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Gardens Of Stone

Gardens of stone screenings

When researching my books, I would often log onto the www.scottiepress.org website forum. Here, it was hoped that some ex residents of Gerard Gardens or the surrounding areas may have some photographs or information that could be included in the book. Before long, an ex resident of Gerard Crescent and incidentally, a person whom I had vaguely known both in the square and at secondary school contacted me about a project he was undertaking himself.

Primarily, a little video for family and friends, Paul Sudbury was working on his own masterpiece 'Gardens of Stone'. After an exchange of emails it was decided to pool their combined knowledge together and Paul's film was so widely acclaimed by all who saw it, and it was bootlegged far and wide, that he decided to lengthen it with the increased material he now had available. My book was also reaching finalisation and I decided to build a replica scale model of their subject matter, Gerard Gardens so that all three attractions could be viewed to enhance the events we were lining up.

Friday 7th October 05 was to be the film documentary premier of Gardens of Stone at FACT in the Liverpool city centre, even the Capital of Culture Company were so impressed with the final edit of just under 1 hour 20 minutes, that they agreed to some sponsorship. Dolly Lloyd of Tenantspin and Alan Dunn at FACT had been instrumental and supportive of the whole idea.

Such was the promotion and advertisement campaign in the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, BBC Radio Merseyside and Scottie Press that over 100 people who had not adhered to the strict ticket requirements were sadly turned away either at the desk or by phone with around 180 getting to see the three screenings throughout the day.

FACT was indeed very busy with the cafe and bar, particularly after the last screening, enjoying a massive attendance which moved on into town as an impromptu after screen party. Since then there have been a number of screenings at various venues throughout the city including Holy Cross/Marybone centre, The Silvestrian, L.A.C.E. Sefton Park, Crosby Plaza, FACT again, The Via Veneto Ristorante, the Glaxo Neurological centre, Olive Mount community centre, The Big History festival - St. George's Hall and the Rotunda College.

The film centres on the Gerard Gardens art deco tenement development with an array of archive footage from the early 1900s+ with a decade by decade, blow by blow account of city centre living throughout the ages including some of Pauls own colour cine footage from the 1970s. The film ends with up to date interviews from ex residents about such things as moving in, bonfire night memories, the games that were played within the square and the community in general. A fantastic and important social history documentary film. For additional information, see here: Gardens of Stone

Advertisement poster and ticket for the premier at FACT on fri 7th Oct 05 which also saw the launch of 'In a city living II'

The model and photographs on display, Paul and I with long time Christian Street resident Tommy O'Keeffe and Ex residents point out where they used to live. This model is now on display for all to see at the new Museum at the Pier Head.

The Marybone/Holy Cross ticket: Thursday 24th Nov 05.

The Silvestrian ticket: Thurs 1st Dec 05.

Paul gives his reasoning behind the making of the film followed by a Q&A session after the screening.

The ex residents reminisce as the model attracts photographers.

The model, picture board and resident listings from the 1970s and some of the ex residents who attended, pointing to where they used to live.

FACT II Screensaver 10/4/06 and Paul with Louise Ellman MP before the screening. Here, I explain the model layout to BBC Radio Merseyside's Roger Phillips and Nunzia Bertali from the Italian Consulate.

Some of the 200+ audience mingle for pre-screening drinks, Billy Butler, Liverpool History & Heritage, Scottish Power, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Liverpool Monuments Society were present. Gary Christian and Stuart Boyle of the Christians attended as did 'The Farm'.

The FACT review in the 'Liverpool City Magazine' and The L.A.C.E. Sefton Park/CDS Housing screening review from 2/6/06

Paul's Social History Film Documentary was well received into the Sefton film festival held at the Crosby Plaza on 12/10/06. It was also shown at the Edge Lane showcase and a shorter version on the BBC giant screen in Clayton Square as part of the Bi-ennial.

Gardens of Stone on the Big Screen, Clayton Square in 
October and November.   This being the Biennial version.

December 06 saw the year round off with a specially edited version for the Scouse Italian Reunion night at the Via Veneto, Old Hall Street.

Top left, Paul pictured with Ray Baccino. (Right) I launched the 3rd of my trilogy and seen here with my wife Ann, Sheila Baccino and Margaret and Joe Donnely. 
Amongst the talent on show were the Wirral Mandolias, Johnny Kennedy and the Una Voce operatic society.

The Glaxo Neurological centre in Norton Street. A screening was held here for Hornby Housing on 20/1/07 Paul and I with Irene Crone, introducing ourselves to the audience

There was a good mix of ex residents ranging from the 1930s to the 1980s and the post screening discussion session was lively and one of the best.

