Collection spotlight: The Dave Cunliffe Archive

by | Dec 10, 2018 | Uncategorised | 0 comments

Bruce Wilkinson is the author of Hidden Culture, Forgotten History (Penniless Press, 2017), and Research Assistant on the JRRI-funded pilot project ‘The Dave Cunliffe Archive and the counterculture: The cultural impact of Poetmeat, Global Tapestry and the BB Books Small Press’. In this post, Bruce talks about his research on the recently acquired Dave Cunliffe archive.

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

Over the next few months, I will be working on the literary archive of the poet, publisher and activist Dave Cunliffe recently acquired by the John Rylands Library. These regular research blogs will keep you informed of all the latest findings and will hopefully bring to life a wonderful collection of material including several hundred poetry magazines and countercultural publications, a huge amount of correspondence and numerous photographs (many of which need identifying).

My book Hidden Culture, Forgotten History (Penniless Press, 2017) is the story of how Cunliffe played an important part in the ‘British Poetry Revival’ (a phrase he coined), using magazines to distribute a literary avant-garde largely ignored by the mainstream media. It also outlines how in the early 1960s this working-class autodidact connected with an emerging US counterculture, using his BB Books press to promote veganism, animal rights and radical pacifism.

Dave Cunliffe is seated in the middle of the front row, Tina Morris to his left holding a drink. Dave Cunliffe Collection, The University of Manchester Library. Photographer unknown.

The ‘action shot’ below is Dave about to throw himself on a car containing Enoch Powell who is entering Blackburn Rugby Club to make a speech not long after his ‘Rivers of Blood’ oration. It made the national papers but surprisingly the rugby club didn’t seem keen to talk about it for my research.

Dave Cunliffe confronts Enoch Powell. Dave Cunliffe Collection, The University of Manchester Library. Photographer unknown.

It is wonderful that the University of Manchester Library is preserving this important archive which complements the dom sylvester houédard and Jeff Nuttall collections it already holds.

Alongside the blogs I will also be curating an exhibition of material from the collection and give several talks about the material’s significance and I encourage you to get in touch with your own comments and contributions.

This blog was originally posted on The John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog. For more information about current JRRI-funded research, visit the Current Projects section of our website.


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