Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bradvent Calendar part 3

And here’s the last of the Bradvent calendar Days.  We really enjoyed sharing festive favourites from the archives.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Day 23

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Wonder what the &c. &c. turned out to be?  Social evening, 22 December 1903, Bradford Technical College

Day 24

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Christmas arrived at the proper time in J.B. Priestley’s Bradford: 24 December (Bright Day)

Day 25

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Merry Christmas!  Beautiful leaved poinsettia from Beautiful Leaved Plants (1891)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

From Alison and Martin, Special Collections, University of Bradford

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We had fun choosing sturdy green and red books for our Christmas book-tree.  The Reading Room looks very festive!  Please note that the Special Collections service is closed for the Christmas holidays from 24 December 2015-3 January 2016 inclusive.  We hope this won’t cause any inconvenience to our readers.

2016 will be an exciting and busy year: we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the University of Bradford.  You can find out more and see some lovely images from our archives on the anniversary webpage.

 

Goodbye Emma (and thank you!)

On 5 November Special Collections and our Library colleagues said farewell to our Project Archivist, Emma Burgham.  Here we are eating cake (Emma is second from the right).

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Emma’s leaving do, 5 November 2015

Emma joined us in July 2014 for the Mitrinovic/New Atlantis Archive cataloguing project.  This large archive was created by the philosopher Dmitrije Mitrinovic and his circle and greatly enhances knowledge of inter-war society, politics, culture and ideas.  As an experienced archivist, Emma has been able to make sense of this complex collection and create a catalogue which will make it useful to researchers worldwide.  Here’s one of our favourite images from the collection, a postcard showing Dubrovnik in the 1920s.

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NAF 6-5-3, Postcard of Dubrovnik, c1920s

Emma also organised a wonderful Symposium to share news of discoveries in the archive, and has worked closely with students and other volunteers on transcribing letters and cleaning documents.  We are very grateful to Emma for all her hard work and wish her all the best for future.   You can find out more about the archive and Emma’s work on the project webpage and the Eleventh Hour blog.

NAF 3-2-3-2, Eleventh Hour flyer

NAF 3-2-3-2, Eleventh Hour flyer

“People before Things”: remembering Bill Mitchell (1928-2015)

Sad news: Bill Mitchell, journalist, historian and University of Bradford honorary graduate, died yesterday, aged 87.

wrp7 W R MitchellBill needs no introduction to anyone with an interest in the Yorkshire Dales: the first editor of the Dalesman Magazine and a prolific contributor to other journals, he wrote hundreds of books and articles about Dales people, landscape and wildlife.  Throughout his career he applied and often quoted the principle “People before things”, said to him by Dalesman founder Harry Scott in 1948.

Bill was a lovely person, with an incredible fund of engaging anecdotes and lively stories.  He will be much missed.

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Find out more about Bill’s life, works and archives:

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J.B. Priestley and the Little Ships: 75 years on

In June 1940, the British Army faced disaster.  France had fallen to the Nazis and they were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk.  They were saved by a fleet of “little ships” which sailed across the Channel to rescue them.  A humiliating defeat was transformed into a miracle of survival.  The courage of the rescuers (many of whom did not return) helped inspire Britain as the country faced the threat of invasion during the perilous summer that followed.

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J.B. Priestley, circa 1940 (ref PRI 21/8/6)

Bradford-born author and broadcaster J.B. Priestley played a key part in the creation of the Dunkirk story, thanks to a BBC radio broadcast on 5 June, the first of his celebrated Postscripts series.  We see Priestley turning the raw news into history – and legend.  “Doesn’t it seem to you to have an inevitable air about it – as if we had turned a page in the history of Britain and seen a chapter headed ‘Dunkirk’?”.

Priestley doesn’t blame anyone or dwell on the defeat.  Instead, he pays tribute to the little ships, especially the frivolous little pleasure steamers, evoking the English sea-side world his listeners would know so well: “pierrots and piers, sand castles, ham-and-egg teas, palmists, automatic machines, and crowded sweating promenades”.  The steamers had left this to go into “the inferno” and face unimaginable dangers for the greater good.  Some would not come back but would be remembered forever, like “Gracie Fields”, a ship Priestley had taken many times to his Isle of Wight home.   Priestley’s listeners were doing the same:  he was reminding them that it would be worth it, that they were part of an incredible story already turning into history.

Listen to Priestley’s Dunkirk Postscript.

