Tag Archives: Liverpool John Moores University

The trick is to keep stealing

My nine-to-five role as a trainer at Liverpool John Moores University involves having to do many presentations and lead workshops. I live by what I preach: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. I find that the TED talks are a fantastic online resource to exploit, to use, to inspire. As they themselves say:

TED is a platform for ideas worth spreading. Started in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, TED today shares ideas from a broad spectrum — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

And as Pablo Picasso put it,

Good artists borrow, great artists steal.

Here are some of the talks that I have seen in 2014 that have inspired and energised me:

Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity
Carl Honore: In praise of slowness
Anne Curzan: What makes a word real
Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work
Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off

picasso by millerBut don’t take my word for it, go and have a little explore for yourself. The trick is to keep stealing!

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All The Year Round

I have begun my latest reading project: to swim my way through the oceans of literature that Mr. Charles Dickens created during his lifetime.

charlie dickens in his syudyI purchased 13 Volumes from Kernaghan Books in Liverpool. I must confess, I started The Pickwick Papers a few weeks ago but struggled a little so decided to try David Copperfield. Instantaneously, the episodic nature had me hooked. I wanted to see how a reader of the day would experience Dickens’ work. So I visited the Liverpool John Moores Special Collections and Archive to take a peep at one of their latest acquisitions, a collection of All The Year Round. (A weekly journal conducted by Charles Dickens, with which is incorporated Household Words. Price 2D)

All the year roundBoldly emblazoned on the cover is a quote from William Shakespeare:

The story of our lives from year to year.

Shakespeare

The periodical has all types of feature for the reader of the day from marital advice:

The earth is full of couples who are made for each other, not only of couples whose destiny it is to love but of those whose destiny it is to hate. For every spider there is created a fly, for every cat a mouse, for every bird a worm, for every innocent bill holder a really innocent bill acceptor and for every picture dealer a picture buyer.

to advertisements for Dickens’ infamous reading performances.

Christmas Carol and Mrs Camp
MR CHARLES DICKENS READINGS
April 18th (1861)
Little Dombey and The Trial from Pickwick
at St. James Hall, Piccadilly

There is a great exposition of social issues of the day:

…sense of the joy and purity of life comes from the children as they dance and sing in the midst of the toiling crowd. But let the millions who toil in England pass before us in one great procession, and we shall find sad companies of eager, undergrown, unwholesome men walking with none but pale, none but pale and weak eyed women and with none but bruised and weary little children, stunted of growth, some even wearing spectacles, all silent as the grave.

CHILDREN OF WORK June 8th 1861.

The celebrated writer’s fiction proved to be an education tool too, a way of informing and instructing the masses. I particularly like the way we can see the development of what are now understood to be classics in the canon of literature:

In No 84 of ATYR to be published on December 1st will be commenced, GREAT EXPECTATIONS A new serial story, to be continued from week to week until completed in about eight months.

In a world where we have access to instantaneous information at our finger tips, it is hard to imagine waiting weekly for the next part of a story in print. The Dickensian reader would not read the tales in one sitting, they evolved over time and were delivered as episodes weekly. To think about in a modern context, take your favourite t.v. programme series, say BREAKING BAD, SHERLOCK (please add appropriate title), now put all of the scripts into one place. That is a hell of a lot of words, copious pages of syntax. The way I am attacking the reading of Charles D is not really how it was intended to be read.

The archive space here in Liverpool is really something special. A place to handle the creative past, to instantaneously transport back to previous literary and cultural times.

LJMU archive is accessible to the general public by appointment 10-4 Monday to Friday. It houses a host of intriguing collections:

  • THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL
  • JOHN MCCREADY ARCHIVE
  • THE ARTHUR DOOLEY ARCHIVE

arthur dooley

  • THE LIDDELL HART COLLECTION OF COSTUME
  • INTERNATIONAL TIMES
  • THE BARRY MILES ARCHIVE
  • ENGLAND’S DREAMING: THE JON SAVAGE ARCHIVE

punk

  • CYBERNETICS, PUNK, FASHION, COUNTERCULTURE, THEATRE, ART, HISTORY.

In keeping with the technological times we live in, there are also a number of resources online. After all, If Charles Dickens were alive today he would be blogging, instructing people from his iPad, laptop or smartphone, for this is the way readership is now acquired. And imagine what Oscar Wilde could do with twitter!