Wavertree Historic Society at Olive Mount Community Centre Wednesday 28th March 07. Organised by Rob Zatz and Mike Chitty of the Society to all its members.


All 150 seats were taken and the screening also saw the launch of Gerard Gardens souvinirs as below.

Ron Formby of the Scottie Press was on hand for flowers for Lesley and Joan of Lee Jones, pictured here with Paul and myself. 

Paul with Prof: Lewis Lesley ex JMU who features in an excerpt from Gardens of Stone lifted from the 1978 protest film Homes not roads. Here, he is seen 28 years on.


Held between Friday 14th and Sunday 16th September 2007, in this, the city's 800th birthday. Over 200 stallholders with dozens of Historical Societies came together to pool their knowledge of the city's past.

The film, as ever was shown to a packed house and very well received. The trailer can be seen being projected onto the wall in the mid bottom photo. The model fuelled the usual after screen talking points as ex residents and others alike, came forward with their memories. We have had people claiming to be the first resident, the writer of the 'Violent playground 30 years on' graffiti, a tale of a wartime bomb going off right underneath their veranda, residents who appeared as kids in the Violent playground film and the workman who saved the hod carrier and architect statues whilst working for Sloyan Doyle demolition Company.


The Rotunda College is situated in a renovated Georgian Terrace on Gt. Mersey Street, Kirkdale serving the local community. On Saturday 10th November 07, they put on a whole afternoon of community films, 11 in all on various floors - Gardens of Stone being the longest, which was screened at 1.30 and again at 3.30 due to popular demand. The Rotunda also launched their own book which sold well as well as airing 2 home made dvd's entitled 'Reflections from the pool'. Radio Merseyside broadcaster, Roger Phillips can be seen here opening proceedings at 1pm.

The Film

The film centres on the Gerard Gardens art deco tenement development with an array of archive footage from the early 1900s+ with a decade by decade, blow by blow account of city centre living throughout the ages including some of Pauls own colour cine footage from the 1970s. The film ends with up to date interviews from ex residents about such things as moving in, bonfire night memories, the games that were played within the square and the community in general. A fantastic and important social history documentary film. For additional information, see here:

The Glaxo Neurological centre in Norton Street. A screening was held here for Hornby Housing on 20/1/07 Paul and I with Irene Crone, introducing ourselves to the audience
THE BIG HISTORY FESTIVAL - ST. GEORGE'S HALL Held between Friday 14th and Sunday 16th September 2007, in this, the city's 800th birthday. Over 200 stallholders with dozens of Historical Societies came together to pool their knowledge of the city's past.

1900 - 1920s: Shows overcrowding and slum properties as well as moving footage of barefoot urchins at the Lee Jones, League of welldoers. City centre traffic and well dressed commuters throng the streets - two worlds apart.

1930s - Shows the mass slum clearance programme and excerpts from 'Homes for the workers', a 1938 documentary commentated by chief architect, Lancelot Keay showing moving footage of Gerard Gardens being built and Caryl Gardens being occupied.

1940s - Shows war-time Liverpool and bomb sites. Myrtle Gardens and Blackstock Gardens take direct hits resulting in great loss of life. The Museum and Picton library are targetted, just a stones throw from Gerard Gardens.

1950s - The Rock N' Roll era sees Gerard Gardens as the backdrop for the movie 'Violent Playground' with some scenes shown here. Liverpool city centre rises like a phoenix from the ashes.

1960s - Road development schemes are touted for the area. 'Us and them' a documentary made in 1969 shows proud communities saying they like their area exactly as it is. Woodstock Gardens can be seen. The flyovers and walk overs are built

1970s - 'Homes not roads' made by the Vauxhall neighbourhood council is aired in parts here. The devastation of Scotland Road due to the new Mersey tunnel is apparent. There is Fontenoy Gardens footage as well as some of Pauls own colour cine film featured showing the life and times in Gerard Gardens.

1980s - Gerard Gardens curtain call. 'Coast to Coast' is filmed there but it's been left to become run down. The 80s ends with scenes of the demolition. Others fell this decade too.

1990s and beyond - So, has the six lane concrete carbuncle that is the widened Hunter Street been worth the loss of a proud community with over half of them being moved out to the back of beyond. The area is now truly Gardens of Stone as ex residents are interviewed to reminisce on past times.

