Wednesday, 9 August 2017

200 Umbrellas

The Umbrella Project 
200 vibrantly coloured umbrellas are suspended above Church Alley in Liverpool city centre, in front of the Bluecoat Gallery. They were installed in June 2017, and are expected to stay until the end of August. 

The installation was created by the Liverpool based ADHD Foundation, and is intended to raise awareness of Autism and ADHD.

The umbrellas have also been personally signed by children from St Oswald’s primary school in Old Swan, many of whom have ADHD, autism and other neurodevelopment conditions.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Save the Futurist? It's too late now!

August 2015 - still the subject of a 'Save' campaign

Lime Street's redevelopment has claimed another piece of Liverpool's heritage. The Futurist Cinema with it's imposing facade has been flattened. Despite a campaign to save the Edwardian gem, it has now been completely demolished. It was hoped that the facade could be saved but the best that can now be hoped for is that a small part of the original design (perhaps the bricks that formed 'Picture House'?) can be incorporated into the new building. The Futurist is one of 10 buildings that are being knocked down in Lime Street to make way for new commercial, retail and leisure premises.

August 2016. Too late now! A few days later it was completely demolished.

The Futurist was built in 1912 as the Lime Street Picture House (it was renamed in 1920) and closed in 1982. It has been allowed to decay ever since and whilst it wouldn't have been realistic to refurbish it and reopen as a cinema, surely the iconic frontage could have been saved (as with Manchester's Free Trade Hall for example)?

If you'd like a bit more history there is lots of information here -

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

30,000 Reasons to visit Liverpool in August

For 11 months of the year the amazing tiled floor in Liverpool’s St. George’s Hall is covered up.

A removable floor is used to protect the tiles from damage and wear whilst allowing dancing and other events in the vast Great Hall. It always proves hugely popular with visitors when, every August, the covering is removed.

The stunning mosaic which is revealed consists of over 30,000 tiles. They were hand crafted at the famous Minton factory in Stoke-on-Trent. The mosaic was designed by architect Sir Charles Cockerell - as were most of the Hall’s spectacular interiors.

This year, for the first time since St. George’s Hall was reopened in 2007 following the lengthy £23 million restoration, there were opportunities for visitors to walk on the fabulous Minton tiles.

At its reopening, Prince Charles described the Hall as the finest neo-classical building in Europe. It should certainly be on every Liverpool visitor’s ‘must see’ list. There is plenty to admire apart from the Great Hall mosaic but an August visit would prove especially rewarding.

inside the Great Hall (also known as the Concert Hall)

the Royal Arms

Liverpool's city coat of arms
the world famous Liver bird - the symbol of the city of Liverpool
classical figures surround the various crests
stunning design and detail in Minton
the south entrance at night
Further reading,_Liverpool

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Lennon Revealed

I went to Litherland (North Liverpool) yesterday to photograph the Beatles mural. It's a 45 minute trip up the motorway for me so I was disappointed to see that the weeds on the grassed area in front of the 'With the Beatles' portraits were obscuring John Lennon's eyes. I parked up and went to investigate. I didn't have any gardening gear so I decided to tear out what weeds I could with  my bare hands, rather than waste the trip. The passers by (it's very near a supermarket) would doubtless have found my performance entertaining.
The whole mural is amazing but it needs to be better looked after (besides the weeds and the rubbish, some of the paintwork has flaked off and there is a paint splash on Stu Sutcliffe's guitar (it's great that the original guitarist and Pete Best, the drummer before Ringo, are included too).
I will see if I can interest the artists who created the mural in giving it a small amount of restoration. I will happily help if they need it - this is a piece of public art that deserves a spot of TLC.

the Litherland Beatles mural
John (from the Hamburg days)

Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best

the 'With the Beatles' album cover portraits

Lennon before I weeded him!

Rory Storm and Joe Brown topping these bills ahead of The Beatles

here are 2 videos which describe the origins of the project and show it being created

Friday, 7 November 2014

the MTUCURC mural

The badly peeling mural in the rotunda dome of Liverpool’s former Royal School for the Blind is an impressive work of social documentary. First though a little background. The school was founded in 1781 (the first blind school in Britain). The first premises were on Commutation Row and in 1800 a purpose-built school was opened up on London Road. The 'new' Hardman Street school was built in 1849-51 when it was necessary to move from London Road due to railway expansion. In 1957, following the move of the school to Wavertree (where the junior school was located) the building was sold to Liverpool Corporation. It then became Merseyside Police HQ. When the police moved to new premises in 1982 the old Blind School became the Merseyside Trade Union Community and Unemployed Resource Centre (MTUCURC).

