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Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens: Old and Light

28 April 2010 by davidl

Older buildings have often outlived most of the people who set inside them, but their meaning and significance is usually defined by the way they are used by those same people. This week’s highlight from our Liverpool’s Chinatown through the lens Flickr competition, by Flickr user diaryof70steen, is an attractive composition which, though it consists of two buildings and nothing else, says much about different cultures and communities over time.

19th-century stone building with Corinthian columns and dome beside a colourful Chinese arch

old and light © diaryof70steen

Visually the image creates a striking parallel between the vibrancy of the Chinese arch, its curved roofs and intricate patterns, and the stoic grandeur of the Black-E centre, with its magnificent dome and Corinthian columns. With a whited-out sky the many shapes and patterns of the buildings stand out crisply in an almost abstract way.

More than the architecture however, the photo tells of a long history of different Liverpudlian communities. The Black-E – taking its name from its smoke-stained stonework that was cleaned in the 1980s – combines a contemporary arts centre with a community centre (the UK’s first community arts project), and is based in the former Great George Street Chapel, which closed in 1967. This in turn had been the centre for a programme of artistic, educational and social welfare activities as well as worship, and was itself the second Chapel on the site, opening in 1841 after the 1811 original was destroyed by fire. It seems appropriate that a building so long the hub of many community activities is captured here next to a great symbol of Liverpool’s long-established Chinese community, itself also dating from the 19th century. See the photo in a large size.


To celebrate our photography exhibition China: Through the Lens of John Thomson 1868-72 at the Merseyside Maritime Museum we want you to submit your photos of Liverpool’s Chinatown to our Flickr pool – our favourite photo submitted by 24 May will win a banquet for two at Yuet Ben, with two runners-up winning exhibition catalogues. Find out more on the competition page.

  1. nursemyra says:

    great photo!

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