Tag Archives: Liverpool

All The Year Round

I have begun my latest reading project: to swim my way through the oceans of literature that Mr. Charles Dickens created during his lifetime.

charlie dickens in his syudyI purchased 13 Volumes from Kernaghan Books in Liverpool. I must confess, I started The Pickwick Papers a few weeks ago but struggled a little so decided to try David Copperfield. Instantaneously, the episodic nature had me hooked. I wanted to see how a reader of the day would experience Dickens’ work. So I visited the Liverpool John Moores Special Collections and Archive to take a peep at one of their latest acquisitions, a collection of All The Year Round. (A weekly journal conducted by Charles Dickens, with which is incorporated Household Words. Price 2D)

All the year roundBoldly emblazoned on the cover is a quote from William Shakespeare:

The story of our lives from year to year.

Shakespeare

The periodical has all types of feature for the reader of the day from marital advice:

The earth is full of couples who are made for each other, not only of couples whose destiny it is to love but of those whose destiny it is to hate. For every spider there is created a fly, for every cat a mouse, for every bird a worm, for every innocent bill holder a really innocent bill acceptor and for every picture dealer a picture buyer.

to advertisements for Dickens’ infamous reading performances.

Christmas Carol and Mrs Camp
MR CHARLES DICKENS READINGS
April 18th (1861)
Little Dombey and The Trial from Pickwick
at St. James Hall, Piccadilly

There is a great exposition of social issues of the day:

…sense of the joy and purity of life comes from the children as they dance and sing in the midst of the toiling crowd. But let the millions who toil in England pass before us in one great procession, and we shall find sad companies of eager, undergrown, unwholesome men walking with none but pale, none but pale and weak eyed women and with none but bruised and weary little children, stunted of growth, some even wearing spectacles, all silent as the grave.

CHILDREN OF WORK June 8th 1861.

The celebrated writer’s fiction proved to be an education tool too, a way of informing and instructing the masses. I particularly like the way we can see the development of what are now understood to be classics in the canon of literature:

In No 84 of ATYR to be published on December 1st will be commenced, GREAT EXPECTATIONS A new serial story, to be continued from week to week until completed in about eight months.

In a world where we have access to instantaneous information at our finger tips, it is hard to imagine waiting weekly for the next part of a story in print. The Dickensian reader would not read the tales in one sitting, they evolved over time and were delivered as episodes weekly. To think about in a modern context, take your favourite t.v. programme series, say BREAKING BAD, SHERLOCK (please add appropriate title), now put all of the scripts into one place. That is a hell of a lot of words, copious pages of syntax. The way I am attacking the reading of Charles D is not really how it was intended to be read.

The archive space here in Liverpool is really something special. A place to handle the creative past, to instantaneously transport back to previous literary and cultural times.

LJMU archive is accessible to the general public by appointment 10-4 Monday to Friday. It houses a host of intriguing collections:

  • THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL
  • JOHN MCCREADY ARCHIVE
  • THE ARTHUR DOOLEY ARCHIVE

arthur dooley

  • THE LIDDELL HART COLLECTION OF COSTUME
  • INTERNATIONAL TIMES
  • THE BARRY MILES ARCHIVE
  • ENGLAND’S DREAMING: THE JON SAVAGE ARCHIVE

punk

  • CYBERNETICS, PUNK, FASHION, COUNTERCULTURE, THEATRE, ART, HISTORY.

In keeping with the technological times we live in, there are also a number of resources online. After all, If Charles Dickens were alive today he would be blogging, instructing people from his iPad, laptop or smartphone, for this is the way readership is now acquired. And imagine what Oscar Wilde could do with twitter!

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Digital Detox

Sunday morning and I am now 24 hours into my digital detox. No social media, no e-mail! I am not even allowed to turn on my iPad to type up my scraps of material from the week before.

I have a presentation to make in the University early next week. I know I need to sort the slides, visuals and notes. I aim to get through until Monday morning and map out my session on paper with sketches and rough drafts.

I did contemplate sticking a small microchip or a bar code to my arm, like a Nicorette patch, to help stave off my digital cravings.

digital detox

Stop the need to view a TED talk or play music through Spotify. I‘ve even got my old long player vinyl records, that I inherited from my parents, out of the loft. The scratching sounds of Marc Bolan’s Tyrannosaurus Rex, to help me with my electronic fast.

I had an action planned day, scheduled on Saturday with Sophie, my ten-year old niece. Drama class at eleven for her, giving me an hour to work on my new piece of writing PUPPET.

