The media’s fascination with Liverpool is not a recent phenomenon. It used to really annoy me back in the 1980s when London-based newspapers continually featured pictures of Liverpool to illustrate urban deprivation in Britain. I particularly remember the Sunday Times leading with a photograph of the Pier Head shot from Birkenhead. In the foreground was a car breakage yard – the cheap headline being Liverpool on the scrapheap!.
For years, Liverpool was the target of television and newspapers features seemingly revelling in the spiral of decline the city was facing – but then, in 2008, it all started to disappear as the realisation dawned that it was no longer such a soft target. However, one interesting legacy is that future generations will have no shortage of images to illustrate those hard years. In a similar way, the city attracted press coverage in the 1930s and the photograph of Byrom Terrace was used to illustrate an article in the Daily Herald with the caption: The terrible conditions under which people live in the slum areas of Liverpool are strikingly illustrated by this picture of Byrom Terrace.
No doubt the image annoyed many people in the city – who maybe felt such photographs gave a distorted view of Liverpool (and I would have been amongst them had I been around at the time). But you cannot have it both ways – and the photograph is a valuable reflection of what life was like for a sizeable number of citizens back in the 1930s. Poverty is poverty and pretending Liverpool is just about fine buildings and great tourist attractions is no real answer.