Liverpool: Europe’s oldest Chinese community

Ebb and Flow is an audio, visual survey of the history and changes that have taken place within the oldest Chinese community in Europe, curated by Jill Carruthers.

Drawing from the rich selection of photographic prints preserved in the Open Eye Gallery Archive, the show looks at the physical and architectural transformations of Liverpool’s Chinatown, as well as documenting the establishment and development of the local Chinese community.

May 1942: A smoke-filled room in a Chinese hostel in Liverpool. Original Publication: Picture Post - 1136 - Chinese Hostel, Liverpool - (Photo by Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images)
May 1942: A smoke-filled room in a Chinese hostel in Liverpool. Original Publication: Picture Post – 1136 – Chinese Hostel, Liverpool – (Photo by Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images)

Included in the show are works by Bert Hardy who photographed the Chinese seamen that came to the city from Shanghai on the Blue Funnel Shipping Company vessels in 1940s. He recorded their lives, living conditions and recreation as well as Liverpool at the time.

Four decades on and the Chinese community was well established in a new area of Liverpool, relocated to Nelson Street, after the May Blitz during WWII. British photographer Martin Parr documented Chinatown in the 80’s, exploring the restaurants, hair salons, Chinese supermarkets and community centers that were popular at the time.

Alongside these historical images, this exhibition also includes two contemporary works exploring the Chinatown that Liverpool is home to now.

GB. England. Liverpool. Chinatown. Sunday Afternoon. 1984
GB. England. Liverpool. Chinatown. Sunday Afternoon. 1984
GB. England. Liverpool. Nelson Street. Chinatown. Playing Mah Jong in the See Yip Association. 1984. © Martin Parr
GB. England. Liverpool. Nelson Street. Chinatown. Playing Mah Jong in the See Yip Association. 1984. © Martin Parr
Chinese Cook
Chinese Cook © Bert Hardy, May 1942

Liverpool based artist duo John Campbell & Moira Kenny, The Sound Agents, have been funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to record Liverpool Chinatown Oral History, creating an audio visual digital archive of interviews, personal documents and photographs.

UK based photographer Jamie Lau has been commissioned to create a new body of work, looking at the Chinese community as it is now. Lau will visually explore the notion of being isolated in a city full of people, where human interaction may only happen on a base level, passing each other in the street, in shops and restaurants, like ships in the night.

Chinese Hostel
Chinese Hostel
San’s Café, Dock Road, 2013 © The Sound Agents
San’s Café, Dock Road, 2013 © The Sound Agents
Wong, from the series The Dark Ages, 2014 © Jamie Lau
Wong, from the series The Dark Ages, 2014 © Jamie Lau

 

www.openeye.org.uk

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