The Dinner Party: Of Time And Place celebrates Liverpool as the home of a distinctive art practice from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. Sam Walsh’s 1980 painting serves as the fulcrum around which to examine an intriguing part of this world via five of its guests: the painters Arthur Ballard, Maurice Cockrill, Adrian Henri, Don McKinlay and Walsh himself.


When Walsh first arrived in Liverpool in 1960, the fine art world in the city revolved around the bohemian area of Liverpool 8: the streets and houses making up the city part of Toxteth. These five artists were a key part of this scene, where practice and inspiration encompassed poetry, music and art.


Socialising predominantly centred on local pubs Ye Cracke, The Philharmonic and O'Connors, coffee bars like Streates, and wine bars like the Everyman and later Streets. Consequently, this is an exhibition soaked in the close links between these artists: rooted in informal interviews with those who were there, who knew and socialized with the artists, and whose stories and artworks helped shape this tale.


The artists are variously connected via their employment at the Liverpool College of Art, their exhibiting histories with the now sadly defunct Liverpool Academy, at the Walker Art Gallery and the Bluecoat Gallery, via the houses, streets and friends they shared as residents of Liverpool 8, and through their paintings, which depict both their artistic interests as well as each other.


The exhibition spans the heady years of optimism the 1960s, through to the troubled 1970s and ultimate decline in the 1980s. The curatorial approach has resulted in a show encompassing a wide variety of artistic subjects, alongside personal memories collected from those connected to the artists.


While The Dinner Party represents a fictional soiree, this exhibition presents elements of the very real world inhabited by these five painters in their adopted city of dreams. It does not seek to claim that it is an exhaustive study of the city’s art scene during this period, rather that the city’s artistic output in those years is worth a timely revisit.