Merseyside, music and culture: cataloguing the Paul Du Noyer archive

The online catalogue for the Paul Du Noyer archive is available online here.

In 2014, the papers of the music journalist and author Paul Du Noyer were deposited with the University of Liverpool archive. As a Graduate Library Assistant, working on these papers is my first experience of cataloguing archival material to accepted international standards.

The collection comprises material from the early 1970s up to 2013, with a heavy focus on the 1970s and 1980s. Almost exclusively, the material here comes from Paul Du Noyer’s professional life, and the journalistic work and related correspondence contained here give an insight into the music scene and music industry of that time. For example, much of the earlier material relates to his tenure as a writer and editor on the New Musical Express (NME) during the paper’s golden age as the voice of Britain’s alternative music scene in the 1980s.

Included in the collection are news cuttings of Du Noyer’s journalistic work for the NME, as well as copies of many of the paper’s rival music newspapers and magazines including Sounds and Melody Maker. A number of fan-made zines, local and national, give a window on to the creative culture of music fans at the time. Correspondence ranges from aspirant letters from bands hoping to make it with a review in the NME, to press releases from established acts and invitations to various gigs.

As a son of Merseyside, Du Noyer has kept a significant amount of research and reference material relating to the local history and culture of Liverpool and its surrounding area. Of course there is material relating to the city’s music scene, music venues like The Picket, and the 2008 Capital of Culture bid, but there are also reproductions of broadside ballads and news cuttings from the 1981 Toxteth riots. The latter have been collected with material about the Southall riots of the same year, covering the apparent connection between those disturbances, Oi! music, and far-right groups.

Liverpool zine Reindeer Times satirising the response to the 1981 riots
Liverpool zine Reindeer Times satirising the response to the 1981 riots

The material is varied not only in content but also in form. An archive may conjure up an image of dusty ledgers and handwritten letters on fragile paper (and we have plenty of these in our collections), but material can in some cases be very recent and come in a variety of media. As well as letters and newspapers, the Du Noyer collection includes vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs, and a fridge magnet. The largest items in the collection are the posters, of which two – one for the punk band Big in Japan, and another for Rock Against Racism’s 1979 tour – are particularly impressive.

I have decided to arrange the archive in eight series based largely on the type of material, for example journalistic work, correspondence, posters and flyers, and audio visual material. However, because the creator of the archive collected folders together which contained a mix of these media, I have quickly discovered that there is no such thing as a perfect arrangement into which every item neatly fits.

Gig flyer featuring Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson Band
Gig flyer featuring Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson Band

One consideration when working out the arrangement is to anticipate possible future accruals and how they might fit in to the structure of the archive. For example we have relatively little material from Paul Du Noyer’s work at Q and Mojo after he left the NME, but if some of this were to be deposited in the future, it could be added to existing subseries of the archive.

The collection will be available for researchers to consult in the future, once the ongoing process of cataloguing the items is complete. It should prove a great resource to students of the history of popular music, and the culture of late 20th century Merseyside. Readers attached to the University’s Institute of Popular Music may be particularly interested. Watch this space for future announcements.

Edd Mustill

Graduate Library Assistant