THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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65 posts categorized "Archival Research"

20 January 2017

Archive of Joan Bakewell joins the British Library’s Contemporary Archives Collections

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Image: Joan Bakewell  © Sukey Parnell

Chris Beckett, Cataloguer in Contemporary Literary Archives at the British Library, writes:

Joan Bakewell’s autobiography, The Centre of the Bed (2003), begins in a white room – a room as white as ‘a fresh sheet of paper’ – at the top of the house in which she has lived for many years. Boxes and packets of papers long-forgotten have been retrieved from cupboards and shelves. They hold evidence of the past, prompts for the play of memory. Can memory sew the fragments together, make good the gaps in the physical record? But Bakewell is conscious that memory is a construction of the present – a reverie of now – that that can deceive as well as illuminate:

‘Stacks of little diaries, a scattering of entries, a few oblique clues. School reports, a clutch of Cambridge bric-a-brac, invitations to sherry parties, a few enigmatic letters – who was Jonathan, who was Ben? And some from people I still know – Karl, Peter, Freddie. Serious boxes house the weightier matters – though just as transient – of a career in journalism and television.’

Those same boxes – the Cambridge ephemera and the ‘weightier matters’ (‘just as transient’) – have now made their way to the British Library, and their contents will soon be available to readers in another room, the Manuscripts Reading Room. ‘Karl’ is Karl Miller, ‘Peter’ is Sir Peter Hall, and ‘Freddie’ is Frederic Raphael (‘with whom I played tennis on long sunny, Cambridge afternoons’), three university contemporaries among many who quickly rose to become, like Bakewell herself, familiar figures in the British cultural landscape.

Joan Bakewell has been an enduring presence on British television for some fifty years, from the trail-blazing topical discussion programme ‘Late Night Line-Up’ (BBC2, 1964-72), which tumbled through the 1960s embracing the excitement and the risks of live transmission, to the retrospective and reflective interviews in ‘My Generation’ (BBC2, 2000).

Her television break began in a predictable place, in the limited daytime slots scheduled for housewives in the early 1960s, in programmes like ‘Table Talk’ and ‘Home at Four Thirty’. However, the conversation was not always about housework and babies: ‘one afternoon it fell to me to interview an eager young doctor with a shock of unruly black hair [….] In three minutes on air he outlined his theory that a dysfunctional family might be a prime cause of schizophrenia.’ The young doctor was R. D. Laing, author of The Divided Self. In the autumn of 1964, two evening appearances as chair of the BBC2 discussion programme ‘The Second Sex’ provided Bakewell with a further opportunity to demonstrate her range, and presaged an invitation to join the (otherwise all-male) ‘Late Night Line-Up’ team.

Since most of ‘Late Night Line-Up’ was transmitted live, few recordings have survived. Occasionally, items were pre-recorded, but even those have generally not been saved. In January 1969, Bakewell and camera crew spent a week in Lausanne, filming a series of interviews with Georges Simenon. Although the programme is lost, we have, in some small compensation, Bakewell’s Simenon notepads which provide a glimpse of the (fastidious and orderly) author of ‘Maigret’ at his Swiss home.

 Blog 1 Simenon notebook cover 2

Image above: Red note book cover

Blog 2 Simenon notes 2

Image above: Simenon notes, reproduced with the kind permission of Joan Bakewell.

At Cambridge (1951-54), Joan Rowlands, as she was then called, was heavily involved in the theatrical productions of the Cambridge Mummers. The archive includes posters, programmes and photographs from several plays, including (1952) The Importance of Being Earnest, in which Miss Rowlands played Cecily Cardew.

It was at Cambridge that Joan Rowlands met her first husband, Michael Bakewell, who preceded her at the BBC, quickly establishing himself a highly-regarded radio and television drama producer, champion of the new theatre of Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, John Hopkins and David Mercer. Although acting was not to be Bakewell’s profession, certainly the art of performance – and the construction of a robust public persona – have been integral to her remarkable television career.

Bakewell’s autobiography is keyed to a larger narrative, to events and trends in the social and cultural history of her time. Her diaries include a number of yellow ‘post-it’ notes, marking where her memory has been prompted. The pocket diary for 1960, for example, includes the following highlighted entries: 18 April (Aldermaston Protest, Trafalgar Square); 27 April (Arts Theatre, Pinter, The Caretaker); 28 June (Wesker, Roots); 1 August (opening in Stratford of Michael Bakewell's production of Faustus).

