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The John Rylands Research Institute

The Dave Cunliffe Archive and the counterculture: The cultural impact of Poetmeat, Global Tapestry and the BB Books Small Press

Douglas Field, English, American Studies and Creative Writing

Dave Cunliffe as a young man, Dave Cunliffe Collection, The University of Manchester Library. Photographer unknown.
Dave Cunliffe as a young man, Dave Cunliffe Collection, The University of Manchester Library. Photographer unknown.

Doug’s project uses the recently acquired Dave Cunliffe archive to map the literary impact of British small press activity and to explore how its networks paved the way for a UK counterculture later in the sixties. Of particular importance is Cunliffe’s editorship of BB Books with Tina Morris. An examination of Morris’s role will provide a unique female perspective of that era. Cunliffe’s unusual focus on US verse and links made with many American writers and activists on the cusp of the early underground also creates opportunities for new trans-Atlantic studies. 

The project aims to reveal this fascinating collection to the outside world, introducing the public to the achievements of northern, autodidactic, working-class writers while broadening the academic understanding of their place within the literary avant-garde and early counterculture. Although the contribution of Morris and Cunliffe is credited within major works on the period  (Nuttall’s Bomb Culture, Wolfgang Görtschacher’s Little Magazine Profiles and more recently in Hidden Culture, Forgotten History by Bruce Wilkinson), there has been little exposition on the full BB Books output. By increasing the discoverability of this material, the researchers will contextualise it within the several academic fields to which it is relevant and, perhaps more importantly, also explain to the wider public its cultural significance within the region, across the UK and internationally. 

This project is funded by a JRRI pilot grant and runs from September 2018 – March 2019.