Giving Back: 8.10.2005

Sturm Kenwright

Giving Back. 8 November 2005
Photograph: Christiane Sturm

A life spent near that river,
Always there, at his back.
From a teenage office boy
To an old man, always at his back.
What he sold came up that river
To be refined, made ready.
The Pier Head, his base,
His start, to drive his Morris Minor
Across the North with
Samples in bottles, cotton wool wrapped.
The Mersey, that massive weather vane
Of the British rise and fall, he saw it all,
The freighters, the tankers, the convoys.
And later, its emptiness,
A backdrop to his life.
And now he´s gone, dead,
Turned to grey ash.
No better place for him to be
But in that river.
We stand, three generations by that river.
I climb the railings and then,
Down the slippery stone steps
I carry him towards that flow
And then, with the ebbing tide,
I release him, like fry,
Back to where we all came from.

In Print! Tate and Lyle, Google and Malcom


Charles Kenwright

Tate and Lyle and Malcom´s story. Woodworking Plans and Projects
copyright: charles kenwright/

A few months ago I received an email from the editor in chief of the UK magazine “Woodworking Plans and Projects” asking if he could use one of my images. He wanted it to illustrate a story written by one of his readers. It told the story of how some of the wood saved from the demolition of the Tate and Lyle Sugar Refinery in Liverpool. UK, had been used in various woodworking projects. The editor had googled Tate and Lyle and the search result threw up a Blog article that I´d posted in February 2013. I was pleased that I could add to the readers enjoyment of the article – hopefully.

This enquiry and licensing of the use of one of my photographs highlighted a number of points for me. The first being that a photograph that I´d taken more than 40 years ago still had a use today. The second being, as well as fun, how useful blogging can be. The third, how important search engine optimization (SEO) is. And last but not least, the importance of picture captions and that they should say something useful about the photograph.

Going back to the first point, a photograph never looses it´s power to say something, to illustrate something and to bring back memories. I can still remember walking through the remains of the Liverpool dockland as they went under the wreckers ball and disappeared for ever or was spruced up into a sort of Disney World of the British nautical and industrial past. It also brings back harder memories of strife, poverty and division that was so much part of the British story of the 1980s.

By the way, the now long gone Tate and Lyle Sugar Refinery and it´s demise still has an important place in Liverpool folklore. No-one can know how something – even an ugly building – or a photograph of it´s innards being ripped out, can retain meaning.

I really should get on with scanning more of my old negatives and positives and getting them archived and online – who knows what stories are buried there, and for who!

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board’s Pilot Jetty at Point Lynas, Anglesey, UK


Point Lynas Charles Kenwright

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board’s Pilot Jetty at Point Lynas, Anglesey, UK
copyright: charles kenwright/

Anglesey lies in the approaches to the River Mersey and the port of Liverpool. This jetty at Point Lynas, just next to the small lighthouse, is sometimes used by Mersey Pilots to board their Cutters and go out to the waiting ships to guide them into the River Mersey. Point Lynas is situated on the north east side of the island. I took this shot at 6.30pm., it was already getting dark and the light was failing quickly, which for me, only added to the mystery and beauty of the place.

The Steam Ship Manxman


SS Manxman Charles Kenwright

The SS Manxman, taken at Birkenhead Docks
copyright: charles kenwright/

I took this shot of the SS Manxman through the window of a derelict dock building in Birkenhead. The historic passenger ferry was built at Cammell Lairds shipbuilders and launched in 1955. She sailed between Liverpool, the Isle of Man and Ireland until she was withdrawn from service in 1982 – it was shortly after this that I took the photograph whilst wandering around the docks.

There have been many attempts down the years to save her, turning her into floating squash courts, I seem to remember was one scheme, but all to no avail. The last I heard she was headed for the breakers yards, where I guess she met her end. If I´m wrong and someone has other news of the Manxman, please feel free to comment here!

Steps, Liverpool, UK


I wanted to post the ornate toilet, but my memory is better than the reality, the picture is just not good enough – so I´ve canned it, a fitting end for it!

