John McDonald

Vocalist. Near Clayton Square.

Liverpool City of Music: The Buskers

Back when I was a bit younger, in the late sixties, I used my family’s box brownie and took pictures of some traveller children, who were parked up on waste ground on Stanley Road just up from the ‘flower streets’. The mum came out and started cleaning up the kids faces, and arranging them on the steps of their caravan. Bit unusual for them to be there really, and not sure what prompted me to take the pictures. We lived in Harebell St.

Also at that time, with the same camera, I made a self portrait of myself somehow in our backyard.  Is there a timer on a box brownie? Or maybe I got my mum to do it? My memory here, fails me. But photographs and memories go hand in hand.  I was beginning to grow my hair long and stood against the whitewashed but crumbly brick wall, with my eyes closed, half in sunlight and half in shadow. It seems I was always a bit arty. I have the negatives and pictures in a biscuit tin, somewhere, I think.

In those days if you were poor you could get a grant to go to university. (When the Labour party was still sort of socialist).  I went to Aberystwyth. There was a newsagents right next to the student union refectory.  It sold IT (International Times), Oz, and Creative Camera magazine. I still have a few copies of Creative Camera but not Oz or IT.

On and off, I have been taking pictures, and involved in photography one way or another since then. More so from the early eighties, when I participated alongside John Stoddart, Tom Wood, Penny Potter and Vincent Ng in the Open Eye ‘Free Studio’ project. I have a favourite image from then of a young man selling ‘Militant’ newspaper, dressed in sheepskin coat and flat cap.

Just recently after re-settling down after a couple of years of “lifes’ ups and downs” I have been sorting out my ‘archives’, trying to make sense of various sets of work, all based in Liverpool. 5 by 4 portraits, including; John Hamilton, Margaret Simey, Derek Hatton, Levi Tafari. The Mersey Ferries. Many 35 mm pics of people in and around Queeens Road Community Centre in Bootle.  Mother and child portraits made in Speke. (One of which is in the Bombed Out Church, above the inside entrance to the interior space. It’s been there eight years).  Go have a look. Pics of the dock road, including Frank of Franks’ Cafe.  Travellers who live in the Oil St site. More recently, Princes Park. Liverpool 8 Landscapes. And a few more. I have about 16 portfolios to weave together as a piece of work about Liverpool and or organise outputting somehow.

I have been concentrating on the Buskers project quite a lot this year but I came across the Invisible Wind / Factory Kitchen (Jakes Place!) when taking pics along the dock road. I like to eat plants. And how unusual – a plant based food cafe on the dock road! Somewhat different to Franks’ cafe. No bacon butties here. How the world changes. All for the good. Good food, good music, good people. Perfect place for an exhibition about Buskers. Thanks Jake. 

© John McDonald 2023.