L8 Stories

We interviewed, filmed and took photographic portraits of the L8 community – hear the stories of people who had grown up, lived, worked in the area. 

Unspoken – Spoken word on film

Liverpool 8 spoken word artists celebrate iconic Granby Four Streets on film and online. They recorded their poems inspired by Toxteth on those same streets as part of the L8 Unspoken film and web project.

Your stories

L8 Unseen is about you and your stories.  You can find content submitted by people who currently live or have lived in Liverpool 8. Some stories were submitted via the exhibition interactive kiosk.

Behind The Scenes

Watch footage from the photoshoots behind some of “L8 Unseen” exhibition’s iconic portraits.

Maria Paul

Assistant Director and Youth Arts Manager at the Black-E. A community artist, director, actor and youth worker, Maria currently works as the assistant director and youth work manager at The Black-E. She runs drama workshops and projects for people of all ages. Her current ongoing oral history project, ‘Married in Black’, focuses on the historical experiences of local white women in mixed race relationships.

Maria Paul
Adan Elmi

Born in Somaliland, came to Liverpool in the 1960s. When Adan settled in Liverpool, he became very involved with the Somali community. He was an activist who helped new Somali settlers when they first arrived in the 1990s following the Civil War in Somalia/Somaliland. He also founded and chaired the Merseyside Somali Community, one of the first of its kind to be established in Liverpool.

Amina and Adan Elmi
Tayo Aluko

Born in Nigeria and now lives in Liverpool. Having trained and worked as an architect in Liverpool, Tayo gave architecture up to travel the world performing his one-man play about Paul Robeson. He performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and on London’s West End, to name but a few. He continues to tour internationally, working on new plays that positively depict the sons and daughters of Africa.

L8 Unseen: Tayo Aluko, Ramon ‘Sugar’ Deen, and Laurence Westgaph in the Athenaeum
Zi Lan Liao

Musician and Artistic Director. A leading exponent of Chinese music, Zi Lan’s career on the international concert circuit has resulted in her being the most widely heard and appreciated Guzheng (a form of zither) performer. She’s captivated global audiences as a soloist with leading orchestras, as a recitalist and through the bubbling enthusiasm of her workshops. In 2013, Zi Lan was appointed the artistic director for Pagoda Arts on Henry Street.

L8 Unseen: The Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra
Imam Mohammed Alawi

Al Taiseer Mosque. With an entrenched love for religion, the Imam Mohammed studied the Islamic faith from a young age with the help of his teachers in Yemen. After giving a guest sermon on his first visit to the Al Taiseer Mosque, Imam Mohammed was invited to take up a permanent position. He now shares his belief of the importance of respecting other faiths, which he says is achieved by being open-minded and participating in religious activities and celebrations.