Liverpool steps charles kenwright

Steps, Liverpool, UK
copyright: charles kenwright/

These steps are part of an old school in Liverpool 8. I like the way they´ve weathered, the colours of the bricks, the sandstone and the hand rail are so rich. Plus there are traces of paint there too which add to the charm. The steps have been worn down in the middle by the countless people who have gone up and down them over the years.

Harland & Wolff Headquarters, Liverpool, UK


It´s a shame, but this building is about to go under the breakers ball. This is the former Liverpool HQ of Harland and Wolff, shipbuilders of Belfast. They probably built the most famous shipin history at their Belfast shipyard – The Titanic – which was commissioned for the Liverpool White Star Line.

Harland and Wolff charles kenwright

Harland and Wolff, Liverpool, UK.
copyright: charles kenwright/

It stands on Regent Road, down in the Bootle Docks. The owners of the building say that it´s too dangerous to renovate. The transport cafe, The White Star Line, which has been occupying the ground floor is also doomed. It seems a shame that this fine old historical building can´t be saved. As an aside the Titanic had two sister ships, The Olympic and The Britannic. The Olympic had a long career from 1911 to 1935 but the Britannic, like the Titanic was also fated. She was used as a hospital ship in the First Wold War when, in 1915, she hit a mine off the Greek island of Kea and sank.

Tate and Lyle Sugar Refinery, Liverpool, UK


I took this in the 1980s down at Liverpool docks. It captures the demise of another piece of Liverpool industry,  the Tate and Lyle sugar refinery. As was often the case, such industry was positioned near where the raw product came ashore, in this case, sugar. As the Liverpool docks died, or were killed off, so died the industry that relied upon them. It´s a redevelopment of the site, or at least that´s what´s on the sign. Next time I´m there I´ll have to try and find the site again to see if it was redeveloped and into what, or if it´s still just an empty site. – After doing soe looking around on the www, I can now answer that question. The refinery area was turned into a housing co-operative, “The Eldonian Village”. So something good did come out of the disaster of at least 1500 lost jobs.

Tate and Lyle Sugar Refinery

Tate and Lyle Sugar Refinery, Liverpool Docks, UK.
copyright: charles kenwright/

I´ve now found out more information about the demise of Tate and Lyle in Liverpool. This is an interesting site and check the film out too!

Colonists Out by John Redhead. A book review

I suppose I’ve been out of the British climbing scene for a long time now, I’ve not really been following the news. But the thing about blogging is that it opens up a wide world – and, through blogs like Footless Crow, I’m now back on the peripherals of British mountaineering again. A couple of months ago I read on Footless Crow about a new book by John Redhead, Colonists Out. John, back when I was still climbing in the UK, was putting up extreme and serious rock routes in North Wales and had the reputation of being somewhat of a loose canon in the anarchical climbing scene there. But a lot of water has flowed down the Llanberis Pass and into Lyn Peris since then, and seeing his name in print again awoke my curiosity about him – what’s he been up to?

But first, for those who may not know, North Wales is one of the most important climbing areas in the UK, it’s steep crags, such as Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, Dinas Cromlech, Dinas Mot and the Wastad and Grochan in Llanberis Pass and the Slate Quarries have been the stages for quantum leaps in British (and sometime World) climbing standards. Climbers are drawn to the area, as I was, and some, like John stay there. So on with the story.

I emailed John asking for a review copy – first surprise, he answered almost immediately with an enthusiastic yes. Second surprise, a few weeks later it came (it wouldn’t have been the first time that a review book has not been sent). The introduction page set the tone:

“ Dwellings and Yellings

Interactions and Interventions from Yr Wyddfa to Canigou

John Redhead”

I noticed at the start of the book was that I could relate to it on many levels; so when I mix my own thoughts with this review, please bear with me. The second thing is that it’s not really that much to do with climbing, but about working as an artist, living as a stranger, a foreigner, amidst mistrust and animosity and searching for a home. “Colonists” is a rant, by the way – I’ve never seen so many exclamation marks in a book before!!!!!