Paul's reasoning behind the film was as a keepsake for his family and friends whilst educating himself on the area, learning much in the process. Another reason was because, in his job, a lot of his fellow employees were from Crosby and Sefton and had pre-conceived ideas about what the likes of Gerard Gardens was, as they viewed scruffy kids playing in the archway as they passed on the safety of the L3 or N0.28 bus. I think it is safe to say that those ghosts have been laid to rest. Then of course..... there is always the fantastic soundtrack featuring an array of Liverpool talent including The Beatles, The Mighty Wah, Echo and the Bunnymen, China Crisis, The Real thing, The Farm, The Christians, Cilla Black.....

Liverpolitalia held their first event on Sunday 3rd February 2008 at the Silvestrian Club, Liverpool 5 in comemoration of Liverpool's Little Italy hero boxer Dom Valnte, naming the event 'Festa Volante'

From 1pm until 7pm there were guest speakers including historian, Frank Carlyle, himself a relative of Dom. The Gardens of Stone film was screened after the hot buffet and on display once again was the Gerard Gardens tenement model. To round off the day, Paul and I together with the other members of 'The Gardens' group performed on stage to the full house of 250.

Ex residents of Gerard Gardens discuss old times alongside the model. Peter Wilson-Gianelli and Gerry Murphy of liverpolitalia hold a framed pic of famous Little Italy boxer Dom Volante. The audience fall into silence as guest speakers recall the great man and the day is rounded off with songs from the 60s right up to date. Right: The Scottie Press' reporting of the event. Ron Formby was there throughout the day and took the above photos as well as capturing people such as comedian Stevie Faye.


After the success of the Wavertree Historic Society event in 2007, Diane Maddock who hails from Dingle and who attended that event, decided to put on a screening for those who missed out. Local residents who attended included some who had lived in tenements such as Mr. Muldoon from the Four Squares, Soho Street and the Community centre's caretaker 'Ginger' who lived in Hurst Gardens, Old Swan. Another attendee, Les, worked for George Jones painters who when based in Heyworth Street had the contract for painting the corporation tenements in their customary County cream and Bus green and as such remembered painting Gerard Gardens (twice) as well as Myrtle Gardens and Speke Road Gardens.

Some of the 30 odd guests of the older generation, fascinated by Paul's film documentary.

The Grace Room,
1st Floor,
Cornerstone Building, Hope at Everton",
Liverpool Hope University,
Shaw St,

Top left: The grand staircase in the ultra modern interior of the Cornerstone building, tucked behind off Shaw Street as part of the old SFX school. Top right: Members of the Liverpool Historical Society start to take to their seats anticipating what's in store. Bottom left and right: The short pre-show accompanies an introduction to the event.

I am accompanied here by Debz D'Annunzio and Paul Sudbury. Debz, a descendant from the Little Italy area of St. Joseph's and Holy Cross was in attendance to promote her forthcoming book about the Italian families from this area which preceded the building of Gerard Gardens, the model of which can be seen behind us.


The venue was the impressive Budden lecture theatre in the Leverhulme building, part of the Liverpool University campus at Abercromby Square.

Our host was Dr. Les Roberts who is busy putting together a visual map consisting of over 1700 various films shot in Liverpool. He has scoured sources far and wide and was delighted to screen Gardens of Stone as part of their Liverpool in film series having already hosted a fair few in the past with more to follow.

The first pic shows the after screen interviews with Paul and myself describing to Les and the audience how Paul's film and my In a city living books came about. 

The second pic sees us fielding questions in the form of an open forum. A couple of dozen people from various backgrounds braved a cold and sleety evening and a good discussion was had regarding architecture, the impact of roads, communities and social habits of the time.

The last pic sees people enjoying an informal glass of wine while debating everything that the film and its subsequent discussion threw up. The curator of the People's city gallery of the new Pier Head museum was also present along with the chief model preserver in order to measure my model for display in the new museum when it opens in 2010 which will also feature excerpts from the film.

FAQ about the tennies.....

Q:   How did the design of these tenement flats come about.
A:   With fever, disease and death linked to overcrowded and unsanitary property. A mass clearance programme was undertaken in the late 1920s through the early 1930s. A delegation visited the likes of the Babbelhof and Karl Marx Hof flats in Vienna, Austria and implemented many of the designs into an art deco style of building homes high into the sky. Previously, only office accommodation was built in this style.  

