Opera for Chinatown and Bold Street

This is hardly news. It’s all been there since last year, but I only noticed it yesterday as my south-end bus was diverted up Duke Street.China Town01Getting off the bus you don’t see it yet.

You see China Town's grand entrance arc at the top of Nelson Street.
You see Chinatown’s grand entrance arc at the top of Nelson Street.
Then turning down duke Street?
Then turning down Duke Street?
Nothing yet.
Nothing yet.
But half way down.
But half way down…

Three Georgian terraced houses have been turned into a story.
Three Georgian terraced houses have been turned into a story.

This is ‘The Opera for Chinatown.’ It has been put together by ‘The Sound Agents’ and was part of a group of events and dramas they put on in Liverpool last year. Telling some of the stories of  the Chinese Community in Liverpool:

“Liverpool Chinatown is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe. It has the largest arch outside of China and is probably the smallest Chinatown in the world. The streets are steeped in history. People from all over the world stayed in boarding houses in Nelson Street on their way to America. Some stayed thinking they had arrived in America when they docked in Liverpool, making Chinatown a unique cosmopolitan area.”

Stories of ships and arrival.
Stories of ships and arrival.
Particularly tories of the Blue Funnel Line.
Particularly stories of the Blue Funnel Line.
Stories of coming here, settling here and having children.
Stories of coming here, settling here and having children.

But also stories of not always being welcomed. Of restrictions and also of the forced repatriation of many Chinese seamen at the end of World War 2:

“In the early 1940s, an estimated 20,000 Chinese merchant sailors were recruited into the British Merchant Navy and, almost entirely based in Liverpool, around 300 of these married or cohabitated with local women. Although the Chinese sailors played a vital role in Britain’s warfare, their demands for the same pay and equal treatment as local sailors in 1942, which led to strike action, saw them labelled as troublemakers. Post-war, the government, in collusion with the shipping companies, were keen to rid Liverpool of what they saw as an ‘undesirable element’ and, in October 1945, the Home Office opened a file on ‘the compulsory repatriation of undesirable Chinese seamen at Liverpool’.

As has been identified through recently released records, although many of the sailors were not reluctant to return to China given the hostile conditions in Liverpool, some of those who had families were not given an opportunity to stay, as the law prescribed. Although we do not know exactly how many Chinese seamen were deported, including those who had relationships and families with local women, it is estimated that more than 200 men with dependents were suddenly and forcefully repatriated, leaving behind distraught families who believed themselves abandoned.

The British wives of the Chinese seamen who had been repatriated formed a defence association in Liverpool to campaign for the rights of Chinese seamen’s families, though to little avail. As far as records show, there were no reviews of individual cases, or appeals. During the last half century, those left fatherless have grown into adults and (as with the children of Black GIs and British women) have sought to identify and track down their fathers. Their testimony is brought to life by photographs assembled by one of them, Yvonne Foley, who has remembered these fathers and their families in her website.”

China Town10 China Town11 China Town12 China Town13 China Town14 China Town15 China Town16 China Town17 China Town18 China Town19 China Town20 China Town21 China Town22 China Town23 China Town24 China Town25 China Town26 China Town27 China Town28

Here also are stories of the Liverpool Chinese children who featured in the film ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.’ Where they were taken away not to China, but to Snowdonia to make the film with Ingrid Bergman.China Town29China Town30One of the children was Perry Lee, his story is at the film link above. In the late 1970s Perry arrived at Falkner Square and we worked together for a few years for Liverpool Housing Trust.

These three houses are full of stories though, and I don’t know most of them. More than happy though if any of you reading this want to comment and tell us any of them?China Town31 China Town32 China Town33 China Town34 China Town35 China Town36 China Town37All beautifully done and I’m sorry I missed the rest of what happened last year. As is so often the way with me.

But well done you Sound Agents, you John Campbell and Moira Kenny and all of the Liverpool Chinese oral historians who worked with you. Stories need telling and this makes me want to hear more.

As usual, I walk on.

Round to Colquitt Street. Filling up with apartments.
Round to Colquitt Street. Filling up with apartments.
Across Parr Street.
Across Parr Street.
Past the Former Royal Institution.
Past the Former Royal Institution.

In grander times we’d hold Liverpool Housing Trust (LHT) AGMs in here.