Lunch in Chinatown, followed by the new exhibition at The Bluecoat (ironically, focusing on how artists are questioning the impact of digital technology on humans), then to the Planetarium at the Museum for a show on the Winter Sky at night.

The works on display at The Bluecoat were extremely interesting.

The stand out piece for me had to be by Marilene Oliver. The artist has reconstructed her mother and father through stacked screen printed sections taken from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. The sculpture is like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. It has a strange, other worldly presence that is captivating and also quite unnerving.

Marilene_Oliver__Family_Portrait__Self-Portrait___Sophie__2002__02

By chance, whilst at The Bluecoat, we stumbled upon an open day for the printing studio, The Juniper Press. A newly formed letter-press studio equipped with traditional type and presses for the use of artists and designers. The room was brimming full of people, with lively demonstrations taking place. The space smelt of raw oil based ink and crisp sharp printed pages, metal prints hot off the press – literally.

Juniper_Press_Stamps_THUMB

Letter-press printing has been in existence for over 500 years. There is currently a revival of this lost art taking place, perhaps people yearn for something more practical. The printmakers told me that there is a real resurgence of interest and use in contemporary art and design.

My niece had the opportunity to work a Victorian Anvil Press and see exactly how the letters were composed and physically pressed on to the paper. A process that requires complete accuracy and attention to detail. With no room for too much error, as paper, print and resources were costly.

Now in these more austere times, we can learn a lot from this way of working, for it’s so easy to just press the mouse and print off a document, typos and all. The art of taking time and care to compose the structure of a piece of writing is something that can often be omitted. It is so easy to rattle off an e-mail and put it out there without having the time to think. I am an advocate of the ‘think before you click’ philosophy.

So for half an hour in the studio I was transported away from this modern life. I lost myself in the pleasures of print making. It was fantastic for my niece to see the mechanics of the process and understand the origins of the word font.

I must confess I am now a converted lover of letter-press printing. Leaving the studio, I purchased a book mark with a quote emblazoned on it from Benjamin Franklin,

Give me twenty-six SOLDIERS OF LEAD and I will conquer the world.

In a week that has seen the loss of the admirable activist, Tony Benn, a man of true values, this did bring a smile to my face.

tony benn

Back to my writing studio and the digital detox.

That night, in keeping with the Victorian theme, I started my next reading project. To get through the entirety of Charles Dickens’ back catalogue. I’ve recently purchased a superb collection from Kernaghan Books. As you can see, this may take me some time.

Dickens books

I encourage a weekly daily digital detox, it’s cleared out the electronic clutter in my mind.

Now to my inbox.

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William Roscoe, thank you!

On 8th March I did raise a glass for Mr. William R, Liverpool’s Renaissance man. A model citizen, a man of integrity, an authentic role model. Someone I wholeheartedly admire.

original botanic garden plans

Traditionally, on someone’s birthday, a gift is purchased to celebrate the occasion, to herald another year gone by. This year, I would like to do the reverse. To highlight the gifts that William Roscoe gave to his homestead, the City of Liverpool, during the course of his lifetime.

Long before Roald Dahl wrote The BFG for his granddaughter Sophie, in 1802 Roscoe wrote The Butterfly’s Ball and The Grasshopper’s Feast for his son, Robert. King George III liked it so much, he had the poem set to music.

butterfly ball

He was behind the creation of The Botanic Gardens. In 1797, he and a group of friends created a scholars’ library, the Liverpool Athenaeum. The club still houses a collection of Roscoe’s books.

athenaeum

Roscoe founded an Institute for Mechanics and Apprentices, which has today evolved into the thriving Liverpool John Moores University. Roscoe had the courage to denounce the African slave trade in his native town where, at that time, a significant amount of the wealth came from slavery.

What was in the local press on 8th March? Absolutely nothing! I affectionately call the local rag ‘The Misery Gazette’, as if it is not warning about imminent drug crimes or other news of negativity, then it’s reporting news stories about restaurants that were closed down for health reasons three years ago. It is something when the only interesting or even joyous part of a newspaper is its obituary section!

What do I do to pay homage to the man’s day of birth? I take a simple bunch of flowers, this year white roses, and I leave it at his modest memorial sandwiched next to a Tesco Express. As there are a minimum of 800 Tesco’s in the city centre, I will have to be a little bit more specific.

william roscoe burial

It is on Mount Pleasant and I say modest, because this is exactly what Roscoe would have wanted. Amongst the sprawling masses of Liverpool. In the very hub. Besides, he doesn’t really need an ostentatious memorial. The essence of his greatness lies in the achievements that are all around in the Pool of Life.

