It’s Liverpool, in 1973

It’s raining hard so I get the bus into the centre of Liverpool.

For an urban Friday Walk.

For an urban Friday Walk.

Today I’m going to walk through pieces of my own past, forty years ago, in Liverpool 1973.

I’d not thought of this urban walking I do as a revolutionary act. But this week a friendly blog reader, @PFurmo via Twitter, drew my attention to an article in the New Statesman that suggests it is. Talking about members of the Situationist International in Paris in 1968, John Rogers writes:

“The car was seen as a tool of capitalist propaganda, the city itself as a manifestation of hierarchies and power structures; modern urban planning was a mass exercise in “organising universal isolation” that shackled and oppressed the human spirit. The primary solution to combat this attack was to walk.

What the situationists recognised was the transformative potential of large numbers of people regularly stepping outside the matrix, taking to the streets and walking, becoming active participants rather than passive spectators. This “revolution of everyday life” is a radical shift that starts with placing one foot in front of the other.”

Well?

So I decide to start today’s Friday Walk at the place where I went to learn about societies and revolutions, only 5 years later than the Situationists were writing, in 1973.

Liverpool University, Department of Sociology.

Liverpool University, Department of Sociology.

Me. 1973. From my Students' Union card.

Me. 1973. From my Students’ Union card.

In 1973 I’ve spent a happy and extremely educational year working in Liverpool City Council Housing Department on Scotland Road and Netherfield Heights, and think I might have found what I want to do. So when it comes to it, I’m not sure I want to go to University at all.

But, expectations being what they are, I turn up and start learning about Marx and Durkheim and Levi-Strauss.

In the Eleanor Rathbone Building.

The Eleanor Rathbone Building.

I haven't been in here for almost 40 years. And am delighted to find she's more celebrated now than she was then.

I haven’t been in here for almost 40 years. And am delighted to find she’s more celebrated now than she was then.

One of the great inspirations of my life, Eleanor Rathbone of Liverpool.

One of the great inspirations of my life, Eleanor Rathbone of Liverpool.

Though the founder of the Department will end up teaching me as much as these others.

I go for a look around the neighbourhood.

I'd come over here to this little parade of shops on Myrtle Terrace.

In 1973 I come over here to this little parade of shops on Myrtle Terrace to buy my lunch.

Liverpool 197308

And walk along to Abercromby Square on brighter days than this one. And walk along to Abercromby Square on brighter days than this one.

Though truth to tell, as much of my time as I could afford was spent here in the Cambridge.

Though a fair bit of my university time is also spent here in The Cambridge.

Friday lunch times a few of us would go round the corner to the Everyman to eat.

Friday lunch times a few of us go round the corner to the Everyman to the just getting going Bistro.

Now having its second rebuilding since then almost completed.

The Theatre, now having its second rebuilding since then, almost completed.

Splendid it's looking too.

Splendid it’s looking too.

Because a friend lives here I spend much of my university time writing and reading my course stuff in Falkner Street.

Though there are no pavement Cafés in 1973 and Blackburne House id still a girls school.

Though there are no pavement cafés in 1973 and Blackburne House on the right is still a girls school.

My friend Pat lives here, in a ground floor flat at 36 Falkner Street.

My friend Pat lives here, in a ground floor flat at 36 Falkner Street.

Many years later I will discover that this flat had been owned by Brian Epstein in the 1960s, and he had loaned it to John and Cynthia Lennon when they first got married.

In the evenings I walk down from here to Hardman Street to meet my Liverpool friends.

In O'Connors.

In O’Connors.

The place to be in 1973. if you fancy yourself as a budding poet or musician. And we do.

For a long time now it's been a fancy dress shop.

For a long time now it’s been a fancy dress shop.

Going further down into town, Bold Street, as always, is crowded with small shops.

Including one of the first Virgin record shops at No. 90.

Including one of the first Virgin record shops at No. 90.

Church Street is very different though.

Still open to cars.

Still open to cars.

Not yet pedestrianised.

Not yet pedestrianised.

And this...

And this…

Is Woolies.

Is Woolies.

Round the corner is The Beehive.

Round the corner is The Beehive, as ever.

And opposite to the left, the astoundingly ugly Paradise Street bus station and multi storey. The height of modern in 1973.

And opposite it, to the left, the astoundingly ugly Paradise Street bus station and multi storey. The height of modern in 1973.

One day it will be replaced by Liverpool One, the height of modern in 2013.

Never dreaming that one day it will be replaced by Liverpool One, the height of modern in 2013.

We now enter streets and walkways that are no longer as public as they seem. Having been leased to the Duke of Westminster, the developer of Liverpool One for 250 years.

In 1973 I've no idea what that symbol will come to mean.

In 1973 I’ve no idea what either of these symbols will come to mean.

Or even what the Albert Dock is. Sleeping through years of disuse.

Or even what the Albert Dock is. Sleeping through years of disuse before its 1980s renaissance.

