Tag Archives: Novelists

Forgotten Pleasures: Sheffield rediscovers Willie Riley

I see that I haven’t yet written about the splendid work being done on the popular fiction of the early 20th century at Sheffield Hallam University.  It’s time to put that right!  SHU has an excellent collection of such works.   This blog by Erica Brown chronicles the rediscovery of these often forgotten gems by a reading group.  There’s lots of overlap with our Special Collections – they’ve even been reading J.B. Priestley!

Recently the group turned their attention to the work of Willie Riley, whose archive we have at Bradford.  Riley is a wonderful example of an author who was a best-seller and a household name, thanks to his delightful debut Windyridge, but whose popularity has waned since.

Willie Riley (ref RIL12_3 p.5)

Willie Riley

Riley is now having a mini-revival, thanks to the efforts of former Bradford University student David Copeland, who has written extensively about Willie, uncovered archives and made many fascinating connections.  On 25 October 2013, David will talk about Willie as part of an event on Yorkshire writers during Sheffield’s Off the Shelf festival.  Find out more in this article from Saturday’s Yorkshire Post.

Windyridge Revisited dustjacket

Windyridge Revisited dustjacket – my favourite dustjacket in Special Collections!

Always More Subtle: J.B. Priestley and Anthony Burgess

Q. Which well-known British author liked J.B. Priestley’s The Image Men so much he read it ten times?  A. Anthony Burgess.

Screenshot of images of Clockwork Orange

Burgess and Priestley have much in common.  Both remain famous on the basis of one iconic work above all: Burgess for the dystopian novella which became a controversial film, A Clockwork Orange (above), Priestley for An Inspector Calls (below).   Both were much more interesting and prolific writers than commonly thought.  Both wrote novels, plays, non-fiction, and masses of journalism.  Burgess also created symphonies and other musical works.  Although as far as I know JBP didn’t actually write music, it was so important to him that I think this counts as another connection.

Screenshot of images of Inspector calls

This shared experience underlies a perceptive and generous piece Burgess wrote for The Observer after Priestley’s death in 1984.  I could happily quote the whole thing as it shows such great understanding and appreciation of Priestley.  Here’s some of the most telling points:

“My generation had been warned off him by the intellectuals, who derided or patronised him … The fact is that Priestley was an intellectual himself, a man of wide erudition … He knew what the avant-garde novel was all about, but he preferred to work in the tradition of Smollett and Fielding … Of course, he was always more subtle than he usually wished to appear.  If he scorned experiment in his novels, he produced in the 1930s a series of plays which brought something wholly original to the theatre … He was perhaps the last of the literary men willing to spill out of the confines of his study and dare to be a public figure revered for what he stood for, and not just for what he wrote”.

The connections between Burgess and Priestley are explored in depth by Dr Andrew Biswell of the Burgess Foundation in the 2013 J.B. Priestley Society Annual Lecture,  English Anxieties, on 16 March.   Taking place at the Foundation, in Manchester, the event is free and all are welcome!    Society members are also invited to the AGM that morning.  Full details on the Society website.

English Journeying – Birmingham and Newcastle

More events celebrating the 75th anniversary edition of English Journey:

Tom Priestley and Stuart Maconie at the Birmingham Book Festival 23 October 2009

Discovery Museum Newcastle on 27 October 2009. The details aren’t yet on their website, will post link when available.

“From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale”

Some welcome recent press coverage of the work of one of the University of Bradford’s research students.  David Copeland has recently completed his M. Phil. thesis, “From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale”,  on Willie Riley, the Bradford-born author of “Windyridge” and many other bestselling tales of Yorkshire life.  Riley was extremely popular in his day, but is now little known.  David has in essence rediscovered him, finding many more published writings, locating the author’s archive, and writing a detailed biography and bibliography.  The archive will now be donated to Special Collections at the University.  David and the Special Collections staff will now work together to bring this heartwarming, life-affirming author to a wider audience.

The University’s Press release.

Article in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus 14 May 2009.

Article in the Yorkshire Post 16 May 2009.

“When we are listed”

Now available: latest edition of the handlist of the J.B. Priestley Archive, one of the University of Bradford Special Collections. Manuscript and typescript short stories and other pieces written by Priestley in his teens are the most exciting new addition, an intriguing glimpse into the growth of a writer. Sections 8/2 (press cuttings), 19 (biographical material) and 20 (appreciation of Priestley’s work) are growing fast. We have rewritten several sections of the list and improved layout and design to make it more user-friendly.

The handlist can be found in PDF form on the J.B. Priestley Archive web page. If you have problems accessing this file, please contact Special Collections.