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Viva Frida!

I like to read and write in bed. A comfortable mattress can at times be equally as productive as a sturdy desk. A pad perched up on my knees, drafting, crafting. My mantra has always been: graft equals craft.

One of my idols, Frida Kahlo, used her bedroom – sometimes out of necessity. There she would sketch and paint images that came out of her dreamscape. A cocktail of her fear and inner thoughts. Breton famously  described the work of Frida as

a ribbon around a bomb.

She was used to suffering from early age when she contracted polio and then at 18 was injured in a horrific bus accident, where she sustained injuries that affected her throughout her lifetime. Her personal life was turbulent and her relationship with soul mate Diego Riveria was a tempestuous one. The creative couple was known as ‘the elephant and the dove’, a Beauty and the Beast-like pairing.

Her entire catalogue of work is a testament to my personal belief that art has a transformative element; turning negativity into something positive. Be it a writing pad, a canvas, a block of wood or clay, an artist’s role is to take experience, push it, question it and put it out there. Her self-portraiture is painted with a pallet of wit, raw honesty, brutality, pain, cruelty, passion and empowerment. Or as she simply put it,

I paint my reality.

This inspiring lady had a resilience that pumped through her blood.

Five months after her accident she posed in a family photograph, wearing a grey suit, a practical element to disguise her injuries. A controversial, provocative dandy, taking centre stage in the composition captured by her photographer father, Guillerno. Almost like the son he never had.

The artist used her own body as a canvas, painting the massive plaster cast that bound her torso during her recovery from the accident. She later took on the Mexican dress of long skirts, heavy jewellery, fringed shawls and a crown.

fulang chang and I

FULANG, CHANG and I (1937), illustrates Kahlo at the height of her beauty, an image from the sensual world.

Kalho Frida - A few small nips passionately in love - 1935

A FEW LITTLE PRICKS (1935), inspired by a morbid newspaper report, she used this story to distance herself from the real life trauma of the recent betrayal of Diego sleeping with her sister Cristina. The victim in the composition has her sister’s features and the man with the knife resembles Diego, while Frida herself imagined that she herself had commits the murder.

little girl with a death mask

LITTLE GIRL WITH A DEATH MASK (1938), inspired by the native style of popular Mexican art.  A person clad in a traditional white death mask, holds a sunflower (tagete) traditionally used during the day of the dead, celebrated on the second of November. The flower is meant to light the path for the souls of the dead as they make their way back to their ancestors. On the floor there is a jaguar mask in papier mache, another ritual accompaniment at this annual festival.

the-wounded-deer-1946

THE WOUNDED DEER (THE LITTLE DEER) 1946, in this image Kahlo places her own visage on the animal and it conveys an expression of nobility, an air of dignity, in the crown of antlers. The deer has been pierced with nine arrows, a slow kill to symbolise the emotional pain of Diego’s repeated infidelity.

I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best.

She did not solely use the medium of canvas painting; her diaries also contain sketches, reflections, watercolours, lyrics and poems. A candid, reflection on her personal creative process, her childhood, political sensibilities and obsession with Diego. The diary spans from 1944-54 and is a series of random memories and thoughts with no attention to chronology. The manuscript is a turbulent bag of emotions.

Aztec Rebirth

Diego beginning

Diego constructor

Diego my baby

Diego my boyfriend

Diego my painter

Diego my lover

Diego my husband

Diego my friend

Diego my mother

Diego my father

Diego my son

Diego= me=

Diego Universe

Diversity in unity

Why do I call him My

Diego? He never was

Nor ever will be mine

He belongs to himself

The legacy left behind by Frida Kahlo is a collection of paradox, she is both victim and heroine, suffering and successful, but above all human. Essentially painting her own life.

VIVA Frida!

viva frida

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Their Spirits Gone Before Them

A provoking piece of art has sailed into the International Slavery Museum in the Port of Liverpool. The mesmerising installation, ‘Their Spirits Gone Before Them’ is a five metre-long cottonwood canoe with 1,357 resin figures. Each figure represents the loss of a life to the slave trade.

Resilience resonates from the canoe and the stoic figures represent universal traits that underpin all humankind.

It’s not about ropes, chains or torture but rather, it is a sculpture that communicates transcendence, reverence, strength and unity,

cites the artist, Laura Facey.