Blog 4 Bakewell Aldermaston 1960 2

Image: Aldermaston diary entry

Bakewell later recalled: ‘The Easter I was pregnant with Harriet we joined the Aldermaston marchers as they came into Trafalgar Square. Our near neighbour, the American poet W. S. Merwin, had walked all the way. His plimsolls were frayed and his feet blistered, but his wife, Dido, offered us supper that night with another young couple who’d recently moved into the area, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.’

In recent years, Bakewell has taken to writing fiction as another way of re-imagining the past, weaving new narratives from her archive. All the Nice Girls (2009) takes it cue from a World War II initiative (unimaginable today) that encouraged schools to ‘adopt’ a merchant navy ship and their pupils to exchange letters with sailors, raising pupil awareness and sailor morale. The Ship Adoption Scheme, as it was known, is recorded in the magazines of Stockport High School for Girls, which played an active part; there is a set of school magazines in Bakewell’s papers (again with ‘post-it’ notes attached). All the Nice Girls is – like the novel that followed, She’s Leaving Home (2011) – a story of love and changing sexual mores. CND marches feature in She’s Leaving Home, and so does the vividly remembered detail of Bill Merwin’s frayed plimsolls. A potent emblem from the past that has clearly lodged in Bakewell’s memory, the worn shoes make an anonymous but recognizable reappearance in a brief snatch of dialogue (p. 130): ‘I saw one bloke whose plimsolls had shredded by the time we got to Trafalgar Square’.

The comprehensive archive of Joan Bakewell at the British Library testifies to a pioneering career in television journalism and records a remarkable personal and professional journey, from pre-war Stockport to the post-millennial corridors of the House of Lords.

16 January 2017

2017 / 2018 British Library PhD Placements

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Rachel Tavernor is a Media and Cultural Studies PhD Researcher at the University of Sussex. In this post, she discusses her PhD Placement at the British Library.

At the start of 2016, I did not imagine that I would be finishing the year at the British Library. For the last three months, I have been based in their Research Development team, as part of their new PhD Placement Programme.

My placement focused on exploring twentieth and twenty-first century anti-poverty activism in the British Library Collections. After a preliminary mapping of the archives, and discovering how much material was available, I narrowed the focus of my placement to housing activism. Struggles for decent and affordable housing, with secure and fair tenancies, are at the forefront of many anti-poverty movements and are often led by women. I developed two strands of the project to explore the ways in which radical, feminist, and at times illegal, protest actions are archived.

Firstly, I traced housing activism, including rent strikes, squats and housing cooperatives, across the British Library Collections. Working with diverse materials, including oral histories, manuscripts, music and news media, I was able to map the differing voices in the archive. In particular, investigating the tensions between protesters, mainstream media and government narratives. A guide to the materials found in the collections will be available on a new project website, Archiving Activism (launching in Spring 2017), which will include images of relevant collection items.

Secondly, I developed a small research project on the practices of archiving activism. To understand and propose ways to archive activism, I conducted a series of nine interviews. Many very enjoyable hours were spent listening to campaigners, feminist archivists and academics who engage with archives of activism. The interviews informed an internal report that I produced for the British Library on potential ways to archive contemporary activism.

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  Image: The gates of the British Library.   

We will be discussing archives, activism and feminism movements on 8 March 2017 with a panel discussion on Rebels in the Archives. One of the privileges of working with the Library was the opportunity to invite inspiring feminists, Jill Liddington, Abi Morgan, Heidi Safia Mirza and Deborah Withers, to contribute to this event (booking now open).

I recently presented my research project to PhD students at the annual CHASE conference, Encounters, and to British Library staff as part of the British Library Bitesize Talk Series. Both events gave me the opportunity to share my research and reflect on my time at the British Library. For those of you considering applying for a PhD Placement in 2017, here are my reasons for taking part:

  • Research Skills: you get a chance to use the skills that you’ve learnt conducting your PhD research in a new environment. You will also learn new research skills by working on a short-term project with industry outputs.
  • Rich Resources: you get the time to explore the rich resources of the British Library Collections. You also get to find out about the resources that are yet to be made public or are soon to be acquired… watch this space for some exciting new acquisitions.
  • Public Engagement: you get to engage people with your research and the British Library Collections. You may have the opportunity to create your own event, possibly presenting your research or supporting the Library with their large events programme.
  • Colleagues and Collaborators: you get to work with some fantastic colleagues who are passionate about the British Library and research. You also get to be part of a cohort of PhD Placement researchers and learn about a wide range of research that is conducted at the Library.
  • Inspiration: finally, the British Library is packed with inspiring people, both past and present. I return to my PhD research this week with new ideas, skills and experiences.

