Part of the Writing on the Wall Festival
8th May 2018
On the panel the authors:
Professor Mike Boyle, social and economic historian
Tony Wailey, writer and historian
Madeline Heneghan, WOW co-director for the last 15 years – host and compère for the night
Reviewed by John Owen
Madeline introduced the night’s proceedings, hoping that the book would show the “creativity that comes from diversity” and how a “creative area showed resistance that brought about social change”.
Mike spoke about his immediate maternal forebears, being from New York and Barbados, moving to Pitt Street as his gran said the world lives in Pitt Street.
Although not speaking publicly for at least 8 years Mike was adept at winning over the audience in an instance although the tough crowd warmed to his style.
“I’m more an Urban Geographer than historian, some people think immigration, migration, emigration, that it all started in the Windrush period. But we’ve been here for 100s of years. Liverpool has one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe.
“My father worked the elder Dempster line as a stoker operating out of Coburg dock. Few places employed black labour and 20 to 25 years ago we started this project, interviewing the older generation in their 70s and 8os.
“We were attempting to attack the revisionist version of history of the area, with their whole sleuth of negative publicity and attacks upon the people and its character. Our aim to redress the balance. Liverpool has always faced outward and with that as attracted people from afar.
“An almost non existence of racism prevailed amongst the diverse communities” he continued. “Attacking the patriotic version of history we are challenging this selective historical amnesia in schooling and tuition. Famous John Newton slave holder, Quaker and author of Amazing Grace. In case in point we like to tell people.”
Tony Wailey remarked on the induction of the Maritime Act in the 1920s, and the Aliens Act in 1905, “Both brought in to legislate against labour and to cut wages down. I’ve been associated with the George Garret Project. I am keen on its maritime connections.”
He described a wonderful chap, Barney Moore ! a black activist CP member, who agitated with Julius Nyerere, the future leader of Tanzania, was deported left, right and centre for his political activities, was jailed in the period of the Peronist rule of Argentina and got well fed for a week .
A CP member, who married a catholic, was muslim and a catholic blessings send off from the communist party.
He started the Lodge Lane credit union, and was involved in the Liverpool 8 Law Centre.
“What’s amazing was that an entire community was transplanted from the dock area and moved upwards streetwise intact, wholesale to the Pitt Street area. Completely intact, most groups are dispersed completely and contact utterly destroyed.”
Ray Quareless, speaker from the floor, described a continuous struggle against casualisation of labour and the uphill struggle for employment prospects.
Rose Thomas described her relative, a qualified chemist being barred from a job at a pharmaceutical firm as it didn’t employ witch doctors.
MB: Originally a title was from chattel slaver to wage slavery
TW: errors in spelling peoples name were quite common.
Ray Quarless said his relatives was misspelt and had trouble searching due to this.
Over and above the speaking and questions it was a good start to the festival and engaged the people and public on the wider themes of crossing borders, what it means to today’s generation, as one last speaker from the floor posed, has it changed?
Watch this space.