L8 Unseen: Imam Mohammed Alawi, Dr Peter Grant, Father Iakovos Kasinos, and Canon Bob Lewis.
Joe Farrag
Born and raised in Liverpool. Having been a board member of several L8 organisations, including the Steve Biko Housing Association, L8 Law Centre and Toxteth TV, Joe’s worked in youth and community development for more than 30 years. He’s an active member of the Granby 4 Streets community, and one of the main organisers for the Cairns Street Market. He currently works for SHAP, an organisation that supports vulnerable people across Merseyside.
Joe Farrag
Father Iakovos Kasinos
Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas. Before becoming a priest, Father Iakovos attended church to sing. But, over time, the community encouraged him into taking up the mantle of priest. At first he was reluctant; but he later recognised it as a higher calling. Father Iakovos went on to become priest at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas where he has held the title since 1990. He continues to share his belief that mixing with people from different communities gives us a better understanding of each other.
L8 Unseen: Imam Mohammed Alawi, Dr Peter Grant, Father Iakovos Kasinos, and Canon Bob Lewis.
Stephen Nze
Tiber Youth Facilitator and Building Manager. Currently the Young People Facilitator and building manager at Tiber, Stephen also manages a team that goes out onto the streets of L8 to engage young people who avoid organised activities. With a drive to empower today’s youth, Stephen’s aim is to give them the skills they need to better themselves and their community.
Jasmine Boyce
Originally from Barbados – (20.02.1935 – 20.04 2015). Like many others, Jasmine first came over to Liverpool 8 with the common 5-year plan, to work and raise money before returning home; that is until Liverpool became a permanent home. Having faced many struggles through her life Jasmine speaks frankly about how discrimination from her own people was just as bad as the racism of the time. Never allowing such things to deter her Jasmine has always made a positive effort to mix with different people. She also reminds us of the power of compassion and understanding.
Amina Elmi
Project Manager (Granby Somali Women’s Group) and Phd Student. Currently working as a project manager for GSWG (Granby Somali Women’s Group), an organisation that helps women facing language barriers access mainstream service provisions in Liverpool. Amina is most proud of having had the opportunity to work in Somaliland and Abu Dhabi. She’s also completed her PhD in which she focused on employment for Liverpool’s black community.
Amina and Adan Elmi
Nileth Sinclair
Originally from Jamaica. Nileth fondly reminisces about how Liverpool 8 used to be with vibrant shops and communities where everyone knew and looked out for each other, something she cherished during times of heavy discrimination. She speaks of visiting Jamaica but never settling back as she’s now far too accustomed to the British cold.
Earl Jenkins
Learning Support Mentor. Passionate about the opportunities open to young people in Liverpool, Earl wants to see the recent regeneration deals delivering something for them and their future. He presently works as a learning support mentor at Calderstones Specialist Science College. As well as his involvement with Kingsley United, a successful local football club that works with the youth of Toxteth. Earl is also Chair of the Unity Community Association, which runs the Unity Youth and Community Centre in Granby.
Earl Jenkins
Laurence Westgaph
Historian. A historian whose family has lived in Liverpool for more than ten generations, Laurence specialises in black history and slavery. He was honoured with a Black History Month Achiever’s Award for his work raising Liverpool’s history profile. Laurence strongly believes that L8 is a harbinger for what the UK will look like in the future, in terms of true diversity.
L8 Unseen: Tayo Aluko, Ramon ‘Sugar’ Deen, and Laurence Westgaph in the Athenaeum
Rudolf Murray
Originally from St. Michaels, Barbados. Rudolf always dreamt of being a marine engineer, unfortunately due to the circumstances of those times, having to battle against constant discrimination he was unable to achieve that dream. However, his self-confidence never allowed him to quit and he has had a varied career working on buses, in mines and even in the army.
Sophie Dixon
Born and raised in Liverpool by a Nigerian Father and Scottish Mother. Sophie grew up attending The Unity Centre until she was recommended for training with the Tiber young people steering group. There she helped develop and fund the centre into a sustainable social enterprise before leaving to study Economics. She now gives back to the community by volunteering at The Unity Youth and Community Centre.
Nasser Mashjari
Born in Malah, Yemen and came to Liverpool in 1973. A founding member of the Yemeni Community Association which provides support, services and education to the Yemeni community, and an elected trustee for the Al Rahma Mosque for the last 4 years. Nasser recognised that Toxteth was a diverse and open community, even back then.
Nasser Mashjari
Sandi Hughes