The Sadane Sun Dance private, John Redhead

The Sadane Sun Dance
private, John Redhead

As well as being an exceptional climber, John is also an artist, and as with his climbing style his artistic work is in your face (or so I think), he produces multimedia  “interventions”, large scale paintings and sound works – even climbing a cathedral or wearing an artificial penis can be seen as an artistic statement. And, of course, artists who want to make a statement, get you thinking, “are in your face” can be unsettling neighbours, especially if the artist is living in the Old School in Nant Peris in the Llanberis Pass. Here John bumped and bumps into the North Welsh mind set. I can relate to this. The “Pass” is steep and narrow it can rain there with an intensity and duration of biblical proportions. The wind whips through creating a vortex, which as John writes, imprisoned the sawdust produced by cutting firewood for months on end. Although a wonderful and beautiful valley, the Pass can seem to press you, to push you down with the weight of it’s mountain slopes, the people who live there too. And here is an important part of his book, his interaction with the local people living in Nant Paris  (“Nant Perishers”) and Llanberis. Again I can relate to this, I’ve only had problems with being English twice, once here in Germany when an African tried to pin the Empire on my coat lapel and in Betws-y-Coed, North Wales when I had a frightening run in with a Welsh Nationalist in a bar. The English have got a lot to answer for; they’ve subjected the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh, but coming from Liverpool, I would also add that the English have also oppressed the English. The slate quarries in Snowdonia slated the world’s roofs and filled the pockets of the English capitalist. The workers there were crushed by the hardship of the work and by the weight of the slate. The Welsh language was suppressed and barely survived. But that has changed now. The Welsh language has become a political statement, an exclusion zone. John rants about a teacher saying to a friend’s boy who spoke English “we don’t speak that disgusting language here”. He is rightly enraged by two farmers who completely ignored his toddling boy, Ryley, as he spoke to them over the garden wall – somehow treating this small child with contempt. Longer than I have been going to the Pass there has been an “us and them” there. Oddly enough there’s also a “them and them”, the Welsh who hail from a few kilometres up the coast at Colwyn Bay are not considered to be Welsh by some. It seems that the “true” Welsh land is only to be found in the valleys of Snowdonia. And these valleys are home to another factor that pisses John off – the sheep farmer. Their subsidies, black plastic trapping fences and their sheep enrage him, or so it seems. He writes about their disrespect for the land, the sheep killing off any chance of tree growth – and the sheep shit in the local playground – all things which I can relate to. But also he writes of the colourful mix of eccentrics who also populate the valleys there, Billy the Biscuit, Steve G. and Pete of Pete’s Eats. He also writes of the ones dead and gone, Paul Williams, Jimmy Jewel and Mo. Anthoine who, with Joe Brown, founded Snowden Mouldings, the now defunct climbing helmet company who, ironically, could not protect his own brain from a tumour. He also describes the breakfast scene at Pete’s Eats, the café in Llanberis. The breakfast rears up in the book on a number of occasions and I get the impression is very important to him.

I find the accounts of his artistic work very interesting. As an aside, reading the book took longer than I thought, for the simple reason that I would read an account of something or a description of a piece he had produced, and I would go off on a tangent, thinking about it and how that might effect me – no bad thing for a book, I would add! His mixed media work is fascinating – the work he did with Liverpool prostitutes, the interviews with them and the layered sound pieces of recording from scouse doorways. I’m just sorry that I’ve never experienced them “live”. He also produced a soundscape about the quarries above Llanberis. Excerpts from these and also some of his paintings are to be found on his website, check them out it’s worth it. But few can live from art alone and John pays his way with building work, more of which later.

