Introducing the Dave Cunliffe Collection

Bruce Wilkinson, John Rylands Research Institute Fellow, writes:

Dave Cunliffe as young man
Dave Cunliffe as a young man, Dave Cunliffe Collection, The University of Manchester Library. Photographer unknown.

My name is Bruce Wilkinson and I will be working on the literary archive of the poet, publisher and activist Dave Cunliffe recently acquired by the John Rylands Library. These regular research blogs will keep you informed of all the latest findings and will hopefully bring to life a wonderful collection of material including several hundred poetry magazines and countercultural publications,  a huge amount of correspondence and numerous photographs (many of which need identifying).

My book Hidden Culture, Forgotten History  (Penniless Press, 2017) is the story of how Cunliffe played an important part in the ‘British Poetry Revival’ (a phrase he coined), using magazines to distribute a literary avant-garde largely ignored by the mainstream media. It also outlines how in the early 1960s this working-class autodidact connected with an emerging US counterculture, using his BB Books press to promote veganism, animal rights and radical pacifism.

Dave Cunliffe seated
Dave Cunliffe is seated in the middle of the front row, Tina Morris to his left holding a drink, Dave Cunliffe Collection, The University of Manchester Library.  Photographer unknown.

The ‘action shot’  below is Dave about to throw himself on a car containing Enoch Powell who is entering Blackburn Rugby Club to make a speech not long after his ‘Rivers of Blood’ oration. It made the national papers but surprisingly the rugby club didn’t seem keen to talk about it for my research.

Dave Cunliffe protest
Dave Cunliffe confronts Enoch Powell. Dave Cunliffe Collection, The University of Manchester Library.  Photographer unknown.

It is wonderful that the University of Manchester Library is preserving this important archive which complements the dom sylvester houédard and Jeff Nuttall collections it already holds.

Alongside the blogs I will also be curating an exhibition of material from the collection and give several talks about the material’s significance and I encourage you to get in touch with your own comments and contributions.

Bruce Wilkinson, John Rylands Research Institute


3 comments on “Introducing the Dave Cunliffe Collection

  1. Barry Cunliffe

    Hi Bruce,let me introduce myself,my name is Barry Cunliffe and I am David’s cousin,I would like to get in contact with you regarding David’s early life and publications.telephone number is 01200429474. Regards Barry.

  2. Pingback: Zines & the Art of DIY Publishing – The John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

  3. Having recently completed listing the contents of the Dave Cunliffe Papers I can confirm that it holds around 5000 little poetry magazines, poetry pamphlets and counterculture publications. It also has a large amount of material relating to the Screeches/BB Books small press and Poetmeat/Global Tapestry Journal including subscription lists, original layout pages and accounts information. There is a large collection of correspondence mostly dating after a 1969 house move and a huge amount of poetic/counterculture related ephemera going back to the early 1960s.

Leave a Reply