Love Lane Lives

The history of sugar in Liverpool and the effects of the closure of the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery, Love Lane

Blog Home >

1999 & The Last Tango on Lime Street.

Written by Ron Noon at 19:02 on Monday, December 03rd 2012

When the Archies sang Sugar, Sugar, back in 1969, they would not have imagined that the simple, pimp like carbohydrate saturating food and drinks as well as the lexicon of love, was the most intensely political and complex of all commonly traded commodities! Sugar, Sugar has always been intensely political and unlike Black gold, White Gold is in its seventh century of global expansion and you can not only ingest it but in Brazil they use it to provide the Tony the Tiger in their alcool tanks! Anyway 30 years after the ultimate manufactured pop group sang “pour a little sugar on it honey”, (they were as animated and cartoon like as Mr Cube himself!) Tate & Lyle’s Liverpool pensioners were eagerly anticipating the company-supported “biennial” Christmas party, in the Britannia Adelphi hotel, only to be shocked and saddened by the contents of a letter from John Walker, the Managing Director of the Sugar Giant’s European Division.

December 4th 2012 and 99

“Regrettably, this reunion will be the last one held.” His final sentence, hanging ominously over Mr Cube, the famous animated company cartoon that had brandished his sword and shield for “Free Enterprise”, stressed that it had been “an extremely difficult decision to take but I hope you will understand that the company has to continually review and reduce its costs”.  (Just have a look at that letter in the blog summary!) Albert E Sloane, a bitter sweet fightin’ man who had figured prominently in the ten-year struggle to prevent the closure of the comically misnamed Love Lane refinery, the mother plant in Henry Tate’s domain, was very angry with this “rationalisation”.

He’d never lived his working life as a cost of production and yet history appeared to be repeating itself as another Tate & Lyle sponsored domestic tragedy for the feisty 77 year old. These were the thoughts that flicked through Albert’s mind as he and the surviving boys and girls from the whitestuff assembled for their last Christmas Party, beneath resplendent streamers strung across the banqueting hall of a once quite magisterial hotel. Cold business logic was matched by the weather outside on Thursday, December 2nd.  Even wrapped up in sugar-coated management rhetoric the letter announcing their last Tango on Lime St. was perceived by the majority, who like Albert devoted most of their working lives to the company store, as of nothing less than Scrooge like meanness of spirit.

Albert’s close mate, John Maclean wryly observed “Christmas only come around every two years with Tates and each time absent friends meant that it got cheaper. We never thought they’d scrap it altogether mind.” Smile, it’s Tate & Lyle. Definitely not on Merseyside!

This bitter sweet story had some local but no national impact at all. David Charters of the Liverpool Daily Post reported the Last Supper in the Adelphi and “Party spirits dampened by bitter-sweet memories”, but sadly, like strikes and sacked dockers, such stories were not sexy enough for full national coverage. Just as well given that a company’s most important reputational asset is its brand and logo. The full story of why Tate & Lyle suffered from a cold hearted Ebenezer Scrooge virus at the end of last century, having made £231m profit ought to have translated those thin anodyne smiles on faces of corporate spokespersons, and even their animated sugar lump logo, into more fittingly mean faced expressions. Albert’s preferred scenario, supported by all the older boys and girls from the whitestuff , was to fulminate with anger and to demand that the guys in the Punch and Judy campaign to bring back Christmas!

Just look at this from December 3rd 1999. Thank you David Charters who has been a great supporter of the Love Lane Lives project ever since:

December 3rd 1999 & a bitter cold day