Only occasional pieces of skyline tell me...

Only occasional pieces of skyline give me clues…

That this is Liverpool.

That this is Liverpool.

Walking on.

Walking on.

Above the shops there are crowded restaurants.

Above the shops there are crowded restaurants.

The 1973 me is aware that this is privatised space and half expects to be stopped from taking these photographs by private security guards. But has to admit that these people from the future seem to love what’s been constructed here.

I recognise these of course.

I recognise these of course.

But we're still years away from turning them into business ventures of our own.

Though we’re still years away from turning them into business ventures of our own.

Leaving Liverpool One now.

The business district seems much the same.

The business district seems much the same.

Tiny streets and curious arcades full of lawyers, architects and solicitors.

Tiny streets and curious arcades full of lawyers, architects and solicitors.

And reminders of where much of the city's business came from.

And reminders of where much of the city’s business came from.

In the city's original seven streets, close to the river.

In the city’s original seven streets, close to the river. Chapel Street here.

Meaning the seven streets of the new town when granted its first charter by King John in 1207, since you ask. Chapel Street, Moor Street now Tithebarn Street, Whiteacre Street now Old Hall Street, Dale Street, Bank Street now Water Street, Castle Street and Juggler Street now High Street.

In 1972 I only come down here to go to the streets behind Exchange Station, when it's still a railway station.

In 1973 I only come down to Tithebarn Street to go to the streets behind Exchange Station, when it’s still a railway station.

To find Bixteth Street, where the Liverpool Stadium is.

To find Bixteth Street, where the Liverpool Stadium is.

Run by Roger Eagle, later of Eric’s, putting rock bands on for us at this boxing stadium. David Bowie, Lou Reed, Free, Bad Company, Mott the Hoople, Captain Beefheart, The Kinks, Traffic, Curved Air, Chuck Berry, Joan Armatrading, the New York Dolls and so many more. It’s tatty but it’s cheap and we love it so.

Obliterated now.

Obliterated now. Only a few bits of old remaining amidst the car parks.

Replaced by gleaming office blocks awaiting the next upturn in capitalism, if there is one.

And the gleaming empty office blocks. Awaiting the next upturn in capitalism, if there is one.

Ormond Street, next to the Cotton Exchane, much as in '73. Except for that looming tower at the end.

Ormond Street, next to the Cotton Exchange, much as in ’73. Except for that looming tower at the end there.

The Daily Post and Echo in Old Hall Street. Still printing them both here in the 1970s.

The Daily Post and Echo in Old Hall Street. Still printing them both here in the 1970s.

Back on Chapel Street, passing the Pig & Whistle. Closed down by 2013.

Back on Chapel Street, passing the Pig & Whistle.

Water Street, Oriel Chambers.

Then Water Street, Oriel Chambers.

In 1973 I often walk past this, noticing only the exclusively expensive restaurant in its basement. Failing entirely to see the beauty of the building. A great Liverpool architectural treasure, by Peter Ellis.

In Fenwick Street, a club we go to sometimes down the stairs here. Can't remember its name.

In Fenwick Street, a club we go to sometimes down the stairs here. Anyone remember its name?

Wonder what used to be here?

Wonder what used to be here?

At which point the 1973 me leaves the business district, reflecting on how little time I’ve ever spent in it. Fascinating though its web of streets appears, I’ve never felt at home here, always felt as if this was the bit of Liverpool where the adults did whatever ‘business’ is.

So I return up to Bold Street, my place, to find some lunch.

"What on earth does 'creative technologies' mean?" 1973 me would say.

“OK, I get Film and Art, but what’s ‘Creative Technologies’ about?” the 1973 me would say.

Over lunch, at Leaf’s Garden Café in FACT I think back through this 40 year walk and feel all of the walking and all of the years that have gone into it. How in the new streets of Liverpool One I feel the old, lost, streets beneath them. And don’t much miss them. In my life they were a post-war mess of bomb-site car parks and 60s design disasters.

Nevertheless, successful and well-liked though Liverpool One is, I don’t much like it myself and hardly ever go there. Maybe in time and with patience it will come to feel like part of Liverpool to me, but it doesn’t yet.

Still, I’ll keep on with this walking through the streets of Liverpool, the public ones and the privatised ones. Watching what happens, feeling how all the places are doing, photographing them and reporting back. Revolutionary or not, this active caring for our place is too important to leave to the powers that be, be they political or economic. Liverpool is my home, and I take its well-being personally.

13 thoughts on “It’s Liverpool, in 1973

  1. stan cotter

    Thank you again Ronnie, I can remember most of the streets the way they were, but I worked in International Telegraphs in Refuge House Lord St for over 20 yrs, now part of Liverpool One.

    I started work in 1958 in 4 Castle St, Cable and Wireless. One of your photos looked like Sweeting Street, real olde world place, and then to Lancaster House, Old Hall Street, so you really have followed my Post Office work time.