The mural was painted (in socialist realist style) by the late Mike Jones in 1986 to commemorate the ‘Peoples March for Jobs’. It features Karl Marx amongst the marchers and depicts scenes from industrial Liverpool (e.g. the docks, Halewood’s car factory and the foolishly demolished Overhead Railway). The MTUCURC closed in 2004 since when the building has remained empty. It would be folly to lose this important mural, but unless it is hastily restored by the building’s new owners (Hope Street Hotel), it will soon be gone forever. I worry that its restoration may not be part of the plans which will soon see the old Blind School turned into apartments, pub, restaurant and offices.

The mural's central figure is Edward Rushton, a Liverpool radical and founder of the school. He was an anti-slavery campaigner and a poet. He lost his sight at a young age by contracting opthalmia whilst serving in the merchant navy. The Everyman Theatre are staging 'Unsung', a play of Rushton's life, in March 2015. The following photos show sections of Mike Jones' mural.

Karl Marx joins the marchers and is that Arthur Scargill in front of him? Notice how part of the scene has peeled off. Is it really likely that the new owners will go to the trouble of restoring this important mural?

L to R - The Peoples March for Jobs (Liverpool - London, May 1981), the Women's Technology Centre (located within the MTUCURC), Tate and Lyle warehouse demolition.

the docks and Liverpool Overhead Railway. (The ship's name is M.T.U.C.U.R.C.)

a 1980s union march against budget cuts - the Militant Labour councillors adopted the slogan 'Better to break the law than to break the poor' (centre banner)

In 1993 Mike Jones painted a companion piece to this mural. Many of the same elements were included. It is called 'Unemployment on Merseyside: Campaigning for the Right to Work' and is housed in the Museum of Liverpool (the one by Pier Head)

Monday, 24 March 2014

Lark Lane

I love this grungy, distressed old painted sign for a garage in Lark Lane (what a beautiful alliterative street name that is). It's in an area of Dingle (near the Welsh Streets) that may well be demolished before long. I thought I'd better record it whilst I can. The faded colours came up much better than expected - I'm going to have this printed BIG,  it'll look amazing. Maybe I should do a project on old street advertising - it's a great aspect of social documentary.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Inside the Orphanage

From a distance this Grade II listed building looks stately - perhaps an important and prestigious academic institution.Closer examination reveals that the huge building is derelict with all its windows boarded up. The location is the lovely Newsham Park, Liverpool - well worth a visit if you've never been. The building is the Seamen's Orphanage (later the Royal Liverpool Seamen's Orphanage) which was opened in 1874 to provide support and education for the orphans of British seamen. It could accommodate up to 400 children. The orphanage closed in 1949 and was sold to the Ministry of Health in 1951. It became Newsham Park Hospital until it finally closed in 1988. It is now derelict and in private ownership.

There are plans to reopen part of the building (around the main assembly hall) for leisure purposes. In order to test the public's interest, access to parts of the building (ground floor only) was made available over the weekend of 13-15 Sept 2013 as part of Liverpool Heritage Open Month. There was a great deal of interest - the first time in over 100 years that the public had been allowed access to this important building. Inside, it was like stepping into a time warp.

The balcony of the assembly/dining hall. Perhaps a hospital governor looking down at 25yrs of dereliction,

The walls with their flaking paintwork and plaster, the old hospital beds and equipment, ancient wheelchairs and commodes - all evidence of its latter function. Hopefully the leisure project will be successful - this is a very important part of Liverpool's maritime heritage. Twenty five years of closure and neglect is not what the Seamen's Orphanage deserves!

Project Newsham Park is a useful website if you would like to learn more about Newsham Park (and the orphanage)

Friday, 31 May 2013

Disappearing Heritage

The former Liverpool offices of Harland and Wolff (the world famous Belfast shipbuilders who built The Titanic) are about to be lost forever. The demolition of this fine building in Regent Road is now happening (why did Sefton Borough Council ever sanction this?). This photo was taken on 6th May 2013. The interior is largly demolished and when I visited last week the dismantling of the famous facade appeared to be underway. There may be nothing left in a few days!

UPDATE (August 2013)
it's all gone! Looks like they destroyed our heritage for container storage! See below


Monday, 22 October 2012

The Great Money Trick

Liverpool City Council commissioned local artist David Jacques to produce this artwork as part of the City of Radicals programme in 2011. It is inspired by Robert Tressell's socialist novel 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'. Tressell, who died in Liverpool in 1911, was a house painter and signwriter. The Great Money Trick is a key chapter in his political novel. Jacques' Dale Street awning pays tribute to Tressell by creating the lettering in century old signwriter style.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

'Tinned Up' Anfield

I recently visited a few of the Victorian terraced streets near to Liverpool's football stadium which are scheduled to be demolished as part of the Anfield and Breckfield Regeneration scheme ('creating neighbourhoods for the future'). Once levelled they will disappear beneath the large housing estate that is currently being constructed over the graves of recently demolished neighbouring streets.

