Category Archives: Slavery
Well, I spent Wednesday to Friday last week in Liverpool staying with my old school friend Nev, and what a fascinating place it is. Apart from visiting the International Slavery Museum for a short time several years back it is the first time I’ve been in the city. I don’t know why really. What with the Beatles and the sea and the docks and the culture I should have been there lots of times, but I haven’t. Time to make up for it now!
First impressions were good. Nev picked me up from the station and took me back to his house where I settled in pretty quickly. We then went to the Casbah Coffee Club which according to Trip Adviser is the number one attraction in Liverpool. This may come as a surprise to many Liverpudlians who have never heard of it!
It was not that easy to find and it looked like it was closed but we finally managed to attract someone’s attention! Roag Best, the brother of Pete who was the original drummer of the Beatles, gave us a highly entertaining tour of the club which closed in 1962 but is remarkably well-preserved. It is where the Beatles first played and many of the paintings and decorations were done by them. A truly remarkable place.
It is amazing the amount of interest the Beatles attract worldwide. They truly were a phenomenon and fifty years later they are even more popular than they were then! It’s almost unbelievable.
Anyway, I bought a tee-shirt from the Casbah and went back to Nev’s where Francine cooked a fantastic pasta dish. Mmm, delicious. The rhubarb crumble was also pretty fantastic! Here’s a picture of the table with fruit.
That night we all went out to discover the live music scene. First stop was the open mic at Bier bar. It was busy with a mainly young crowd. Nice atmosphere and I did three songs early on that went down pretty well AND I got a free beer. Jolly good!
We then went to another bar Osqa’s Arena Bar where the Everyman Folk Club meets. This is a club that has been running for years with a mainly older crowd. The music and singing were really good and I did two songs there. Very enjoyable.
Next day we went to town on the bus and had a look round town and saw an interesting exhibition of Beatles photographs (you can’t get away from them!) and had a fantastic trip on the Mersey ferry. There are some amazing views of Liverpool from the ferry reminiscent in some ways of the New York skyline.
That night I hit town on my own and went first to the open mic at the Lomax. I walked past Mathew Street on the way and had a look outside the Cavern but I didn’t go in. Seemed a bit commercial and by now I was suffering from Beatles overkill! The Lomax is a live music club that reminds me of the Shed in Leicester. The open mic was in a basement with live groups upstairs. There weren’t many in but I had a good time and got a free drink. The life of a star!! I then crossed town and went to Pogue Mahone. This was pretty good until it got invaded by a student pub crawl. Ended up doing loads of Irish singalongs which was fun but not what I was really looking for!
Next day I booked a guided tour with Eric Lynch of the Liverpool Slavery Trail. This was both fascinating and disturbing. He made it quite clear about the importance of the slave trade to Liverpool and how many of the landmarks referred to it. Slavery is a very emotive subject. It’s hard to be objective about something that is so abhorrent and inhumane. Eric Lynch often used the phrase “arrogance of power” in his talk. I know what he means but what came to mind with me was the phrase “banality of evil”.The merchants who were involved in the slave trade just saw things on a business level. All they were bothered about was making a profit. They approached slavery in a similar way to the Nazis exterminating Jews; in an efficient and business- like way. This is what is so terrifying about it! It was a very good tour that I would recommend.
I woke up early this morning and decided to go somewhere. But where? Well, there are many places I have never been to that I want to see. Not all of them are pretty or picturesque but there is always something worth seeing and interesting people to meet. So, I decided on Hull. It’s not a place with the best reputation and it’s not the sort of place you pass through. You have to make a deliberate decision to go there. So, here I am on a train headed for Sheffield, then to Doncaster, then to Hull. Total travelling time three hours but you couldn’t drive it any quicker. I’m quite excited really. What will I find when I get there? Many interesting things no doubt. It will also be nice to be by the sea although I won’t be doing any sunbathing today, or any bathing for that matter!
Travelled on a tiny two coach train from Doncaster to Hull that stopped at every station. Had a good view of the Humber bridge which is pretty amazing. The Hull station is very nice with a statue of poet Philip Larkin who lived in Hull for thirty years. He’s the one who came out with the famous line about sex being invented in 1963 between the trial of Lady Chatterley and the Beatles first LP. Good stuff. Initial impression of Hull is quite good. It’s got a nice feel about it and the people are friendly with a great accent. Now to find the interesting bits.