The British Library have just published a new call for applicants for 2017/2018 British Library PhD Placements. Included in the programme are placements on:

  1. Independent, DIY, and Activist BAME Publishing, in Print and Online, in 21st century Britain
  2. 21st Century British Comics
  3. Researching the EU Referendum Through Leaflet and Web Archive Collections

If you have any questions about the placements, contact Research.Development@bl.uk

21 December 2016

Rebels in the Archives: Stories of Sexism, Sisterhood and Struggle

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Rachel Tavernor, a British Library PhD Placement Researcher, writes about an upcoming event ‘Rebels in the Archives’ that will be held at the British Library in 2017.

On 8 March 2017, to celebrate International Women’s Day, the British Library will host a panel conversation on the power and potential of archiving feminist movements. Rebels in the Archives is an evening dedicated to stories of sexism, sisterhood and struggle.

Our speakers include Jill Liddington, Abi Morgan, Heidi Safia Mirza and Deborah Withers. Margaretta Jolly, project director of Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement, will chair this panel of influential feminists as they debate questions of politics, representation and preservation.

Our panel will be sharing stories of the rebels and rebellion that inspire them. Discussing their own engagement (as historians, screenwriters, researchers and curators) with archives of activism. As well as debating the ways in which collecting, curating and communicating activism can be a radical practice.

Sisters image Web SmallPhotograph copyright of Theo McInnes and reproduced here with their kind permission.

Jill Liddington is a writer, historian and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. She has researched and written on votes for women since the 1970s, when she first visited the Fawcett Library (now Women’s Library). Her latest book Vanishing for the Vote: Suffrage, Citizenship and The Battle for the Census, tells how suffragette organizations urged women, all still voteless, to boycott the census on 2 April 1911.

Abi Morgan is a BAFTA and Emmy Award winning writer and producer. Abi is the screenwriter of Suffragette, the first ever mainstream film about the British campaign for equal votes. The story focuses on the lives of working class women involved in the movement. Radicalised and turning to violence as the only route to change, they were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality – their jobs, their homes, their children and their lives.

Heidi Safia Mirza is a visiting Professor of Race, Faith and Culture at Goldsmith’s College, University of London and Professor Emerita in Equalities Studies at the UCL Institute of Education. Heidi advises English Heritage on diversity and established the Runnymede Collection at the Black Cultural Archives (BCA), a race-relations archive documenting the late 20th Century civil rights struggle for Multicultural Britain. She is author and editor of several books, including Young Female and Black, Black British Feminism and Black and Postcolonial Feminism in New Times: Researching Educational Inequalities.

Deborah Withers is a writer, curator, researcher and publisher. Their new book Feminism, Digital Culture and the Politics of Transmission: Theory, Practice and Cultural Heritage, asks: what does it mean to say that feminism has cultural heritage? The book explores how digital technologies have enabled impassioned amateurs to make ‘archives’ within the first decade of the 21st century. In 2010, Deborah founded HammerOn Press, a grassroots publishing label rooted in feminist / queer do it yourself culture. They are also an active trustee of the Feminist Archive South, and have curated two Heritage Lottery Funded exhibitions Sistershow Revisited and Music & Liberation.

Margaretta Jolly is a Reader in Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research at the University of Sussex. Her current book-in-progress is Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the UK Women's Liberation Movement (forthcoming). Her book, In Love and Struggle: Letters and Contemporary Feminism explores feminist relationships as they have been expressed in letters and emails since the 1970s and was awarded the 2009 Feminist and Women's Studies Association Book Prize.

Booking for Rebels in the Archives is now open. We hope you are able to join us and are able to contribute to this discussion.

13 December 2016

The Women's Football Association archive

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Gill Ridgley, Lead Curator Contemporary Archives, introduces a new archive acquisition for the Library

Forweb-programme1
An early international match programme

Women’s football is a popular participatory and spectator sport throughout the world, yet in football’s country of origin: Great Britain, women and girls were discouraged from playing the game for many years.

