Category Archives: Priestley, J.B.

Rediscovered: J.B. Priestley in the Yorkshire Post

Last weekend the Yorkshire Post published a really interesting piece about J.B. Priestley’s First World War experiences.  The article, by Steve McClarence, uses objects from Priestley’s Archive to tell the story: his shoulder-badge, his photographs, his letters, and above all Priestley’s unforgettable writings about the War in Margin Released and English Journey.  You can see the archive objects for yourself in our current exhibition at the Bradford Industrial Museum.

 

 

JB Priestley: soldier, writer, painter …

J.B. Priestley: Soldier, Writer, Painter.
Curated by the J.B. Priestley Society
Bradford Industrial Museum. 

19 April – 17 August 2014

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This summer we bring a unique opportunity to see some different sides to  J.B. Priestley.   You knew he was a writer (we hope).  He was also a …

Soldier …
Aged just 19, “Jack” Priestley joined the British Army in September 1914.  The next five years changed his life forever and that of his home city of Bradford.  The Industrial Museum has a major exhibition about Bradford’s Home Front which our display complements.  We are showing Jack’s letters home and the photographs and memorabilia that travelled with him for the next 50 years.  He used them for inspiration when he drew together his experiences in the dream-like tour de force that is the middle section of his 1962 memoir Margin Released.

Painter …
JB loved art and later in life took up painting as an enjoyable hobby.  The J.B. Priestley Society have assembled 30 of his works for this show.   These intriguing survivals  illustrate the love of landscape that makes so many of his books unforgettable , his understanding of art, and his extensive travels.   A few are still for sale, if you would like a unique bit of Priestleiana in your life.

The exhibition is free and open to all.  You can find out more about opening times etc. on the Museum’s website.

 

 

Who (or What?) is Your Yorkshire Icon?

Our wonderful county of Yorkshire is an incredibly distinctive place,  full of amazing characters, stories, places, and food.  For its 75th anniversary, the Dalesman Magazine is asking people to vote for their Yorkshire icons, to choose the top 75.

Yorkshire sheep somewhere in the Dales, from the Butterfield photo archive.

Yorkshire sheep somewhere in the Dales, from the Butterfield photo archive.

As you might expect, many of the suggested icons have connections with the University, Bradford, or our collections.   For instance, The Dalesman and Bill Mitchell, Harold Wilson (our first Chancellor), J.B. Priestley and of course sheep and WOOL (which made Bradford and the University).

More to follow when the final 75 are revealed!

PS This covers the whole of Yorkshire, not just the Dales!

JBP, the BBC and Churchill: Inside Out discusses the end of the Postscripts

Why did J.B. Priestley’s Second World War Postscripts come to an end?   Did Winston Churchill have him taken off the air?

This intriguing and perennial question was aired again on the BBC’s Yorkshire Inside Out programme on the 21st, which discussed a recent book by Richard North.  I showed materials from the J.B. Priestley Archive that might shed light on the story and we also saw Churchill’s own Archive at Churchill College.  If you missed the programme, catch up on the iplayer until Sunday – we are about 10 minutes from the end.

I should point out that North’s book and the interpretation put on the Priestley/Churchill story by the programme are controversial.  If you’re interested in exploring this further, check out my Postscripts exhibition and Nicolas Hawkes’ pamphlet which used the BBC’s own archives and many scholarly sources (available to purchase from the J.B. Priestley Society).

They Came To A City: Priestley’s 1944 utopian film on show in Bradford

On Sunday 20 October 2013, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the J.B. Priestley Society will show a rare and fascinating film by J.B. Priestley.  Originally a 1943 play, They Came To A City was filmed in 1944 by the director Basil Dearden.  Experts Bill Lawrence, Michael Nelson and John Baxendale will lead a discussion about Priestley’s role in cinema, a comparatively little known aspect of his work.

They Came to a City (PG) + Talk: JB Priestley and Cinema

They Came To A City is part of the conversation that was going on throughout the Second World War in Britain: what should society be like after the War?   J.B. Priestley was deeply engaged in this debate.  He addressed these questions rather gently in his famed Postscripts and much more directly in his essential Out of the People.   He believed that new better ways of living could come out of the War, that the mistakes made after the First World War did not have to be repeated.

In the play and film, Priestley used the idea of a city whose society encapsulated his happy egalitarianism.   Nine characters, spanning Britain’s social classes (bank manager and his wife, a charlady, a plutocrat and so on), are allowed in for a day.  We don’t see the city itself, just their responses to it, which vary widely.  Each character must decide whether to stay or leave …

A Priestley Primer

“J.B. Priestley – I’ve heard of him, but never read any of his books.  Where should I start?” I’m regularly asked this, so I thought I’d share my usual answers – which I imagine most Priestley enthusiasts would endorse.

