I donít, on the whole buy books. We have splendid public libraries here in Liverpool and Iíve spent all of my life steadily reading my way through them. Knowing that by the time my life comes to its end there will still be many thousands of books, more than could be fitted into a typical Liverpool terraced house like the one I live in, that I still wonít have got round to.
The only regular exception to this non-purchasing policy Iíve made over the years is when the books are about Liverpool. I donít mean those ĎWasnít life quaint in the past?í picture-books that seem to get produced about everywhere. I mean books like the one Iím going to show you today. Interesting, quirky even and found, as often as not in second-hand shops.
Letís go back to Liverpool in 1948.
The Cathedral is still far from finished and the river is busy with traffic. An apparently idyllic scene. Except of course that weíre three years after the end of the second great war of the 20th century and much of Liverpool is in ruins.
An apposite moment then for the City Council to publish its vision of the city of the future. How it made it up, Iíve no idea. This of course is long before the people of the place would even dare suggest they be be asked for their ideas. But here, knocked together by two architects, Gordon Hemm and Alderman A. Ernest Shennan, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, J.F. Smith, is the Cityís 1948 vision of its future.
As you can see from its title the book is divided into three parts. The first is a desultory and glowingly Official account of the Cityís history that wonít detain us here (other than to note the absence of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and the mass Irish immigration from the story).
So letís get on with the present and the future.
Now in 1948 weíre three years into the most Socialist period of government weíve ever had. Clement Atleeís Labour government are transforming public services in a country that voted them in by a landslide. The National Health Service has been formed and though the war has nearly bankrupted the country, families like the one Iíll be born into a few years later are already feeling that life will now be better, that illness and doctorís bills are no longer to be feared and avoided.
None of thatís mentioned here though. Perhaps because in 1948 Liverpool is still being ruled by a Conservative majority. (Labour wonít rule in Liverpool until 1955, ending 100 years of Conservative domination.) So what we have here is something unimaginable in more recent times, a Tory vision of Liverpoolís future.
But how is itís present? How does it look in 1948?
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