Special Collections and Archives highlights: 2022 edition

Yet again 2022 has been a year packed with activity and fun! We’ve seen a number of changes for the Special Collections and Archives team; adapting back to life on campus, welcoming new colleagues, fully reopening our Reading Room service post-pandemic, and embarking on new projects. We’ve also had a bumper year for volunteers, who have been working with our theatre collections, British Cartoon Archive, and medieval and early modern manuscripts.  

As is tradition, it’s time for us to take a step back, reflect on what we’ve achieved, and tell you about some of the highlights… 

Karen (Special Collections and Archives Manager) 

It’s been an exciting year in special Collections and Archives. We’ve seen a number of changes in our team. In February we welcomed Beth Astridge to the role of University Archivist – you’ll recall that Beth was our project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive so it was exciting to be able to welcome her to a fulltime position. Beth has made her mark already in organising and delivering some excellent projects – you can read more about that in Beth’s section. We welcomed Rachel to our team on secondment from the Collections Management team. Rachel is working parttime as the project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive continuing the amazing work Beth was doing. In the spring we said goodbye to Jo, who worked as our Senior Library Assistant for almost a decade. Jo now has a fabulous job in London – though she still finds time to pop in and see us occasionally! In the summer we welcomed Christine in Jo’s place. Christine is now firmly established as our Special Collections and Archives Coordinator. Christine is doing a brilliant job of curating already established and new content for seminar groups as well as assisting with the research and selection for our latest exhibition 100 Years: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.  

The logo for our T.S.Eliot exhibition, featuring a cartoon by John Jensen of Eliot in profile.

A poster advertising our Eliot exhibition, featuring a cartoon by John Jensen of Eliot in profile (JJ0584).

Clair and I had great fun meeting and working with Major and Mrs Holt to prepare their Bairnsfather Archive for addition the British Cartoon Archive – see Clair’s piece for a taste of what we have. We are also working on acquiring some other significant cartoon archives in the next year – which is especially thrilling as in 2023 we celebrate 50 years of Cartoons at Kent! Watch our social media for more details soon.  

Mandy has been beavering away making sure our cuttings collection is kept up to date as well as digitising the beautiful photographs of Canterbury that we acquired a few years ago. You can see some in examples in Mandy’s section below.  

Digitisation work has moved forward in a huge way this year. The Phase One kit is now fully functional and being put to good use – see what Alex and Matt have to say below for the latest from them. 

We’ve also been lucky to tempt our former colleague Jacqueline back to the fold – Jacqueline has been working as a project cataloguer to get the books from Carl Giles Archive catalogued. Many of the books are now available on our online catalogue with more to follow in the New Year.  

Earlier this year we received a small grant from UKRI AHRC to support some new collaborative research. We were delighted to work in partnership with our colleagues at the University’s School of Arts, Professor Helen Brooks and Dr Oliver Double, with Helen being primary investigator and Olly and myself acting as co-investigators. As a group, we were particularly interested in exploring representations of gender in popular performance, giving us the opportunity to contribute to the discourse on gender expression and new audiences with diverse, inclusive histories of performance and gender. 

A handmade poster featuring images of Hetty King, Dan Leno, and a costme design for a Principal boy, along with text advertising the event.

Poster for the ‘Beyond the Binary’ project

Beyond the Binary: Performing Gender Now and Then, brought together students, public researchers, performance-makers, archivists and academics from all backgrounds and from across the gender spectrum to undertake original research into our historic music hall and pantomime archives. They worked together on line to unearth histories of gender play and presentation hidden within the collections. 

The research group also had the opportunity to spend a day in Special Collections and Archives and  helped us to deliver a day at the Beaney Museum. 

The final event of Beyond the Binary took place on Thursday 29 September, with a spectacular show, Rowdy Dowdy Boys and Saucy Seaside Girls at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre, Canterbury. The event brought together music, comedy and history. This new performance-lecture was co-created with non-binary folk performers, the Lunatraktors and featured comedian Mark Thomas. The Lunatraktors created new work inspired by items in the collection, which were displayed on a screen and on the stage – including comedy boobs, which were displayed on a specially made stand (adapted from a music stand) alongside one of the pantomime Dame costumes worn by Eddie Reindeer. Mark Thomas performed a hilarious piece he had written on the day – again inspired by the collections.  

An image of two songsheet covers. On the left is Mille Hylton, 'The rowdy Dowdy Boys'. On the cover stands mille Hylton in a full suit and top hat. On the right is Hetty King's, 'Oh! Those girls! (those saucy seaside girls)'. On the cover we see a photograph of Hetty King, standing wearing a full suit and hat, and holding a walking cane.

Two songsheets: Mille Hylton, ‘The rowdy Dowdy Boys’; Hetty King, ‘Oh! Those girls! (those saucy seaside girls)’

This year we were also delighted to succeed in our bid for the Archives Revealed Cataloguing Grants scheme. Our cataloguing project –Oh Yes It Is! – will be starting early in the New Year and will continue throughout 2023. The funding award will make an enormous difference in how we make the David Drummond Pantomime collection accessible to everyone. We will unlock its potential for researchers, historians, performers, and all those interested in the history of theatre and pantomime. We can’t wait to get started! 