This unsettling installation is part of Their Spirits, an exhibition showcasing the portfolio of the acclaimed Jamaican craftswoman and running until 7th September 2014.

redemption-song-monument-in-emancipation-park-in-kingston-jamaica-1600x1066

In conversation, Facey reveals the story behind the creation,

The inspiration for Their Spirits Gone Before Them has a bit of history. The piece began with the Redemption Song Monument, which I was commissioned to do by the Government of Jamaica. I won a blind competition and in 2003 that piece was unveiled at the ceremonial entrance to the Emancipation Park in Kingston in Jamaica.

And after that piece was unveiled the Government asked me to make miniature souvenirs pieces of the monument, which I duly set about doing. And partway through that project I became rather frustrated, but then I started to see these miniatures in a cotton wood canoe. We have these wonderful cotton wood canoes that fishermen paddle around the island and I just kept seeing these miniatures in the canoe and I went, though I had a little bit of a struggle, how can I take my healed figures and make them… put them back into a slave canoe.

And then my husband was reading a book called The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-Thompson and he just read a little passage, which said “though the slaves were in the valley of the ship their spirits had gone before them into the Blue Mountains” and that was my permission. You know I realised of course we are eternal and that’s what I believe and so I set off looking for a canoe. And as soon as I found it I installed 1,357 of the miniatures into the canoe.

So I took these exact Redemption Song figures and put them in the canoe and made them face each other because I’m carrying the same message as the Redemption Song into the canoe. The Redemption Song piece is prayerful in its essence or I think of it as such: two people in communion with the divine and also with themselves.

My piece is, though it’s initially as you look at it, it is about slavery but it’s, when you look closer and you see that the people are actually whole, the little figures in the canoe are whole and full and you know in a divine sort of feeling space, they are proud, they have come through it, above it and that’s what’s important. We touch on the past but we need to heal the patterns of the past, break from the past.

Their Spirits Gone Before Them was awarded the UNESCO Slave Route Project logo in 2013.

their spirits gone before them faces

The artist hopes that the vessel will continue on its journey to other destinations, particularly those ports that were directly involved with slavery.

I would love people to take away hope, change, that we can change our lives that we can heal, that we are in fact healing and the fact that the canoe is even being shown here is a statement about that.

their spirits gone before them

It’s a poignant reminder that, of all the many thousands who sailed to and from the Liverpool Docks, not all did so willingly.

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Read, Think, Grow

With tales of a worldwide trek that ended in Liverpool, let John Maguire take you on a shortcut to literary treasure, in the latest of our series on favourite bookstores.

LIVERPOOL PRESENT DAY

Winter sun splashes off the wet cobblestones of the courtyard. There appears to be a brief respite from the almost biblical rains that have attempted to sink the United Kingdom. The rays of light ricochet haphazardly and illuminate the majestic piece of architecture ahead of me: The Bluecoat, a Grade 1 listed building and the oldest in the centre of Liverpool.

bluecoat modern

Originally a school founded by Reverend Robert Styth, Rector of Liverpool, and sea-captain Bryan Blundell in 1777, the building became an Arts School in 1907 and has been recognised as an international creative hub ever since.

bluecoat

Yoko Ono notably appeared in 1967 and other cultural dignitaries have visited, including the late Doris Lessing and Michael Nyman.

yoko

BACK STORY/FLASHBACK TO TWENTY YEARS AGO

It was to The Bluecoat that I used to venture on a Saturday afternoon, to buy books from the little stall that, sadly, is no longer there. The shop was like the Tardis, it seemed to be bigger on the inside. Here I was introduced to Hubert Selby Jr, Ibsen, Margaret Atwood, Burroughs and Bukowski. I also started a collection of Taschen Art books, drowning my eyes in Barbara Hepworth, Basquiat and Geiger, to name but a few.

2008

Alas, after the refurbishment of the Bluecoat in 2008, I felt that the place  lost something of its charm. The interior of the ground floor was now somewhat surgical. The back yard had had a secret garden feel to it, but now looked a little too contrived. I even used to like the vagabonds who harassed you. What’s a city without a few eccentrics?

Yet the restaurant upstairs with its battered leather couches, school tables and chairs hinted at the retro Bluecoat.

