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Launch of British Pop Archive and ‘Collection’ Exhibition

19 May 2022

On Wednesday evening luminaries from the worlds of pop culture and academia thronged the John Rylands Research Institute & Library to celebrate the launch of the British Pop Archive (BPA) and the exhibition ‘Collection’.

Mat Bancroft speaks to visitors about the British Pop Archive. Photo-Nicky Sims

It was the largest and most high-profile event the Rylands has hosted for many years. The 200 guests included musician Johnny Marr, actor Maxine Peake, Gillian Gilbert from New Order, and broadcaster and writer Mark Radcliffe.  

They heard Nancy Rothwell say that no other city has produced so many singers, bands and musicians in the field of popular music. It is therefore entirely appropriate that this national collection should be located here in Manchester. 

Music has the power to transform lives. Chris spoke movingly about how the music of the Pet Shop Boys and New Order enabled him to escape the grim realities of life in Belfast during the 1980s. We hope that the BPA will similarly touch the lives of today’s students and the wider community, as well as offering limitless possibilities for research into popular culture. 

Items on display include: Ian Curtis’s handwritten lyrics for some of Joy Division’s most iconic songs, including ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘She’s Lost Control’; a 3D model of the Haçienda nightclub; papers revealing Tony Wilson’s vision for Factory Records; and Johnny Marr’s Gretsch Super Axe guitar.

The event and exhibition are the culmination of months of planning and tireless work by many teams and individuals across the Library, but two of our colleagues deserve special mention: Emily Tan, Exhibitions and Public Engagement with Research Manager; and Mat Bancroft, Curator of the BPA and co-curator of the exhibition (alongside Hannah Barker and Jon Savage). Without them the event and exhibition could simply not have happened.

The exhibition is open from today until 15 January 2023. For further information on the exhibition and the British Pop Archive, see Library StaffNet:

John Hodgson

Photo: Nicky Sims