Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Linda Thompson, Community Development Manager

Linda came to me via a convoluted path. For 19 years I have been driving past the Buddleia Building, so named by locals due to the tenacity with which this plant had rooted itself in between the bricks of the neglected structure. Scrawny, unhealthy, but somehow alive, it echoed the contents of the cavernous Victorian warehouse with its piles of old furniture, quasi antiques, books and scores of dilapidated pianos decomposing into the fabric. Luckily the bricks of the building were so hard baked that all the neglect, woodworm, and buddleias in the world could not fell it.

Then it was finally emptied over a period of several weeks and I dropped by to film one of the clearers beside a hanging rope. Such was the power of his face that I cropped the rope out of the final photo in order to focus on him. But the rope stayed in my conscious and played mind games; swinging through my conscious like a breeze skipping off the Mersey.

When I visited The Buddleia Building in its new life as The Contemporary Urban Centre a few weeks ago, I was moved to discover the same rope hanging from the ceiling. It was sunny, a crisp, autumnal day, and the clear blue of the Liverpool skies trickled into the building, quickly absorbed by its dark brick walls. There were a number of interesting exhibitions on the different floors and I trekked around, fascinated.
At one point I stepped on a rotten floorboard and was startled when out of nowhere Linda appeared. Her first words were “I must do something about that” and off she went, speaking through a walkie-talkie, only to meet me again on the floor below, and then on each floor after. Cheerful, helpful, a bounce in her step, by the time I arrived back at the ground floor, I really knew I had to take her photo and luckily she agreed.

Linda is the Community Development Manager of The Contemporary Urban Centre and it is really a very special place. Its aim is to give people who otherwise would not have that opportunity, a chance to work. Ex-drug addicts, homeless, and socially excluded people, or indeed anyone who is marginalised by today’s society. The result is a vibrant environment, with staff, positive and friendly, clearly happy to be there.

Certainly Linda feels this way. Fleeing with her two girls from an abusive drug-dependant partner in Darlington, she ended up in Liverpool by randomly placing a pin in the map of the yellow pages. While working as a cleaner in a hostel for homeless and drug addicts, she saw a poster hanging on its wall offering training working with the same. She applied, was accepted and has never looked back. Over the course of six years she was worked her way up to her current position, driven by a desire of a better future for her children. In her words, “a world where there is no fighting or bickering, where everyone can get along, that’s what I love”.

Linda told me this and then I took her photo beside the rope, in the atmospheric October light. Behind her, through the large warehouse windows, the defining skyline of Liverpool confronted us, a piece of spectacular and evocative artwork, with its focal point, the Anglican cathedral. Linda’s face is as powerful and as full of emotion as the clearer two years before. In some ways the rope tells parts of her story, but like the clearer, I settled on this image, without any props.

I told you the path was convoluted and I am sorry you have not seen the rope. Perhaps the best thing would be to make a visit there yourself.

Contemporary Urban Centre - North West
41-51 Greenland Street,
Liverpool L1 0BS

0151 708 3510

My First Photo Post

I have finally decided to do a photo blog after being told a million times I should. Last year I published my first book "People in Liverpool" and it received really good reviews across the board. Phew, what a relief. It is now available in various outlets across Liverpool, including directly from me on my website,
Hopefully this book will be followed in due course by a sequel, and this time it is intended to have little stories with it. As a tester I have been publishing some of these through under the section local stuff/still lives, but I thought I would put my own versions of these stories on this blog. The first one follows.