Speke And The Sea (Liverpool)

Over 7 days of workshops at Western Approaches HQ, Year 6 pupils from primary schools across South Liverpool create a performance piece with acclaimed percussive guitar trio Ex-Easter Island Head, exploring stories from Liverpool’s past, and how those stories are connected to our lives today.

Western Approaches is a unique bunker complex, tucked away in the basement of an office block in Liverpool’s financial district. Despite its unassuming exterior, Western Approaches is arguably one of the most historically significant rooms in Britain.

The Speke and the Sea project explores the social history behind Western Approaches, focusing on the lives of the remarkable people who worked there – notably the young women of the WAAF and WRNS.

Western Approaches’ main purpose was to process the latest intel, interpret and understand it, and use it to map the locations of U-Boats. The staff would then have to make decisions based on this information – factoring in its reliability and its source – before communicating those decisions across the world to troops at sea.

We focus on the critical and discerning nature of this work, and draw parallels with the way in which we learn about heritage and history today. We consider how we remember World War II, and the impact of that memory on the identity of Liverpool. As well as learning about the young women working at Western Approaches – who they were, what they did and why they did it – we also learn from them: their ability to assess the reliability of a source of information. This critical thinking is an increasingly vital skill in an era of social media and ‘fake news’. For the WAAF and WRNS at Western Approaches, this skill made the difference between life or death for thousands of people, every day – and ultimately changed the course of history.

The project also includes a unique trip to Liverpool Central Library and Record Office, for a behind-the-scenes tour, and exciting activities from some of the archivists who look after Liverpool’s many tales, for future generations. While there, participating children are able to explore the stories they have uncovered at Western Approaches, and, at the end of the 7 days, they perform their piece alongside Ex-Easter Island Head, at Liverpool Central Library.