A small pile of 12 theatre programmes on a white table.

Some items from the David Drummond Pantomime Archive

Stop the Press! We’ve also just heard that in the New Year we will be receiving material from the first British Muslim pantomime Cinder’Aliyah. I can’t wait to share more news about it with you all when we have the details.  

I think 2023 is also going to be filled with activity and fun!  

Beth (University Archivist) 

2022 has been my first year as University Archivist, as well as finishing off a few projects relating to the UK Philanthropy Archive, so there has been a lot going on!  

Highlights of the work on our philanthropy collections include researching and installing the ‘Exploring Philanthropy’ exhibition which was up from April to November and allowed us to display items from the UK Philanthropy Archive for the first time and introduce visitors to the history of philanthropy; welcoming Fran Perrin to the University to deliver the second Shirley Lecture on open data and philanthropy; and presenting at the Association of Charitable Foundations conference in November 2022, alongside Felicity Wates (Director of the Wates Foundation) and Sufina Ahmad (Director of the John Ellerman Foundation) about the value of projects that reflect on the history of trusts and foundations with some ‘how to’ tips about dealing with your archive records. A lovely celebration to finish the year was that Dame Stephanie Shirley – the founder of our UK Philanthropy Archive – visited Canterbury to receive her honorary degree. It was my first Canterbury Cathedral gradation, and it was wonderful to experience it with Dame Stephanie!   

A photogrpah of Fran Perrin delivering a speech in front of an audience. Fran stands in front of some windows wearing a red top and black blazer. The audience sit on chairs and face away from the camera.

Fran Perrin delivering the second Shirley Lecture, ‘Open Data and Philanthropy’

In University Archive work, I managed a team of amazing student interns who worked on a survey of the paintings, sculpture, photographs and other artworks on display in the College buildings. This survey led to some new acquisitions to the University Archive as we explored the Colleges!  We located the archive records of Rutherford College and also some of the records relating to the early days of Darwin College. These have now been added to the University Archive collection and I’ll be looking at cataloguing the Eliot, Rutherford and Darwin College archive collections later in 2023.  

We have put on some fantastic exhibitions this year which definitely deserve a mention in this summary. In June, with funding from the Migration and Movement Award Fund, we installed the exhibition ‘Reflections on the Great British Fish and Chips’ after working with a Research and Curation Group of volunteers, and our colleague Basma El Doukhi, who explored the collections and co-curated a display of original material looking at themes relating to migration, movement, global food production and the fishing industry. 

A photograph of a small group of people standing in the Templeman Library gallery space, looking at the exhibition.

The launch event for the ‘Fish and Chips’ exhibition.

With further funding from The National Archives’ Archives Testbed Fund we recently held a brilliant sensory event – Taste the Archive – where were hosted a food sharing viewing of the exhibition where we tasted fish and chips, falafel, ma’amoul, hummous and Arabic breads – all of which are featured in the exhibition. It was lovely to share food and learn more about other traditions and cultures in this sensory way. 

A photograph of six people crowded around a table of various foods.

The ‘Taste the Archive’ event

We ended the year with a new exhibition celebrating 100 years since the publication of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. This is a great exhibition featuring some unique items from across the collections so come along and see it before April 2023! 

Clair (Digital Archivist) 

This year seems to have gone by so quickly; it’s a little hard to come to terms with the fact that we’re already writing our highlights of the year! Nevertheless, here we are in December.  

This year I had the pleasure of surveying and accessioning the Holt Bairnsfather Collection. Major Tonie and Mrs Valmai Holt are a couple who live in East Kent. They founded Major and Mrs Holts Battlefield Tours in 1978, offering tours to the public of famous battlefields across the world, before becoming authors. Together they have published over 30 books, including a biography of Bruce Bairnsfather. Their passion for Bairnsfather began in the 1970s, and since then they have amassed an extensive collection of Bairnsfather memorabilia, artworks and collectables. 

Left: Major Tonie and Mrs Valmai Holt with their publications. Right: some publications from the Holt Bairnsfather Collection.

Tonie and Valmai welcomed Karen and I into their home to assess and survey the collection, before we listed and packaged it up for the archive. It includes pottery, china, books, journals and magazines, ephemera, metalware, sketches and artworks. An incredible collection, it really gives an insight in to the impact of Bairnsfather’s work and the popularity of Old Bill and the Better ‘Ole, even some 60+ years after his death.  

A comparison of Bruce Bairnsfather’s ‘Well, if you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it’ (A Fragment from France, 24 November 1915) and Martin Rowson’s ‘Great War Studies – Module 8’ (Guardian, 06 Jan 2014. ©Martin Rowson, MRD0392)

We will continue to sort and organise the collection and hope to be able to add it to our catalogue in detail over the next year. 2023 brings the 50th anniversary of the British Cartoon Archive, and I’m sure this collection will play an important part in celebrating its continued value, and historic significance.  

A cartoon in the style of Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Last Supper', but the characters have been replaced with the Giles family at Christmas dinner.