This was not always the case, because football matches between women are recorded from at least the 19th century; and during the First World War female munitions workers famously organised a number of games for the purpose of raising money for war charities. These were extremely well attended; in fact at one point the women’s game looked set to become more popular than the men’s.

Unfortunately, as a result of a ruling by the Football Association in 1921, women were banned from playing the game, a prohibition which lasted until December 1969.  The ban was stringently applied: parks and football clubs were not allowed to let female players use their pitches, and registered referees were banned from officiating at women’s matches. Not surprisingly, the lack of such facilities made it impossible to sustain the sport.

Despite this, some women’s teams – such as the Manchester Corinthians and Dick, Kerr’s Ladies – continued to play, so the flame was kept alive to a certain extent, but it was England’s World Cup triumph in 1966 which really ignited public enthusiasm for all forms of the game. Using this impetus, a group of enthusiastic female footballers - with the help of a number of sympathetic men - created the Ladies FA of Great Britain in 1969.  Women’s teams from across the country were organised into leagues and a number of tournaments were held, including a knock-out cup sponsored by Mitre. Within a few years the sport was making real progress and the Ladies FA – now known as the Women’s Football Association (WFA) - was finally recognised by the FA in 1972 and affiliated to that body in the mid-eighties. 

Forweb-programme2
The Mitre Challenge Trophy was the women’s equivalent of the FA cup. The tournament began in the 1970-1971 season and was won in this first season by Southampton.

Life was certainly not easy for the WFA in the early years. Despite increased sponsorship, money was short, and the association relied on the strong commitment of its volunteers and well-wishers. It is therefore a pleasure for the British Library to announce that the hard work of these pioneers of the women’s game can soon be examined in the archive of the WFA, which the Library has just acquired, and which is about to be processed. 

The archive contains the minutes of the WFA’s Council, Finance & General Purposes Committee; Officers meetings and AGMs; and also the deliberations of the WFA/FA Joint Consultative Committee which eventually oversaw the winding up of the Association and the handing over to the FA of the organisation of the women’s game.   There are newsletters & journals spanning 1972-1992, many of which the Library does not hold in its general collection (e.g., Women’s Football Information Sheet; Women’s Football; WFA News; Sunday Kicks) and a number of other fascinating items.

All of these materials will prove valuable additions to the British Library’s strong women’s history collections and they will rest on a foundation of unique materials that the Library already holds. One such is an interview in the oral history collections featuring Sue Lopez, who is one of the celebrated proponents of women’s football in the UK (this oral history forms part of the ‘Sisterhood and After’ project and can be accessed via the following page):
http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/sue-lopez-a-lifetimes-contribution-to-sport

Forweb-prog4
Competition for an England place was strong; this is an England trials programme, featuring he final match between ‘Probables’ and ‘Possibles’.

Hopefully in the future the archive will form the basis for a number of Library projects which will enhance the collection itself and which will shine further light not only on the history of women’s football, but on the history of women themselves and their fight for equality.

29 October 2015

Sources and Methods in Criminology and Criminal Justice

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Registration open now!

Late News: We are pleased to announce that Professor Benjamin Bowling (Kings College
London) will also be speaking at the event.

Criminology and Criminal Justice are the focus of this year’s all day workshop on sources and methods in socio-legal research. Following last year's suggestions for themes of future events the British Library, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Socio-Legal Studies Association have teamed up with the British Society of Criminology. The workshop will take place at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on Friday, 20 November 2015.

The event, aimed at PhD/MPhil researchers, early career academics and policy researchers, offers a valuable opportunity to benefit from insider views of several UK collections that support criminological and criminal justice research, but crucially, also offers the opportunity to hear an international group of distinguished researchers in law and criminology talk about particular sources and attendant methodological issues encountered in their research. There will be opportunities for questions and discussion throughout the day which finishes with a panel discussion.

From the British Library, Jon Sims, will provide a glimpse of content and services that offer potential to support contextual studies of criminal law, crime and criminal justice, offering examples that illustrate the scope of the Library’s collections including news media, sound recordings, industry information, colonial public records, private historical papers, literary and pictorial sources. Beyond the British Library the day offers insight on the qualitative, quantitative and theoretical methods and data sources used by or found in the collections of the impressive array of speakers who have volunteered their time.  