Find out more about the Postscripts:

The Requisites of Novelty, Fashion and Elegance

This week at Fairfax House in York, an extraordinary scrapbook of historic fabrics will go on show for the first time.

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The fabrics were originally featured in Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, a well-known early 19th century periodical which is an incredible source for study of that period.  They were gathered into a scrapbook entitled British Patterns of Manufacture, for the benefit of students at Bradford Technical College.

The scrapbook will be on show in a major exhibition at Fairfax House which explores the growth of shopping as a leisure pastime in Georgian England.  Consuming Passions will run from 28 May-31 December 2015 and will look at the ways Georgian middle and upper class people decorated themselves and their homes in the latest fashion.  The vivid and colourful patterns depicted in the scrapbook are a fascinating part of this exuberant and luxurious world.

Explore further …

Journey into Daylight: J.B. Priestley’s VE Day broadcast

Seventy years ago, at 9pm on 11 May 1945, the author J.B. Priestley made a very special broadcast on the BBC to mark VE Day: war was over in Europe; Nazi Germany had surrendered.

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J.B. Priestley at his typewriter, a little later in 1945.

The piece, “Journey into Daylight”, feels like a Postscript to Priestley’s Postscripts, which spanned the summer of 1940 from Dunkirk to the London Blitz.   Like them, it is a moving and personal account, warm, inclusive, and rich in everyday detail which emphasises the sense of shared experience: titles of popular songs, spam sandwiches …  It also gives the impression of natural speech while actually being consummately crafted to raise Priestley’s political and social ideas in a gentle way acceptable to the BBC and the government.

In Journey, Priestley compares the experience of VE Day to waking up in a railway carriage after a long dark journey: now, at last, a “thin grey daylight” is appearing round the edge of the blinds and it is time to get up and move on to the next stage.

But first, “let us go back – and remember”.   First the phoney war of bewilderment and waiting, then the spring of 1940 when countries fell and victory was salvaged from defeat at Dunkirk …

“We put on LDV* armlets and took a few old condemned rifles to the tops of hills: we were alone, and the world thought London had joined Babylon, Nineveh and Carthage; but we knew better.”

The summer of 1940: a terrible, glorious time in which the community worked together for a common purpose – and there was a glimpse of the possibilities of such action in peacetime.  The grim struggle of 1941, new allies in the USSR and the United States, the terrible lows of 1942 when Singapore fell and all seemed hopeless.  Then hope: the battles of Alamein, Stalingrad and D Day …

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J.B. Priestley standing by a car, 1940s

Priestley warns that the shocking discoveries about Nazi atrocities show the dangers of mechanistic thinking leading to loss of humanity.   This could happen to any society:  the Allies after all had won not by virtue but by out-doing their enemies’ technology: “we made bigger bombs than they did”.

With this in mind, the piece is far from triumphant: Priestley, a veteran of the Great War trenches, knew the price of victory in lives lost and shattered.  He knew, too, that the War was far from over (fighting continued in the Far East, to be ended only by the dropping of two atomic bombs in August, and the starving people of Europe in their devastated cities desperately needed help).  Characteristically, however, Priestley ends with a ray of hope: the spirit of communal effort of 1940 could be repeated, and society changed for the better.

* LDV = Local Defence Volunteers i.e. the Home Guard or “Dad’s Army”.  JBP was indeed one of the volunteers and in a beautiful Postscript meditated on the  fellowship he felt with Wessex men throughout the centuries protecting the land from invasion.

Read/hear for yourself

The piece was printed in The Listener 17 May 1945 and reprinted in that magazine on 18 January 1979.  The radio broadcast survives and has often been used in BBC programmes.  It is worth looking out for it over the next few weeks as the Corporation marks the VE Day anniversary: if it is used, it is likely to be available on the iplayer for a while.  As far as I know, neither version is currently freely available online.  The Listener Historical Archive is available to subscribers.

Postscript

In some ways, Priestley’s call was not in vain.   The Labour government, elected in July 1945, instituted the modern welfare state and the National Health Service.  However, this was top-down state bureaucracy rather than the communal efforts that Priestley valued … and in other ways, society returned to its previous patterns, elites still on top and Cold War developing between the War’s two great allies.   During the 1950s he became increasingly disillusioned as a result.  However “Journey into Daylight” stands alongside the Postscripts as JBP the broadcaster at his most inspiring.