PRIVATE VIEW Thursday 2nd May, 6pm - 7.30pm
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Thatcher Years
My Eighties by Dave Sinclair
In his own words...
"I started taking photos in 1980 while studying Art at Liverpool Polytechnic. I was living in an area of North Liverpool, near the docks, where almost every factory for miles was being demolished. The largest of these, Tate and Lyle, looked post nuclear. I wanted to paint the landscape around me but photography captured the drama in a way that painting couldn’t. I became hooked. I thought of myself as a landscape photographer, but people kept getting in the way. I had to come to terms with people being part of the landscape and then understanding that what I was interested in was there as a consequence of the people themselves. It took time to gain the confidence and necessary gall to shove a camera in somebody’s face.
During the eighties I travelled all over Britain. I spent time in Newcastle, London, South Wales but always ended up back in Liverpool. This was the time when Thatcher was dismantling all that was left of British manufacturing, including ship-building, the motor industry, steel and coal. Docklands had become barren and most of industrial Britain resembled a wasteland.
I had become involved with the Militant Tendency, and in Liverpool the Labour Council was one part of the movement fighting back against Thatcher’s cuts. The Miner’s strike from ’84 to ’85 was pivotal to the decade, which also saw the printers in Warrington and Wapping fighting big changes to conditions and wages. Thatcher and the Tories’ dislike of the working class meant they were ruthless, and the Labour and trade union leadership, with a few honorable exceptions, were too spineless and scared to take them on by breaking laws of secondary action. They were afraid of losing their plush offices, cars and inflated wages. Thatcher wiped the floor with Kinnock and the Labour party, who even turned on their own, refusing to support the Miners and the Labour councils who rejected implementing cuts.
Despite the damage Thatcher did to Britain by causing long-term unemployment for generations and disassembling established communities, for me it was a great decade to be a photographer with many memories of meeting fantastic people who refused to give in. It was a time of extraordinary struggles which I was fortunate enough to witness and photograph; Greenham Common and the massive CND demo’s, huge anti-apartheid demos, nurses protesting against NHS cuts, banning of unions at GCHQ, and teachers campaigning against education cuts. Northern Ireland was in the midst of trouble and it became a constant backdrop. Behavior of the Police, especially over race issues, was a massive problem and then the decade ended with callous acts against Liverpool football supporters following the Hillsborough disaster Thatcher caused her own demise by introducing the Poll Tax. One of the last acts of the Militant was to organize a massive demonstration and non-payment campaign that brought about her downfall. At the same time Kinnock was organizing a witch-hunt of socialists from the Labour party.
Throughout this period I was taking photos for the Militant newspaper. That’s where this selection has come from. It was far easier being a photographer at that time - kids on the streets asked for their pictures to be taken and there wasn’t the paranoia and fear we have now. This was a bleak post-industrial Britain, but my memory of the eighties is one of vibrancy, fun and determination. I had the time of my life."
This exhibition is part of the ‘The Thatcher Years’ anti-austerity festival that opens on the 2nd May for a month. After the private view there will be an evening of ‘Taxing’ comedy and discussion, from 8-11pm. Tickets are £7/4.
There will another day of events on Sunday 12th May including, ‘ScriptReadEast’, ‘Radicals & Revolutionairies of the East End’, ‘What are the Alternatives to the Housing Crisis?’ and a screening of ‘Don’t Mention the 47’.
Flickr - www.flickr.com/photos/dave_sinclair_liverpool_photos