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William Roscoe, thank you!

On 8th March I did raise a glass for Mr. William R, Liverpool’s Renaissance man. A model citizen, a man of integrity, an authentic role model. Someone I wholeheartedly admire.

original botanic garden plans

Traditionally, on someone’s birthday, a gift is purchased to celebrate the occasion, to herald another year gone by. This year, I would like to do the reverse. To highlight the gifts that William Roscoe gave to his homestead, the City of Liverpool, during the course of his lifetime.

Long before Roald Dahl wrote The BFG for his granddaughter Sophie, in 1802 Roscoe wrote The Butterfly’s Ball and The Grasshopper’s Feast for his son, Robert. King George III liked it so much, he had the poem set to music.

butterfly ball

He was behind the creation of The Botanic Gardens. In 1797, he and a group of friends created a scholars’ library, the Liverpool Athenaeum. The club still houses a collection of Roscoe’s books.

athenaeum

Roscoe founded an Institute for Mechanics and Apprentices, which has today evolved into the thriving Liverpool John Moores University. Roscoe had the courage to denounce the African slave trade in his native town where, at that time, a significant amount of the wealth came from slavery.

What was in the local press on 8th March? Absolutely nothing! I affectionately call the local rag ‘The Misery Gazette’, as if it is not warning about imminent drug crimes or other news of negativity, then it’s reporting news stories about restaurants that were closed down for health reasons three years ago. It is something when the only interesting or even joyous part of a newspaper is its obituary section!

What do I do to pay homage to the man’s day of birth? I take a simple bunch of flowers, this year white roses, and I leave it at his modest memorial sandwiched next to a Tesco Express. As there are a minimum of 800 Tesco’s in the city centre, I will have to be a little bit more specific.

william roscoe burial

It is on Mount Pleasant and I say modest, because this is exactly what Roscoe would have wanted. Amongst the sprawling masses of Liverpool. In the very hub. Besides, he doesn’t really need an ostentatious memorial. The essence of his greatness lies in the achievements that are all around in the Pool of Life.

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Andrew McMillan

John Maguire introduces poet Andrew McMillan…

Sparse, physical, unpoetic, ordinary; four adjectives used by the poet Andrew McMillan to describe his work.

Andrew is currently lecturing in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University and has an impressive creative catalogue, including publications such as Salt Book of Younger Poets and work in The London Magazine and Under/Current to name a few.

images

His second pamphlet of work, The Moon is a Supporting Player, is playful and at times is like a kind of literary jazz. There is a solid structure and form with the language and imagery springing from the pages.

Cityscape

backslash of corrugated roof          single cheek

of light across the broad chest of city

the potholed avenue the moon has been reduced to

The work screams to be read out loud, at times the poetry is somewhat cinematic.

Tippi Hedren appears as a tree

such reading elegance      uncreased

under a stress of raven    stoic

The simplicity of the language paints pictures in the mind’s eye.

the birds

Singular lines have a richness that are like literary delicacies.

I love you with the trailing leg of

a gull heading north

McMillan is a fan of writer Thom Gunn,

The poet I love before all others is Thom Gunn, he was the first writer I think I fell in love with. Geoff Hattersley is a great poet and deserves more readers than he has.

Red Squirrel Press, based in Northumberland, have just published his new pamphlet, which is one long poem called ‘protest of the physical’; the piece was written after splitting up with a long-term partner. He is currently pulling together poems in preparation for his full first collection to be published.

The poet is keen to continue developing his craft,

I think in terms of my own stuff you always want the next thing to be the best piece; otherwise you wouldn’t carry on writing. Reading at literature festivals and things is great because, as well as flogging the books your publisher wants you to, you can read new stuff out and see how it goes down – getting that instant feedback from an audience is wonderful.

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Literary treasure that packs a Punch

Literary pirate John Maguire hunts for a treasure trove in Liverpool’s academic archives.

Situated in the middle of Liverpool, nestled away in the Aldham Roberts Library is a literary pirate’s version of buried treasure. Amongst the many precious documents, there is  the Willy Russell Archive, the Everyman Theatre Archive, England’s Dreaming Punk Archive and now a back catalogue of Victorian periodicals and most notably PUNCH.

Cover1

The esteemed magazine of satire, humour and wit, ran from 1841-2002. P.G Wodehouse and Sir John Betjeman are just two of the greats that showcased work in this publication.