CUT TO PRESENT DAY

However on this particular day in February, I was refreshingly taken aback by a new book store that appeared in the courtyard. Tripping up the steps to Kernaghan Books, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the door. Immediately, it was like being transported to an old Club, like The Athenaeum, or one you would expect to find Phileas Fogg residing in.

kernaghan books

The proprietors – husband and wife team, Bryan and Alwyn Kernaghan – gave a friendly nod, and when prompted by a question they sprang into life. Welcoming like old friends, they answered queries, made recommendations and offered anecdotes. The learned couple serve to help you navigate your way through the sea of literature.

How exactly did this book store find its way to Liverpool?

The bookstore’s actual evolution is an epic tale in its own right, as Bryan Kernaghan told me,

A gap year in the 70s, long before the term was contrived, was never intended to lead to opening a bookstore. The offer to work as an ‘Antiquarian Bibliomite’ (old bookseller’s assistant to you and me) just seemed the most quirky of seven offers to a Belfast school-leaver in what must have been a plentiful jobs market.

Periods of travel and working abroad were further punctuated by spells in amongst many rooms of dusty but fast-moving tomes. Only after a few years’ inimitable work in the Himalayas did we come back to the UK wondering what we might do next. Rather than join at the bottom of a larger London company we were persuaded to launch in at the top of our own start-up old and rare book company.

We were invited to open a gallery/bookshop together with artist Tony Klitz and his wife in Southport. It was seen as an experiment which might last six months, possibly two years. Then (so the thinking went) we’d be off again to exotic parts. That lasted over 27 years before we eventually made it to the city of Liverpool, the business following an earlier move of home. So in short, not so much a decision – more a stumbling into it.

I asked, as I often ask book lovers, if you could go back in time and meet a deceased author, who would it be and why?

Not far back in time. Seamus Heaney died too soon, having tried too hard for others. He spanned my adult life in the island of my birth through times of flux. He was a consistent, perceptive and sensitive observer on a global scale, viewing through the intimate soil of Ireland. His Beowulf is stunning. A day’s walk with him on the north coast of Ireland would be epic.

With the monumental increase in fresh technologies such as Kindle, e-books and the like, I wondered how he could foresee the future of the common bookstore and the book industry?

Pared back hopefully from the massive over-production of the last four decades. e-formats hopefully will cause publishers to focus on the real virtues and values of a printed book, incorporating creative elements which genuinely please the new, emerging tactile market.

To be completely honest, I personally would struggle to hand over some of the literary treats in this bookstore. I wondered if there had been a book that had been difficult to part with.

Joyce; Ulysses – 1st edition, Shakespeare and Co, Paris 1922. We had it briefly as part of a Joyce collection which ended up in the right place just before the Joyce market went stratospheric. Would like to have it in my hand now – an unwieldy flimsy paperback, but sheer genius with a turbulent publication back story.

Another copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale 1st edition would be nice to see come in. We bought one from a customer who’d found it for 25 pence. He went for a holiday of a lifetime on the proceeds!

I urge book lovers to discover this rainforest of the written world. An oasis of calm in the cosmopolitan city of Liverpool. And the mantra to chant at this temple of Literature is read.think.grow

What I bought:

13 x leather-bound Charles Dickens’ Collected Works

1 x vintage pulp edition of Mildred Pierce by James M Cain

mildred pierce

1 x vintage edition of Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas.

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A year in books – John Maguire

My book shelves are like a finely pruned tree, books are added and it can at times get unruly, some are given away, some stay. In 2013 I have seen several new beautiful blossoms appear and a few titles that have gone straight into the compost.

stack-of-books

I started the year with Stephen King’s ON WRITING, given to me by a gifted local play writer, Paul Williams. An honest and candid insight into the craft of writing and the demons that nearly destroyed King’s talent, till creativity helped to decimate them and turn negative experience into the positive.

I enjoyed Stephen Spender’s THE TEMPLE, which reminded me of Goodbye Berlin. Alan Hollinghurst’s THE SWIMMING POOL LIBRARY was a fantastic exploration of human character, yet I felt the water started to become shallow towards the end of the story and my interest waned.

I read the WORLD FILM LOCATIONS: LIVERPOOL, purely from a narcissistic angle, as I had contributed three pieces on films shot in the  Pool of Life, The Fruit Machine, In the Name of the Father and Dancin’ thru the Dark.

I spent four months of the year – April, May, June and July – working on my play PORN0VISION which was staged at the Lantern Liverpool. This meant I kept away from fiction and consumed solely SIGHT AND SOUND and the newspapers.

Stephen Leather’s NIGHTMARE reignited my taste for pulp horror in August.

