I heard this week that the Metal Box in Speke had been knocked down. It had been closed for years so I guess it’s no surprise. My last blog post reported on the closure of many of Liverpool Eight’s clubs, a whole social scene was removed, wiped out. In their heydey some of those clubs were the best nightspots in town, when I knew them they had well passed their best.
The social clubs were built around nationalities, never strict and open to everyone, this meant social recognition in a their own community. In a strange way the social clubs attached to factories did the same in the Speke area.
For those interested in Speke this article is really worth a read.
I think Tom in the article above gets Speke right, the main problem when he was growing up was the lack of community. The parade wasn’t built until decades after the first housing. All services, activities, and work in the early days were outside the area. So the isolated estate had very little sense of community. That sense of community did start to grow in the 60s through the 70s, with the schools, shops, and social activities, evening school in Speke Comp, after school activities in the comp too, school discos, Chrissies and Ambrose youth clubs and Chrissies social club.
The factory clubs I remember were The Metal Box, Evans, Dunlops, Lockheed, and I’m sure there were more. Speke was a new place, an overflow estate, people from every part of Liverpool that needed rehousing could end up in Speke. In our street there were people from the Dingle, from Scotty and of course from Garston. Catholics and Protestants next door to each other, no time for segregation or recrimination.
The 60s and early 70s were probably the area’s high point. Christmas parties for the kids, Saturday night entertainment and bingo, everyone knew who sat where, who was on the committee, and who was barred. Club life was an important social glue.
Then the 80s and Thatcher got into their stride, the geographic isolation at the edge of Liverpool, and the growing levels of unemployment from the late 70’s on. Dunlops and Standards were the big ones, but everyone knows smaller companies who shut down, or reduced workers. Unemployment, poverty, the drugs and crime that came in their wake took their toll on the estate.The social clubs in L8, the factories, unions people belonged to, schools their kids went to, shops they met at, and even churches they prayed in, these are the building blocks of communities, and the things least valued by a society driven by profit.
There are groups and people fighting to keep that sense of community despite the loss of schools, youth clubs, social clubs, and more power to them. Let’s hope at some stage we get a government committed to helping them.
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