Q: How where they any better than what had gone before?
A: Previously built housing for the masses had contained a scullery with yard (if you were lucky). A mangle would be required to wring out and press the clothes, often only the least poor of the poor would have one of these and would take in other peoples items. Cellar properties and courts were not even as far advanced as this with a single tap serving many households. Houses with outside toilets where still massly populated and a tin bath in front of the fire was the best most had. The new tenements would have electricity as well as gas, with electricity power points and light at the flick of a switch. There was an inside toilet and bathroom with hot and cold running water - pure luxury. There was gas cooking on a stove and even little added bonus's such as a balcony with window boxes for plants and a childrens play area below to keep the children off the streets and within sight.

Q: Why were they only built with a maximum of 5 floors?
A: It was a pre-war regulation that the maximum number of floors should be 5 but some 2,3 and 4 level tenements were built to different designs using mezzanine floors and to break up the general monotony of rows upon rows of landings.

Q: Weren't all those stairs an effort for the elderly, mothers with prams and the coalmen?
A: Yes, rubbish was sent down chutes to the ground floor level so the binmen were alright. In 1950 it was decided that any landings with a length of more than 6 houses would have lifts provided at the stairwell openings. However, most of these would be out of commision within a decade and until gas fires were introduced in the mid 1970s, it is true that the coalmen had a hard job on their hands. There was a Corporation policy where possible to place the elderly and mothers of young children on the ground or lower floors.

Q: It is said that great communities were built in these places.
A: That is very true. A sign of the times generally back then but with lots of relatives living in likewise flats nearby or across the way, it was a case of everyone knowing everyone. An elderly neighbour not seen for a while would be called upon, older brothers kept the younger ones in check, front doors would be left open, new years eve parties would see neighbour to neighbour crawls - people would be out at midnight singing. Many had to walk past other front doors to get to their own so contact was made with other people, many of them out on the landing watching the world go by, their children playing below or generally 'jangling'. With each family being no better off than the next, there was no such thing as burglarys.

Q: Weren't they hostile places for strangers though?
A:   An urban myth generally and one of the reasons Paul Sudbury made the social history film documentary 'Gardens of Stone'. When workmates dared to be aghast that he admitted coming from Gerard Gardens, he was taken aback and rightly asked 'Why?'. It seemed that like those people who dismiss the city as a bad place as a whole had never even been here, then those workmates had only ever viewed what they classed as ruffians and scallywags through the main arch of the tenements from the safety of their L3 Ribble bus en route to leafier suburbs. It's true that the colisseumeque shape and claustraphobic feel of many of these squares could give the impression of throwing the christians to the lions, but the film goes a long way to dispelling the myths.

Q: Isn't it true that they'd seen better times, had run their course and had become run down by the 1980s.
A: Fifty years isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things when we consider that Victorian and pre-war housing is still massly populated, in many cases protected and loved. It was local government policy under the militant tendancy at the time to spend no money on the upkeep, general maintenance and repair of Liverpool's tenements and those that were sold off to private investors now flourish and it's no surprise that high rise city centre living is now back in vogue.

Q: Hasn't new style housing and building regulations moved on a lot now though for better accommodation?
A: The leap in efficiency is not as great now as it was in the 1930s for those moving from the slum dwellings to the tenements. Only central heating is a major improvement in all those years. Redeveloped tenement flats, now being sold for vast amounts have had Georgian styled double glazed windows replace the old sash counterparts, so being done sympathetically, central heating could have been installed easily. Cavity wall insulation is now a major heat retention factor in new builds but the blocks that have been retained, just like the grand Georgian houses in L8 for instance manage quite well without this and those demolished were so solidly built to last that it took Sloyan Doyle years to clear them. The party walls and inparticular the internal plasterboard walls are so thin these days that conversations and music can be heard next door. Gardens, whilst most welcome for young families cannot always be maintained by those not interested in them or the elderly, again, the tenements could have been retained for a particular market.

Q: Wasn't the award winning Eldonian Co-operative born out of tenement residents?
A: Yes. Fed up of seeing what had happened to residents being treated as cannon fodder when Scotland Road was decimated in the 1960s for the building of the Kingsway tunnel or when Gerard Gardens bit the dust just to accommodate a 6 lane concrete carbuncle on Hunter Street to add to the 4 lane flyovers to suit the commuter, they formed a housing co-op. Helped by the tory government against the wishes of the Labour militants, the Eldonian and Athol villages emerged. This meant that instead of family and friends being cast out to Kirkby, Ellesmere Port, Speke and the likes, the old community was kept together. The likes of the Vauxhall Neighbourhood Council 10 years earlier had made a film documentary called 'Homes not roads' staving off another ring road plan that would have affected Fontenoy Gardens. Us and them - a people versus the council film had also been made in 1969 showing the plight of the ordinary person in the street living in this area.