THE MARRIED MAN by Edmund White introduced me to this writer and I developed a hunger for his work, taking in HOTEL DU DREAM, another work of fiction, then the factual GENET, a biography of the playwright and then THE FLANEUR, a wandering around Paris, which made me yearn to re-visit the City of Light and lose myself in its sophisticated decadence and Bohemianism.

KEEPING FAITH by Toni Piccoult raised some interesting questions about religion, yet didn’t offer any attempts of explanation, it failed to keep my faith.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS  by Erin Morgenstern simply a magical spectacular, a feast for the imagination.

As Autumn turned to Winter, my need for tales of terror developed, starting with THE HOUSE OF SMALL SHADOWS by Adam Nevill,  tapping into my innate fear of puppets.

A tapas of terror was provided with Susan Hill’s DOLLY, THE MAN IN THE PICTURE and THE SMALL HAND.

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ Autobiography was titillation with a capital T, part National Enquirer, part poetic, an  insight into the warts and all life of the American scribe.

ABSOLUTE BEGINNER Patsy Kensit’s self-penned offering on her life was four hours  of my life I will not ever get back. But my passion for  her disco hit I’M NOT SCARED, means all is forgiven.

In stark contrast, APRIL ASHLEY’S ODYSSEY was inspiring and captivating, even with all the name dropping.

Patti Smith’s JUST KIDS, about her life with Robert Mapplethorpe in NYC during the Seventies, is possibly THE best biography I have read………all glamour and damage, seduction in piss elegance!

Gave into the word of mouth hype and read John Williams’ STONER, a beautiful observation of the human soul, an Everyman tale that actually made me cry on the train at the end pages. Craven Arms on the Cardiff line will always be etched in my memory box now.

Now in beginnings of 2014, I have nearly finished P.L. Travers’ MARY POPPINS, surreal little tales from the Nursery, it has also provided me with a new mantra to get organised in the year ahead, ‘SPIT SPOT’.

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Literary treasure that packs a Punch

Literary pirate John Maguire hunts for a treasure trove in Liverpool’s academic archives.

Situated in the middle of Liverpool, nestled away in the Aldham Roberts Library is a literary pirate’s version of buried treasure. Amongst the many precious documents, there is  the Willy Russell Archive, the Everyman Theatre Archive, England’s Dreaming Punk Archive and now a back catalogue of Victorian periodicals and most notably PUNCH.

Cover1

The esteemed magazine of satire, humour and wit, ran from 1841-2002. P.G Wodehouse and Sir John Betjeman are just two of the greats that showcased work in this publication.

An accompanying exhibition explores PUNCH and the evolution of comic journalism rooted in this periodical (principally focusing on the period between 1820 and 1850). The very term cartoon stems from this renowned British Institution.

Cover2

What is striking in the exhibits on display is the attention to detail in the periodicals. Now, in an age of technological advances, it is quite humbling to see the level of expertise and pure craft illustrated in these historical papers. The work was also produced to an extremely tight schedule. Today, we can send out so many emails and deliver presentations that are all-singing and dancing with multiple effects, but how many of us can write a basic letter in a font that is from our own hands.

Cover3

The Exhibition itself consists of four cabinets of artefacts and twelve A1 posters reproducing the front covers of early magazines such as The Puppet Show and the Pickwick Songster. The pieces demonstrate the development of a very particular jocose and amusing style.

The organisers commented,

Punch was for long a household name, found on many a coffee table and in dentists’ and doctors’ waiting rooms across Britain. Its origins in comic journalism from the 1820s and 1830s are less well-known, and this exhibition seeks to situate the development of Punch within the history of periodicals. Showing earlier examples of comic periodicals that influenced Punch offers a very different and informative perspective on the magazine.

The catalogue is being published online as well as in printed form in order to make the exhibition internationally available to the widest possible range of readers.

The Exhibition is open until 20 December 2013.

Organisers Photo

The exhibition has been organised by Brian Maidment, Professor of the History of Print at LJMU, in collaboration with Valerie Stevenson, Head of Academic Services, Library Services, and Dr Clare Horrocks from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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The Charming Depravity of Tennessee Williams

North and South meet as ten minutes hate‘s guest writer John Maguire considers Tennessee Williams.

The autobiography of Thomas Lanier Williams, otherwise known as Tennessee, is almost written in his own blood, chronicling his creative and personal journey. He did not just make emotional, thought-provoking and entertaining drama, he lived it.

He wrote some of the most iconic 20th Century pieces of theatre, among them The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Rose Tattoo.

Work!!the loveliest of all four letter words, surpassing even the importance of love most times.

