Search
Search type

The John Rylands Research Institute

Research forum

Find out how the exceptional collections of the John Rylands Library are shaping research, in this monthly series of informal lunchtime talks.

From the 1940's blitz to late antique Egypt and Lakeland poets the Institute gives you the opportunity to get up close to the discoveries researchers have made, and the truths they’ve picked apart, with 30 minutes of short talks from senior and junior scholars and Library staff, followed by 30 minutes of discussion.

The Research Forum takes place in the Christie Room at the John Rylands Library, from 12pm to 1pm. Entry is free and open to all - just turn up on the day.

Upcoming talks

Join us for the following discussions: 

7 February

Jeff Nuttall (1933-2044): Prankster in the Underground

The archive of Lancashire born Jeff Nuttall is the source of John Rylands Library’s current, major exhibition, ‘Off Beat’, which showcases Nuttall’s work and correspondence with many of the leading Beat Generation and Underground poets, artists and writers of the 1960s and 70s. Although a multi-talented and creatively ground-breaking figure, Nuttall has been largely overlooked since his death in 2004. Committed to the avant-garde, he wrote poetry, fiction and socio-cultural criticism, painted, sculpted, played jazz cornet, and devised performance art throughout his life. Nuttall and the international network of counterculture talents he connected with are explored in the exhibition. Janette Martin, who curates his archive will give an overview of the collection and its great research potential. Jay Jeff Jones, co-curator of ‘Off Beat’, writer, editor and friend of Nuttall, will provide some insight to the man himself and exactly what the underground was, and why it mattered.

Dr Janette Martin, Archivist/Historian, University of Manchester and Jay Jeff Jones, Writer/Editor/Poet

7 March

'Norman Nicholson - A Regional Poet?'

The Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson (1914-1987) was, perhaps rather dismissively, described in his Times obituary as ‘the most gifted English Christian provincial poet of his century’. The run of adjectives which qualify the term ‘gifted’ here seem intended to limit both the importance and the interest of his oeuvre. Yet Nicholson was far more than simply a provincial or regional poet. The current revival of interest in his work is centred on his importance as a poet and writer of place and environment, a forerunner in many respects of today’s eco-poetic movement. In his own time, particularly in the late 40s and throughout the 1950s, Nicholson’s work was highly respected, garnering not only many awards and prizes, but also the interest of an international audience. This talk looks at the evidence for Nicholson’s reception in the non-Anglophone world, as preserved in the John Rylands Library archive.

Dr Antoinette Fawcett, John Rylands Research Institute Visiting Research Fellow

4 April

The Progressive Verse of Dawson Jackson and ASJ Tessimond

John Tessimond and Dawson Jackson are poets whose work complicates the popular understanding of the 1930s and 1940s as a nadir for British poetry. Research of key source material in the Dawson Jackson Papers at the John Rylands will inform this talk's discussion of the marginalisation of these poets from their contemporary literary scene and their omission from the critical narrative of the poetry of the period. Despite this lack of critical attention, Jackson and Tessimond's compelling explorations of radical and ecological concerns ensure that their poetry speaks to modern audiences. This talk will consider the ways in which their roles as literary outliers enable Jackson and Tessimond to offer unique perspectives on the social function of poetry during a period of crisis in Britain.

Imogen Durant, PhD Student, John Rylands Research Institute

2 May

'Unlocking the Archive of Anvil Press'

Anvil Press was founded in 1968 by Peter Jay, who remained its director until his retirement from publishing in 2015. With a focus on modern poetry in English and poetry in translation from all periods, Jay built up a prestigious list of international significance, featuring work by writers as diverse as celebrated translator Michael Hamburger, Chinese dissident poet Bei Dao, Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll, current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and many others.

Although 2015 saw the end of Anvil Press as a distinct operation, it also marked a new beginning: Anvil’s list was taken on by Manchester-based Carcanet Press to form what has been hailed as a ‘Northern world-poetry powerhouse’. In 2016, the Library acquired the later part of the Anvil Archive – covering the last thirty years – and this now lives alongside the archive of Carcanet Press. The presses have overlapping histories, and this talk will provide an introduction to the Anvil Archive, which is in the process of being listed, and explore some of the synergies between this and the archive of Carcanet Press. 

Fran Baker, Archivist, University of Manchester Library and Dr Florence Impens, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, John Rylands Research Institute