Ronald Carl Giles, ‘Well, if you know of a better hole to spend Christmas, go to it!’, Sunday Express, 1954. ©Express Syndication Ltd (GAC0102)

We’ve also made some positive steps this year towards improving our digital storage capacity and structure, after experiencing some challenges over the last few years with third party storage and disparate SAN locations. This work will have a real impact on our ability to continue to preserve and protect our digital and digitised collections in a robust and standardised way.

Christine (Special Collections and Archives Coordinator) 

The greatest joy for me this year has been in planning and delivering diverse workshops in Special Collections and Archives to support graduate skills training and taught UG and PG modules. Over the course of 11 different sessions, I had the opportunity to meet and work with 135 students from the University of Kent and beyond, whose engagement with our materials established new insights and lines of enquiry. 

Delving deeper into the archives of Monika Bobinska and Josie Long – two stand-up comedians and comedy club managers – I got to appreciate the home-spun and community-driven nature of their endeavours. These were/are truly pioneering women in their sector who cultivated emergent talent by emphasising inclusivity and creative freedom. Their clubs – respectively, the Meccano Club and the Lost Treasures of the Black Heart – provided space for experimental performance and audience participation. Just look at these charismatic felt audience contributions representing stops on the London Underground… 

A collage of contributions from audience members. They are paper based and very colourful, including handmade images of a house, and another of Bow Church.

Creations that represent areas of London where audience members live (BSUCA/JL/2/6/4/4)

And this unassumingly pub-battered, pint-stained, contacts book that lists the crem de la crem of the alternative cabaret circuit – from Jo Brand to Mark Thomas.  

A photograph of the front cover of a black notebook with a sticker in the top right corner noting 'Cabaret'.

A contact books for the Meccano Club with contacts for comedians, agents and venues (BSUCA/MB/1/1/6)

Another collection I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to know this term is our Modern Firsts Poetry collection, which boasts an astonishing variety of rare small press items and even unpublished proofs from British and American poets of the 20th century. Some of our wonderful volunteers have worked on repackaging this collection this term in order to better preserve the more delicate items – many of which are loose leaves, single sheets, or folded or bound in intriguing ways. This hands-on work has enabled us to not only improve our catalogue records and archival practice, but also to uncover some truly unique items. With examples that are at once abstract and incredibly tactile, this collection surely epitomises Modernist aesthetics and critical thought; ‘these fragments I have shored against my ruins’ testify, too, to the enduring legacy of T.S. Eliot – check out our current exhibition celebrating the centenary of The waste land 

Rachel (Project Archivist) 

This year I moved into the role of project archivist for the UK Philanthropy Archive here at Kent, so a highlight for me was learning about the amazing collections we hold! This year saw us add two new collections to the Philanthropy Archive – those of the Wates Foundation and Craigmyle Fundraising Consultants. 

The Wates Foundation archive is our first collection from a fully family run organisation. The organisation was first set up by three brothers, Allan, Norman and Ronald Wates. The Foundation has three family committees, one for each of the brothers, which means that the work they support is hugely varied. The archive contains project files for each organisation the Foundation has supported, ranging from city farms, to local sports teams, to crime and drug rehabilitation. There is also a wide range of literature and media outputs from these projects. 

A photograph of four items from the Wates archive, including 2 VHS tapes, and 2 DVDs.

Four items from the Wates Foundation Archive

The Craigmyle Archive is a fascinating one, looking at philanthropy and fundraising from a different perspective from our other collections. Until now all our material has been from philanthropists themselves, whereas Craigmyle are professional fundraisers, working with charities and organisations who are looking to fundraise for projects. The company was founded in 1959, at a time where professional fundraising in the UK was basically non-existent. Their early focus was on supporting fundraising for schools, and there is a huge amount of material relating to all the work they have done in that area. The collection even has records of their work with other people who feature in our archive, such as Dame Stephanie Shirley, our founding donor! Clients supported by Craigmyle include Salisbury Cathedral, St. Paul’s School for Boys, Macmillan Cancer Relief, Kingston Theatre Trust and The Woodland Trust, to name just a few. This is by far the biggest collection the Philanthropy Archive has taken in yet, and a dedicated archivist will be being employed to work with it next year, so watch this space! 

Outside of the collections, my highlight for this year has definitely been attending the degree congregation at Canterbury Cathedral last month where the University of Kent awarded Dame Stephanie Shirley an honorary degree.

A photograph from the graduation ceremony. The image shows the following people standing together in a group (left to right): Dr Beth Breeze, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Rachel Dickinson, Beth Astridge.

A photograph from the graduation ceremony. Left to right: Dr Beth Breeze, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Rachel Dickinson, Beth Astridge.

I graduated from Kent in 2012, but this was my first time seeing a ceremony from the other side. Canterbury Cathedral is such a lovely setting for a graduation ceremony, it feels appropriately grand for recognising all the work put in by our students to achieve their degrees. This was also my first time meeting Dame Stephanie in person. We discovered it was honorary degree number 31 for her, but she was still incredibly grateful for the recognition and genuinely had a wonderful time in a glorious setting. The speech she gave referenced her support of the University, including her ties to our archive and her work with the Tizard Centre, and her message to all our graduands was heartfelt and really well received. 

