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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, May 08, 2006
    The stretched-out port

    Finally got to the end of the Shrinking Cities Project: Manchester/Liverpool report, a valuable compilation of various technical, social-scientific and reflective pieces of work on the story of these two interrelated cities of the North. The last chapter was a refresher for me, of Patrick Keiller's Port Statistics, from the book which accompanies (and elucidates) his film Robinson in Space.

    I've blogged before on what he reveals about the port of Liverpool - that although it has physically (and dramatically) shrunk, nevertheless it is 'the major UK port for trade with the eastern seaboard of North America. It has a successful container terminal, imports more grain than any other UK port, handles most of the UK's scrap-metal exports and a lot of oil, and has a new terminal for Powergen's coal imports.'

    What interested me more on this reading was his exploration of how present-day commerce redefines space: how practices which once made our ports great - in size - have been replaced by new ways of working, and especially of transportation. Our docks have shrunk as the cargoes have taken to the roads, and so in a sense you will now find the Port of Liverpool (and all our ports) stretched out and pumping diesel in laybys all across the country...