An accompanying exhibition explores PUNCH and the evolution of comic journalism rooted in this periodical (principally focusing on the period between 1820 and 1850). The very term cartoon stems from this renowned British Institution.

Cover2

What is striking in the exhibits on display is the attention to detail in the periodicals. Now, in an age of technological advances, it is quite humbling to see the level of expertise and pure craft illustrated in these historical papers. The work was also produced to an extremely tight schedule. Today, we can send out so many emails and deliver presentations that are all-singing and dancing with multiple effects, but how many of us can write a basic letter in a font that is from our own hands.

Cover3

The Exhibition itself consists of four cabinets of artefacts and twelve A1 posters reproducing the front covers of early magazines such as The Puppet Show and the Pickwick Songster. The pieces demonstrate the development of a very particular jocose and amusing style.

The organisers commented,

Punch was for long a household name, found on many a coffee table and in dentists’ and doctors’ waiting rooms across Britain. Its origins in comic journalism from the 1820s and 1830s are less well-known, and this exhibition seeks to situate the development of Punch within the history of periodicals. Showing earlier examples of comic periodicals that influenced Punch offers a very different and informative perspective on the magazine.

The catalogue is being published online as well as in printed form in order to make the exhibition internationally available to the widest possible range of readers.

The Exhibition is open until 20 December 2013.

Organisers Photo

The exhibition has been organised by Brian Maidment, Professor of the History of Print at LJMU, in collaboration with Valerie Stevenson, Head of Academic Services, Library Services, and Dr Clare Horrocks from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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Trashaday

John meets John, as guest writer Mr Maguire meets director Mr Waters in Liverpool…

Let Saturday 9th November be now known as TRASHADAY, for this year, I had the pleasure of spending a wintry Saturday afternoon in the company of a cinematic master, Mr John Waters.

john waters

Waters was in the ‘Pool of Life’ for a series of events (part of the internationally renowned homotopia). The masterclass took place in the Sci-fi-esque environs of LJMU Screen Schools, Redmond Building.

Waters has often past praised fellow creative Mr Tennessee Williams, another champion of the outsider. Quite fittingly, the class began with a screening of BOOM!, (an adaptation of a Williams play, The Milk Float Doesn’t Stop Here) so, so bad it’s good, a visual camp treat, full of lines of genius,

Hot sun, cool breeze, white horse on the sea, and a big shot of vitamin B in me!

BOOM! starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, (think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and add copious vices and addiction); pictures like Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  and The Taming of the Shrew, may highlight the majesty of the chemistry between the toxic lovers, BOOM! illustrates how terribly they are also capable of acting.

boom

The kind of movie that simply would not get made today, in a cinematic environment that lives and is terminated by test screenings, there is no way that a studio would ‘get’ this unique B movie-esque work.

Waters revealed how the film was produced in collaboration with the poison that is alcohol and ALL on set were in some stage of inebriation during the working day, if not downright capernoited.

Looking through the telescope now, back at this feature, the film has a postmodern trashy edge that does in fact work. Intentional or fluke, genius or rebuke? We will never know.

After the screening Waters took questions and answers from an enthusiastic audience. He answered with a cool poise and at no time got snarky with the audience interactions.

The Dickens of alternative cinema spoke candidly about his work, portraits of trailer trash outsiders, freaks, individuals with a whole arsenal of eccentricities, characters with a capital ‘C’. There is no such thing as normal only peeps you don’t really know so well and John Waters’ cinematic treats remind us of this completely.

A catalogue of oeuvre packed with witty writing and twisted plots. Taking quirky oddities and making them positive attributes. Waters brought to the world’s attention Divine, another champion of the underdog, transformed from an overweight suburban geek into a creature of glamorous brilliance.

divine

Allegedly the inspiration behind Ursula from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I am still haunted by the sight of Divine proudly singing You Think You’re A Man But You’re Only A Boy on Top of the Pops.

The afternoon gave an insight into the mind of an individual craftsman of creativity. A man gifted with an inventive imagination that can be expressed as surreal mayhem.

There is a Bowie song called All the Madmen and the lyrics recant how the narrator would rather stay here with all the madmen then perish with the sad men roaming free. When watching a film by this creative force, I would rather be with the circus of Waters’ disciples of trash, be a part of the insanity than not.

