Much of today’s post will take place high up in the air and back in time.
The highest peal of ringing bells on all of the Earth, a sign up here tells me.
But the Cathedral is not our subject today, it’s merely a vantage point.
Neither is our subject the magnificent views of the 21st century city Centre.
No today’s subject, today’s Friday Walk, is Liverpool 8. A place close to my heart and all over this blog. But today’s way of looking at it and walking around it has been suggested by my lifelong school friend Paul Du Noyer in his book about Deaf School.
In 1973 the people who will become Deaf School are all arriving at Liverpool Art College, at precisely the same time as I turn up at nearby Liverpool University. And crucial to the education we’ll all go on to receive over the following 3 years is Liverpool 8, the place and its people. We’ll all meet significant numbers of black people, for the first time in our lives. And we’ll meet the bohemians. The artists, poets, musicians and free spirits who live here as well. And who we all want to grow up and become.
And yes, I fully realise that much of the Hope Street area isn’t technically in the postal district of Liverpool 8 at all. But we’re not talking about postal districts here, we’re talking about a place that’s much more real than that.
The band of Liverpool painter and poet Adrian Henri.
And where did we get our LPs? Well, for us ‘Liverpool 8’ began as soon as we walked up the hill from town.
In the book, Paul makes the point that though Liverpool is particularly remembered for its music from the 50s and 60s, that memory has obscured the fact that at the same time the place was bursting with art, poetry, theatre and life. So much so that when the Beatles split in 1970 it didn’t matter all that much to those of us who were here at the time. We got to Liverpool 8 as soon as we could and threw ourselves into everything that was going on here. As had John Paul and George a generation before us.
No, I’m not calling it ‘Ye’ anything.
Tempted by the promises on notices outside I go in for my lunch.
So this is the neighbourhood where Deaf School and the rest of us arrived. Where poets were the people sitting at the next table to you in the pub, and writing your own stuff and putting together your own plays and adventures was just a matter of time.
Having been denied lunch at The Crack I go to Hope Hall. Epicentre of the Liverpool 8 poetry scene.
By 1973 the Everyman Bistro is open in the basement, beginning 40 years of nurturing friendship and creativity in Liverpool. But the pubs mattered too.
Note the Rev’s up to the minute cassette recorder there. I used one like that for recording my first songs.
(And by the way, Deaf School member Steve ‘Mr Average’ Lindsey’s been in touch to tell me the above picture was taken in CBGB’s New York in 1977. I should have realised no Liverpool pub, then or now, would be advertising things ‘to go’!)
Opposite the end of Falkner Street, in 1973, the Hahnemann Hospital is still open.
And no, these are not their real names. But the ones they made up are good aren’t they?
And many friends I would come to know over the next few years did. Making me aware of something special that was going on around here. Something called ‘housing associations’ were gradually trying to buy up houses, keep them out of the hands of slum landlords, and start doing them up to a decent standard for people to live in decently. Much more on this as I discover Liverpool Housing Trust.
Just round in Upper Parliament Street was somewhere very important to us all back in the 1970s.
Licensing laws were still very restrictive back then and no decent poet wants to stop drinking at 11o’clock on a Friday night. So we’d come to The Somali, as would Deaf School. Crowded, smoky, all the music from a juke box and open ’til 2, some nights it seemed the whole of Liverpool 8 was jammed into there.
And being a Friday, the road is filled with the parked cars of the faithful.
But we still have four of the original streets.
News of which I hope to be able to bring you soon.
Meanwhile over on the Welsh Streets?
Which is where our walk through the Liverpool 8 of 1973 and Deaf School and me ends.
No, though it’s part of Liverpool 8 by postcode it’s always been a distinct place called ‘The Dingle’ as opposed to ‘Liverpool 8’ where I’ve wandered today and these many years since I first arrived.
And later on in Liverpool 8 there were righteous riots, caused by the policies of the police. After which, out of sheer revenge, much of Granby was destroyed, accompanied by a diaspora of its peoples.
But Liverpool 8, the true spirit of the place survives. Seen here at its purest form in the Granby 4 Streets Market – ‘By the people, of the people, for the people’ – where Liverpool 8 regathers and the names of the disappeared streets are once again spoken.
And Deaf School? After briefly being ‘the next big thing’ and then not, quite – they too regather at times. And we sing all of their songs with them like every one was a hit to us. Oh frabjous days. ‘Cocktails at eight?’ L8? I’ll meet you there.
And looking in the opposite direction, at the city centre and the river, here.