Matt (Digitisation Manager) 

As Alex has alluded to below, after the install and learning phase of 2021, 2022 has been the year of the Phase One. It’s made a huge difference to our digitisation abilities as we’ve learnt to make the most of the whole system. As we progress with our pre-planned projects we’ve started to consider what it can do for us in the next years and the other collections we can digitise. When looking at collections we’ve had for years it’s exciting to have a new perspective on them now that we can digitise them in such amazing detail. 

We’ve also spent some time in the last few months refurbishing a new space for our digitisation systems so that we can bring it all into one custom space, (and also so that we can finally relinquish half of the Special Collections work room back to our colleagues). We’ll be moving in at the start of next year. 

A photograph of an empty room, with concrete walls , with white shelves high up on the wall.

Our new digitisation space in the Templeman Library

Earlier in the year we completed a project assessing our preservation and access systems for our digital collections which means next year we can move forward into testing and hopefully acquiring a new system that will mark a significant step forward in our digital offering to users of our various services. 

Mandy (Special Collections and Archives Assistant) 

Here are a few photos that I have been lucky enough to scan over this past year.

three images left to right: A black and white photograph of a delivery van parked up on a road, with the load on the back of the van spilling over in to the street. A black and white photograph of an elephant being paraded through Canterbury High Street. A man walks in front of the elephant, talking to a policeman in uniform riding a bicycle. A black and white photograph of a garage with a van in the driveway.

Three photographs from the Crampton Canterbury Photograph Collection

They are from our Crampton Canterbury Photograph Collection, and show how much Canterbury has changed throughout the years. 

Alex (Digitisation Administrator) 

2022 has seen the new Phase One photographic reproduction rig come into its own. Alongside colleagues Matt and Clair we developed efficient work processes for the digitisation of artwork and objects within the collections. Once we had the rig up and running in early February the main focus has been on the Beaverbrook Collection of cartoon artwork. The Beaverbrook collection is significant, containing original cartoon artwork by major cartoonists published in some of Britain’s leading newspapers from the 1930s through to the 1960s. To date we have captured around half of the entire collection, over 4000 high-definition images. I’ve found it a fascinating process, particularly the insight it provides to the day to day “talking points” during a turbulent period of global history. 

David Low, 'The Nightmare Passes', Evening Standard, 8th May 1945 (DL2416)

A David Low cartoon from the Beaverbrook Collection, ‘The Nightmare Passes’, Evening Standard, 8th May 1945 (DL2416)

In the audio-visual domain, I completed the digitisation the University of Kent Archive collection of vulnerable analogue magnetic audio cassette tape recordings in the first part of 2022. Since then, I have moved on to digitise of a number of smaller audio cassette collections within the greater Special Collections and Archives stores. These have included recordings from the British Stand Up Comedy Archive, the Ronald Baldwin local history collection and the R. W. Richardson collection of recordings relating to the 1980s Miners’ Strike, particularly in East Kent. 

A photograph of a cassette tape, lying on top of its case. Behind it is an audio deck used for digitisation.

One of the many audio cassettes Alex has digitised this year!

Most recently I have been digitising a series of interview recordings carried out by the University’s Dr Philip Boobbyer. The interviews were conducted during the 1990s in post-Soviet Russia. The subjects of the interviews were various activists and dissidents from the Soviet period. The content has particular contemporary relevance in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Jacqueline (Project cataloguer) 

I am cataloguing the personal library of Giles the cartoonist kept within his archive in the British Cartoon Archive. The library shows Giles’s distinctive set of interests reflecting both his work as a cartoonist and home life near Ipswich in Suffolk. He indexed books with coloured drinking straws to mark images that he might use as references. His collection of works of cartoons from the two world wars, together with contemporary photographic books give a poignant insight into lived experience of those events.

A photograph of books from the Giles library on a shelf.

An image of books from the Giles library

There are sections on farming, on architecture, sailing and ships and series of how to draw books, I-Spy books and even an Argos catalogue. The mix of ideas for cartoons and his everyday life appears here in his copy of ‘Teach yourself brickwork’ with “Lady Diana” written the other way up on his plan for a brick wall with measurements inside the front cover. 

A photograph of a book open to the front page. Inserted in the book is a piece of paper with an image of a brick wall drawn in red pen, alongide some measurements.

An image of the inside of ‘Teach yourself brickwork’ with an inserted note inside

Remembering Marie Lloyd

Friday 7th October, 2022 marks 100 years since the death of Marie Lloyd, one of the most famous and popular music hall stars of the late 19th and early 20th century and “Queen of Comediennes”.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

Early years

Born Matilda Alice Victoria Wood on the 12th February 1870, Marie was the eldest of nine children. All of the Wood children would take their turn on the stage, performing together as early as 1879 as a minstrel act called the ‘Fairy Bell troupe’, with a number of her siblings going on to have successful careers in their own right.

