Click for larger versionProject Chinatown

The Sound Agents' Chinese New Year 2012 Research Newspaper

Reviewed by Tracey Dunn

'Study the past if you would define the future' - Confucius

Project Chinatown is taking place over a 5 year period and includes aural recordings, a radio station, a research newspaper, exhibition, book and possible film. It is run by Sound Agent's Moira Kenny and Colin Campbell. It is also hoped to set up a Chinese Heritage Centre in Nelson Street.

I went past London's Chinatown yesterday and it may be a surprise to learn it is not as old as Liverpool's Chinese community which arose in the 19th Century partly by Chinese sailors landing in the port. Liverpool's Chinese Community is the oldest in Europe. More can be read about this in the book ' Merseyside: Culture and Place edited by Mike Benbough-Jackson and Sam Davies'.

The newspaper has many interviews with people who lived in or visited the area and has interesting information about the place. There are stories about the seaman's home run by the Blue Funnel Shipping company, the Cornwallis blind school paid for by the Hartley Jam Company where those in the workshops made baskets and brushes and a housing co-op set up with houses designed and run by local people.

Mr C.K. Cheung (headmaster of the Wah Sing School) talks about the Wah Sing Community Centre where people travel from as far away as Hull, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester to attend every weekend. He explains how many Liverpool Chinese moved to places like Manchester as there were more opportunities for business.

Mrs. Chi Fong runs a line dancing group at the Community Centre which is a valuable place for women to get together and help each other with various things as some women only speak Chinese. There are other activities at the centre like cooking, sewing, table tennis and Kung Fu.

Mr Woo is the oldest Blue Funnel sailor and he reminisces about his time working for the company over 22 years. After the war in 1946 2,600 Chinese sailors were deported back to China and Mr Woo informs us that some men were removed from their families.

Lily Clarke talks about the David Lewis Theatre set up by the Founder of Lewis's Department Store. There was also the David Lewis dispensary where for a penny you could see a doctor. The building had a social centre with a cinema and snooker rooms.

Brian Clarke (retired Liverpool voluntary services for the blind) informs us of Yuen Thomas, originally from Wales, who set up bone setting clinics in Hardy Street and Nelson Street. Yuen Thomas kindly treated poor people at his Sunday clinic for free. He also manufactured splints and other supports for broken limbs. A lot of his designs are still used today.

The leader of the City Council Joe Anderson was born in Kent Gardens,Chinatown. He is sorry that Lydia Anne Street and other solid buildings were demolished and thinks it was a real oversight. He says it would have been nice to give people gardens and modern homes but he is sure a lot of people would have stayed there.

The project is fascinating and an important historical resource fo this community in the heart of town. More information is available on the on the websites.

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