don’t go certainly not cause they don’t think it’s cool

    Like

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