From the Manheim Centre for the Study of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the LSE, Paul Rock (with Tim Newburn and David Downes) discuss the “large and worrying gaps in formal documentation” encountered during their research since 2009 on the official history of criminal justice (1959 to 1997) in context of the accumulation of records, and procedures of file selection and retention. From the National Archives (Kew), Nigel Taylor will discuss the context of Freedom of Information and Data Protection legislation, the EU Right to be forgotten ruling, compliance and inter-institutional dialogue surrounding decisions about access to records of criminal justice. Representatives from other UK national collections are Sharon Bolton, Data Curation Manager at the UK Data Service, who will be talking about finding quantitative and qualitative crime and criminological data sources and also highlighting associated resources such as case studies based on the data and teaching sets, and Stuart Stone, from the Institute of Criminology (Cambridge), talking about the world renowned, and strongly interdisciplinary, Radzinowicz Library.

On the theme of qualitative methods and the interpretation of texts, Lizzie Seal (University of Sussex) will discuss sources used for research on public reactions to the death penalty in mid twentieth-century Britain. Focusing on letters sent to successive Home Secretaries, she will compare these articulations of qualitative views with what sources accessible at the British Library - the Mass Observation Capital Punishment Survey, contemporary newspaper articles and oral history interviews from the Millennium Memory Bank - did and didn’t reveal. Linda Mulcahy and Emma Rowden (LSE and University of Technology, Sydney) focus on Court Design Guides published by the UK government in the aftermath of the Beeching Report which concluded that the court system was in crisis. They discuss the use of a Foucauldian methodology and analysis that highlights relationships between data management and emerging themes, discourses on status, efficiency and danger, the privileging of some court users over others, and issues around designated space.

Visiting fellow at Queen Mary, Adrian Howe discusses standard positivist and post-structural methodologies deployed by feminist researchers in criminology and criminal justice. She will be looking at the role of statistical analysis, which allows for particular biases in the collection of data,  in determining the scale and in raising the policy profile of domestic violence, and on the discursive production of crime by non-feminists researchers. Also from the University of London David Nelken (Kings College) asks ‘Whom Can We Trust?’ in discussion of qualitative methods in comparative research, briefly addressing issues such as conflicting accounts of events in context of approaches he has called ‘Virtually there’, ‘Researching there’ and ‘Being there’ and ‘second-order comparison’.

Paul Dawson, Research Manager at the Evidence and Insight Unit of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), will discuss the use of police data, providing insight of the work of the unit through case studies, demonstrating data use and research within the Metropolitan Police Service, and offering advice about data access. Also in the context of policing and data access, Lisa Dickson from the Law School at the University of Kent will discuss her investigation of NHS disclosure to the police of confidential patient-identifiable information without patient consent through the Data Protection Act 1998. She will be talking about her use of Freedom of Information requests as a research method to secure the data, and about FOI responses as a distinctive and interesting source of research information.

On quantitative sources and methods, Nick Tilley (UCL) will be discussing the wide range of statistical sources available in criminology, what types of data are currently most commonly used, possibilities, pitfalls and practical problems for broadening the range of data sources, and other data sets that are often overlooked. Following on from this, Andromachi Tseloni (Loughborough University) offers an overview of common methods applied to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, asking what such analyses can and cannot tell about the issues examined. Continuing the focus on quantitative methods, but also the themes of policing data and domestic violence, Allan Brimicombe, Head of the Centre for Geo-Information Studies at UEL, will discuss the use of police recorded data to understand patterns of escalation to violence and homicide amongst repeat victims of domestic violence/abuse (DVA).

Booking information

This event is organised by the British Society of Criminology, Socio-Legal Studies Association, British Library and Institute for Advanced Legal Studies. The price of £90 (Students £65) includes lunch and refreshments. If you would like to take advantage of this great opportunity please visit http://events.sas.ac.uk/events/view/18733 on the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies events page for booking details, timings and access arrangements.

23 July 2015

PhD placements available!

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Are you:

-an ESRC-funded PhD student?

-interested in social science research and policy?

-interested in learning more about the British Library’s collections?

-interested in working alongside expert curators?

-keen to learn about public engagement with research?

Then we may have a funded, three month ESRC placement for you!

