First in series of four films exploring South Campus histories premieres at FACT

The first of four films produced by the Institute of Irish Studies seeking to explore the stories and histories of the University’s South Campus and surrounds, premiered at FACT Liverpool at the weekend.

Hey Joe, which is based on an interview with a community activist and is filmed by the Black Merchant Seaman memorial in Faulkner Square, was shown prior to the main feature, Ultraviolence as part of FACT’s Cinema in the City season.

It is the first of four films developed by Dr Ellie Lybeck and her production company, Sidelong Glance, under the banner, Whose History?

Dr Lybeck, a Lecturer in Irish Literature, said: “Liverpool isn’t where I’m from, but it’s a place where I feel I belong. Through Whose History?, I wanted to draw attention to some of those episodes of the city’s history that I find most compelling.

“It’s been a privilege to be guided through the production process by people with a special understanding of Liverpool’s past, and to have the chance to bring their stories to life.”

The remaining films profile figures who have shaped Liverpool’s past and present, from anonymous Irish Famine migrants to contemporary XJTLU students, and a nineteenth-century African American actress whose performances brought the urgency of the abolitionist cause to life for Victorian Britain.

This major civic engagement project builds on the success of the University’s Culture Unconfined Festival in May 2020, which brought literature, music, drama, and discussion to virtual audiences around the world during the first lockdown. The Culture Unconfined website attracted more than 16,000 page views.

Professor Peter Shirlow, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, said: “Whose History? is a fine example of the way in which the Institute aims to break down barriers between groups and communities.

“It challenges the invisibility of communities excluded from ‘official’ narratives. Recognition is an act, not merely of remembering, but of challenging cultural exclusion and purposeful historical amnesia.”

The four Whose History? films, which are based exclusively on primary sources – including interviews, literary texts and newspaper reports – were shot on location on the South Campus, and nearby, in July and August this year.

Informed by conversations with University experts, and by local historians and practitioners, they were funded by awards from the University of Liverpool Beacon Fund, the Alumni & Friends Fund, the School of the Arts Small Research Development Initiative Fund, and the Institute of Irish Studies Blair Chair. Support from the Beacon Fund allowed Sidelong Glance to employ two current undergraduates to work on the development, production and promotion of the films.

Professor Dinah Birch, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Cultural Engagement, said: “We at the University are proud to share in and be part of the rich history of Liverpool. We celebrate those people, events, buildings, and institutions which make and have always made this a world-class city.

“At the same time, we realise that in order to understand our heritage fully, we need to recognise those aspects of the past which we find disappointing, disquieting, and distressing. It is only in knowing the past, and in confronting it, that we might improve upon the present.

“Whose History? strikes a balance between acts of celebration and acts of recognition.”

To find out more about the Institute of irish Studies, Whose History? series, please visit