Category Archives: Collection highlights

Reading room and registration area

Special Collections re-opening

Over the summer we’ve been very busy moving to a new Special Collections reading room, with improved facilities for readers and teaching workshops using our collections. Our official re-opening is on Monday 9 October between 1 and 4pm to which everyone is very welcome.

Reading room and registration area

Our new reading room and registration area

Our re-opening is taking place during National Libraries Week, and you’ll have a chance to see some highlights from our collections out for you to discover. This is a great opportunity to drop in and see how Special Collections can support you.

Is there something from our collections that you’d particularly like to see on Monday? Then get in touch via email or Twitter and we’ll see what we can do!

We are still on level 3 of the Bannerman Centre, but now in BANN 328 (access via main stairs/lift). Please ask at the library welcome desk if you need directions.

Advertisements

National Sporting Heritage Day 2017

Today it’s National Sporting Heritage Day and we’re blogging about one of our collections which is particularly relevant to this theme.

Dennis Brutus Collection

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dennis Brutus was a South African human rights activist, sports campaigner against apartheid, and poet. He is perhaps best known for his campaign to have apartheid South Africa banned from the Olympics. In the 1960s there were issues surrounding participation in the Olympic Games by teams from apartheid South Africa, where athletes were racially segregated and had to compete in separate trials. South Africa was banned from the 1964 Games, but controversy resurfaced concerning involvement in the 1968 Games in Mexico City. Various athletes threatened a boycott if the team from South Africa was allowed to compete, and South Africa was eventually banned from the Games and from the Olympic movement, not reinstated until 1990.The Dennis Brutus collection held at Brunel is a valuable resource for the study of this controversy.

Dennis Brutus (1924-2009) was a founder of the South African Sports Association in 1961 and of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) in 1963, of which he became president. He was refused a passport and later imprisoned; other members of SANROC suffered similarly, but the organisation was revived in London in 1966, when Brutus managed to move to Britain. Pictured above are a range of documents on the Olympic boycott.

 

Freedom poems inspired by the collections to celebrate National Poetry Day 2017

Today we’re celebrating National Poetry Day by being part of a range of events. Emma Filtness, Lecturer in Creative Writing, teamed up with Special Collections at Brunel to encourage the writing and sharing of new, original poems on this year’s National Poetry Day theme, “Freedom”.

Items from the collections that resonated with the theme were offered as inspiration for participating poets. The featured items were:

Have a read of the selected entries below – enjoy!

A Woman’s Guide to Travel

by Simi Abe

Woman, you are origami first and foremost; born as cold pressed stars, water-shy boats, and flightless cranes. Age taught you how to undo your form, now you can be everything and anything. You were made to accommodate and occupy small spaces. This comprehensive guide will show you how to do so when in transit.

How to Sit on the Train

Next to a man made up of wide angles

Alter your shape to mimic his outline. Fold your knees to one side then crease your ankles against the train floor.

Between two men with sharp intrusive corners

Make unassuming angles of your violent, womanly curves. Gather your legs onto your seat; keep your knees pressed against your chest and arms neatly tucked in.

When a man fails to acknowledge your form

 If a man ever sits on you by mistake, collapse your ribs to accommodate the brute force of his spine. Compress your organs for the betterment of his comfort.

If you’re caught next to the precipice of his knee

Learn to invert your body. Hook a leg over your shoulder and scrunch the other beneath you. Press an arm behind your back and drape the second one over your head.

Simi Abe is currently studying Creative Writing in London. She uses her unique perspective on the world to examine the female experience and identity within her work. She draws inspiration from the playfulness in surreal art and beautiful film cinematography which help her create strong visual images. She especially enjoys experimenting with surrealism because it is an excellent way of pushing creative boundaries.

19:52 to Paddington

by Kirsty Capes

The sea seems far gone now, the tide tugged away
by a cancer-moon and
I am placing narrow feet into high-heeled shoes on
the station platform. Smells brittle,
like industry, like metal in blood,
something aged but nascent. Something
emerging from the womb.

When the train arrives, there is a
you are far too pretty to be travelling alone and then:
bile. Stinging the throat, the mouth, the back of the nose.
The guard says thank you,

thank you ever so much.

There is no time to read. Someone in the
next carriage is chain smoking;
face obscured. I imagine
the thing inside me growing stronger.

The imprint of a puckered mouth, coated with
chili-coloured lipstick,
smeared on the windowpane.
Outside, dusk is the yolk of an egg,
spooned out and split.

We are sorry to announce
the Circle Line is closed for engineering works.

Kirsty Capes is a postgraduate research student and teaching assistant on the Creative Writing programme at Brunel University London. Her poems have previously been published in Rising, Roulade and Astronaut magazines. She writes at femalefriendshipinfiction.wordpress.com and tweets at @kirstycapes

 

In the air

by Marina Cicionesi Jansson

encapsulated in the airplane,
out of reach of coming down
she´s resting in the blue seats,
a calming blue she has come to know
in the middle of going and coming,
from home to home through terminals
once, London was new;
a thousand red buses dissed her in the roundabout
the first time she came up from the underground
a vibrancy of the unknown shook her into being new
who do you become when always being in the in-between?
in one landscape you come to play a role,
in another you´re not the same
she learnt to leave, leave and leave
as each day is a chance of re-awaking
each time a take off she lets go
of her old self in the known
waving to the past,
to who she knew her self to be
each landing is a new start,
opening the eyes seeing blue
yet she´s lingering, in this comfortable encapsulated blue
unwilling to leave the non-gravity moment,
its transparent air, this above-perspective
revealing all her directions simultaneously
a looking glass of a make believe,
awakening those limitless capacities
shaking her like turbulence,
this eagerness!
arising like watered sprouts to the sun  
if I only could bring this certainty to the ground!
she will remember it in things that are blue
once, in the unknown coming,
she´ll blossom in blue

