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Love Lane Lives - the boys & girls from the whitestuff

Love Lane Lives

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

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Written by Ron Noon at 13:32 on Tuesday, October 30th 2012

“Historian Ron Noon’s decade-long obsession with the Liverpool sugar industry led to the making of the film Love Lane Lives: The Boys and Girls from the White-stuff, which is to be screened tonight at the Tate.” That was Vicky Anderson’s take on my “sugarcentricity” in an essay published in the Liverpool Daily Post on October 30th 2007. Where have those 5 years gone?


Sadly since this picture was taken there is only my dear friend Albert E Sloane alive. Christy, Tommy, Barney & Billy have all passed away but like the project their lives and influence live on.
Below is an LJMU “write up” of the Film’s premiere and launch at Tate Liverpool.


After our website was established I composed a blog on the 2007 launch of our film and much of the material below including the pictures was used then. Hopefully with the alterations and adjustments I’ve made it will have much more resonance tonight on our 5th anniversary! So here we go:

Our film was funded by the Heritage Lottery and it explores how Henry Tate became Britain’s Rockefeller not with oil but white gold! It also documents how after 109 years of refining in the Lane, and the devastation of the Vauxhall community just north of the city centre, the phoenix eventually rose from the ashes in the guise of the Eldonian Housing Cooperative! This model of community-led sustainable urban regeneration received the accolade of a World Habitat Award in 2003. When I mentioned the award to Albert just before introducing him to the main man behind the Eldonian project, Tony McGann, he retorted bitterly that a WORLD UNINHABITED AWARD would have been more fitting in describing the HOLE that Tate & Lyle had left in the Vauxhall Community in 1981 with the closure of Henry Tate’s mother plant.

Our film also captured footage of the historic 25th anniversary re-union of the Tate pensioners at the Eldonian Village in April 2006 and set the scene for our recurring theme of LOVE LANE LIVES LIVE ON. So five years ago today there were three very excited but very anxious sugar project people just hoping that everything would go right on the night! It did just fine.

I’d never thought at the start of the new millennium that I’d be involved in the scripting, “making” and celebrating of a film, about SUGAR! I’d witnessed the junking of the Tates Christmas Party in 1999 and was determined to try to secure another reunion for the boys and girls from the whitestuff but the film project was only really kick started when we did succeed in 2006 in pulling off that great reunion at the Eldonian Village Hall. The success of that and the revived enthusiasm for something more permanent than a final one off reunion led on to the Heritage Lottery bid and the film was very much a bye product of that.

I was an enthusiastic amateur but I had great “professional” help and advice from young film maker Leon Seth and he and Maggy Skilling one of my former students at LJMU were the main movers in the Summer of 2007 behind our success in meeting pressing deadlines. We showed the film at a Big History show in St Georges Hall in September and then fine tuned it for its premiere at the Tate late October.  Both turned out to be wonderful events but clearly the publicity we had for the Tate was special.

That cold evening drinks of fermented sugar in solution were quaffed back by everyone it seemed. I was the exception because I had to introduce the film and clearly did not want to be seen as under the influence of the fermented stuff. I just ratcheted up my anxieties and sobriety but throughout I thought this is the Tate and what a supremely ironic venue it is for a film focussed on Henry Tate’s mother plant in the former SUGARLAND just north of the city centre. The setting of a Modern art gallery on the Albert Dock named after Henry the 19th century sugar baron, and well stocked on the night with wine and nibbles and the “craic” of over 100 people was ideal for the launch of our film. 

Belatedly I discovered that the only way to relax a little before the “curtain went up” was to go to the back of the building and look out over the historic and world famous River Mersey and see the flickering lights from Birkenhead illuminate the river where the great ships had made passage. I thought about another Henry, a mid 20th century seaman who was my dad and my wonderful mum Julia and what they would have thought if they’d lived to have been “at ar Ronnie’s opening film night”! My dad had lived in Burlington Street in the heart of the Love Lane community and had gone to school at Our Lady’s Eldon Street so there were a couple of circles being completed on OCTOBER 30TH 2007.

Anyway I need not have worried so intensely because as the pictures below show it was a great night and LOVE LANE LIVES LIVE ON.

That’s Christy examining our colourful Love Lane Lives Poster


That’s ar sugar gang with Jimmy Mc

Our talented young film director, Leon Seth


  Dave McGowan and Bill

There’s Jim at 97 years young with his son and daughter in law


Hey my name is Jim Smith. I’m now102. Can anyone tell me how I will get back to the future? I’ve heard a rumour that my firm MacFies is going to be taken over by Tate & Lyle and that they will be taken over by an American Refining Company sometime in the next millennium!


Albert and Christy.


The guys testing the sugar in solution with Bill supervising!


Amy Trego and smiling on her right is Whiz kid Warren Keith who subsequently set this web site up


Leon and Jimmy with Maggie and Andy in the background.
*** What a crackin’ photograph of Jim driving a MacFie’s wagon. Jim started off at McFies with horses and this picture has to be Jim in his early to late 20s because it was not until 1938 that Tate & Lyle bought “the oldest of the British refineries, Macfie and Sons of Liverpool from United Molasses”. Of course not only have Tate & Lyle sold off their sugar business but United Molasses too. Tate & Lyle Sugars is de facto the American Refining Company that is dominated by Florida Crystals Corp which in turn is dominated by Alfy and Pepi Fanjul. I would never have predicted that in 2007 although I knew about the Fanjuls when they acquired Domino Sugar from Tate & Lyle back in 2003. How many people now know about Tate & Lyle Sugars really being a subsidiary of two Cuban American sugar barons?


Eileen O’Brien one of the stars of our film sagely advised that the children in the area needed to know all about this sugar story and about their former Sugarland community to the north of the City Centre. The Eldonian Village which Eileen lives in symbolises re-birth for the community that had been devastated by the closure in 1981, the flight of the phoenix. Tony McGann expressed this with some passion at the very end of our film:

“I don’t think the Tate & Lyle story should ever be forgotten. I think the project that you’re runnin’ now, I think it’s essential before there’s nobody left to tell it. I think it’s very important to the children in school to learn about Tate & Lyle and the story of sugar and obviously keep the name goin’ because again it was very, very important to this area, a fact that should never be forgotten, and obviously involving the children and giving them the full knowledge of what Tate & Lyle was about, I think it’s a wonderful idea. I think it is a wonderful project. But I think it is really essential that it is told before there’s nobody left to tell it.”

We had a wonderful project with Trinity Primary School in 2008 the Capital of Culture Year for Liverpool and below you can see a great picture of some of the children involved.

Trinity kids in August 2008

We also had a wonderful Sugar week at Hillside Secondary School in September 2009.