In 1885 Lloyd made her first professional solo performance, performing as ‘Bella Delmere’ at the Royal Eagle Music Hall on 9th May, aged just 15. However, this name was quickly changed and by June of that year she was performing as ‘Marie Lloyd’. Despite not having the best of singing voices, Marie oozed charm and was a natural comedian, making her an instant hit. Her popularity continued to grow, and she continued to get bookings at halls across London, performing songs such as “The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery”, “She Has a Sailor for a Lover” and “Wink the Other Eye”. By 1891 Lloyd was a household name, pulling in large crowds at halls across Britain, and starring in the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane’s Christmas pantomimes alongisde stars such as Dan Leno. As her star continued to rise, her agent reported that Lloyd was fully booked up for years at the best houses across the UK, and that her salary ran from £250-£300 a week, sometimes as much as £700 a week at the height of her career. 

Reputation, charity, and controversy

Part of Lloyd’s appeal was that she did not appear on stage to be bound by the moral constraints of the time – her songs were cheeky and risqué, and she would play with the audience. However, this cheekiness did give her somewhat of a reputation. In 1895, Lloyd added the song ‘What’s that for, eh?’ to her act. The song tells the tale of a schoolchild who, when she asks her parents awkward questions, gets unsatisfactory answers. So she goes to her friend ‘Johnny Jones’ for help, and he teaches her the facts of life. And while the lyrics were not indecent, when Marie performed the song she was suggestive, winking to the audience and gesturing.

“What’s that for, eh? Tell me Ma
If you don’t tell me I’ll ask Pa”
But Ma said, “Oh its no thing shut your row”
Well, I’ve asked Johnny Jones, see
So I know now.”

The song and it’s performance was so controversial that it was cited as evidence in a hearing of 1896, when the Oxford Music Hall was threatened with having its licence withheld.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

In October 1906 Lloyd was elected the first president of the Music Hall Ladies Guild. The organisation helped the wives of artists who were unable to perform and make money, providing food and resources to them and their families. They also supported young people, helping boys find work as messengers or call-boys. Some members of the Guild would use it as an opportunity to network and improve their social standing, however Lloyd did not have time for this pretentious self-promotion. She was well-known for her incredibly generosity and charitable giving, and preferred to have fun and entertain at Guild events.

Lloyd also petitioned for Music Hall artistes to have more rights and fair contracts. She used her clout as a well-known and celebrated artist to stand up for the community, and in 1899 she took a manager to court over a dispute with her contract, and won. This accomplishment was recognised by her peers, who presented her with gifts to mark her generosity in defending artist’s rights. She wrote in The Era “I am, and always have been ready and willing to help my brother and sister artists by every means in my power in anything that is for their good”. She was integral in developing the National Alliance, a group that wrote a charter that was sent out to theatre managers outlining the terms by which performers wished to work. The refusal by some to sign this charter led to a number of theatres being “blacklisted” by artists, and over two thousand performers taking to the streets to protest contract conditions.

1912 saw the first ever Royal Command Performance (later known as the Royal Variety Show) at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, with acts performing on stage in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary. To some amazement, Marie Lloyd was left off of the bill. According to Graeme Cruickshank in the Spring 2012 volume of The Call Boy, this was possibly at the direction of Alfred Butt, Oswald Stoll and George Ashton (producers of the show) in their attempt to make the show “family friendly”. Some thought it may also have been due to her association with the music hall strike, or that it was simply a case of balancing the bill and not oversaturating it with female comedic performers. In public, Lloyd took the slight professionally and with dignity, but there is evidence that she was furious – Alfred Butt even wrote to the palace warning that Marie Lloyd was to write to the King regarding her omission (although there is no evidence of her ever doing this). Possibly telling of her feelings on the matter, on the night of the performance Lloyd put on her own show at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly, and left for Paris immediately after that performance. Albert Chevalier (who was also left off of the billing) said of it “The whole arrangement as it stands is really extraordinary. Who is there more representative of the variety profession? Miss Lloyd is a great genius, she is an artist from the crown of her head to the sole of her foot…”.

Marie continued to perform throughout World War I, performing new songs, including some with a military theme. She also frequently visited hospitals to visit wounded servicemen, and toured munition factories to boost morale.

“Now, I do feel so proud of you, I do honour bright
I’m going to give you an extra cuddle tonight
I didn’t like yer much before yer join’d the army, John
But I do like yer, cocky, now you’ve got yer Khaki on.”

Despite all her charitable efforts throughout her career and during the war, Marie was never officially recognised in the way her colleagues, such as George Robey CBE, were. This had an impact on her bitterness in later life, which was only exacerbated when she was overlooked again for the 1919 Command Performance.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

Off stage life

Despite her successes, Lloyd had a troubled personal life. She was married three times, and experienced domestic abuse during two of them. She married Percy Charles Courtenay in 1887, but the marriage was unhappy, and filled with violence, drunkeness and jealousy. The couple divorced in 1894, after Courtenay discovered that Lloyd had started an affair with fellow performer Alec Hurley. Hurley and Lloyd married in 1906, however the pair were effectively seperated by 1910 after they had consistent marital probems. Lloyd began an open and passionate affair with Bernard Dillon, a jockey. Hurley initiated divorce proceedings in 1911. Sadly the relationship between Lloyd and Dillon was not a happy one, marred by Dillon’s jealousy, drunkeness, and gambling addiction. Despite this they married in 1914. He was violent and abusive throught the rest of Lloyd’s life.

