Hand-Held Destinies

Me

Wednesday evening saw the opening of; John Moores Painting Prize, the Rise of the Sixties in Liverpool, at the Exhibition Research Lab of John Moores University. The fresh white interior of the John Lennon Art and Design Building provided the exhibition venue, brought to life by an evening of the performance. Stimulating music, spoken word and monologues were accompanied by illuminating visual arts responses.

Hand Held Destinies is a spoken word piece written and performed by Alison Little on the evening. Created as a response to a photo exhibit from 1968 of two girls playing in the sea shores of New Brighton:

 

Hand Held Destinies

Girls hold hands in friendship.
Gleeful
Elegant in play

Eight years old
Born in 1960
The decade which changed Liverpool, Britain and the World

1960 saw the introduction of the pill
We had effective contraception
Birth Control
The Sexual Revolution
Smaller Families
We got richer

As they play in the swath they are attractive in their childhood. Swimsuits made for play, hair it’s natural colour, tresses they are not afraid to get wet. Sand grit, Sea and the salt of the shores adorn their sun-soaked bodies.

Today we have the modern day falsehood of youth. Primark churning out padded bras for pre-teens. Claire’s accessories piercing collections of hoops and studs to the lobes of innocence. Youthful visions of success; to appear on celebrity love island, becoming a WAG or to acquire a cosmetically enhanced bosom larger than Jordan’s.

An era when British beach holidays ruled the waves. Stripped deckchairs, the bucket and spade, splendour of Punch and Judy. Taken over by the package holiday: routes to the warmer destinations of Southern Europe. Made redundant for a second time by the cheap flights of the digital buyers market.

Background, we have sea vessels and the Albert Dock, it’s function then for shipping. Today, as the girls head to retirement we have shipping in its last days of decline. We have a dock surplus of its intended purpose.

Sea Faring industrialism replaced
A cultural haven
The Waterfront
The Tate
Museum of Liverpool
The Maritime
A new Future
A future of tourists
Culture Vultures
City Breakers
A cheap flight destination
The ‘Must take in’ city of Liverpool
A city revived
An end of mass unemployment
The striking city no more
The legacy of the Capital of Culture Year

Their playscape is now a Metropolis challenging globally.
But to the padded bras, the stud lined ears and fixations with celebrity culture we have the bucket.

A return to the beauty of innocence bathing in the optimism of the future.

Alison Little

 

Exhibition continues throughout April.

More about Research Exhibition Lab

Main photograph credited the Graham Smillie.

More about Graham Smillie photography

Ver 0.28N

 

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A Way Through Everton Brow

Skull Everton Brow colour

A way through Everton Brow is a fictional works from Alison Little, none of the events of characters are based on real life.

Approaching the entrance to Everton Park I encounter a group congregated around the steps area. In having walked up from the town, then I decided to take a short cut through Everton Park, a pleasant walk through the eighties formed geometric botanical scape of the former slum-like dwellings. The steps ahead of me, encased by artificially positioned rock structures arching in my vision. Topped with beacons of the decade, semi-sphere finished, imitation Victorian meeting eighties manufacturing of plastic vacuum forming, lolly pop lighting. Many of the semi-spheres have been broken, the closest having fallen down from the teenage revelry of what looked like the previous evening. Up the hill to the left, there is the famed Everton tower, the moss lined former sweet shop which became an iconic symbol of the multi-million pound turnover of today’s Premier League. Towards the top of the hill, the soil of the parkland has been churned up, its annual transformation into a wild flower meadow taking place. A touch of England’s green and pleasant land of the rural communities bought into the inner city green space of North Liverpool. The distant tree’s masks the vision of the back-to-back housing which crowds the brow.

Coming up from the Netherton Road, a well-known prostitution zone, to my rear is one of the cities hostels for the homeless. The group look to be from this establishment, they are slouching on the steps and one of them is swagging cider from a toxically coloured bright blue plastic bottle, spilling much of it onto the white encrusted black T Shirt he has crawled into earlier in the day.

A motley, tooth lacking, hair overgrown crew, assembled in layers of clothing which looked to pad out their malnourished forms. As my eyes twitch slightly, the late afternoon sun distorts my vision. Two globes of the street lighting become eye sockets and the encircling steps become reflected into a mouth-like arch, smiling as the brick become teeth. I see the vision of a human skull, decaying, but deliriously enthused by its demise.

I consider walking around the long way, but on my approach one of the men slides to one side to allow my passageway through the group. There is a smell of fried chips from earlier in the day, proceeds of an afternoon spent begging.

As I walk closer I notice one girl amongst the group. An army like jacket combined with sprawling matt-like lengthy black hair trailing onto the ground, sweeping the debris from a day of spoils. A bag to her side looks to be her worldly possessions, easily lost and often replaced. A year, possibly two of grown out dark, dirty-blond ended hair from a cheap home dye treatment. She sits with her hood drowning over her face, the oversized jacket ruffled into her body stretching down over the well-frayed denim of the jeans. Legs entangled awkwardly, the knee joints almost too large for her frame, her upper limbs animated motion as she speaks. I look towards her face, the skin is pale, translucent and muddy in texture, common in the appearance of a heroin addict. As I pass through the group, her arms in moving, I hear her say:

‘If you could just lend us twenty quid’

She pleads, then in begging tones, she repeats her request again. As I walk forward and up towards the top of the brow I ponder over what her life must be like, reduced to the bleak state presented to myself.