    Was the club in Fenwick Street called the Civil Service club? We used one there and went out of our back door to get in. And I do know Castle Moat House in Derby Square. Used to be a bank, stood outside so many times waiting for my bus home.
    Thanks again, my friend

    Reply
  2. Liz

    That was great Ronnie thank you….I really enjoyed that stroll! And thanks too for all the other recent superb blogs x

    That club was Tiffanys! My friend and i got locked in there one lunchtime in 1972! We wandered in one day,just returned from working abroad. We were in the Ladies re doing our lipstick and chatting away,when we suddenly became aware – no music! AND – no people! Walking back to the front door,we found it was now locked! We resisted the impulse to drink the place dry seeing as there was nobody to stop us doing that,and settled down to await the arrival of someone,anyone! ..in the meantime,reminiscing about times we had danced the night away here! A bit later some workmen returned from their lunch break and freed us! Coz we’d been working away,we had no idea the place was closed for renovations XX

    Reply
  3. Liz

    PS just remembered Ronnie..we were working away 72-73, so our lock- in happened in spring 73.. So my little story is in total synchro with yr blog! Love your stude pic by the way! X

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Glad you like the picture. It’s the only one of me then that I possess. Life and its vicissitudes have spirited others away, but truth to tell there weren’t all that many anyway.

      Reminding me a blog like this would barely be possible without cheap digital photography.

      Reply
  4. Jan Hasak

    Oh, Ronnie! I love this post with the fab “four”ty-something photos. I especially liked the one showing “Woolies.” We had no nickname for it in the States of which I am aware (except it being one of our “five and dime” type stores), but I think your name is so much fun. Did yours have diners inside with stools and soda jerks? (either kind of jerk). Keep up the great magical reality tours of Liverpool, “Yesterday” and today.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      It did have a huge diner Jan. Covering, as I recall, the whole of an upper floor. And we’d often get taken there for our lunch when in town. No ‘soda jerks’ though. What I most remember about getting drinks was the way they poured out cups of tea.

      They’d have lots of cups standing on a tin shelf full of holes. And would indiscriminately pour the tea over the top of all of them until all the cups were full, a great deal of tea missing and dropping through the holes to who knows where. We were thrilled by this process, but always sternly warned to ‘not even think about doing that at home!’

      Reply
  5. cheethamlib

    Here on the other side of the world Woolworths was always Woolies but I don’t remember a cafe. I remember illicit forays into the local Woolies to buy forbidden lipstick and nail polish ! A wonderful walk through past and present and the pictures are splendid. I particularly liked Ormond Street and you as a student of the seventies.

    Reply
  6. Andy

    Hi Ronnie, this is a bit of a late comment but amazingly I’ve only just found your blog. This entry in particular has struck a chord with me as it is centred around the year I was born.

    I too am not keen on Liverpool One, and avoid the place if I can at all help it. One Saturday a few weeks ago I was running late and had to cut through there on the way home from the Tate. For some reason was struck with a stomach-turning feeling of dread that I can’t quite explain. The place was packed and the shops were bustling, but all I could think of was that it’s a place singularly devoted to moving money from one place to another, completely devoid of any ‘soul’. There is also the unfortunate fact that thanks to the deal the council made means it literally isn’t part of my city now too..

    I too still ‘see’ the area as it was in it’s previous form. From reading your posts it’s clear that you are no fan of 60s and 70s brutalism (an unfortunate anglicism of the original French term for rough-cast concrete), but I would much rather have Canning Place, Steers House, Foster House and even the car park and bus station (though I have to draw the line at the Moat House) over the bland, inoffensive modernist buildings that have replaced them. At the very least the former buildings were there to serve the people of the city rather than to generate income for Grosvenor House.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Andy, glad you’ve found the blog. And you’re right. I don’t like Liverpool One, particularly the fact that it’s a set of privatised streets. However I do appreciate the fact that the city’s finally done something with that whole area of World War 2 bomb damage. What was done in the 1960s was only ever partial and very low quality. Like you,, I can still see Foster House and the Paradise Street bus station. But I don’t miss them at all and was glad to take these pictures of them being destroyed. If I miss anything round there it’s the Custom House, which many think could and should have been restored.

      But what’s gone is gone. No reason though to sign over such a large part of the city centre to a grasping aristocratic robber baron.

      Reply
  7. Ged Smith

    Tiffany’s!!! Probably one of the few clubs open on Sunday night till 1.00 am. The Detroit Emeralds singing “Feel the need in me”, the O’Jays singing “Love Train” and Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Get Down”. Happy days.

    Reply
  8. Neil Richardson

    Fenwick Street night club was Tiffanys and I was in the resident band called Drops of Brandy. It was used by the nicest people and staff, police dog handlers worked the door. I cant remember the DJ’s name but he had a bright yellow taxi cab, food was good, management was excellent and the Liverpool people were amazing.

    Reply

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s