Sadly, Lloyd was also a heavy drinker, particularly in later life, perhaps a consequence of her troubled personal life. She would often have violent fights with Dillon, with Lloyd sometimes needing to apply make up to cover the bruises. As she moved in to her 50s she fell in to a depression, and would no longer hide her feelings of bitterness and anger. In July of 1920 she took Dillon to court over his violence, making their private life very much a topic of public record. This resulted in him being ordered by the court to “keep the peace” for the next twelve months, a sentence that was apparently requested by Lloyd.

In the later years of her life, Lloyd was in financial trouble (in part due to Dillon’s gambling debts) and needed to work in order to get by. Her drinking and ill health made her less and less reliable, sometimes only performing for a fraction of the time that she was scheduled. She began to forget her lines and would sometimes stumble on the stage, so much so that stagehands would be asked to be on call to help her if she became unsteady. In order to save money, in early 1922 she moved in with her sister Daisy, and by the time of her death Lloyd was virtually penniless.

Death

Lloyd worked right up until days before her death, having been on tour for much of 1922 despite being unwell. Her last performance at the Edmonton Empire was the Tuesday before her death. Prior to the performance, she complained to Sidney Bernstein (the owner of the theatre) of a stomach ache and was shivering. Bernstein tried to persuade her to go home, but to no avail. Her doctor was called and he gave her some medication, before staying to watch her performance from the side of the stage. During the performance Lloyd staggered and fell, making the audience laugh thinking it was part of her act. After the show Lloyd collapsed and was taken home in a taxi, unconscious. She did not regain consciousness and died at her residence in Golder’s Green, 7th October 1922 at the age of 52.

Funeral and legacy

Lloyd’s funeral was held at Hampstead Cemetery on 12 October, 1922. More than 50,000 people turned out on the streets of Hampstead to watch her funeral cortege. It was estimated that 120,000 people visited her grave in the following weeks, with queues stretching out from the gates of Hampstead Cemetary. Many newspapers and fellow performers paid tribute to Lloyd in the days after her death. T.S. Eliot wrote a moving tribute to her in The Criterion of January 1923. He said of Lloyd…

“Marie Lloyd was the greatest music hall artist in England: she was also the most popular… It is evidence of the extent to which she represented and expressed that part of the english nation which has perhaps the greatest vitality and interest… Whereas other comedians amuse their audiences as much and sometimes more than Marie Lloyd, no other comedian succeded so well in giving expression to the life of that audience, in raising it to kind of art.” 

Many of the songs sung by Lloyd are still known today, including “My Old Man Said Follow the Van”, “A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good”, and “Don’t Dilly Dally On The Way”. A memorial tablet to Lloyd was installed in the vestibule at Tivoli cinema (what was the Tivoli Theatre) in the Strand in 1944, on the 21st anniversary of her death. Lloyd was also commemorated in 1977 with a blue plaque at her previous residence, 55 Graham Road in Dalston. In media, a stage show and BBC drama have been created depicting the life of Marie Lloyd.

Max Tyler Music Hall collection, University of Kent

Sources

Note

As with many acts at the time, Lloyd performed some songs that contained offensive and racist terminology, and we can not with good conscience speak of her success and popularity without mention of this. Music Hall song and performance was in many ways a reflection of social attitudes at the time, and this does not exclude those parts of white, British history that are offensive and repellent. We can see this in our collection of music hall songsheets, with some containing racist slurs and offensive depictions, imperialistic attitude, and that make light of marital violence, misogyny, and the class divide. Music Hall rose in a time of expansion of the British Empire and popular imperialism. Songs performed by both male and female artists played with notions of power, or leaned on stereotypes to connect with the audience.

Nautical Playbills and The Sea Around Us

Research and Curation Group Blog Series Number 2:

Elizabeth Grimshaw writes the second in our blog series from members of the Research and Curation Group. Elizabeth tells us about her selection of items for the Reflections on the Great British Fish & Chips exhibition, which included some playbills from our theatre collections, and a book by Rachel Carson. 

I had the pleasure of digitizing Dickens playbills while completing my Master of Arts in Victorian literature at the University of Kent, and was so pleased to work with the Research & Curation group to revisit some of these incredible archival resources.

This fantastic 19th century playbill should call to mind two very different songs: the classic anthem Rule Britannia, and the Beatles hit For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.

Historic document, a playbill, for a performance of The Waterman in 1829

Playbill – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. For the Benefit of Mr Braham. “The Waterman”
Reference: POS/LDN DRU/0599532

In 1829, Britannia indisputably ruled the waves. Not only across an Empire through the might of the Royal Navy, but also here her cultural capital takes centre stage. The Waterman is an opera based on the annual race on the Thames that began in 1721, providing entertainment and sport for the ever growing London population. After this play was performed, vocalists in naval uniform, aboard a realistic Man of War, sang nautical tunes, blending fiction and reality at the height of England’s global powers. Invoking the mythical sea king Neptune for this feast aligns with the divine power of the Crown that would change drastically in the years to come. Britannia used to rule from shore to shore, with the sun never setting on the empire. Rule, Britannia! has been sung since 1740, but today should be modified to include and celebrate former colonies in its patriotic performances. The Beatles drew inspiration from a similarly busy playbill to write the lyrics for their hit 1967 song, taking these types of 19th-century entertainments into the 20th century.