In twitching my eyes again I am confronted with a new vision. I am in Everton Park when it first opened, the grasslands newly grown, the dusty smell from the demolition work still present. The trees are young, growing being guided, nurtured into what will become strong features of this green space. The lighting is new, the semi-sphere’ all intact and there is an air of excitement and optimism for this newly formed natural breathing space allowing an escape from the urban sprawl.

The swing park is alive with children’s games, delighted by their new found play-scape. Back and throw on the swings, mothers pushing younger children, grandmas and granddads holding coats and bags. Chase games over climbing structures, up and down, rhetoric, over and under. Spinning at full speed at the roundabout encircles while the occupants cling on as it reached optimum speeds. Concrete still fresh, neatly finished off with a waist height fence in line with the latest trends.

Outside of the fenced area, we have several dog walkers, one Staff is off its lead, squatting down. The owner blasé, no need to pick up, poop bags and scoops a thing of the future. Just left to rot as nature intended, a child standing in it simply wiping their shoe on the verge, no fuss, commonplace.

A mother is pushing a young girl in a buggy. The mother sports a purple dot dye blouse, no collar, large baggy sleeves cuffed inwards. A knee length skirt gathers volume in tiers, the purple mix of dyes finished off with a tie cord fitting. Her large curls flow in the wind as she pushes the buggy, a navy and grey MacClaren stroller, four wheels and the hood up to protect from the sun. The bottom compartment packed full of what they might need for the day, wet wipes and a well planned packed picnic lunch in addition to a few carefully selected outdoor toys.

Content in her push chair the daughter is happy for her mother to guide her, taking care not to hit any larger stones. Hair neatly combed into bunches, a glossy full fringe finished off with plastic animal clips. Her top is light green, wasted but with a short skirt built in. Micky and Mini mouse are in discussion on the front of the top. The girl pulls up her blanket, it scrunches around her and her sun hat seems to fall forward, she suddenly seems morphed by the buggy, then I hear her say:

‘Mum, can I have £2?’

I see before me the girl in the camouflage jacket thirty years ago. I see her when she was innocent and pure, unspoilt by the evils of life.

Reflecting on her upbringing, loving and good, decent and playful. I wonder again what had happened to her, where had it all gone wrong?

Walking towards the exit near the brow the strange eye twitching sensation happens again. I am now in a terraced street, the road ascending steeply ahead. To my right, the houses back onto the pavement, gated containing small yard area’s and possibly even outside toilets. To my left, there is a row of terraces front on with steps leading up the main doors. Only a few cars, one is parked up not far ahead, it is racing green in colour with a long stretched bonnet and a soft top, as it glistens in the sun I identify it as a Ford Thunderbird. I contemplate what its owner was doing parking a classic car of such high value in these dwellings and how it was in such good condition?

As I ascend further up the hill I pass two women chatting, both are wearing dark coats and head scarf’s, one has a loaf of bread under her arm, brown bagged and looking to be purchased from a traditional baker. I gaze over the new location and further up the street I see a woman sitting on her front step, she has a can of cider in one hand, to the far side of her, there is a baby in a well used Moses basket. As the baby cries out she shakes the basket and spits out ‘Shush’. Hardly more than a teenager herself she devours the can of cider. I hear a radio playing:

New release…..Sargent Pepper…….the Beetles.

Now I know where I am, it’s 1967, the Summer of Love, I am in Everton Park before all the demolition work and the housing schemes made way for the park. I look towards the baby, she was dirty from her mother’s lack of care, she tries to wipe her face clean with her hands having given up on crying due to lack of response. A purple dotted cardigan has been clambered into her, in need of a wash but still nice in appearance, it looks to have been a gift. A man staggers towards the group, leering as he sways, the Mother appeared to know him:

‘Lend me a few bob will ya?’ she slurs, ‘I need to get stuff in for the baby!’

Her honourable intentions being clearly unconvincing, her feet littered with crushed cans of cider from earlier in the day. I realise who the group are, the baby is the mother who was pushing the pram earlier and her mother would be the original girl’s grandmother.

My mind questions the trilogy, an alcoholic mother, a child who grows up to be respectable, tried to raise her own daughter well, her child growing up to be a heroin addict. A gene pool skipping a generation laid dormant waiting to strike again. Environment and upbringing cast aside, genetics have re-surfaced in the form of a truly destructive lifestyle.

A brow well travelled.

She-Lennon

She-Lennon

She sits chin neatly poised into a lightly clasped hand. Mouth slightly ajar, almost ready to take on a soft melody. Eyes looking through small rounded glasses into a place far away into her thoughts. Skin soft and smooth to touch, hair short and curly, wild but angelic in its freestyle.

As her mind moves from the thought she was engaged in she decides to smoke a cigarette. After rolling her own, she lights up and inhales. Head lost in thought again, this time she looks slightly down with her gaze. In juxtaposition, her cigarette is held high as it progresses to burn its way down to the self-formed filter. She plots her next move through the lenses of the lenses of the tiny rimmed milk-bottle spectacles.

In this she stands up, tall but slender in build. Her boots are brown swede brandishing an assortment of decorative buckles. Jeans are flared, topped off with a tiny t-shirt encasing her firm but small breasts with the trendy no-bra look of the era. The look finished off with a tight fitted, low set matching denim jacket making her appear almost taller than her physical height. In her action, she holds up her right hand, clasps in her two smaller fingers and her thumb, then spreads open the larger fingers to give us the Peace Symbol.