Koki Tanaka: Restaging the 1985 Liverpool School Students’ Strike

8.9.2016, Interviews

“How did taking part in a radical protest when you were a child affect the kind of adult you might become?”

When Japanese artist Koki Tanaka visited Liverpool for the first time, he came across a book, ‘Liverpool in the 1980s’, by photographer Dave Sinclair. The book contains images of a mass protest against the Conservative Government’s Youth Training Scheme, criticised as a means of providing cheap labour with no guarantee of a job at the end. In Liverpool, where youth unemployment was as high as 80 percent in some areas, 10,000 young people took to the streets in opposition to the initiative. 

The march, which took place on 25 April 1985, began outside St George’s Hall and moved quickly down Dale Street, past the Town Hall, ending at the Pier Head. This wasn’t the route the organisers had planned, but the sheer enthusiasm of the students meant that the crowd moved fast and was hard to contain. For Tanaka, Sinclair’s photographs show an unusual combination of energy, optimism, joy and anger.

In June 2016, Tanaka revisited the scene of the protest, inviting original participants to share their memories of the event. They were joined by young people in order to reflect on the way in which the future that the students fought for in 1985 relates to the present political situation. This walk has been documented, and the resulting film is presented at Open Eye Gallery, alongside photographs by Dave Sinclair.

Visit Tanaka's exhibition at Open Eye Gallery until 16 October, free and open daily 10am–6pm.

Film by Carl Davies, FACT Video Production Services