Hull is bigger than I expected and there are many grand civic buildings attesting to it’s obvious great wealth in the past as a major port. It is also colder than Leicester presumably because of it’s proximity to the sea. Actually, it’s not as near the sea as I thought. The main tributaries are the mighty Humber River and the River Hull where the main docks were. There are some nice anomalies like the cream telephone boxes . Very strange after a lifetime of seeing red boxes (although I know many are just glass now!) There are also some really nice Victorian shopping arcades with delightful specialty shops.
Of course, my first stop was Caffe Nero where I had a nice cappuccino. Then I walked into the centre of town where there are many museums and galleries. I was amazed to find a major Andy Warhol exhibition at the Ferens Art Gallery. This was totally unexpected. I hadn’t done any research before I came so to find this was quite strange. Warhol seems to be everywhere! I’m beginning to think that rather than being famous, in the future everyone will be Andy Warhol for 15 minutes. This exhibition is huge. There is a room full of later paintings, a room with stitched pictures and a room full of posters for the many events and films he was involved with.
I’d never come aross the stitched pictures before. There are his trade mark multiple representations of the same picture but not like his silk screen prints. They are exactly the same picture but sewn together with thread, with bits of cotton dangling down which show exactly how they are done. Venus In A Shell alludes to Boticcelli but is set in the garden of a 60s Las Vegas house. Very intriguing. One of the remarkable things about the early screen printed multiple images is the way they change across the canvas because of the random way the technique works. They are all the same, but different. Like the images of Elvis that gradually fade away. There are no changes in the photographs. The only changes are caused by the dangling thread.
The room full of posters is very interesting and evocative. There is the iconic poster for the film Chelsea Girls and many of the other films he made. There are also some great ones of live performances like The Exploding Plastic Inevitable (although I see it’s called Andy Warhol and his Plastic Inevitable on the poster) which advertises a residency at the Filmore West on the same weekend as my birthday a year before the first Velvet Undergound album was released. What great joys I encounter!
The room with the large later paintings sees Warhol returning to his earlier themes. There are soup cans, Brillo boxes and multiple screen prints. The one that attracted me most, although I’m not sure why, is the huge canvas called Repent And Sin No More. This is a typical evangelical statement that doesn’t quite seem to make sense. There is an element of contradiction and irony in it. Warhol would no doubt insist that it has no meaning beneath the surface.
The permanent displays in the gallery are very good. Some really nice Renaissance pictures.
Of interest in the gallery are pictures by two women artists from the 19th Century, Rosa Bonheur and Emma Sandys. It is one of the few galleries I have visited recently that have work by women. Rosa Bonheur’s painting is on a large scale and is quite striking.
Well, time for lunch before I go on to see the Transport Museum and Wilberforce House. Went to Wetherspoons and actually did have a curry this time which was pretty good. Not bad to have a drink and a meal for just over £6!
The Transport Museum was fun with interactive displays and film shows. A great place to take the kids. There is a good display of early cars including electrical powered ones from the 19th century. It seems strange because electric cars seem like a new idea. There is also a tram and various buses and reconstructed streets and shops. Great fun and quite nostalgic.
Actually, the bus looks like something out of Harry Potter and as I walk around the old town the street names seem to be out of Harry Potter too. You can’t help but like a place that has a road called Land of Green Ginger or Bowlalley Lane.
Yes, Hull is a nice place. The last place I visit is Wilberforce House. William Wilberforce was one of the most prominent slavery abolitionists in the 18th/19th Centuries. It took him years to get an anti-slavery bill through Parliament but eventually succeeded and deserves great credit for this. It seems incredible that the slave trade lasted as long as it did and makes a mockery of the idea of Free Trade. There is a hard hitting exhibition about the history and background of slavery in the museum that, quite frankly, left me in tears. It is astonishing that supposedly civilised people could have allowed it to continue for so long. As a crime against humanity it is as great as the holocaust and lasted much longer. Almost contradictorily, Wilberforce didn’t seem to share the same concerns about working conditions in England at the time. In a period when William Blake referred to Dark Satanic Mills and the exploitation of children was rife Wilberforce was a signatory to an act that outlawed trades unions. Of course, this doesn’t lessen the importance of what he did but it does raise other questions. Namely, WHY? It could be said that wage slavery is not much different to actual slavery. Still, it is an important and sobering exhibition.