Cover of Canadian edition of The Good Companions

Cover of Canadian edition of The Good Companions

With the exception of Margin Released, all these books are currently in print, published by Great Northern Books.  They are also plentiful in the second-hand book trade and often to be found in academic and large public libraries.  I’ve included links to my 100 Objects pieces about each title, which should help you decide which ones you’d like to discover.

Non-fiction

English Journey.  England in the 1930s – rural past, industrial decline and modern future, featuring Priestley’s unforgettable anger at the treatment of Great War veterans and the desolation of poverty.
Delight.  Vignettes of experiences that made Priestley happy, from smoking in the bath to playing tennis badly.
Margin Released.   Interested in Bradford history, the Great War or 20th century literature or film?  You need to read this memoir.

Fiction

Bright DayA bittersweet and reflective book looking back from the uneasy peace of 1946 to vanished 1913 Bradford.
Angel Pavement.   Priestley shows the impact of capitalism on ordinary people in the memorable setting of a vanished London.
Lost Empires.   Love and disillusionment in a vivid music-hall setting, under the shadow of The Great War.
The Good Companions.   Too sentimental for some modern tastes, but on its own terms it is incredibly effective.  Fantastic set-pieces (the football match at the beginning) and a lovely comfort read.

I hope this helps – do let us know which Priestley books you’re reading and what you think of them!  What about the plays?  That’s another story.

Read all these already?  I’ll follow up with some suggestions for the more advanced Priestley reader.

Angel Pavement on Radio 4 this weekend!

J.B. Priestley’s great novel of the City of London and the working lives of Londoners during the Depression, Angel Pavement, will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Sunday 5 May 2013 at 3 pm.  Part 2 will be broadcast on Sunday 12.  I expect it will be available to listen online for some time after the broadcasts.

New! J.B. Priestley Archive Catalogue April 2013

We’ve just put the latest edition of the catalogue of the J.B. Priestley Archive online.

YMCA "On active service" letterhead from one of J.B. Priestley's letters home.

YMCA “On active service” letterhead from one of J.B. Priestley’s letters home.

Lots of new things and improvements in response to readers’ needs, including:

  • Enhanced section on Priestley’s unpublished scripts for books, plays, television and film.  These  include collaborations with Fred Hoyle and Iris Murdoch.  Lots of detail on the physical nature of the scripts e.g. amendments by Priestley.
  • More letters, notably Priestley’s incredible Great War letters from the trenches.
  • Detailed cataloguing of files on Priestley’s art collection, indexing the artists he collected.
  • Programmes, press cuttings and other responses to Priestley 2008-2012.   Definite revival of interest, encompassing several less well known plays, and from scholarly, political and literary angles.
  • Some sections renumbered for ease of use (don’t worry if you’re using the old numbers, we can cross-refer between them).

More on all the above in future blog posts!

Of Time and Stars: Easter and Eastercon

Special Collections will be closed for the Easter Break from Friday 29 March-Tuesday 2 April inclusive.   We’re thrilled that J.B. Priestley features at the Bradford Eastercon on the Saturday.  In honour of which, here is a detail from the wonderful dustjacket of Priestley’s uncorrected proof copy of Of Time and Stars: the worlds of Arthur C. Clarke (for which Priestley wrote the introduction).

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Our reproduction doesn’t do justice to the amazingly purple, pink, orange and yellow original, which also (I think) introduces Clarke’s stories very well as does JBP’s typically quirky and personal introduction.

Whether you’re going to Eastercon or not, we wish you a very happy Easter!

 

Priestley SpecFic in the Spotlight

Introducing Priestley SpecFic

Snoggle

Meet Snoggle!

J.B. Priestley was fascinated by the possibilities of time, space, dreams and the fantastic or weird.  Alongside the famous time plays, he used these ideas in TV scripts, essays, short stories and novels, ranging from Snoggle, a charming tale of a friendly alien, to the terrifying nuclear war scenario of Level 7. This spring, a convention and a publisher celebrate Priestley’s speculative fiction.

Ghost of Honour

Detail from dustjacket of Benighted by J.B. Priestley (Heinemann)

Detail from dustjacket of Benighted by J.B. Priestley (Heinemann)

Priestley will be “Ghost of Honour” at this year’s Eastercon: Eightsquared, in Bradford over the Easter weekend, featuring a lecture by  Lee Hanson, Chair of the J.B. Priestley Society.  As the Eastercon blog says, “[Priestley's] quietly durable work is well worth a fresh look as modern literary writers increasingly adopt SF ideas and themes. Priestley was doing that decades ago, as well as using elements of the fantastic to address political and social debates …”

Back to the Old Dark House

Detail from cover of The Other Place, by J.B. Priestley (Corgi)

Detail from cover of The Other Place, by J.B. Priestley (Corgi)

Valancourt Books are issuing two classics of the weird by Priestley: Benighted, the tale of travellers benighted at an “old dark house”, which became a horror classic in its film form, and The Other Place, disquieting short stories, including “The Grey Ones” and “Uncle Phil on TV”.