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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

The Non-Militant Parts of the Trip to Liverpool

Dad joined me on the train at Huddersfield, where his train from Wakefield (where he had dropped his dog with the dog-sitter) connected with mine. He told me he was very excited by the landscape on this journey... I forget that my Grandfather (on my Dad’s side) was a train driver and my Dad spent his youth railing across the country during the school holidays because he got free train tickets (courtesy of his Dad) and couldn’t stand his mother. So, I got a blow-by-blow commentary of every fucking tunnel and landscape feature as we passed by, including how the rail infrastructure intersects with the canal network (his latest obsession). As well as a detailed information on the type of train and line we were travelling on, and the accessibility design adaptations currently being incorporated into new transport infrastructure development. He also had a rant about the waiting time at stations, which has now been built into Trans-Pennine and Northern rail routes – so that they are more likely to meet time targets, since they have been taken back into public ownership. I was obviously delighted by this wealth of knowledge which he has now gifted to me.

We arrived about 6pm and had just enough time to wander round Albert Docks before it got dark. I love the industrial heritage – it reminds me of the “hipster” area of Sheffield where all the cool vegan restaurants and quirky bars are located. Dad also showed me the canal wharf and I received a lecture on the “Capston operated lock gate” which requires multiple men to operate with large wooden polls with a high risk of them falling into the water. I enjoyed the huge, red ventilation pipes which matched my red-riding-hood coat.

The following morning (we both got up early), I went for a run along the Mersey and saw some interesting graffiti. I especially liked the 'LOVE IS A BURNING THING' street art outside a bar since I seem to get burnt every time I "fall in love" (whatever that means anyway).

Then we went to the Tate Liverpool exhibition, which included an environmental exhibition. This was perfect for us, since my Dad has turned into a radical climate activist in his dotage, and I (who can’t claim to be an Environmental Angel) appreciated the community-centric nature of the exhibition. In particular, the embroidered banner for ‘KITTY’S LAUNDRETTE’ which offers ‘eco-friendly and cost-effective laundry and dry-cleaning services whilst also providing a social space… One of their aims is to tackle hygiene poverty by working with community groups to offer a free washing voucher scheme.’ The banner was created by their craft group who promote textile waste reduction. I loved the sense of community and care embodied in this banner, as well as the imaginative and delightful design.

The washing line underneath the embroidered lettering, feature miniature items of knitted, embroidered and patchwork laundry, sewn onto the banner. Besides being adorably cute, I loved the inclusion of different textures and 3-dimensional elements into this artwork. And I was amused when, on closer inspection of the lettering, I could see they had as much difficulty with embroidering an ‘S’ shape as I did when I attempted it with my cat capes!

I also enjoyed the stickers which were featured in this exhibition. I habitually photograph street-stickering when I travel – to document these small acts of localised protest and to gain a sense of the pressing contemporary political debates in any given country. There were some great stickers about Palestine, but my favourite were obviously the stickers relating to Brexit and the upcoming UK general election.

There was also a beautiful sound piece, a 47 second long poem by Ronnie Hughes, delivered with a thick Scouse accent – which I really enjoyed. As a lyricist, I love anything that rhymes (even troll comments are better when they rhyme). I think the piece was actually exploring the issue of homelessness, although as a privileged middle-class person, it took my thoughts in a different direction... Since I have been exploring the nature of ‘belonging’ through my creative research, it has made me wonder where I belong and question where 'home' is for me. I was born in Leicester, but I don’t have a strong accent – my school friends called me ‘posh’ because I pronounce necklace like ‘neck lace’ instead of like ‘neckless’ (which to me is a completely different word!’ and when I meet people from elsewhere they can rarely place my accent. I never liked living in Leicester, my years living there were miserable and I often describe the Midlands as a ‘cultural wasteland’. My mother is from Nottingham and my Dad is from Brighton – and although I would be happy to call myself a ‘Brightonite’ – I have never lived there, so I can’t. When I lived in Edale (the Village beyond Hope), for two years, I was delightful to be classed as an ‘Edalion’ and felt a valued member of the community. Nowadays, I live in Sheffield, and although I enjoy the green spaces, industrial heritage and broad, Yorkshire accent - and the fact that everyone calls you ‘Love’ - I don’t really feel like I belong there. I don’t know where I belong, I don’t know where is home… Don’t get me wrong, I love my flat. It’s in an old primary school and has beautiful beams and I’ve furnished it nicely, replaced the floors and decorated it with photographs, artworks and memorabilia from my travels (or “clutter” as my ex kindly referred to it) which are full of cherished memories. But equally, my flat could be anywhere, being in Sheffield is of no significance to me – especially since my closest friend has just moved to Leeds and my other close friend (a Bulgarian) is considering the UK, fed-up with how they treat migrants. Ultimately, the only place I feel like I belong to is Europe – on the equal opportunities forms, I always tick ‘White European’ where the option is available. If I had the opportunity to leave the UK for work, I would in an instance. The ‘Home is a Human Right’ poem – made me contemplate all of these thoughts which have been swirling around in my mind for a while – and made me realise, I am still looking for it.

There was also a video in the central area featuring beautiful, vibrant watercolour portraits created of NHS workers during the Covid-19 pandemic – which encouraged the audience to ‘appreciate’ and value them more. Which I absolutely support especially given that my best friend is an doctor and I know how difficult her job is and I genuinely think they are undervalued by our government. Having said that, I was very aware that I was watching the video through the lens of my recent and slightly traumatic experience of my ex using his status as an NHS ‘key worker’ as an excuse to justify his frequently obnoxious and emotionally abusive behaviour. I liked the style of the artworks and the video showed a beautiful moment of human connection - I know it wasn't supposed to but it definitely conjured up several dæmons for me.

We both woke up early again (me annoyingly at 5:30am) and took the first train back to Wakefield/Sheffield - Dad took a photo of me furiously typing up my blog post whilst on the train - my hair a complete mess because I want to go swimming when I get home, so I couldn't be bothered to straighten it. It would have been nice to hang around Liverpool longer, to catch up with my friend a bit more and see another art gallery – but the food timer I left for the cats only works for 24 hours and despite leaving a mountain of supplementary biscuits – I felt bad. So, I wanted to get back as soon as possible to give them their wet food - which is what the picky buggers actually want to eat.

A couple of sketches (neither of which are particlarly good)


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