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Father of Liverpool culture’s voice continues to resonate in the Pool of Life

Another of our guest posts by John Maguire, whose biography of William Roscoe is due for publication in 2014

Liverpool John Moores University continues to champion the spirit of the esteemed father of Liverpool Culture, William Roscoe, via the 2013 Roscoe Lecture Series. These free lectures will recommence after the summer with the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson OBE discussing the challenges and opportunities facing Mayors and their cities, to be held in October at the Philharmonic Hall.

The esteemed talks have seen some of the country’s leading commentators join the people of Liverpool in discussing the issues that really matter to them. Speakers as diverse as writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, cosmologist Professor Martin Rees, the campaigner Esther Rantzen and his Holiness the Dalai Lama. To encourage an exchange of ideas, question and stimulate debate, to generate a deeper understanding in a time of increasing diversity and social change.

The lectures are named after the father of Liverpool Culture: William Roscoe. A man who helped transform 19th century society by campaigning against the evils of slavery. He had the guts to stand up and rail against the slave trade that had made the fortunes of many of his peers. Roscoe made a massive contribution to the Liverpool tapestry, he created the Liverpool Botanic Garden, formed the Liverpool Royal Institution and the Athenaeum Library.

William_Roscoe

The highlight of this season’s free lectures had to be the 107th Lecture, where Claire Tomalin was welcomed to muse on her latest literary offering, Charles Dickens: A Life.

Ms Tomalin passionately enthused on Dickens and illustrated many comparisons between Roscoe and the Great Victorian Novelist. The work of both illustrates a transformative manifesto for social change. Dickens’ father was constantly in and out of debt and the trauma and humiliation scarred his very being and indeed fired his furnace of ambition. Leaving school at fifteen he worked as an office boy in a law firm and took up shorthand, this skill led him to legal reporting and he could draft detailed reports which developed his reputation with the newspapers. The contacts he made in this industry would eventually lead to his sketches being published and creating such an impressive body of work.

Roscoe too left school at an early age, having learned all that his schoolmaster could teach. With a passion for education he began to read the classics. Alongside his work as a lawyer, he made acquaintance with the language and literature of Italy, which was to dominate his life. An aficionado of art, examples from his collection can be found in the Walker Art Gallery. His obsession led to writing a history of Lorenzo de Medici in 1796. Quite co-incidentally Claire Tomalin owns a first edition of this book!

The discussion touched on all the facets of Dickens’ character, including his love affair with the ‘Pool of Life’, which began when he sailed from the Mersey for the first time in 1842 for America. He wrote from the Adelphi to his sister on the ‘warmth and reception’ the Liverpool people had given him.

He had a lust for life and his pre-talk rider would often be a pint of sherry and a pint of Champagne. The ‘inimitable’ Bos would walk every day, writing typically till around 2pm and then perambulating around the Metropolis, stoking the fire of his creativity, orchestrating his plots and narratives. He famously declared in later life, when seized by gout, that he would explode if he could not work. His sheer mental and physical energy is illustrated in the fact that, alongside writing his novels and running a magazine, he would also steam through at least one hundred letters of correspondence a year.

Dickens’ regard for those on the edges of society went beyond mere research for his novels; he would often visit prisons and was genuinely interested in real people, far from the kind of staged concern adopted by many modern-day z-list celebrities and Hollywood royalty.

Indeed, the sheer opulence of the Liverpool architecture left Claire Tomalin ‘stunned’. However for a biographer writing about an author famed for his research and attention to detail – Dickens trained at Bridewell to be a special constable just so he could wander around the Liverpool docks later at night – it is almost bizarre that it was Tomalin’s first visit to the Hall, scene of Dickens’ legendary penny readings. Still, the theme of the evening, how Dickens turned himself by his own efforts into good order, delivered by a lady who clearly understood her subject and spoke about the man with passion was enough to brighten up a dull wet Wednesday evening

The Roscoe lecture series continue in forging the very fabric of this city’s greatness. As the man himself cited,

everything connected with intellect is permanent.

Thankfully the lecture series continues to be a permanent feature in the university.

All lectures are free but entrance is by ticket only. To reserve your tickets for next season, please contact LJMU’s Conference and Event Services team on 0151 231 3668 or email RoscoeLectures@ljmu.ac.uk

Picture by Rod Crosby at Wikimedia

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