I am now one week into living in Manchester, and settled and ready to commence working on my PhD in the English and American Studies department at the University of Manchester!
A few weeks back I was invited to attend the launch of a new exhibition at The John Ryland Library in Manchester by one of the curators (and my new PhD supervisor) Dr Doug Field. I was happy to accept, and yesterday evening cycled down to the library with great expectation.
With talks from the curators, and special guest Michael Horovitz, the exhibition was a phenomenal insight into the central position of Jeff Nuttall in the international countercultural movements of the 1960s. Largely filled with correspondence, the range of better and lesser known names within the counterculture was astounding. A personal highlight, though, came from the library’s wider archives, and were two typed and scrawled on poems by Allen Ginsberg, including a galley copy of Kaddish.Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, but it cemented the night’s experience for me.
The exhibition also offered up a way into a primary research interest of mine: small presses and the Mimeo revolution. Jeff Nuttall is linked to the founding of the London based ‘International Times’, a magazine of the counterculture that sits alongside others such as Ed Sanders’ New York-based ‘Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts’ and ‘OZ London’.
Narratives of ‘the underground’ and self-positioning by writers and editors as part of that underground form the basis for one of my PhD chapters. This chapter will explore the idea that for a self-positioned underground, one must have an idea of a corresponding overground, a system and position, a culture and shared ideals, against which one stands, writes, and acts. Central to my thinking is that it is not only the act of writing that stands as an act of resistance, but the materiality of the publication (including, most significantly, the location in which it is printed) functions as a point of unity, a central point on a map of resistance and rebellion, which others can access, rally around, and act accordingly.
For those interested in small presses and how they were produced (the Mimeograph machine made a lot of this possible), the archives of ‘OZ London’ and ‘OZ Sydney’, as well as those of ‘Fuck You’, have been made available online. The University of Wollongong hold the ‘OZ’ archives (click here) and Columbia University hold the physical archive of ‘Fuck You’, but RealityStudio offer digitised copies (click here). In addition to this, the Little Magazines archive at UCL (click here) has a phenomenal collection of independently publish material, and I will be spending a lot of time there over the course of the next three years. What is most refreshing, though, is to discover The John Ryland’s holdings, so close to where I’m studying, and something I was unaware of before applying to Manchester in earnest.
If the 60s and the counterculture isn’t your thing, though, the Little Magazine and Small Press movement developed out into the Fanzines of the 80s and 90s. In fact, if anyone happens to be in the area (and at some point in this PhD I hope to be), the Fales Library at New York University holds an extensive collection of Riot Grrrl zines and archives, in their ‘Riot Grrrl Collection’ (click here). Unfortunately this practice of small scale self-publishing seems to have greatly diminished as communications technology has increased, but for those interested in these acts of self-determination and cultural resistance, or just interested in the ephemera/print-culture of sub-cultures, small press material is always a good starting point.