If you are looking for a good Christmas present this year, you could do a lot worse than Dave Sinclair’s book of photographs, ‘Liverpool in the 1980s’. If a good photograph tells a story, then this book covering his photography in those years is a volume of stories, providing evocative images of the class struggle in Thatcher’s Britain.
If you are looking for a good Christmas present this year, you could do a lot worse than Dave Sinclair’s book of photographs, ‘Liverpool in the 1980s’.
Dave worked as the photographer for Militant at that time, and if a good photograph tells a story, then this book covering his photography in those years is a volume of stories.
The work is based on Liverpool but the images are evocative of any industrial city in Thatcher’s Britain. It could be Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham or a score of other cities. Across the city there were factory closures, derelict sites, de-industrialisation and an army of new unemployed.
There is a tremendous poignancy and beauty in the black and white imagery of Dave’s photography. The sharpness and clarity of the pictures evokes working class life in that period better than thousands of words could do. Yet throughout the whole panorama of run-down industries, derelict sites and badly maintained housing estates, there is a sense of a defiant vibrancy in the people shown in the photographs.
As Dave points out in his introduction, these photographs were taken in the days before it was considered suspicious to take photographs of children playing in the street and some of the best images are of kids messing about wherever they can: in ruined streets, on half-built new housing projects, in gardens, playgrounds and puddles. There must be tens of thousands of people, now in their forties and fifties, who would look at these pictures and say, “that might have been me”.
But what is really special in this collection is the focus on the titanic struggle of Liverpool City Council against the Tory’s draconian spending limits.
The Labour council wanted to build homes and provide services and jobs for its people and it was able to mobilise support among the overwhelming majority of its population in the fight against Thatcher for extra funding and resources. There were two general strikes in the city and marches of tens of thousands in support of the council. These monumental struggles are remembered in some of the stand-out pictures in the book.
Notable among these are the huge contingents of Labour’s youth section – the LPYS – in the demonstrations and so politicised were the population that Liverpool was one of the key centres of a national strike of school students against the Government’s “Youth Training Scheme”.
Dave’s photographs captures perfectly the fighting energy and the enthusiasm of Liverpool youth who were missing school to demonstrate in the their thousands in the city centre.
The book is an excellent example of Photography as Art and at the same time Photography as History. It is well worth having on your shelf.
‘Liverpool in the 1980s’ by Dave Sinclair. Published by Amberley Books, £17.99