DJ, Filmmaker and Visual Artist Born in Bristol and moved to the L8 area in 1970. Sandi is a DJ, photographer, independent filmmaker, visual artist and winner of a SEEN Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 from Liverpool Pride. Managing her own production company, Shehugs, Sandi refers to herself as an independent, self-sustaining hustler in every positive sense of the word.
Sandi Hughes
Reverend Canon Bob Lewis
St Margaret of Antioch. Ordained in the Church of England for 35 years and assigned to the parish of St Margaret of Antioch in 2014, Reverend Canon Lewis sees L8 as a vibrant community with a lot of local pride. He embraces its rich, diverse heritage – a heritage that people who have moved away, come back to experience and he celebrates the hope and unity he has witnessed in the area since the earlier riots.
L8 Unseen: Imam Mohammed Alawi, Dr Peter Grant, Father Iakovos Kasinos, and Canon Bob Lewis.
Donna Kassim
Trade Union Official. As a Regional Officer for Unite trade union, Donna’s current role involves organising and representing Union members on Merseyside within the chemical, pharmaceutical and textile sectors in the northwest.
L8 Unseen: Sheila Coleman, Donna Kassim and Sonia Bassey pictured in 19 Abercromby Square.
Hisham Saif
World Shotokan Karate Champion (Kata & Kumite). As the world, European and British Shotokan Karate Champion, Hisham has not lost a championship fight since the age of 18. His fighting spirit comes from his father who came from Yemen and has been heavily involved with the Yemeni and Islamic communities in Liverpool through education and community support.
Hisham Saif
Enid Rey
Originally from the island of Nevis, West Indies. Enid first came over and settled in Liverpool 8 to be with her husband who sadly passed away sometime afterwards. Enid persevered to raise their children tackling difficulties from the unlikeliest of places but never giving up. Enid believes there is good and bad everywhere, no matter where you go.
Enid Rey, Rudolf Murray, Nileth Sinclair, Jasmine Boyce - Elders.
Gillian Turpin
Play and Youth Worker. Gillian is a community youth worker born to an Irish mum and a docker dad. Her proudest moment was when she, alongside other community workers and leaders, stopped young people wreaking havoc during the 2011 riots. She steered them away from trouble and provided protection for them at the Unity Youth and Community Centre.
Gillian Turpin
Stephen Carney
Founder of the Liverpool 8 Old Photos Group Born and raised on Berkeley Street, L8. Stephen’s worked with young, homeless people and within the Further Education sector for over 25 years. He’s helped, supported and encouraged thousands of young and not so young people to get educated, stay educated and be respectful. His greatest sense of pride comes when people who he’s worked with stop to tell him of their achievements.
Sheila Coleman
Campaigner, Lived in L8 for 32 years. Originating from a large Liverpool-Irish family, Shelia calls herself “Scouse, not English”. A former chair of the Liverpool Irish Centre Cooperative and a well-known activist and campaigner, Sheila is the spokesperson for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. For 26 years, she’s campaigned for truth and justice to be brought to the people who died and survivors of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. She currently works as the North West region community coordinator for Unite, the Union.
L8 Unseen: Sheila Coleman, Donna Kassim and Sonia Bassey pictured in 19 Abercromby Square.
Michael Simon
PhD candidate at the University of Liverpool. Michael is researching the impacts of urban change on the black community. He believes that achieving social justice isn’t about personal victories, but about finding solidarity within the L8 community struggle. He and his partner have four children, and their relative success is a testament to their daily struggles over the last 29 years.
Michael Simon
Dr Peter Grant
Princes Road Synagogue. As a retired GP, Dr. Grant first became involved with the Princes Road Synagogue in 2006. He now organises regular tours for around 4000 visitors a year. He’s proud to share the history of Jewish settlers, and believes that L8 has always been a tolerant place where very few incidents of anti-Semitism have occurred.
L8 Unseen: Imam Mohammed Alawi, Dr Peter Grant, Father Iakovos Kasinos, and Canon Bob Lewis.
Tiber Youth
Tiber is an organisation that is working to develop a 51/2 acre piece of land into a community arts, sports and education facilities, in the heart of Toxteth, on Lodge Lane, which is one of the most deprived areas in the U.K. They do this by involving 14-18 year olds in every step of this process and encourage them to become positive role models in and around the Liverpool 8 area. The young people are offered training opportunities, involvement in entrepreneurial projects, enterprise and leadership programs. Tiber works closely with local residents, businesses, volunteers and community organisations to fulfil the Tiber vision.
L8 Unseen: Tiber Youth People’s Steering Group in the boardroom of the Royal Liver Building
Malik Al Nasir
Born in L8 in the late 1960s. As a publisher, poet, social activist, music and event producer, Malik is of mixed Guyanese and Welsh heritage. Having graduated from three of Liverpool’s universities, Malik played an instrumental role in the Crawford House Community Partnership and the Al Ghazali Education Centre. He is also a founding director of the Merseyside Refugee Support Network, has toured with Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets, and performs poetry under the name Malik & the O.Gs.
