YOUR CITY: Residents back project to tell stories of 140 years of life around Lark Lane
Former residents of Liverpool’s famous Lark Lane have launched a campaign to publish an oral history book of remarkable illustrations and stories from those living around the Lane over 140 years.
The book “People of the Lane: Living in around Lark Lane, Liverpool, 1880-2020” includes detailed interviews with shopkeepers and residents from 1980-81, but was mothballed for 40 years – and is now being brought back to life with new online interviews and 2020 lockdown stories.
“From the moment I arrived in Lark Lane as a young mum in the early 80s, I was enchanted by the magic of its people and buildings,” says Dr Kay Flavell, a retired academic who was born in New Zealand and now lives in California.
“I could see it was going through rapid change, and I wanted to record the fascinating stories of its older community as well as its newer residents.
"People were fighting against urban decay and practising self-help, including setting up a community centre in the Old Police Station.
“For two days every week I roamed up and down the Lane in my red beret, with my tape recorder and notebook. I sat in shops and front rooms and recorded stories going back to 1880.
"I included the life stories of people in the big merchant houses around Sefton Park, as well as the stories of shopkeepers who recalled working on the Lane before and during the terrible days of World War II.”
When Kay moved to California, the project was mothballed for 40 years. But when she returned to Lark Lane in 2019 and showed friends her manuscript, they urged her to publish it.
With help from the Facebook group People from around Lark Lane, she gathered more childhood memories and remarkable photographs, and updated her book to include 2020 lockdowns.
Now the 300-page book with 180 illustrations is laid out ready for printing, and Kay has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise £9,000 to cover printing, with profits to go to Lark Lane Neighbourhood Association. Kay has paid all costs so far.
“Kay has managed to capture life on the Lane through a wonderful collection of personal stories of lives and livelihoods, memories and aspirations,” says Bryan Biggs, Director of Cultural Legacies at the Bluecoat, who wrote the foreword to “People of the Lane.”
“From this oral history snapshot we glimpse changing social attitudes and values, providing a microcosm of Liverpool’s, and also of Britain’s, shifting social fabric.”
Lark Lane runs from Sefton Park towards the River Mersey, and is a place of quirky shops, bars and restaurants, soaring Gothic villas and brick terraced houses, surrounded by ancient cemeteries and churches.
"Lark Lane is very special, rather like a Victorian country village where whole families were interconnected and everyone left their door open," says Helena Paxton, who flies with her pilot husband and enjoys wing-walking.
She grew up in Lark Lane and together they took the aerial photographs for "People of the Lane".
"Kay's wonderful stories tell in a nutshell the social history of 140 years, from the time when Liverpool was a major shipping city through to the present day, and with Lark Lane as its beating heart."
The Kickstarter campaign opened on 12 May. The book will cost £15 pre-publication, or £20 post-publication, with a limited edition of 1,000 copies. “Sleeping Beauty is awake at last, and ready to go out and meet her readers,” says Kay.
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