Every picture tells a story.
by Laurence Westgaph, Historian – L8.
The L8 Unseen exhibition reveals the stories and experiences of a diverse range of people from the Liverpool 8 community. It aims to uncover the spirit and heritage of the area through filmed interviews and striking large-scale photographs taken by renowned photographer Othello De’Souza-Hartley.
The photographs were captured in buildings and places which have a special significance to L8 – many were founded on the proceeds of the city’s international trading links and the transatlantic slave trade.
You can also see a range of historical images of L8 from the Liverpool 8 Old Photographs Facebook group, The Granby Street Archive project and Museum of Liverpool photographic collections.
Liverpool 8 is a state of mind, an idea, a culture, rather than just a geographical location. L8 transcends postcode boundaries.
In fact, L8 existed before Liverpool had postcodes. The people and cultures that make up the most diverse community on Merseyside have a proud history that began more than 250 years ago.
Yet L8 is also a definite space. The area developed in the 18th century as Liverpool’s dock capacity increased to accommodate a greater number of larger ships. Tradesmen and builders were drawn from Scotland, Wales and Ireland and settled here.
The area also incorporates the south side of L1 once known as ‘Sailortown’ where mainly male migrants from Africa, Asia and the Americas originally settled. Many went on to marry the daughters of their white neighbours.
A changing community
Some of these men and women crossed over the Parliament Street border with their families into the north west end of Toxteth during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
After the Race Riots of 1919 and the German bombs of the Luftwaffe in 1941 laid waste to the Park Lane, Pitt Street Area, now known as China Town, they were followed in greater numbers by others who shared their origins.
From there, the community continued to migrate further east and by the 1960s many of the descendants of the early L8 community were actually living in L7, in the Georgian Townhouses of Falkner Street, Upper Canning and Upper Huskisson Street.
Some in the community were upwardly mobile, owning family businesses and providing vital services to the multitude of seafarers who were confronted by signs in the windows of boarding houses saying ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’.
So what is
the culture of L8?
Maybe it is the culture of accepting, tolerating and welcoming people from other cultures. This can be demonstrated in the most obvious and meaningful way, through ‘interracial’ marriage and relationships.
It is not a neighbourhood where separate communities live separate lives within a multi-cultural area, similar to what can be seen in many other towns and cities in Britain.
L8 is a community where people from all parts of the globe have intermingled genetically and otherwise, for generations.
L8 Unseen is organised in partnership with B3 Media and National Museums Liverpool. The exhibition is part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.