New Exhibition: Local Literary Landscapes

This year sees the exciting launch of the inaugural Liverpool Literary Festival, running 2830 October 2016. To celebrate, a new exhibition at Special Collections & Archives is highlighting the work of those literary figures who have sought inspiration from Liverpool and the surrounding area, particularly local poet Matt Simpson. His newly-acquired archive provides the bedrock for the exhibition and reveals just how much his work was influenced by Liverpool; his verses are full of the city and its people.

Matt Simpson returns to his childhood street

Matt Simpson returns to his childhood street

Simpson (1936-2009) grew up in Bulwer Street, Bootle, where he attended the local grammar school.  He went on to study English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and returned to Liverpool in the 1960s after his marriage to German actress Monika Weydert. He taught in various schools and colleges, including Christ’s College (now Liverpool Hope University). He published many collections of poetry, including some for children, as well as critical essays and monographs. He also undertook a poetry residence in Tasmania, which inspired his collection, Cutting the Clouds Towards (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1998). But it was the city where he grew up and lived most of his life which would be his most enduring inspiration.

SPEC Merseyside Poets I.S615.M23 : Matt Simpson, Making Arrangements (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1982)

SPEC Merseyside Poets I.S615.M23 :
Matt Simpson, Making Arrangements (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1982)

The exhibition also includes impressions of the city recorded in the poems, autobiographies and travel diaries of a host of others, from novelist Daniel Defoe to physicist Oliver Lodge, social reformer Josephine Butler to poet Donald Davie.

The exhibition will run until the end of the year. In 2017 we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mersey Sound, the anthology of poems produced by the ‘Liverpool Poets’ Brian Patten, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri.

Liverpool Heritage Open Month

Who? Find out more about Joseph Mayer, Josephine Butler, John Sampson, Robert Andrew Scott Macfie, Edgar Allison Peers, Janet Gnosspelius, Olaf Stapledon, Eric Frank Russell, Ramsey Campbell, the Liverpool Science Fiction Group, and the University of Liverpool itself.

Where? Find out where they lived and worked in Liverpool.

When? Find out when they arrived in Liverpool and how long they stayed.

What? From Josephine Butler’s jet mourning jewellery to a Dental Students’ Society tie, via an Occupy Senate poster and Eric Frank Russell’s Hugo Award, see the University’s Special Collections and Archives from a new angle.

Who Does She Think She Is?

To celebrate the start of Look/13/Liverpool International Photography Festival, Special Collections & Archives has an exhibition of historic photographs of Liverpool women, under the title Who Does She Think She Is?

image copyright: Marc Provins

image copyright: Marc Provins

Case One: Josephine Butler – The Beauty and the Beer

Images of Josephine Butler (1828-1906), who lived in Liverpool from 1866-1882. Josephine was an educational and social reformer, and a fierce opponent of the double standards of sexual morality in the Victorian era. She shocked her audiences by the contrast between her striking feminine appearance and the subjects she addressed.

Josephine Butler was ambivalent about images of herself, but her image and name still have resonance in Liverpool:

    • in the Anglican Cathedral’s Noble Women Windows
    • in sculptures at the Walker Art Gallery
    • in a suitcase in John King’s 1998 ‘A Case History’ on Hope Street
    • on the label for Liverpool Organic Brewery’s Elderflower Ale!

Case Two: Rathbone family albums – Curtain calls

Victorian photograph albums belonging to the prosperous Rathbone family of Liverpool, renowned philanthropists, politicians and social reformers. The albums are designed to hold carte-de-visite (visiting card) prints of celebrities, and portraits of family and friends, and showcase the Rathbones’ connections in Liverpool society.

The National Media Museum has identified the changing studio props used in these commercial portraits decade-by-decade, following the latest fashions:

1860s – balustrade, column and curtain
1870s – rustic bridge and stile
1880s – hammock, swing and railway carriage
1890s – palm trees, cockatoos (usually stuffed specimens) and bicycles
1900s – the motor car

Case Three: Women at the University – Room at the Top

Photographs of women’s sporting and fundraising events at the University of Liverpool from the 1900s to the 1930s, alongside the 1933 resolution passed by Liverpool University Council requiring female members of staff to resign if they got married.

Early University portrait albums contain pictures of only three women, but 2013 has already seen a notable step forward with the appointment of the University’s first female Professor of Physics, Tara Shears.

images of Liverpool University women students

image copyright: Marc Provins

image copyright: Marc Provins