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17th April 2022

University launch British Pop Archive with unseen items from Joy Division’s Ian Curtis

Announcing the British Pop Archive at the university’s very own John Rylands Library. Including artefacts from Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, New Order, the Sex Pistols, and Granada Television.
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University launch British Pop Archive with unseen items from Joy Division’s Ian Curtis
Photo: British Pop Archive Logo

The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Research Institute and Library will launch The British Pop Archive, an exhibition of British popular culture, youth culture, and counter-culture from the 1950s to the present day.

The British Pop Archive will launch with Collection, running from 19th May 2022 until 15th January 2023. Curated by British Pop Archive curator Mat Bancroft, Jon Savage and Hannah Barker, Collection will document the cultural significance of Manchester’s music scene reinforcing our city as the music capital of the country. The Smiths’ lyricist and guitarist Johnny Marr summarises it perfectly: “Manchester’s musical heritage and history makes it the perfect home for the British Pop Archive. It’s long overdue.”

Photo: John Rylands Research Institute and Library @ University of Manchester

From 1980s post-punk and new wave bands like Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths, and New Order, and Salfordian punk-poet John Cooper Clarke, to the Madchester scene which saw the likes of Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, and The Stone Roses dominate the charts, continuing with the rise of Britpop in the 1990s with Oasis and James, to this very day with indie-rock acts like The Courteeners, Blossoms, The 1975, and Pale Waves, Manchester has and always will continue to bear an influence on music today.

The collection will be the first to showcase the complete archive of Joy Division singer and lyricist Ian Curtis. Fans of the band and its successor New Order will be delighted to view the band’s manager Rob Gretton’s original written vision for the band. Further to this, Ian Curtis’ handwritten lyrics to Joy Division classics such as ‘She’s Lost Control’ and ‘Atmosphere’ will be presented.

Photo: Handwritten Lyrics to ‘She’s Lost Control’, Ian Curtis @ University of Manchester

Professor Christopher Pressler, John Rylands University Librarian and Director of The University of Manchester Library, said: “The John Rylands Research Institute and Library is one of the acknowledged great libraries of the world. This position is founded on our astonishing special collections and archives. Whilst we continue to work on materials in every format and every language from five thousand years of human history it is critical that we also engage with our own time. The British Pop Archive is part of our desire to reach into areas not always associated with major research libraries, including pop music, popular culture, counter-culture, television and film. This is a national archive held in Manchester, one of the most important centres of modern culture in the world.”

Perhaps the pinnacle of a new era of music, the Sex Pistols’ legendary shows at The Lesser Free Trade Hall – now the Radisson Hotel on Peter Street near the Albert Hall – ushered in the post-punk movement. To this day, those who attended the shows brandish their ticket stub like a badge of honour. Members of The Fall, The Smiths, Buzzcocks, and Joy Division were all in attendance, and subsequently went on to form their bands, feeling inspired by the ruthless punk rockers. The carefully preserved original posters for these gigs will also be on display.

Photo: Hannah Barker, Jon Savage, and Matt Bancroft, @ John Rylands Library Manchester

Visionary designer Peter Saville – who designed Joy Divison’s Unknown Pleasures and Suede’s Coming Up album artwork – will have his work displayed. For those wanting to put a face to the name, students may recognise Saville’s face from the huge mural off Wilmslow Road in Withington. The exhibition will also include the complete corporate archive of Granada Television, now known as ITV, which produces the world’s longest running soap opera Coronation Street.

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.”

Photo: Coronation Street, Granada Television @ University of Manchester

Collection at The British Pop Archive runs from Thursday 19th May to 15th January 2023 at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, University of Manchester. You can find it at this address:

The John Rylands Research

Institute and Library

The University of Manchester

150 Deansgate

Manchester M3 3EH


You can read more about The British Pop Archive here.

Sarah Taylor

Sarah Taylor

Head Music Editor @ The Mancunion. Freelance Music and Culture Writer @ DIY, The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, etc. Alt-rock connoisseur and Britpop aficionado. Twitter: @tayl0rsarah LinkedIn:

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