Malik Al Nasir
Ann Lopez
A poet born and bred in the Granby Street area, Liverpool. Ann’s had all kinds of job from Liverpools. But being a poet is by far her pride and joy. (After, of course, her 5 children, 17 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.) Aged 40, she went back to school to finish her O and A levels and was voted ‘Student of the Year’ in 2000.
Ann Lopez
Paul Nilson
Born and bred in Toxteth. Of West African, Scandinavian and Irish descent, Paul proudly refers to himself as “typical Scouse”. He founded the Team Oasis Youth Charity in 2003 with the aim to support the young people of L8, whatever their background, whatever their abilities. His aim is simple: to show youths with disabilities that they will always be able to participate, and to provide able-bodied youths with the skills they need to engage with them.
Paul Nilson
Sonia Bassey
Entrepreneur, born and raised in Liverpool 8. Growing up in the vibrant, active community of L8, Sonia has a strong sense of pride, political awareness and community activism. She became an entrepreneur at just 19 when she established herself as a community artist and director of her own business, which she still runs today. Now she works in local government where she leads transformation and change to services for families.
Sonia Bassey, Donna Kassim, Sheila Coleman
Tom Calderbank
Born and raised in L8. Described as “L8 to the bone” with an infectious energy and enthusiasm, Tom’s been a pivotal figure in three major restoration projects: Toxteth Town Hall, The Belve and The Florrie. A philosopher, poet, and proud father of three, he now works as a project leader for the Christmas truce statue, ‘All Together Now’.
Bill Harpe
Born in Darlington, came to Liverpool in 1961. Originating from Country Durham, Bill came to Liverpool in ’61 to dance at the Empire Theatre. He fell in love with L8 so he set up home. He is the co-founder and director of The Black-E, Britain’s first community arts project, and has worked there as both artist and administrator. His past works include participatory theatre and exhibitions, and creative and co-operative games, which are the subject of Games for The New Years.
L8 Unseen: Bill Harpe in the Black-E
Cherise Smith
Tiber Project – Board Member. Having first joined the Tiber young people steering group when she was at school, Cherise has since joined the board of directors, something she balances with her Accounting and Finance studies at LJMU (Liverpool John Moores University). She’s most proud of being recognised in the L8 community as an acknowledged Female Achiever of the Year at The Black Achievers Awards, Liverpool 2013.
Cherise Smith
L8 Stories
The Florrie Old Boys. Edward Reeves – Lived his whole life in Liverpool. Having spent most of his youth in the Florrie, Edward’s first visit was to the Thursday night boxing sessions with his father as a young boy. He’s most proud of the house he built in Kirkby – a house he’s lived in for 40 years. William Charles Dumbell – Born and raised in the Abercromby Area, Liverpool. Spending a good portion of his youth playing football at the Florrie, William’s connection with the building grew so deep that he was later made a trustee. And his efforts, along with many others’, resulted in the restoration of the building. To William, the Florrie is more than just a place for young people to hang out; it’s a physical statement of how communities can come together, regardless of their religion and ethnicity.
Ramon ‘Sugar’ Deen
Born and raised in Liverpool by a Nigerian Father and Scottish Mother. As a boy, Ramon’s peers called him ‘Ray’ which quickly evolved into ‘Sugar’, a nickname that’s since stuck. His passion for music was encouraged by his mother, herself an accomplished musician. It was she who taught Ramon the art of harmonizing. He went on to forge a successful musical career, his proudest moment being when he toured with the Les Humphries Singers, promoting their album Spirit of Freedom in 1992.
Ramon 'Sugar' Deen, Laurence Westgaph, Tayo Aluko - Athemaeum
Unity Youth
Unity Community Centre works with young people in Toxteth, and beyond, from all faiths and cultures. They are open to the community everyday and their ambition is to make Toxteth, especially the area around Lodge Lane, feel like family.
Ricky Jones
Unity Youth and Community Center Manager. Working as the manager of the Unity Youth and Community Centre in Toxteth, Ricky and his team have worked non-stop to provide a permanent space where they can support and guide the young people of L8. He takes great pride in seeing them explore new avenues, ones they would never have normally considered. And knowing he can make a difference is what keeps him going.
Ricky Jones
Josephine Burger
Born and bred in Liverpool, lived most of her life on Granby Street. Having lived in the same area most of her life, Josephine chooses to remain there because, in her eyes, her multicultural community is too important to leave behind. Her proudest achievements are her three children.
Josephine Burger