Black and White plate from Rachel Carson's book The Sea Around Us

Plate illustration Part 3: Man and the Sea About Him, in Rachel Carson “The Sea Around Us”
Classmark: GC 21

I wanted to end with Rachel Carson’s landmark 1951 environmental text, The Sea Around Us. Her work emphasizes not one country’s mastery over the ocean, but places humanity within an ecosystem we all must support and share. Environmental degradation endangers all living creatures, from the depths of the sea, to the ever changing landscape of tidal pools, to the communities who are reliant on these shoals for survival. This classic work is a timely reminder of how precious the planet is that we all share. The sea supports us, connects us, and sustains us, but can only do so if we care for it. We can take Carson’s text as a guide to connecting with others and protecting the vulnerable, especially as the climate crisis escalates.

Elizabeth Grimshaw, University of Buckingham 

Reflections on the Great British Fish & Chips – Exhibition launch and new blog series!

Welcome to the first blog in a series relating to our new exhibition – Reflections on the Great British Fish and Chips. In the middle of Refugee Week, on Wednesday 22nd June 2022, we celebrated the launch of our exhibition and the fantastic work of our volunteer Research and Curation Group! Over a some delicious refreshments we were able to give visitors the first taste of the new exhibition in the Templeman Gallery.

View of the exhibition launch speeches with a group of people in an exhibition gallery at the Templeman Library

Attendees at the launch hearing from Basma El Doukhi, Karen Brayshaw, Beth Astridge and Tom Green

The original exhibition – The Great British Fish and Chips – was commissioned by Counterpoint Arts in 2021, in partnership with Canterbury Cathedral and Turner Contemporary, Margate. Reportage artist Olivier Kugler, and writer Andrew Humphreys, interviewed and illustrated the stories and experiences of fish and chips shop owners across Kent. They explored the history of fish and chips, Britain’s national dish, and discovered that it could not exist without global trade and migration.

Our hosting of this travelling exhibition also includes a display of items from the University of Kent Special Collections & Archives. The exhibition and display will be open until the end of September 2022.

Research and Curation Group:

This exhibition and display has been co-curated with group of volunteers who formed a Research and Curation Group. The group spent two sessions exploring the original material in Special Collections & Archives, selecting items that particularly interested them, and writing captions to describe their item and explain their selection for the exhibition.

Themes explored by the Research and Curation Group included attitudes to migrant communities in Britain today and in the past, immigration policy in the UK, the development of the fishing industry, the maritime history of places in Kent, and expressions of British ‘ownership’ of the seas in the past as expressed in our theatre collections.

Photography and hand-stitched dress:

We are also delighted to display photography by Rania Saadalah, introduced to us by Basma El Doukhi, our colleague and one of the project leads for this exhibition. Rania’s photographs use visual storytelling to share the stories of inspiring people living in the Palestinian Camps in Lebanon, and depict the preparation of foods such as falafel, ma’amoul, and traditionally baked breads, as well as fisherman at work. Through these images we explore how people and be brought together by sharing food, stories and cultural traditions.

Basma El Doukhi with a group of other people looking at the Fish and Chips exhibition. Basma is gesturing and explaining the photographs on the wall.

Basma El Doukhi explains the background to the photographs by Rania Saadalah

Look out for future blogs in this series in the coming weeks – with contributions from participants in the Research and Curation Group and from Basma and Rania. The blogs will describe our volunteer’s experiences working on the project, and provide images of the items alongside the captions used in our exhibition.

 

Music in the Archives: A whistle-stop tour through our collections (part three)

Welcome to the third and final part of our mini series exploring all things musical in Special Collections & Archives – just in time for Kent’s Summer Music Week! Today we’re stepping into the modern age with pantomime and stand-up comedy; what more could you want on this glorious Thursday?

Pantomime: celebrity, pop culture and the power of music in storytelling

Just as melodrama and popular Victorian entertainments use music in conjunction with other theatrical effects, so pantomime develops the use of music with visual storytelling even further. At Kent, our pantomime material can be found in the incredible David Drummond Pantomime Collection alongside lots of material in our previously mentioned Melville and Pettingell archives.

Programme for Drury Lane Theatre's 1899/1900 Pantomime 'Jack and the Beanstalk' with photograph of star Miss Mabel Nelson

Programme for Drury Lane Theatre’s 1899/1900 Pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Pantomime’s links with music go all the way back to its origins in the 16th century ‘commedia dell’arte’ Italian entertainment with stock characters; when the stories initially began to appear on the British stage in the 18th century performances would have no speech at all – just music. (This was in part due to theatre licensing regulations restricting the use of speech in performances, overturned by the Theatres Act in 1843.) Fast forward to the 19th century and pantomime became an incredibly lavish affair for many theatres, particularly for London’s Drury Lane theatre which became known for its elaborate, expensive performances which lasted as long as five hours!