This is no.154 Hartnup Streer. Six months ago the bay windows of Hartnup Street were given a makeover with scenes of Liverpool captured by students from Alsop High School. The idea was to make the street look more pleasing for the April 2012 Sea Odyssey spectacular. It was hoped that the large crowds following the the Little Girl Giant, her Uncle, and faithful companion Xolo as they pass through Anfield wouldn't be offended by the shabby dereliction that is Hartnup Street. The photos are still there (Oct 2012) but I was told by one local that the street only has a couple of weeks left before the bulldozers appear!
Hartnup Street becomes a photo gallery to welcome the giant puppets.

Granton Road, bathed in autumn sun, looks too good to demolish (was refurbishment never a viable option for these houses?). 
I've wandered through several 'regeneration' areas of Liverpool where whole streets have been emptied and 'tinned up'. One familiar sound breaks the silence in all of these places. It's the hopeless 'cheep' of a smoke alarm - calling to a long departed occupier to replace the battery. Somehow that seems so sad!

Monday, 6 August 2012


Learning often comes unexpectedly. Recently I was wandering through the ‘Welsh Streets’ in Liverpool’s Toxteth district. Because of my interest in social documentary and heritage I have spent many hours with my camera walking around the silent streets of ‘tinned up’ houses in Liverpool 8. This is one of several areas in the city where a whole community has been cleared of residents, their properties having been compulsory purchased in preparation for demolition – all part of the council’s grand regeneration plan.

Madryn Street as a poetry and songbook!

One of the ‘Welsh Streets’ is Madryn Street where Ringo Starr was born. (There is still some debate about whether no.9 should be preserved as a national treasure!) I noticed that most of the small terraced houses along Ringo’s side of Madryn Street have had sheets of song lyrics / poetry pasted onto their sealed up doors and windows. Most of the lyrics are entirely appropriate (Ghost Town, Anthem for Doomed Houses, We Shall Not Be Moved etc.) resulting in the whole street becoming a cultural installation. I photographed several of them before the sun, wind and rain hides their messages.

 One of the poems was called ‘The Day They Came for Our House’. The prose included “Armed with bulldozers / they came to do a job / nothing more / than hired killers”. The poem was credited to Dan Mattera – that’s all I knew from the photocopied sheet of lyrics - so I educated myself later in the day. It  was written about the clearance and obliteration of Sophiatown in the 50s and early 60s in South Africa. Sophiatown was a vibrant, urban, multi-cultural community – one of the oldest black suburbs of Johannesburg. Under apartheid, it was cleared, demolished and rebuilt as a white suburb (renamed as Triomf). The township had been famed for its culture of writing, art and music – notably jazz and blues. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu were both Sophiatown residents. 

Don Mattera ('Dan' is a misprint) was an activist in the struggle against apartheid but he subsequently became a poet, writer and journalist. ‘The Day They Came for Our House’ was published in Mattera’s book ‘Azanian Love Song’ in 1983. To my shame I didn’t know the history of Sophiatown and hadn’t read any of Mattera’s books or poetry until I researched these things when I returned home. I’m glad I did – the shameful story of racial clearances in South Africa is something that we should all know about. Sometimes learning comes from unexpected sources – in this case my walk down Ringo’s old street resulted in my learning about 50yr old events from 6000 miles away!

Wilfred Owen's 1917 poem - 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' reworked for condemned housing

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Missing Years

If you take a look at any social documentary photography before the late 1980s you will see images of children playing in the streets with bikes, carts, skipping ropes etc - reflecting the way they spent their leisure time within their own environment. This is important documentary information. Sadly, in this age of exaggerated fear for our children's safety, we have now made it unacceptable for photographers to record them in their surroundings. In the coming years we will find that we have lost a huge amount of information about how our children and their friends played and entertained themselves in their own neighbourhoods. The Facebook age will have recorded plenty of camera-phone images of children in the safety of their family surroundings, but little of the documentary material that previous generations of photographers have recorded.

This photograph was taken last week when I was returning to my car in Jamaica Street, Liverpool after a day in the city with my camera. I love the old warehouses in the area and when I saw two boys racing towards me on their bikes I thought it might be a chance for a vintage shot. Not wanting to alarm the children I had to 'shoot from the hip' - with my heavy DSLR this usually results in dismal failure, but on this occasion I got fairly lucky. I converted the image to B/W in order to recapture a feel of 60s Liverpool. It might not be great photography but it's social documentary and I'm happy with it!