High up in the Pyrenees on the Catalunya side - pointing at Pic du Bugarach (the aliens garage) above the inversion. private, John Redhead

High up in the Pyrenees on the Catalunya side – pointing at Pic du Bugarach (the aliens garage) above the inversion.
private, John Redhead

He reached a point were the weather, the brooding Chapel next to his studio/home and the “Perishers” became too much. So he and his partner started to look abroad to warmer climes and for a change of artistic scene and stimulation. They headed down to the Pyrenees. His accounts of searching for the right place are amusing but also thoughtful. They “house sat” for a somewhat unpleasant Dutchman who had a running battle with the French builders and police. And it’s the French builder who often ends up as the subject of his building rants. He is disgusted by their criminal disregard for building standards, quality and punctuality and often was called in to make good the substandard work of a French builder. When confronted with this they often just shrugged in a Gallic way which was as much a “fuck off” as anything else Eventually they found a place to buy on the French side of the Catalan border. Here he soon found that the grass might well not be greener on the other side. Again he ended up in constant friction with the life style, or more accurately, the wagging French finger informing him that “here we do it this way”. He ran foul of the local headmaster and his treatment of Ryley – “here we do it this way” – but why? Don’t even ask the question. He also missed his breakfast scene – a big breakfast sets one up for the day – and can never co-ordinate his hunger with shops being actually open, “here we do it this way”. This mantra of “here we do it this way” stopped me and I mused about my reactions to strange or foreign things. Do I tend to react like that? Sometimes I’m sure.

He’d brought over some of his large canvasses painted in his studio in Liverpool. The account of doing battle with them in his hot, oven like truck, until he had painted over them, created pictures in my mind’s eye of a manic battle, slightly comic, but also very serious. He soon started working on a sound project there –

‘…regardless of the hype, the hoaxes and the drama I feel there is something connected with the land here that is meaningful. Talk of sacred geometry, monuments and temples certainly fire the imagination and Henry Lincoln in The Holy Place calls it the eighth wonder of the ancient world – ‘a natural and perfect pentacle of mountain peaks surrounded by a titanic, man-made temple’. I have spent time here and feel an affinity to the land, to the energy of whatever went on here, or continues to go on here. I feel like I have entered the mystery, the mountain, the tomb and without knowing it, absorbed the signs and symbols of an ancient story. With these feelings came the realisation that I had already started working here! I felt like the mountain had accepted me and invited me to work. I started a project called Remains of Occitània and started researching and sweeping the terrain for sounds…’

He is often having a go at the establishment, the British Mountaineering Council getting it in the neck from him, for amongst other things, their rolling on their backs attitude about climbing restrictions in the Llanberis quarries – “It´s ours, sod off!”

Now for my opinion of this book. As I think I’ve made clear already, I’ve found it a stimulating read on more than one level. I can relate to the description of his work, the problems he has with the “wagging finger” and the desire, the need to work creatively. His anger and humour comes through very clearly. It’s a cracking book – buy it! You can order it direct from John at his website:

Colonists Out by John Redhead

Colonists Out
by John Redhead

Another neat touch is, because it’s print on demand – it’s “e-evolving”, he wants to incorporate comments sent to him at:  I’ll have to think of something for it. DIM COLONEIDDIO!

View across to Liverpool, UK


I took this whilst having a bit of a wander around New Brighton on the Wirral. Across the River Mersey the Liverpool Docks at Seaforth and the Wind Turbines are well illuminated by the afternoon sun. I miss the big skies which are an integral part of living on the coast.

New Brighton, Liverpool Docks

The view over to the Liverpool Docks from New Brighton
copyright: charles kenwright/


Another Place


Antony Gormley´s figures stand on Crosby Beach near Liverpool, UK. They stand looking out to sea, and to me, seem to convey a mix of feelings which range from calm concentration to a sort of fear as they wait for the incoming tide to cover them – I suppose it depend on how I´m feeling when I look at them. A very strange and moving sight. I´m glad that they have found a permanent home here.

Antony Gormley Another Place

Antony Gormley´s “Another Place”. Crosby Beach, near Liverpool, UK
copyright: charles kenwright/