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Mapping the past

9 June 2017 by Mitty

Photo from the early 1960s, Alvin with his siblings. Alvin is on the right.

Photo from the early 1960s, Alvin with his siblings. Alvin is on the right.

As part of the Sankofa project we’ve been thinking about the idea of mapping Black heritage in the city. Liverpool 8 is not the only place the Black communities have settled in the city but it has been long considered the most multi-cultural area of Liverpool. I was delighted to see Alvin Christie’s interactive Toxteth map which links old photos and some almost forgotten places. Alvin, who was born and grew up in Selborne Street, tells us why he decided to make this map:

“Growing up in Toxteth, it has always been deeply embedded in my psyche just how cosmopolitan and varied the local community was. With its abundance of characters and diverse ethnic mix, the south end of the city in the 1950s and 60s made for an energetic mixture of lifestyles.

Liverpool 8 in 1959 was not considered a safe place to be by the rest of the city, especially the Upper Parliament Street area from its junction with Lodge Lane extending down past the Anglican Cathedral to Park Lane, and in particular the area around what was then the Rialto cinema and Princes Avenue (Road), with its abundance of night clubs and daytime drinking fraternity.  The area was certainly very lively and, of course, wherever there was drink there would be music, both live and recorded music, a lot of real musicians up there on stage creating the atmosphere that was needed for any successful club.

But later in life, trying to picture all which passed during the 1950s and 60s was not the easiest of tasks if one does not possess any number of visual clues. The internet and Facebook in particular were great sources of visual clues especially Liverpool 8 and Liverpool 1 Old Pictures group so I began collecting anything that would catch my eye. Old images and articles began filling my hard disks. But just having disks full of images was not satisfactory enough to assuage my desire to try and visualize it all. I began to think how best to put all this information to best possible use and the answer had to be a map. But, no map I could find covered such a large district and had all the necessary information built in, Google maps was not the answer, as a lot of the streets I knew had been altered or in some cases had gone completely, or had been rebuilt in some other form.

Alvin Christie outside Stanley House

From 1970 taken outside Stanley House with Ben Brown and Paul Barber. Alvin is on the left.

I began to examine old Ordnance survey maps from the beginning of the century, these had the necessary information that was needed to go right down to street level, even had the houses marked on them, thus the idea for my map grew. So, this map, helps me to put my own life into some kind of perspective, and demonstrates the passage of time, age and innocence.

As well as the hope that not only myself, but others who perhaps have similar needs would be able to project themselves into the spaces shown, and in doing so would give some more presence and meaning to their own passages.”

Alvin has said that as much as he has enjoyed creating the Toxteth map, it’s not something he’s looking to expand on further. As part of the Sankofa project we’d like to map sites of Black heritage and significance to Black communities, that you could add to. We would love to hear your suggestions, especially if you have any images of these places that you would like to share. To get involved you can add places you like to appear on the map in the comments section below or pop me an email – sankofaproject@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk .

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