The L8 Law Centre was established in 1982, just one year after the Toxteth uprisings, when black communities were and had been facing continued police harassment for generations. The L8 Law Centre gave legal and general advice and sanctuary to many.
In 2018, the Heritage Lottery funded L8 Archive Project invited participants to take part in a ten-week educational course, learning the historical and social context of the L8 Law Centre. Working with professionals from Liverpool Record Office, the participants then collaborated in the process of archiving the papers of this significant Liverpool 8 organisation.
The L8 Law Centre was part of a nationwide wide law centre movement which began in the 1960s and sought to provide free legal advice to poor communities for whom legal representation was an unaffordable luxury. Law centres typically provided advice on Housing, employment and welfare benefits. It was a hugely significant and valued resource, situated in two Victorian mansions on Princes Boulevard, in the heart of the community it served.
Its closure was forced in 2010, primarily because of funding cuts. This was at a time when, following the economic crash of 2007/08, government austerity measures began to bite, a climate that ironically made its services more crucial than ever.
Participants worked with professionals including writers Emy Onuora, Jimi Jagne and other local organisations to further research this part of Toxteth history. Throughout the project, participants explored the collections from the L8 Law Centre and other local organisations during the crucial times of the 1980’s, including Liverpool Anti-racist Community Arts Association (LARCAA).
Feedback was extremely positive. Comments from participants included:
“This course has helped us in furthering our understanding toward the context of the time and any potential significance as to why certain news clippings or files were kept or made by the L8 Law Centre.”
“I particularly enjoyed hearing from Maria and Jimi. It is one thing reading stuff from a book but hearing from people who were actually part of these events breathes life into this history.”
“The taught course has set us up as we move into archiving with Helena Smart, Archivist at Liverpool City Council. We were given the protocols for handling the archive documents and the sensitive material involved. This course has helped us in furthering our understanding toward the context of the time and any potential significance as to why certain news clippings or files were kept or made by the L8 Law Centre.”
With help from the National Archives, Archives Revealed fund, we were able to continue to catalogue the extensive L8 Law Centre and Liverpool Anti Racist Community Arts Association (LARCAA) archives, by employing a full-time archivist and archives assistant to work on the collection. The archives assistant post was created, prioritising BAME entry-level applicants, and was designed specifically to address the lack of diversity in the archiving sector.
In 2021 a launch event and exhibition took place in Liverpool Central Library to celebrate the opening of the archive to the public, national interest in which had begun before the archive had been fully catalogued.
2021 was also the 40th anniversary of the Toxteth uprisings that gave rise to the L8 Law Centre and was a situation replicated in black communities throughout the UK. To mark this anniversary, we first commissioned a short documentary film about the Toxteth uprisings featuring interviews with local activists and former staff of the Law Centre.
In collaboration with National Museums Liverpool, we organised a conference event at the the Museum of Liverpool, which included a 40th anniversary event at NML with activists representing the different locations affected, including London, Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool.
If you would like to find out more information about the project, and/or book speakers or commission a project for your organisation or event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.