Liverpool Firsts - 1986

Submitted by root on Wed, 08/24/2016 - 16:05


The majority of Themed Playschemes have been written up specifically for the Archive Website. This is not the case with 'Liverpool Firsts'.  Below is a Report which was written at the time.   It is unaltered apart from the condensing of some of the statistical information which in the original runs to several pages.

This is also a playscheme where there are very few photos - the only workshop thoroughly photographed was The Liverpool Firsts one - in addition there are some from the Birthday Book workshop and a couple which possibly come from the Drama Workshop .

Finally Liverpool Firsts never actually displayed the final artworks on billboards.  This far away from the event it is not clear why,  though most probably a lack of money rather than a lack of enthusiasm for what was clearly a good idea.

In addition to Liverpool Firsts at the Blackie the Summer Tour took  the form of a Video Project also based on the  Liverpool First Theme.  Click here to find out about that. 






The summer playscheme at The Blackie/Great Georges Project ran from July 22 to August 31, 1986 around the theme of 'Liverpool Firsts'. It involved 13 trips and 5 workshops. The main idea of 'Liverpool Firsts' was to research events and people that were special because they were first in their particular field before anyone or anything else - it could be anything from Liverpool F.C.s football triumphs to the fact that Liverpool had the first ever district nurse. It was to become a celebration of these facts by way of constructing large posters from 'cameraworks' (5 on each poster.)

6 posters were planned on 6 separate themes; Art and Recreation/ Business and Industry/ Health and Welfare/ Sport/ Transport/ 'Others'. We had planned for large billboards and hoardings to be booked in advance in rural areas in West and North Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and North Wales. Day­long coach trips would be organised so that the children who had helped create these works would be able to see them being put up. The end result being a positive 'advertisement' for Liverpool and its people. This was the centrepiece of the playscheme around which other workshops and activities would be set up.

The regular sessions took place 5 days a week in the afternoons and evenings. They comprised of a large play structure, an inflatable - for younger ones to play on, and a coffee bar on one side of a wooden partition. On the other side were work­shops including 'fairground games' - a letter-box and clock hoop-la game. Drama workshops where staff members from The Blackie worked with young actors Carlene Lundon and Mark Birch who had attended previous playschemes and were now involved with The Everyman Youth Theatre. There was a snapcard workshop which included designs based on 'Liverpool First' characters being made in the format of a set of snapcards. In addition there was  'The Birthday Book' workshop consisting of illustration and writing for the publication in progress - inspired by The Blackie's  'Sister to Shakespeare' celebrations in honour of Virginia Woolf.  We also ran a nursery in the lower dome decorated by facts and motifs relating to various 'Liverpool Firsts'.

'Liverpool Firsts' was researched by Pam Williams and was eventually- drawn up into the 6 main areas previously mentioned. In the area of Art and Recreation examples we featured included The Garden Festival and Charabanc Trips/ in Business and Industry -Lewis's/ in Health and Welfare - the country's first woman doctor and children's hospital/ in Sport - Golf and Running/ in Transport - Railways and Trams/ in 'Others' we had a miscellaneous compilation including Gas Lighting and a Travelling Post Office.

The first area that we started work on was 'Sport', We began with a humorous 'First': the first jockey to jump the Aintree Grand

National Course without a horse! Two artists were invited to join us in helping create the works. They were Vanley Burke, a photo­grapher from Birmingham and Chris Furby, a graphic designer from London. Between them and working alongside staff and kids a backdrop of horses was painted and a huge Aintree fence constructed. Props included plastic grass.

Painting the backdrop for the Grand National FirstPainting the backdrop for the Grand National First

Painting the background to The Grand National FirstPainting the back ground to the Grand National First

Above staff and young people painting the back ground to the Grand National First,  below creating the fences, etc.

Building the fence for the Grand National First Building the fence for The Grand National First

A model (Chris Hassam) was chosen to take the part of the jockey.

Chris Hassam posing for leaping over the fence without a horseChris Furby attempting a pose for the jockey in Liverpool Firsts

Member of staff practicing being the jockey

Vanley Burke practicing being the Jockey



Above and right Chris Hassam and various members of staff practicing being the jockey in the Grand National Firsts.



The second work was on the theme of 'Mr Universe'.  The very first Mr. Universe came from Liverpool.  A backdrop was painted to represent the constellation with a huge Mr Universe sign spread across the top. At the bottom and between two boxes of paper flowers stood our next magnificent model, Carl Anderson.

Carl Anderson posing as Mr UniverseCar Anderson posing as Mr Universe

Above and left below Carl Anderson posing as Mr. Universe

Carl Anderson posing as Mr UniverseThe main bulk of the work was made up from: planning how the design would actually go up on the wall (in the case of the Aintree work Chris Furby projected outlines of horses up onto the wall which the kids could then paint around); the painting of the backdrop and construction of props;  as well as the complexities of lighting and taking the final photograph.

To date (7.9.86) we have completed two cameraworks and are about to embark on the third based on a golfing theme. Leroy Agatha is to be the next artist. Future plans include Carl O'Gorman, Antonio Garcia, and Adrian Henri as artists. Because of the sophistication of 'Liverpool Firsts' as a workshop it will probably mean it running for anything up to a further six months throughout the Autumn open sessions and Christmas playscheme until we have satisfactorily completed our 6 posters.

Alex Knight and Pam Williams were responsible for the running of the 'Liverpool Firsts' workshop.

The actual 'Liverpool Firsts' books were compiled by Pam Williams, Pam Laurie, Sauld, Babs Hornby and Brian Hassan among others. Mock-up posters were made by Richard McGrath, Tina Berry, Richie Brady, Stephanie Carr and John Taxier among others.