Today it seems closed up and sadly two homeless people are asleep in the doorway.
Today it seems closed up and sadly two homeless people are asleep in the doorway.
Into Seel Street, the newly hip.
Into Seel Street, the newly hip.
And the unfathomably old.
And the unfathomably old.
Looks like a ghost sign but don't assume it is.
Looks like a ghost sign but don’t assume it is.

Last time I was here on a weekday, the now grey haired Alby was still here, chatting happily outside his garage. A workshop full of cars to fix just like he did for us in LHT days.

Along Back Colquitt Street.
Along Back Colquitt Street.

In December 1975 this is the back of where I turned up to start volunteering for LHT. Though it’s in the middle of town, at the time they were calling it ‘our North City Office!’

Past FACT, looking along Wood Street.
Past FACT, looking along Wood Street.
Where the glorious Swan still functions, though not sure about its upstairs bar.
Where the glorious Swan still functions, though not sure about its ‘Attic’ bar.

In the early to mid 1980s me and my great friend and fellow LHT Union Rep Phil Macaulay would come to the Attic Bar here to ‘get ready’ for meetings with ‘Management’ – as in our good friends Dave Bebb and Dave Lambert. Sausage, egg and chips washed down with two or, go on then, three pints would set us up to propose whatever we thought we might get away with. If we were successful, and even if we weren’t, we’d all be back in the Swan downstairs at five, queuing at the bar while the inevitable – and I’m sure still on there – ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ played on the jukie behind us. Happy days.

Through to Bold Street. Top quality roofscape.
Through to Bold Street. Top quality roofscape.
Looking relatively pleased to be featured on 'a sense of place' even if he doesn't actually know it.
Looking relatively pleased there to be featured on ‘a sense of place’ even if he doesn’t actually know it.

In fact I do meet a couple of blog readers while I’m along here ( Hello Andrew and Mia!). Always happy to have it confirmed in person that it’s real people and not ‘bots’ who create the encouraging readership figures my walks and thoughts get these days.

Contrasting neighbours. Both long time and valued inhabitants of Bold Street.
Contrasting neighbours. Both long time and valued inhabitants of Bold Street.
As is Natalie Heywood's mighty Leaf. Full as ever on this Saturday afternoon.
As is Natalie Heywood’s mighty Leaf. Full as ever on this Saturday afternoon.
Me, I'm on my way to here.
Me, I’m on my way to here.
Looks like Soho's vintage rock'n'roll clothes shop. But half the basement is Dig Vinyl.
Looks like Soho’s vintage rock’n’roll clothes shop. But half the basement is Dig Vinyl.

I’ve been sent here today by my good friend Barry Dallman, who in his persona of Dr Jazzbeard has prescribed me some essential listening for my health and well being which he says I’ll find here. I’m tempted and of course always happy to spend time flicking through hundred of LPs, but today – unusually – nothing sticks to my hand.

Outside, more elegant neighbours.
Outside, more elegant neighbours.

The centre of corporate town moving down to Liverpool One has turned out to be great for Bold Street. The place is booming and thriving and as great a pleasure to be in as at any time in the forty years I’ve been coming here.

A real ghost sign up there. A bank was here once.
A real ghost sign up there. A bank was here once.
And on the once bank, two Liver Birds. For those of you who go around spotting Liver Birds - and I know you're out there.
And on the once bank, two Liver Birds. For those of you who go around spotting Liver Birds – and I know you’re out there.
Then here, where I spent my working days in the 1980s.
Then here, where I spent my working days in the 1980s.

Having been a car showroom, and some told us, a manufactory of Spitfire wings in wartime, in 1980 this became the head office of Liverpool Housing Trust. Just opposite, where it now says ‘Subway’ were our close friends Co-operative Development Services (CDS) – now called Plus Dane.

Walking on, a mild Query. Why are so many cars driving along the 'pedestrianised' part of Bold Street these days?
Walking on, a mild query. Why are so many cars driving along the ‘pedestrianised’ part of Bold Street these days?

And by the way, more homeless people are asleep in the Reflex doorway there as I pass. I get that it’s safer to sleep rough during daylight hours, but what kind of a society are we running here that makes it necessary at all?

While they sleep Concert Square is just revving up for the evening.
While they sleep Concert Square is just revving up for the evening.
Though gentler sounds prevail on Bold Street.
Though gentler sounds prevail on Bold Street.
And new arrivals? A chippie. Go well you.
And new arrivals? A chippie. Go well you.
Sarah's not with me today, so no call to call into Rennie's. Always a pleasure to see it though.
Sarah’s not with me today, so no call to call into Rennie’s. Always a pleasure to see it though.
Time for a sit down, a read and a drink though now.
Time for a sit down, a read and a drink though now.
So into Bold Street Coffee for some Yorkshire Tea.
So into Bold Street Coffee for some Yorkshire Tea.

