Today’s post is a meditation on one picture. Sent to me by blog reader Stan Cotter. Here it is:
“On what we called the Revue Field in Sefton Park. In the background is Brompton Avenue, Croxteth Road and Ullet Road, all crossing. The church has long gone and I don’t recall the name of it…”
In the foreground the line of Austin A30 vans is clearly advertising the Billy Smart’s Circus that’s about to take place on the field. And looking around I’ve come across this extraordinary photograph.
So I think we’ve established the year of your picture Stan!
(Or so I thought until a couple of years after writing this post someone on Twitter suggested the elephants picture might not be from 1959, as he’d found the slide below in his Dad’s collection marked as 1966.)
Anyway, long after such magnificent ceremonial parades the circus has returned to what now seems to be spelled the Review Field in recent years, though without the elephants. And in October 2007 Sarah and our friend Bren went to see it.
And what of the church in the background of Stan’s picture? Well it was the Sefton Park Presbyterian Church, built in 1879 and demolished in 1980. Here’s a lovely post card of it.
It was known as ‘Dr Watson’s Church’ after its vicar up to 1905 Rev. John Watson. He was a writer and theologian, also known as Ian MacLaren and his most famous saying of the day was often mistakenly attributed to Plato:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I remember the church from my early days of walking in Sefton Park. In fact it was only when Stan sent me the photograph I fully realised it had gone. And over 30 years ago. We notice arrivals, but even the departure of something so grand can pass us by.
And what of the field itself, the Review Field? The largest of Sefton Park’s many grand open spaces. Before Stan’s picture, during World War Two, it had been used for allotments during the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. Thanks to Mr Seel’s Garden and the City Council for the borrow of this aerial photo.
Then, around the time the church was being demolished the Review Field would often be where many of us would go for the start of the major unemployment marches, campaigning against Margaret Thatcher’s government’s destruction of the industrial base of our country.
I went to a series of them, in 1980 and 81, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham and London. But the one I remember most started here on the Review Field. 100,000 of us were there that day, we told ourselves. 50,000 said the police. That was always the way, arguing about numbers. All I know is our Union Branch hadn’t left the Review Field by the time the head of the march reached its end at the Pier Head. It was a lot of people.
Whatever, soon the Falklands War came, and all our efforts, on the Review Field and beyond, couldn’t stop the Tories staying in Government for a further 16 years.
More recent years have seen the Review Field being used for what I believe to be Liverpool’s greatest outpouring of joy and confidence in itself. Our annual party and my own personal Christmas, the Africa Oyé Festival.
And then in May every year, the Review Field has been the start and end of the Women’s 10k run. (Though I can’t find a link to it for this year, can anyone help?) Sarah’s run this many times over the years, most memorably in 2010 to celebrate the end of her major breast cancer treatments.
And what of today on the Review Field? Well today is more typical of what most days are like for it.
And as for the spot where Stan took his picture all those years ago:
The circus was here a few weeks ago though, for the Easter holidays. But what’s replaced the church?
Still, it’s a rich meditation from sitting here staring at the picture Stan sent me.
But what of the future? Whist walking round to the Review Field I saw these notices on lots of lamp posts.Yes, looks like the Review Field and the rest of the Park might be about to become a serious ‘Venue.’ As in ‘entertainment and alcohol’ from 9:00 in the morning? Come on, we like a party in Liverpool but we usually like to get breakfast and even lunch out of the way before we start.
Oh well, the Review Field will survive. It always has.
Thanks for the photo, Stan.