Working at the Library is an amazing way to find out about the scope of the collections we have here and to be exposed to unique and unusual research materials that cannot be found elsewhere. The British Library has hosted a number of ESRC placements in the past, including projects on diverse topics such as sports archives, ageing and the body, migration, health studies and the use of the web in social science research. Previous placements have produced a range of useful outputs such as topical bibliographies, reports, webpages and events for the public and academic audiences.

There are 5 placements currently open to ESRC-funded PhD students. They are each funded for a three month period. These are outlined below. For more information and how to apply, please see full details on the RCUK website. The deadline for applications is 16:00 BST 28 August 2015.

We are also offering up to three placements for MRC or NERC-funded students and one placement for AHRC-funded students. For more details see the RCUK website.

AerialviewofBLResize

Above: The British Library, aerial view. Public Domain image.

Outline of projects for ESRC-funded placements

Mapping the 20th Century

Contribute to a major exhibition launching in November 2016 that will explore key aspects of national and international government policy, boundaries and identities through the 20th Century. You will focus on developing part of the exhibition narrative that discusses the role of maps in geopolitical contexts e.g. boundary mapping used to establish new national borders; the role of mapping in communicating the work and supporting the existence of supranational bodies such as the UN, EEC etc. (One placement available, open to ESRC students).

Social Science Now!

Develop the concept for a public event that makes social science research and policy accessible, exciting and relevant. The intern will work with an experienced team to research, plan and deliver an event as part of the BL’s public programme. You will work closely with high-profile speakers to develop format and content, liaise with BL teams to engage in targeted promotion and post-event evaluation and other outputs (e.g. podcasts, videos). Time-permitting, you will also undertake research into a specific aspect of use of policy information in our collections relating to social science (One placement available, open to ESRC students).

UK General Election 2015 – the Web Legacy

The British Library is part of a consortium that has formed a collection of 7500 archived websites relating to the 2015 UK General Election. This is a unique resource for political and social research. You will be involved in improving discoverability and presentation of the collection using cutting edge web archiving tools; negotiating permissions from rights holders to make archived sites openly available worldwide as well as quality checking of gathered sites. You will have the opportunity to carry out research using the collection (e.g. analysing the role of the Internet in political communication) and to disseminate your findings through BL blogs and other routes (One placement, open to ESRC students).

American Foreign Policy - a User’s Guide to the BL

The Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library houses one of the world’s foremost collections of American books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers and sound recordings. You will develop a resource that will enable researchers to get the most out of the collections related to American foreign policy. The resource could take the form of bibliographies, case studies, learning resources or a web exhibition. You will also be involved in engagement and publicity work to promote use of this resource. (One placement available, open to ESRC students).

Asia, Africa and International Development

International partnerships are fundamental to the British Library’s activities, including those in Asia and Africa. As well as hosting vast collections from these areas ourselves, it is our aspiration to support cultural institutions across Asia and Africa whose own collections are at risk from war or civil emergency. More broadly, the Library’s international projects and partnerships seek to generate social and economic impact. This internship would involve drawing on the intern’s knowledge and research of current best practise in international development to produce a report to the BL with recommendations about how it could more actively and more usefully engage in this area. (One placement, open to ESRC students).

05 June 2015

GOOD VIBRATIONS

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I was a women’s libber
I couldn’t - tell me, should it be wouldn’t - tread in the master’s step
and didn’t mind if I trod on his feet
when I came to Spare Rib
I found myself               right behind Carnaby street
and started to make things happen

Spare-rib-at-window

we made space

we made space                                                     we made space

that wasn’t full of someone elses junk 
tried out leading different lives
forms
of language and expression that we made and made our own
….?Yes. No templates. We learnt to make sense
we got and gave strength like the turning tide subverted debate
redefined ourselves made our own beds
would do what it takes and do it in public
reclaim the night re-arrange furniture

at Spare Rib bops I turned up the music
knowing I was in among a movement
of women saying no                and women saying yes
on their own terms in a corset or a dress
how were we to second guess in WEREN’T BORN A MAN
Dana had chosen the burlesque
(if you look at issue 24 from the cover to its contents
you can follow the contortions that we went through)

P.523_344_Issue23_0016
Cartoon by Pat Kahn

I am 64              musing on debt
to those who’ve gone before
and to crowds I’ve never met —they chipped in and bought
(not then an easy thing to do) and did what they could
to make Spare Rib what it was, keep us going, carry on—
to all these and more I'm pleased to say we’ve been repaid       in spades.

