Friday, May 30, 2008

Bringing Up The Past

I recall idly chatting to a Liverpool Labour councillor back in the mid 80s in the less than salubrious environs of Rigby's pub on Dale Street.
He was waxing lyrical about the city's trade union history, drawing a link to the then Militant council. Solidarity, he declared, before sinking his pint, was synonymous with Liverpool.
It was then that I nearly made him choke.
What about the slave trade, I asked.
He looked askance & asked what I meant.
Well, I mused, the legacy of the slave trade could be found in the inscriptions & illustrations adorning many of the buildings around the waterfront area. Not much solidarity there, I noted.
He harrumphed & dismissed it as a foul exception to an otherwise perfectly proletarian past.
It was at that point that I realised even the Left in Liverpool downplays the slave trade as well as the residual casual racism of far too many white working class Scousers.
I was reminded of that exchange when I read Lawrence Westgaph's column in the Liverpool Echo ( ), highlighting the reluctance of people involved in the city's civic & heritage community to fully acknowledge the transatlantic slave trade & its transformative effect on the port.
The Culture Company has thus far presented a Disneyfied, soft focus version of that chapter in the port's history, thereby doing a grave disservice to all those who campaigned & fought for the trade's demise.

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