Cover for sheet music of 'Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera' with five illustrations

Cover for sheet music of ‘Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera’ (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Sheet music from 'Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera'

Sheet music from ‘Beauty and the Beast: A Chamber Opera’ (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Music, of course, is one of the most consistently integral parts of the pantomime genre, from libretti (which you could often buy as a souvenir of the performance) to audience participation. Many songs used in pantomime are familiar to their audiences and often have lyrics rewritten for a particular show. Sometimes theatregoers are encouraged to sing along and participate, with the music helping to give pantomimes a very two-way performance between its stars and the audience.

Poster for the pantomime 'Sleeping Beauty' at the Manchester Palace theatre starring comedians Morecambe and Wise (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Poster for the pantomime ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the Manchester Palace theatre starring comedians Morecambe and Wise (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Poster for the pantomime 'Aladdin' at the London Palladium theatre, starring Danny La Rue (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Poster for the pantomime ‘Aladdin’ at the London Palladium theatre, starring Danny La Rue (David Drummond Pantomime Collection)

Today, we generally associate pantomime with famous stars – but did you know this, too, has musical links? In the 19th century music hall stars began to join pantomime performances – partly to bring in new, younger audiences and partly to add some celebrity glamour to the show! This trend has continued through the 20th century and up to today, with debates about whether this ‘ruins’ pantomime ever-present.

The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive: the next evolution of music hall and challenges for archivists

We couldn’t finish a tour of all things musical without stopping in at the 20th/21st century wonder that is our British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (known as BSUCA for short because we all love an acronym). Created in 2015 and funded through the University’s Beacon projects to celebrate Kent’s 50th birthday, six years later BSUCA contains over 30 different collections and it’s still growing.

What’s particularly brilliant about BSUCA is that for an archive about what initially appears to be a fairly niche subject, it packs one heck of a research punch. Topics it covers include the history of performance, artists and venues, Thatcher’s Britain and the miner’s strike, protest, counter-culture, publishing, audience interaction, celebrity and much more. So – are you surprised that it’s also a great source for all things musical? You shouldn’t be!

Flyer advertising the Alternative Cabaret collective

Flyer advertising the Alternative Cabaret collective (Andy de la Tour Collection, BSUCA/AT/3)

Stand-up comedy as a genre has its roots in both popular performance and variety. Tony Allen’s stand-up comedy developed in part during his time with the Rough Theatre group, whose plays included rewritten gags from music hall shows. The Alternative Cabaret collective (which included Tony Allen, Alexei Sayle, Jim Barclay and Andy de la Tour) performed shows that lasted several hours and included musicians and comedians working together. The links between music hall and stand-up don’t end there: CAST New Variety, a left-wing theatre company founded by Roland and Claire Muldoon, was also responsible for helping to save the Hackney Empire music hall in late 1986 by using it for gigs.

Poster for CAST New Variety night entitled 'Reds under the bed', 1985 (

Poster for CAST New Variety night entitled ‘Reds under the bed’, 1985 (Linda Smith Collection, BSUCA/LS/3/1/1)

When the 1980s Comic Strip group began performing, academic Olly Double notes that several publications compared their gigs as doing to comedy what punk did for the music world (2020, pp.32 – 33). This comparison is further strengthened by the fact that they released an LP:

The Comic Strip poster, 1980

Poster, 1980. Originally a venue, The Comic Strip collective quickly embarked on a national tour, released an LP and produced TV series “The Comic Strip Presents…” (Arnold Brown Collection, BSUCA/AB/2/1)

All of this music inevitably leads us to questions about how we look after such material. Caring for music archives is a lot of fun but it can be tricky! Fortunately preserving most paper-based material such as song sheets and play scripts is a relatively straightforward process (acid free boxes + stable temperature and humidity = happy collections). However, audiovisual material (LPs, videos, CDs, cassette tapes) is generally incredibly sensitive to environmental changes not to mention the rapid development of technology that renders media obsolete relatively quickly. So for us, managing audiovisual material is one of our key priorities at the moment; it involves knowing what material we have and in which formats and then working to prioritise items most at risk. You can read more about how we transfer collections from audiovisual to digital here.

One thing is certain though: these days music is just a big a part of our culture as it’s ever been, whether we listen to the radio, stream music online, or enjoy it as part of live performance. And as long as it continues to be such a large influence on our lives, we’ll continue to collect material on how it’s used in popular culture!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series about music in Special Collections & Archives; do visit our website for more information on the collections and if you have any queries please drop us a line (specialcollections@kent.ac.uk).

Sources:

Pantomime:

Anderson, Gillian B. “Synchronized Music: The Influence of Pantomime on Moving Pictures.” Music and the Moving Image, vol. 8, no. 3, 2015, pp. 3–39. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/musimoviimag.8.3.0003. Accessed 7 June 2021.

Mitchell, G. (2017). ‘Mod Movement in Quality Street Clothes’: British Popular Music and Pantomime, 1955–75. New Theatre Quarterly, 33(3), 254-276. doi:10.1017/S0266464X17000306

‘The Story of Pantomime’ at the V&A Museum: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-story-of-pantomime

BSUCA:

Double, Oliver. Alternative Comedy : 1979 and the Reinvention of British Stand-Up, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/kentuk/detail.action?docID=6120964.