On 13th September 2017, I had the opportunity to visit Dr Andy Davies and Madeline Heneghan, from Liverpool based community organisation, Writing on the Wall to discuss their Centre for Hidden Histories funded project on the 1919 race riots. Andy, Madeline and their group of volunteers have undertaken a detailed spatial mapping project of the events and locations of individuals affected by the postwar riots.
This mapping has been achieved through researching a recently donated archive which includes a collection of documents pertaining to the plight of black servicemen, seafarers and workers in Liverpool in 1919. Based on this archive, the group have created a map of the events of the 1919 race riots using an ArcGIS software package available at the University of Liverpool. Volunteers on the 1919 race riots project include individuals who are local to Liverpool, some of whom have have participated in previous Writing on the Wall initiatives. Others are Geography students from the University of Liverpool. Of the unique inter-generational dynamic that characterises this group, Madeline commented, “it’s a really nice group. Previous participants in Writing on the Wall projects have knowledge about the archive and the period. The younger students were enthusiastic about discovering the archive material for the first time and brought their technical skills to bear on the project.” For Andy, whose research seeks to understand how Liverpool can be understood as a postcolonial city, this sense of co-production is central to his ethos as a researcher: “One of the things that I want my academic research to be is something that is not just me sat in a university writing stuff… It’s not like we’re the leaders of the research. A lot of the time people come up with ideas among themselves.”
Once completed the map will be posted on the ‘From Great War to Race Riots’ website. However, members of the public can experience the group’s research findings as part of a special event which is being held to coincide with Black History Month 2017. On 22 October, Andy, Madeline and the team will be leading a walking tour through the city of Liverpool which will explore the history and urban geography of the 1919 race riots. The event will end with a public lecture by David Olusoga, author of Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016). For full details of this event and to book tickets, please follow this eventbrite link.
Andy hopes that this project will act as a springboard for future research networks and projects which will consider the global impacts of the 1919 race riots.