Sandra Sandland then described how the Prefab Project had its origins in a school reunion. Joseph Williams School had been built in 1950, and Belle Vale County Primary in 1952. Sandra had moved from Joseph Williams to Belle Vale when the new school was built - and in 2002 met up with some of her contemporaries at a 50th anniversary reunion. Six months later a group of them met up again - with Mr Heady, a former teacher - at the Bear & Staff in Gateacre. They looked for information on the prefabs in the City Council records, but there wasn't very much available. So it was decided that 'we must do something' - otherwise a piece of history would be lost. By January 2005 Sandra was in contact with Celia Kelly - manager of the Drop-in Centre at the Lee Valley Millennium Centre - and on 22nd April 2005 the first public meeting was held. It was a great success - 'standing room only' with 40 to 50 people present - and in December 2006 their first book was published. Altogether about 150 former residents have been in touch, including some now living in Australia and Canada.
Sandra explained that the prefabs were allocated on the basis of need - each had two bedrooms, so couples 'needed to have a baby' to qualify. Once they had three children, they were generally offered a house instead. In the end, only 160,000 had been built in Britain altogether. The last one in Belle Vale was demolished in 1970.
A few days after the first meeting, Sandra received an email about a Reminiscence Conference, to be held on 13th May at the Maritime Museum in Liverpool. As a result, the group got involved in the Four Corners Project and also the Heroes Project (for which they nominated Mr Squires who had become President of the Rose Society). The group continued to meet monthly, and obtained funding both from the Active Ageing Project and the Lee Valley Community Chest.
Sandra said that 1,000 copies of the book had been printed, 500 of these having been left with the publisher and the remainder having been taken by the group for distribution and sale. The profit will be ploughed back into future ventures of the Belle Vale Prefab Project. Another book - containing the leftovers from the first - is now 'in waiting'.
Question and Answer session:
Q. Has anyone got a photo of the Co-op? (This was a building of standard co-op design, just under the railway bridge in Belle Vale Road).
Q. Has the Project inspired other prefab residents (e.g. Long Lane in Garston) to do something similar?
A. We've not yet had a chance to promote the book throughout Liverpool.
Q. Who was responsible for maintenance of the prefabs?
A. This was shared between the residents and the Corporation. They were generally 'low maintenance' - though the privet hedges needed trimming.
A member of the audience then read out former prefab resident Sir Terry Leahy's tribute to Tony McCann, who had been his teacher at age 10 at Our Lady of the Assumption School.
Sandra concluded by inviting anyone interested to come along to future meetings of the Project, which take place on the last Thursday of each month at the Lee Valley Millennium Centre.