Flirtatious, tragic, witty, annoying, all adjectives that can be applied to his character, Blanche DuBois, from the brutally raw triumph, A Streetcar Named Desire. Equally though, these very terms can also be applied to the late Tennessee, the very creator of this tragic heroine.

Behind every monster there is a Dr. Frankenstein working on the creation’s wiring, circuitry and emotive feeling. If  we are totally honest, we all have a little bit of Blanche in us, deep in the recesses of the human soul, there is that vulnerability, confusion and desperation. In the character of Blanche, Tennessee predicted how indeed his own life would eventually play out, he inevitably almost became her.

The 1977 musing on his life is a frank, to the point, tale. He is dangerously self-aware.

I was a writer, and consequently a kook

It is a welcome read at this particular period in the publishing calendar.  Traditionally, the book market will be awash with many a self-penned (or ghost written) reveal. The United Kingdom this week has Morrissey’s simply titled, Autobiography, Alex Ferguson’s imaginatively titled, My Autobiography and One Direction’s Where We Are, all in the Top Ten sales charts.

To open the proceedings of his own life dramas, the celebrated playwright does not try to disguise the reason he has decided to put ink to paper, it’s all about the coinage, he is solely in it for the money.

tennesse williams typewriter

With his plays and controversial short stories, The Inventory of Fontana Bella and Desire and the Black Masseur, he had always used the fictions to curtain his real life shenanigans. Now he does not just drop the mask, he peels it off literally.

The form he chooses to narrate his anecdotes is free association. Time is blended, present and past entwined, in the pages of this work. The enfant terrible of British theatre, Steven Berkoff, also used this structure in his excellent Free Association.

Life is made up of moment to moment occurrences in the nerves and the perceptions and, try as you may, you can’t commit them to the actualities of your own history.

The journey is decadent and depraved, taking in his childhood in Mississippi, to St Louis and New York. One thing that leaves the reader after being at this somewhat autopsy of Williams’ life is the ingenious way he poeticises the everyday.

I finished the work before 7 am, awaiting a bus, sometimes known as a ‘tramp chariot’ in these here parts. I immediately found myself seeing things  with a more poetic perspective. A hovering black raven over grass became a black piece of floating silk over a sea of shining green emeralds. The sky scape over the council houses now looked like a canvas of purple pink candy floss clouds.

READ this biography for the wit alone, for the poetry but we do not really need the shock tactics and graphic hints at his fookery.

Sexuality is an emanation, as much in the human being as the animal. Animals have seasons for it. But for me it was a round the calendar thing.

On the other hand it must be remembered, society has become a great deal more open and liberal in the last thirty years. That is in some countries, places like Russia need to really get with the programme. As Stonewall fantastically put it, some people are gay, get over it.

Flashback to 1977, to be overtly talking about same-sex relations and a battle with drugs and liquor takes some courage. Alas, his sad descent that can physically be seen in his writing style in these pages is quite unsettling.  He yearns for a companion as he is sick of promiscuous fast food sex; his friend suggests he picks someone up to which he honestly replies,

There’s nothing emptier, nothing more embarrassing….each time a little bit of your heart is chipped off and thrown into a gutter.

Mr. T.W’s Argentinian tango with Mr. Alcohol and Mr. Narcotics is revealed in the somewhat rambling and self-pitying, towards the final act of the book.

It can be difficult to follow and at times he is like a sizzled Uncle at a wedding, he can just go on and on, unpredictable, all around the park with his explanations sometimes not linked, only to then slap the reader with a treasure in his last phrase, or a gem of wit. He is at his most amusing when he is being catty without realising it,

She was a voluptuous piece and he was voluptuous too, and when you say a man, a bridegroom is voluptuous; it’s not a compliment to him.

By the time Tennessee was rewarded with fame and credibility for his craft, he had managed for years to keep running from the dogs of depression, they may have been consistently nipping at his ankles, but when he did start to slow down, they took a chunk out of his inner core, then the self-doubt and the lack of confidence managed to invade him.

Other creatives do manage to either realise the dogs can be tamed – or in the drastic cases put down – but unfortunately Tennessee Williams was a little blinded by the poisons discussed, so instead the hounds were empowered.

Sometimes I wonder if it is healthy for a writer to use their own emotional stock in his or her work. For I guess every time a play is performed, or story read out, the plaster is ripped off and the wound becomes more intense creating a deeper scar. Possibly the case with this Southern scribe.

