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Chinese sailors become giants of Duke Street's desolation row

International business visitors greeted by 'important part of city history'

Published on June 17th 2014.

Chinese sailors become giants of Duke Street's desolation row

A ROW of derelict  terraced houses in Duke Street has been spruced up in time for the International Festival for Business with a set of giant photographs reflecting an important part of the city’s history. 

The images, called "Opera for Chinatown" tell the story of Chinese sailors and their families and have been installed in window frames on the boarded up houses, next door to the Wah Sing Chinese School.

The buildings, next to the East Village development at the top of Duke Street have been derelict for many years. They are owned by Iliad who also worked on the project.

"Opera for Chinatown” - has been created as part of a year-long project to create a digital archive of oral histories and family photographs of the Chinese community by ex It's Immaterial member John Campbell and his partner, Moira Kenny, also known as The Sound Agents. 

The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The city council says it provided additional funding for the project "which was completed in time for the International Festival for Business which will attract thousands of visitors to Liverpool".

John Campbell says: “Liverpool Chinatown Oral History focused on three themes: The Blue Funnel Sailors, the Forced Chinese Repatriation and the Liverpool Chinese children who took part in the Hollywood film The Inn of Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman in 1958, based on the missionary Gladys Alyward who at one time was based in Nelson Street. Gladys went to China and saved hundreds of Chinese children from a Japanese invasion. “

The centrepiece of  Opera for Chinatown features a photograph of opera singer Grace Liu.

“Grace performs internationally with the Cantonese Opera”, said Moira Kenny. “We are aiming to write an opera based on the art work on the buildings and we are in talks with the Cantonese Opera to bring the group over to Liverpool next year for a special performance.”

Another person featured is Mr Sing Zhay Woo who was 90 years old on 8 June. He is one of a handful of surviving Shanghai sailors who came to Liverpool during or just after WW2. “We are so lucky as they all live in Liverpool and have told us stories about their time working deep sea and coasting around Europe. I suppose we could say Opera for Chinatown is an early birthday present for Mr Woo,” she added.

Opera For Chinatown will be formally launched by writer, poet and broadcaster Anna Chen. She is coming to Liverpool tomorrow, (June 18) for IFB China Day.

The event will take place in Il Forno, Duke St, at 4pm. Anna will be giving a talk, poetry reading and signing her book, Reaching For My Gnu.

Anna ChenAnna Chen

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