The drama workshop worked on a performance around 'Liverpool Firsts' theme.  Travellers who arrived from ships before Liverpool was established built up a new Liverpool in drama, movement and music.  Staff Members Katherine Rake, Dora Liggert and Sonja Jira with the assistance of Carline Lundon and Mark Birch on Wednesdays and twice on Fridays and Sundays. Successful products that came out of these workshops involved clapping games, 'charades' and a short play written by Philip Foster.

Working on making a figureWorking on making a figure

The photos above are either from the Drama Workshops or possibly Liverpool Firsts.  They are clearly making parts of a figure maybe to be used as a costume or as a prop.

Charades: On the Liverpool Firsts theme. The children were given a piece of paper with a Liverpool first written on it and asked to act it out without any verbal communication in front of the rest of the group.

Clapping Game:  A simple game for smaller children or to play at the beginning of a session.  A rhyme associated with 'Liverpool Firsts' was used and the children acted numbers.

Improvisation:  A scene and character were given that would be familiar to the children but which came from a 'First'.

Storytelling:  Each child took out a sentence in a story about a 'Liverpool First'

The Journey: The children prepared a talk about and acted out a journey.  It would a 'First' in that it would be to a place where no one had ever been before, and the children involved would be from Liverpool.  The journey could be split into three parts all of which could be done on their own.

The attendance figures at the workshops were as follows:-

July 23rd -  12 kids;   July 25 - 20 kids;  July 26 - 21 kids

The Fairground Games:  - a clock hoop-la and a letter-box hoopla game were set up by short term worker James Woodfin. 

The Snap-card workshop: was set up by Sonja Jira and Paula Anderson and is now continuing into the Autumn under the guidance of Jane Howarth and Antonio Garcia.

The Birthday Book: This workshop, separate from 'Liverpool Firsts' theme but none-the-less was an intrinsic part of the summer playscheme, took  place 5 days a week, 11am - 9.30pm aimed to complete  60 new designs for 'The Birthday Book' and make alterations to 30.

The  Birthday book workshop in operationWorking on the Birthday BookWorking on the Birthday BookA completed Birthday Book design

Above working on The Birthday book

The projected work  was completed at a rate of approximately 10 designs per week.

Average daily attendance at this workshop was 15 to 20 kids.

It was staffed by Judy Bates (weeks 1 & 2); Jane Howarth (1-6); Celie Jones (a visiting artist from London) (3-6);  Ben Midworth (1-5);  Gary Beeby (3-6); Sarah and Viv worked on it part-time for six weeks.  


In addition to the activities in the basement there were trips out to cultural and sporting venues which ranged from one adult and a couple to kids to 50 people.

a)  Triplicate/Welfare State at the Albert Dock  - Rock Around the Dock -  3 visits by a total of 80 people

b) The Kosh at Unity  - 2 adults and 4 kids

c) Swimming at The University - 3 trips - 3 adults and  25 kids

d) canoeing - 1 adult and 6 kids

e) Liverpool F.C.  - 4 adults and 20 kids.  They  took a ball to be signed  with the intention of raffling it at a later date.

f) The Bolshoi Ballet, at The Palace Theatre,  Manchester - 2 adults

g) Chinese Acrobats - Apollo, Manchester - 9 Adults.

h)  Lakeside Outdoor Pursuit Centre - 3 Adults and 4 Kids

i) Woodview Holiday Centre - 2 local mothers.


The place operated for 6 weeks ( 29 days) with afternoon and evening sessions on most days with discos on Saturday or Sundays.  Attendances  for young people ranged from 56 - to 98 with an average attendance of 65 for the afternoon sessions and from 60 to 119 for the evening sessions with an average attendance of 73.    We count anyone over 16 as an adult  - attendance for adults ranged from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 18 in the afternoons and between 3 and 6 in the evenings. 


To ensure that the playscheme could run at all we relied on assistance from several companies:  Praktika Cameras offered us 3 new Cosina CX5F cameras for a much reduced price. Kodak offered us concessionary rates on film, i.e. 20% off plus V.A.T. Dixons gave us concessionary rates on developing our film. DHL offered to transport all our film free of charge. The Joint School of Photography through RAF Cosford offered to process , develop and enlarge all of our prints, again free of charge. Nursery toys were donated for the creche thanks to George Henry Lees department store and The Cafe Berlin.  We received a donation from Leyland Paints to purchase yacht varnish (essential for the weather-proofing of the final prints.) Numerous mattresses were raised from local hospitals and hotels to use around our large inflatable. (170 in all.) Mills and Allan agreed to mount the finished billboards in the chosen locations.



It is true that the original plan for 'Liverpool Firsts' was an ambitious one and perhaps we underestimated the complexities involved in implementing it in terms of the time-scale and size of the project. However, at the end of the summer we can look back on numerous success stories.

We managed to run several diverse workshops under one coherent theme with good results in many cases. The trips took kids to spectate and participate in sporting, theatre and outward bound events. The open sessions were, on the whole, well attended. The disco and party to wind up the playscheme went down very well and has given encouragement to a group of young women, under the guidance of Marie Agatha and Sharon Nicholson, to practice and perfect a dance routine throughout the autumn open sessions. We were generously supported by several companies in the form of donations and offers of assistance. We were fortunate to have experienced and talented artists working with and encouraging the kids.

As a result we still have a rich source of material with which to work with for the coming months, probably seeing us through into the next year. In the meantime as every poster is completed we will be taking the kids out into the country to see their work being displayed.