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The tale is entertaining, both comic and tragic with tragic a cast of glittering stars, including Andy Warhol, Tallulah Bankhead, Brando, Bette Davis…….on and on the list goes, just like a Tennessee anecdote.

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Father of Liverpool culture’s voice continues to resonate in the Pool of Life

Another of our guest posts by John Maguire, whose biography of William Roscoe is due for publication in 2014

Liverpool John Moores University continues to champion the spirit of the esteemed father of Liverpool Culture, William Roscoe, via the 2013 Roscoe Lecture Series. These free lectures will recommence after the summer with the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson OBE discussing the challenges and opportunities facing Mayors and their cities, to be held in October at the Philharmonic Hall.

The esteemed talks have seen some of the country’s leading commentators join the people of Liverpool in discussing the issues that really matter to them. Speakers as diverse as writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, cosmologist Professor Martin Rees, the campaigner Esther Rantzen and his Holiness the Dalai Lama. To encourage an exchange of ideas, question and stimulate debate, to generate a deeper understanding in a time of increasing diversity and social change.

The lectures are named after the father of Liverpool Culture: William Roscoe. A man who helped transform 19th century society by campaigning against the evils of slavery. He had the guts to stand up and rail against the slave trade that had made the fortunes of many of his peers. Roscoe made a massive contribution to the Liverpool tapestry, he created the Liverpool Botanic Garden, formed the Liverpool Royal Institution and the Athenaeum Library.

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The highlight of this season’s free lectures had to be the 107th Lecture, where Claire Tomalin was welcomed to muse on her latest literary offering, Charles Dickens: A Life.

Ms Tomalin passionately enthused on Dickens and illustrated many comparisons between Roscoe and the Great Victorian Novelist. The work of both illustrates a transformative manifesto for social change. Dickens’ father was constantly in and out of debt and the trauma and humiliation scarred his very being and indeed fired his furnace of ambition. Leaving school at fifteen he worked as an office boy in a law firm and took up shorthand, this skill led him to legal reporting and he could draft detailed reports which developed his reputation with the newspapers. The contacts he made in this industry would eventually lead to his sketches being published and creating such an impressive body of work.

Roscoe too left school at an early age, having learned all that his schoolmaster could teach. With a passion for education he began to read the classics. Alongside his work as a lawyer, he made acquaintance with the language and literature of Italy, which was to dominate his life. An aficionado of art, examples from his collection can be found in the Walker Art Gallery. His obsession led to writing a history of Lorenzo de Medici in 1796. Quite co-incidentally Claire Tomalin owns a first edition of this book!

The discussion touched on all the facets of Dickens’ character, including his love affair with the ‘Pool of Life’, which began when he sailed from the Mersey for the first time in 1842 for America. He wrote from the Adelphi to his sister on the ‘warmth and reception’ the Liverpool people had given him.

He had a lust for life and his pre-talk rider would often be a pint of sherry and a pint of Champagne. The ‘inimitable’ Bos would walk every day, writing typically till around 2pm and then perambulating around the Metropolis, stoking the fire of his creativity, orchestrating his plots and narratives. He famously declared in later life, when seized by gout, that he would explode if he could not work. His sheer mental and physical energy is illustrated in the fact that, alongside writing his novels and running a magazine, he would also steam through at least one hundred letters of correspondence a year.

Dickens’ regard for those on the edges of society went beyond mere research for his novels; he would often visit prisons and was genuinely interested in real people, far from the kind of staged concern adopted by many modern-day z-list celebrities and Hollywood royalty.

Indeed, the sheer opulence of the Liverpool architecture left Claire Tomalin ‘stunned’. However for a biographer writing about an author famed for his research and attention to detail – Dickens trained at Bridewell to be a special constable just so he could wander around the Liverpool docks later at night – it is almost bizarre that it was Tomalin’s first visit to the Hall, scene of Dickens’ legendary penny readings. Still, the theme of the evening, how Dickens turned himself by his own efforts into good order, delivered by a lady who clearly understood her subject and spoke about the man with passion was enough to brighten up a dull wet Wednesday evening

The Roscoe lecture series continue in forging the very fabric of this city’s greatness. As the man himself cited,

everything connected with intellect is permanent.

Thankfully the lecture series continues to be a permanent feature in the university.

All lectures are free but entrance is by ticket only. To reserve your tickets for next season, please contact LJMU’s Conference and Event Services team on 0151 231 3668 or email RoscoeLectures@ljmu.ac.uk

Picture by Rod Crosby at Wikimedia

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