The Ohajuru family

This family portrait dates from 1961, it was taken at a professional photographic studio in Bold Street when Bold Street was the Bond Street of Liverpool with all the poshest, classiest shops in Town, today that studio is a second hand clothes shop.

The picture is of me Mum and Dad with our Martha and our Peter sitting on me Dad’s knee.

That’s me on the right aged 9, today I’m 62.

We lived in Kimberly Street which, back then was one of a series of tree lined streets, terraced housing with owner-occupiers and multi-lets flats which linked Selbourne Street to Upper Parliament Street.

The whole family lived in two rooms on the top floor of number 31, with a gas cooker as our kitchen on the landing between the rooms. I recall Kimberly Street as a happy place, playing outside with the other kids in the street.

Mum – everyone on Granby knows her as Eva – was a local girl, her father was from Barbados while her mother came from Liverpool’s Irish community. Mum worked at Brough’s making oil barrels at the bottom of Upper Parliament Street. Mum was a talented seamstress she made all our clothes, everything we kids are wearing in that picture – apart from the socks and shoes – Mum made, as well as making her own dress. At one time Mum had a small business at home, making new clothes out of old clothes – trousers and jackets resized for other members of a family, overcoats made into suits. Mum went on to work at Scott’s the grocers on Granby Street and latterly as a caretaker at the Rialto Community Center and the Adult Education Centre in Canning Street.

Dad was a seaman. He had run away to sea from his home in Eastern Nigeria when his family wanted him to marry a local girl. Starting out as a galley boy on the merchant ships that traded between Britain and West Africa. He worked his way up through tenacity and study via Head Cook to become a Chief Steward. During his time at sea he worked on Elder Dempster, Black Star, Palm Line and Nigerian Line shipping lines. Dad stopped going to sea at the time of the Biafran war (1967 to 1970). He worked at Mother’s Pride factory in Long Lane, Aintree, before becoming the manager at the Nigerian social clubs in Liverpool 8 – The Nigerian Social Club then at -‘The Federal‘ – the Nigerian Federal Club and finally manager of the Ibo Club, in the Deaf Centre in Park Place just off Princes Avenue.

My sister, Martha went to Windsor Street Primary School, while my brother Peter and I went to St Bernard’s Primary School on Kingsley Road, which closed in 1998.

We moved from the two rooms in Kimberly Street to a three bedroomed house the other end of Granby Street – 55 Beaconsfield Street – in 1959.

Today there are over 25 in the Ohajuru family including Mum’s seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren, most still live within Liverpool 8 and its surrounding districts.

Michael I. Ohajuru
April 2015


Photography Behind The Scenes

L8 Unseen photography Behind The Scenes 

L8 Unseen photography – Hector Peterson Court Behind The Scenes

Exposition Behind The Scenes

L8 Unseen exhibition set-up Behind The Scenes 1

L8 Unseen exhibition set-up Behind The Scenes 2