Local tenants to picket the royal visit

6 May 1969

The lead story – and most of the front page – in this week’s Guild Gazette, out today, concerns the planned protests at the royal visit to open Senate House the week after next:

When Princess Alexandra arrives to open Senate House in nine days time, she will be greeted by pickets from the local tenants association.

They will be protesting about their living conditions which they feel contrast sharply with the splendour of Senate House.

Resentment among the tenants about Senate House has been building up for some time, many of them complaining that money has been spent on it rather than upon university-owned property in the vicinity. The tenants will be protesting also about the lack of action by the Corporation on house repairs.

The official welcoming party for the Princess will comprise many dignitaries from the city and the county. At a meeting last Thursday the association heard a letter from Mr. Higby, the university estates manager, claiming that the university could not assume responsibility for repairs needed to some houses in Vine Street because those properties were administered by the Corporation.

At a previous meeting the tenants had heard that the Corporation would not assume responsibility for the same houses as it collected rents on behalf of the university.

The tenants feel they have been treated unfairly, or not treated at all, and feel that a protest on the opening of what they consider to be a ‘prestige’ building by well-known people will be most effective.

A letter will shortly be sent to the Vi ce-Chancellor, Dr. Barnes, explaining why the association intends to picket the occasion. Moves are being considered by the tenants to invite members of similar associations in the city, and also the technicians recently on strike, to help swell the numbers in the picket.

If all goes to plan, the tenants hope to have almost a hundred pickets on the day but there will be another meeting on the eve of the Senate opening.

Also on the front page is this report of last Monday’s Guild Council meeting, where the issue was raised:

Questions on cost at council

There was a storm at Guild Council last Monday evening when Mr Jon Snow asked the President, Richard Davies, how much the Royal visit was costing.

He went on to say that he had heard that it was £5,000 and that if this was so he was disgusted.  He pointed to all the trees that were being planted and to the landscaping taking place behind Senate House.

Mr. Davies replied that he had no information as to the exact cost but that hc would take steps to find out.

Miss Pat Bagshaw then rose to say that she had heard of plans to erect hoardings to obscure the view of a slum area from the eyes of Princess Alexandra.

At this point Mr Jon Snow returned to add that Guild should not put up with this.  A voice of dissent was heard when one science councillor said: “If somebody was coming to visit me, I would sweep the floor.”  Mr Snow pointed out that this was not an accurate analogy.

Footnote from the future (2009)

Go here for a map showing the location of the streets where the University and the City Council owned slum properties.

Jim and Ethel Singleton from Melville Place, who appear in this article, were active in the Abercromby Tenants’ Association and the events that led up to the protest at the opening of Senate House by Princess Alexandra. A year later, they would feature in the documentary film-maker Nick Broomfield’s first film, Who Cares? Made whilst he was a student at Essex University using a borrowed camera, it has been described as:

Honest, raw and confrontational … this 16-minute black and white observational film successfully communicates the resentment felt by a close-knit Liverpudlian working class community, angered at the demolition of their homes by the local council. Recipients of a compulsory purchase order were forced to leave a neighbourhood where the same families had been living for generations, relocating to alienating high-rise flats on the outskirts of the city.

Go here for more about the film – and to watch the film itself, which provides a vivid insight into the housing conditions that sparked the demonstration that greeted Princess Alexandra when she opened Senate House in May the following year.

The Singletons were rehoused and continued to be active politically; they feature in Nick Broomfield’s third film, Behind the Rent Strike (1974).

In December 2009, issue 15 of Nerve, the cultural and social issues magazine published in Liverpool by Catalyst Media, included an article by Jim and Ethel Singleton’s daughter, Kim, entitled Revolting Tenants: The Great Abercromby Rent Strike of ‘69.


Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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