I feel my pulse quickening, hear unlocking doors, find a new space to breathe
and reflect       that’s free and accessible
where, packaged respectfully and according to rules
4000 + individuals’ copyrights are protected
just as they spoke about what they felt mattered
living in hope that they’d change the world
so it would listen               to daughters.

                              all 239 issues?
poor girl she always loved larking
they’ve digitised the whole run
they have to clear their clutter
digital won't last. Why are
you so depressing  we're
on a different planet now she's getting the very best of British care
to make the most of its resources for research and educational purposes
the British Library simply has to share—
so the old girl’s alive and kicking and now everybody’s tweeting
she’s even started waving out there in the mainstream
where there’s no-one who can stop her
or the thousands like her from igniting
and combusting          some have only just discovered—
a radical unruly       very well and truly            CATHARTIC ENERGY!

                                                                                Rose Ades

 

Rose Ades worked at Spare Rib 1972-77. She became a Solicitor, joined the 10-Speed Trots, lobbied for cycling and as Head of the Cycling Centre of Excellence at Transport for London reconfigured cycling and helped to make it popular.

Explore Spare Rib

28 May 2015

Spare Rib Magazine enters the digital age

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From today, every edition of Spare Rib magazine will be available to be viewed by anyone online for free. This project began back in June 2013 when, partly inspired by the positive response to the British Library’s Women’s Liberation Movement oral history project, I started to think about whether it would be possible to digitise and make freely available online a full run of Spare Rib magazines. I knew that the magazine played an important part in many women’s lives in the 1970s and 1980s – my mother was a sometime Spare Rib reader and had given me a copy of Spare Rib’s book called Girls Are Powerful when I was about 10 years old. I loved that book and I held onto the idea that women were equal to men as I grew from a young girl into a woman.

So it was with great curiosity that I called the British Library’s collection of Spare Rib magazines up from storage – 239 issues arrived at my desk on a single trolley. I started looking through them – and I was captivated. Few titles sum up an era and a movement like Spare Rib. With its commitment to challenging the status quo, Spare Rib battled oppression and gave a voice to the struggles of diverse groups of women over the 21 years it was in print (1972-1993). Bold in design, content and tone, the magazine set out from the outset to challenge, debate and discuss everything from the politics of housework to the situation for women in El Salvador to the rights of lesbian mothers.

The first issue of Spare Rib from July 1972
Front cover Issue 1 July 1972 - Women Smiling by Angela Phillips. Usage terms: © Angela Phillips Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence

Spare-rib-manifesto (resized)
Spare Rib pre-launch manifesto - The founders of Spare Rib set out to set the record straight on Women’s Liberation, which had been trivialised and ridiculed by the mainstream press. They sought to reach out to all women and in their manifesto they explain what is wrong with women’s magazines of the day and how their alternative would offer realistic solutions to the problems experienced by women. Usage terms: Facsimile of Spare Rib manifesto © Marsha Rowe Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence

Until now, the full run of magazines has only been available for consultation in the British Library Reading Rooms and a few other libraries and archives. The British Library’s digitised Spare Rib resources change this and make the magazine accessible to everyone.

We have developed a curated introductory site on the British Library’s website with a selection of more than 300 stories, cartoons and images from the magazine and 20 introductory articles written by former Spare Rib contributors and British Library curators, designed as a way in to the content for anyone experiencing the magazine for the first time.

The British Library Spare Rib site will link through to the Jisc Journals Archive site, where the full run of 239 issues of Spare Rib magazine is hosted. This Spare Rib resource is free to access, and is fully searchable, meaning that researchers, historians, students and anyone interested in feminism or activism can search across all editions for the first time, transforming the way in which the magazines can be accessed, discovered and re-used.

Funny, irreverent, intelligent and passionate, Spare Rib was a product of its time which is also somehow timeless. It should come with a word of warning, however, it’s difficult to tear yourself away.

Spare_Rib-39 (resized)Photograph of Polly with former Spare Rib Collective members and project advisors. From left to right, Ruthie Petrie, Rose Ades, Marsha Rowe, British Library curator Polly Russell, Sue O’ Sullivan and project volunteer Louise Kimpton-Nye.

Polly Russell
Social Science Curator

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