““L8 is a state of mind.” Local historian Laurence Westgaph’s phrase is one I’ve heard repeatedly since starting to curate and produce L8 Unseen.
It’s a hook, a riff that I couldn’t get out of my head. Simple enough to understand but raising more questions than answers. What makes a community? What gels people together for generations? Where can we find the characters and stories making those connections? Why should they matter to anyone outside L8?
Starting in February, we interviewed, filmed and took photographic portraits of L8 people – people who had grown up, lived, worked in the area. We had just 16 weeks to complete all the portraits (including 20 large-scale prints), film and edit 40 oral histories, create interactive links for a smartphone app, develop and install a website and interactive kiosk.
But the biggest challenge was to gain the trust of a tight-knit and protective community. Born and bred in Brixton, hundreds of miles south, I was an outsider. The community was not that different from the one I grew up in – Sus laws, riots, activism, music, energy, openness, sharing, curiosity and warmth – but L8 has an extra swagger of pride and resilience.
It has stories – from a multi-cultural community about to be massively transformed. In ten years parts of L8 will be unrecognisable or no longer exist. Jobs might come with the investment but so will increased property prices and rents; social and youth services hollowed out; people and community displaced. As the developers, councils and landlords play their game of Monopoly, those most at risk are least able to play the game or even tilt the playing board. L8 Unseen is channeling Liverpool 8’s past, present and future, providing a rare glimpse of a community spirit that refuses to die.
The project has so far attracted little national media coverage – but the response to L8 Unseen has been astounding with over 60,000 visitors in just over a month. Word of mouth at community level has brought people in to make discoveries. Like Vivian Walcott, who came to the exhibition with her daughter, finding a black and white portrait of herself taken at a street party over 30 years ago.
And many other stories. Ann Lopez, mother of 5 children and 20 grandchildren, at the age of 40 went back to college to finish her O and A levels. Listen how she talks powerfully about how she discovered her voice as a poet.
Cherise Smith represents the future of L8. In her early 20’s, she has been part of the Tiber young people steering group since schooldays. She recently joined the board of directors of this social enterprise hub and is playing a key role in the development of her local area. Cherise was voted joint Female Achiever of the Year at The Black Achievers Awards, Liverpool (2013).
L8 Unseen has profoundly changed my understanding of the transformative power of stories. As a storyteller I now have evidence that, when shared, they empower and make a difference.
L8 is more than just a state of mind. It’s a sense of identity and pride and resilience; and it’s a community which has over time had its heart ripped out, broken and scattered. But which picks itself up, licks its wounds, re-groups and gets on with business. I came away with a strong sense that the L8 community is tougher and more resilient than we ‘outsiders’ can understand. Fragile and malleable; yet tough as graphene.
I hope you get to see L8 Unseen before it closes on 6 September.”
The Museum of Liverpool hosts the regional Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). This is a Department for Culture, Media and Sport-funded project to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.
Currently we have over a million objects recorded on the database, 13,529 of which have been recorded by Finds Liaison Officers at Museum of Liverpool. Read more…
Liz Stewart, Curator of Archaeology and the Historic Environment and the archaeology team from the Museum of Liverpool are currently out on site at Calderstones Park, working with local people to investigate the park’s history through a series of excavations. This community archaeology project is part of ‘Connect at Calderstones’, an HLF-funded project run by The Reader Organisation, who have their HQ at Calderstones Mansion in the heart of the park.
“Around 30 people have tried their hand at digging, so far they’ve found garden features, pottery, metalwork and building material. The finds are relatively modern, the oldest being 18th century pottery. As the archaeological investigation progresses we might happen upon more remains associated with the era of the Mansion House’s construction in the 1820s, such as the farmhouse which pre-dated it on a nearby site, or possibly even the longer history of the area back to prehistory. It’s always great fun working with new people and providing an opportunity for them to try their hand at archaeology. Read more…
At a special ceremony at Liverpool Town Hall yesterday, transgender pioneer and campaigner, April Ashley MBE was presented with a Citizen of Honour Award on her 80th birthday.
As part of the ceremony, the Museum of Liverpool was presented with the first Transgender Pride Flag to be flown above Liverpool Town Hall for Transgender Day of Remembrance, 20 November 2014. Read more…
Vivian Walcott was recently very surprised to see herself as a 10 year old in the L8 Unseen exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool – especially as she doesn’t remember the event or the photograph being taken!
The picture, of a street party for the L8 Mandela Freedom Festival in 1988, shows Vivian with her friend, Tito Cooper.
She lived in Magdela Street at the time – where her mum, a well-known member of the community still lives, and fondly remembers the tight knit L8 community growing up. Read more…
Ahead of our new ‘Buddy’ programme, which begins at the Museum of Liverpool next week, The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Erica Kemp, has shared with us her personal experiences of dementia, and how House of Memories can help:
“One of the charities I have chosen to support during my year as Lord Mayor is the Alzheimer’s Society. So, when I became Lord Mayor I took myself along to the Museum of Liverpool to meet Carol Rogers and learn more about the House of Memories dementia awareness programme. It was an amazing visit and I learned so much about what the Museum is doing to not only support those who have had a diagnosis of dementia but those who support them.
We’re working with The Reader Organisation to run a community dig, giving local people the chance to try their hand at archaeology and help investigate the long history of Calderstones Park. Read more…
Opening on Friday 3 April at the Museum of Liverpool, the L8 Unseen exhibition reveals the stories and experiences of a diverse range of people from the Liverpool 8 community. The exhibition aims to uncover the spirit and heritage of the area through filmed interviews and striking large-scale photographs taken by renowned photographer Othello De’Souza-Hartley. Read more…
17 March 2015 by Dawn
You may have heard about our highly successful ‘House of Memories’ dementia awareness programme, which has reached more than 7000 health, housing and social care workers.
We’re really excited about our latest new initiative, the House of Memories ‘Buddy’ day, which is not for the workforce, but aimed at supporting families, volunteers and friends of those living with dementia. Read more…