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Still lives

Photographer Stephanie de Leng is taking pictures for another book of people in Liverpool. In this occasional series, Confidential has exclusive access to the work in progress and the stories behind the subjects

Published on January 12th 2009.


Still lives

LINDA THOMPSON. . . NOVAS CONTEMPORARY URBAN CENTRE


LINDA came to me via a convoluted path. For 19 years I have been driving past the Buddleia Building, so named by locals owing to the tenacity with which this plant had rooted itself in between the bricks of the neglected structure. Scrawny, unhealthy, but somehow alive, it echoed the contents of the cavernous Victorian warehouse with its piles of old furniture, quasi antiques, books and scores of dilapidated pianos decomposing into the fabric. Luckily the bricks of the building were so hard baked that all the buddleias in the world could not fell it.

When it was finally emptied, I filmed one of the clearers beside a hanging rope. Such was the power of his face that I cropped the rope out of the final photo in order to focus on him. But the rope continued to play mind games; swinging through my consciousness like a breeze skipping off the Mersey.

When I visited The Buddelia Building in its new life as The Novas Contemporary Urban Centre, a few weeks ago, I was moved to discover the same rope hanging from the ceiling. It was sunny: a crisp, autumnal day, and the clear blue of the Liverpool skies trickled into the building, quickly absorbed by its dark brick walls.

At one point, I stepped on a rotten floorboard and was startled when, out of nowhere, Linda appeared. Her first words were “I must do something about that,” and off she went, speaking through a walkie-talkie, only to meet me again on the floor below, and then on each floor after. Cheerful, helpful, a bounce in her step, by the time I arrived back at the ground floor, I really knew I had to take her photo and, luckily, she agreed.

Linda is the community development

manager of CUC and it is really a very special place. Its aim is to give people who otherwise would not have that opportunity, a chance to work: Ex-drug addicts, homeless, and "socially excluded" people, or, indeed, anyone who is marginalised by society. The result is a vibrant environment with staff, positive and friendly, clearly happy to be there.

Certainly Linda feels this way. Fleeing with her two girls from an abusive, drug-dependant partner in Darlington, she ended up in Liverpool by randomly placing a pin in a map in the Yellow Pages. While working as a cleaner in a homeless hostel, she saw a poster hanging on its wall offering training working with the same. She applied and has never looked back.

Over six years she was worked her way up to her current position, driven by a desire of a better future for her children. In her words, “a world where there is no fighting or bickering, where everyone can get along, that’s what I love”.

Linda told me this and then I took her photo beside the rope, in the atmospheric October light, Linda’s face is as powerful and as full of emotion as the clearer two years before. In some ways the rope tells parts of her story, but, like the clearer, I settled on this image, without any props.

I told you the path was convoluted and I am sorry you have not seen the rope. Perhaps the best thing would be to make a visit there yourself.

*Stephanie's first book, People in Liverpool, £19.99, is available from Waterstones, Liverpool, or directly through her website www.stephaniedeleng.co.uk

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 29th 2008.

I think you are out of order and negative and are clearly uninformed. Liverpool is no sore and is in ascent. Post your comments somewhere that no one can see.

DigOctober 29th 2008.

Fair play to whoever it is. They keep plugging away trying to wind us up under various monikers. They are so thick they can't even see how embarrassingly stupid and uninformed their rants are. Drugs, homeless, vagrants, criminals and losers? Doesn't every major city the world over have an element of all those things? It clearly is a person of limited intelligence. Keep trying my uneducated friend, you are keeping us amused.

born-in-bootleOctober 29th 2008.

came across this by accident. Love Stephanie's People in Liverpool Book. What a ...photo ...sorry don't know the words. We students, some of us do know good stuff when we see, er, read it. Never read anything from Stephanie before. Keep it coming

HerbertOctober 29th 2008.

"swinging through my consciousness like a breeze skipping off the Mersey"....what a fine image!

tashaOctober 29th 2008.

Sums up scousers; Drugs, homeless, vagrants, criminals and losers.The book is probably a picture of the final decline of this running sore of a city that is poisoning the body of England.

talacrebeachlighthouseOctober 29th 2008.

This is quality stuff. Real People, Real Photographs, Real Liverpool.

AnonymousOctober 29th 2008.

Tasha and all of their other aliases is a dickhead who we just laugh at

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