A new archive featuring treasures from some of the most revered corners of Manchester pop culture is to take residence at the historic John Rylands library. The British Pop Archive will bring together all manner of materials from song lyrics and posters to photographs from the likes of Joy Division to Granada TV for the exhibition.
Many of the items included in the huge archive have never been seen before by the public, and for fans of Manchester’s rich music scene, some of the exhibits will be mind-blowing. Fans of Joy Division will be able to see the hand-written lyrics of classic songs like ella She ella ‘s Lost Control and Atmosphere.
Posters from the Sex Pistols infamous shows at the Lesser Free Trade Hall will be on display, alongside previously unseen works by Factory Records designer Peter Saville. Factory fans are also in for further unknown pleasures.
A huge amount of the personal effects of Joy Division and New Order manager and Hacienda founding partner Rob Gretton – who was a ‘meticulous record-keeper’ – will be exhibited, including his original ‘creative’ for the band, written in a notebook in 1979.
Hannah Barker, Professor of British History at The University of Manchester and Director of the John Rylands Research Institute, said: “The British Pop Archive is a fantastic resource for a university with strong links to the creative industries. It provides unique material for a growing range of research and teaching at the University on popular music, TV and film history, counter-cultural movements and youth culture from the twentieth century to the present day, linked to our brilliant Creative Manchester research platform.”
Jon Savage, culture writer and Professor of Popular Culture at Manchester University, said: “Britain’s pop and youth culture has been transmitted worldwide for nearly sixty years now. As the most fertile and expressive product of post war democratic consumerism, it has a long and inspiring history that is in danger of being under-represented in museums and libraries.
“The intention of the BPA is to be a purpose-built, pop and youth culture archive that reflects the riches of the post war period running to the present day. We are launching with Manchester-centric collections but the intention is for the BPA to be a national resource encompassing the whole UK: it is, after all, the British Pop Archive.”
There are even old covers of the iconic City Life magazine, featuring DJ Carl Cox and championing the city’s emerging club culture and posters from the Hacienda’s first birthday.
As well as the music-based archives, there will also be exhibits from Granada TV, taking in a large array of its output, from the iconic new show World In Action through to Coronation Street and even Pete Waterman’s The Hitman and Her.
The archive will take its place among the myriad other historic works that the Rylands library, which opened to the public in 1900, provides a home for. This includes a Gutenberg Bible, letters and papers from Elizabeth Gaskell and Shakespeare’s first folio.
The BPA will open to the public on May 19.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.