Where I start reading  ‘Establishment’ by Owen Jones. Of which you may well hear more.

Then I head back over to Chinatown. Realising it’s neat for walks and blogposts to end where they began.

Past the car park on Parr Street that was LHT's in the 1980s.
Past the car park on Parr Street that was LHT’s in the 1980s.

Almost the last mention of LHT in this post. I realise it’s been a running theme. (Probably because me and my friend Fiona Shaw are writing a book about LHT’s 50 year story at the moment, of which you’ll also hear more in due course.)

Past Parr Street Studios.
Past Parr Street Studios.

A derelict factory on most of the mornings when I’d park here then walk round to work. Since then a thriving recording studio, venue and place to stay.

Past The Brink. Social enterprise, dry bar, all round interesting place.
Past The Brink. Social enterprise, dry bar, all round interesting place.

Then once again across Duke Street.

To a strange mixture of old and new apartments.
To a strange mixture of old and new apartments.
Suburban houses in the city centre.
Suburban houses in the city centre.
Student housing.
Student housing.
The little surviving terrace of Bailey Street.
The little surviving terrace of Bailey Street.
And round the corner into Chinatown.
And round the corner into Chinatown.
Legendary.
Legendary.
All getting ready for evening coming on now.
All getting ready for evening coming on now.
The Yuet Ben through the arch there. Been there seems like forever.
The Yuet Ben through the arch there. Been there seems like forever.
And the Ma Bo.
And the Ma Bo.

Definite last mention of LHT today. Middle 1970s, just getting to know everyone, after work and after the pub, would happen in here.

Brighter inside than out now.
Brighter inside than out now.
As evening descends.
As evening descends.

On this Opera for Chinatown and Bold Street. Don’t miss it, don’t miss any of it.

 

15 Replies to “Opera for Chinatown and Bold Street”

  1. I love your photo journey. Chinatown looks intriguing and worth the visit. I had to laugh at the name of the chippie as you call it: Johnny English. Thanks for the tour! x

    1. I could be wrong but the chippie has the look of a franchise. Not being called something that would naturally appeal to Liverpool people. Us not considering ourselves to be quite English!

  2. Excellent story about the repatriation of Chinese Seamen and the photos from Perry and everyone of their families. Appalling decision by the authorities shows that racism was rife as it is today.

    I loved the photos of the Blue Funnel line and pictures of the Chinese Seaman’s Union. Was it part of any Trade Unions in Liverpool I wonder? Very well done

  3. Hi Ron, the black and white photo of Chan’s Fish and Chips was my parents chippy at 24 Townsend Lane, Anfield by the corner of Priory Road. My dad was a cook on the Blue Funnel Line but after 20 years, he decided to settle down here in Liverpool in 1958. We had the chippy in the 60’s and early 70’s; it’s no longer there now.

    I remember being driven there on Saturdays from our home in West Derby. The first thing was to light the coal in the fireplace which gave off a lovely warm glow. I can still remember the telephone number(2636096) and the telephone – a big black thing with a circular dial – of the shop . Opposite was a DIY shop; I think the owner was called Thompson – he was a good guy and would help my parents when they had any problems.

    There’s a photo of me sitting on the counter of the shop as a baby on the right of the mural; also a photo of me with my brother and sister.

  4. Thank you Pak. Who would have guessed from all those photographs that I would know someone featured there. I’ll take a photo of you in the chippy next time I’m in town and add it to the post!

  5. Lovely to see a page with the pics from Duke Street. My Dad and a couple of family friends are on the wall of the Chinese theater. My Dad is sat on the stairs with a friend in the pic taken from the filming of the Inn of the Sixth Happiness. His name was Henry Youp and his friend was Peter Chan. Also a pic of the young courting couple are Lee and Elaine Yung, all born and bred in nearby streets, very proud of our heritage.

    1. And lovely to hear from you Gillian. It’s a brilliant idea, a beautiful collage of pictures and a real privilege to have been able to look into all of your lives. I don’t think Liverpool has ever made enough of our Chinese heritage and this is a part of putting that right.

  6. Thankyou so much . My family are there as well . Many wishes for all the memories that I miss ! Thankyou again .

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.