Marina Cicionesi Jansson is currently studying an English with Creative Writing BA at Brunel University London and moved to London in early 2015 from Sweden. As she is still living between the countries, and travelling when not studying, the feeling of being in the “in-between” strongly influences her writing. She also works as a photographer and art director with the focus on social and environmental challenges: http://marinacj.se

A Cautionary Tale

by Emma Filtness

I am the girl with hair the shade of Mother’s copper pot / the girl with freckles that develop over time like rusting iron / with eyes the colours oak leaves turn in autumn / the girl who wears a hooded cloak steeped in madder root / who carries a basket of dark rye bread and heady honey-wine / the girl lured by the sweet rot of the after-harvest / who snatched up the last of summer’s flowers / stems snapping and paper-leaves rifling / the girl who looked with longing into the dark of the under-canopy / whose pulse throbbed hot at the first grey glimpse of pelt / the girl who sighed as she met the amber gaze of wolf / the girl who did not listen to her mother

Emma Filtness lectures in Creative Writing and English at Brunel University London as well as leading community Creative Writing sessions. Her poetry, short fiction, reviews and articles have appeared in magazines and journals such as Popshot and Writing in Education. Find out more: https://emmafiltness.wordpress.com/

Victoria, Siempre

by Jonathan Pizarro

In the eastern breeze you navigate
Your mother’s veins,
That ran through roads unexplored
By her mother’s mothers.

Transcendent,
And keeping with the pump of
Lungs
That drew breath
On different words.

In knots measured
A challenge,
Sails full for those lands
Bombed by yonder enemy,
Yet feeling the magnificence

Of possibility,
While a city burns around you.

The guilt,
It turns with each passing bus,
It hangs on the sleeves
Of the nuns who give you
The taste of gasping
Knowledge.

What a fountain
What a rebirth,
What a beautiful sensation
Of paper turned and ignorance
Forgotten.

And then to return,
To silent revelry.
To the turning of
Beads
Until you get to the
Cross,
Decades again repeated.

But never wanting,
Never tied.
Always those sweet breaths
Of memory,
The black and white film
Of when you ran
Free.

Jonathan Pizarro is a mild-mannered English Literature/Creative Writing student and writer. In particular, he explores horror and speculative fiction in relation to his hometown, Gibraltar. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @pizarrofiction and check out his blog.

To read more “Freedom poems” check out the National Poetry Day website.

We are delighted to announce that the winner of our creative writing competition is Simi Abe, for her poem A woman’s guide to travel. Congratulations Simi! Your prize is a library bookbag, Waterstones gift card and some writing-related goodies. We’ll be in touch to get them to you.

International Nurses’ Day

12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, is International Nurses’ Day, when people around the world celebrate the contribution that nurses make to society. We thought we would join in by sharing a story from our Special Collections about nurse training in the past.

A few of the autobiographies in our Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies recount experiences of nursing, including that of a male nurse in the 1930-50s, plus women who worked as nurses and housemaids at different times in their lives. This post will focus on Winifred Relph, who was born in 1912.

Winifred worked firstly as a housemaid after leaving school, then as a nurserymaid. She tried applying for nurse training at several London hospitals, but was told that her education wasn’t good enough, and advised to try small, provincial hospitals instead. Eventually she was accepted for training at Todworth General Hospital on the borders of Kent/Sussex.

As a probationer nurse she earned a salary of £20 a year and also had to supply much of her uniform, including:

  • 14 linen aprons
  • 6 stiff linen collars
  • 6 stiff linen cuffs
  • black woollen stockings
  • flat laceup black shoes

She lived on-site in the Nurses’ Home and shared a room with another probationer. Nurses’ rooms were inspected by the matron and expected to be kept as neat as on the ward. In the evenings the senior nurses played the piano and sang in the nurses’ sitting room.

She describes some of her typical tasks, such as starting each day with making thirty beds, with 90 seconds allowed for each bed (including removing the patient from it and putting them back again!). Nurses worked 12 hour shifts, including two hours off each day and three meal breaks. After six months of learning practical skills on the wards (Winifred worked on both the Children’s and Men’s wards) lectures on nursing theory were started, but unfortunately Winifred never got this far, as she became ill with acute rheumatism and was unable to carry on nursing.

Nursing only forms a small part of Winifred’s autobiography. You can find out more about different aspects of her life and writing at Writing Lives. Find out more about our other autobiographies on this blog.

 

Brunel Library in 50 blog posts

To tie in with the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations during 2016, Special Collections have been showcasing the Library by running a blog series of 50 Library objects that tell us about the building, holdings, and services. We put up one post on the Special Collections blog every week for fifty weeks during 2016 and the last post went up on 16 December. Check out the blog series here or on twitter via #BrunelLibrary50objects and see the range of collections we have!

Topics covered include the history of the Library building; a railway station record of a corpse being sent by train; autobiographies of ordinary people; letters of palaeontologist Mary Anning; research into cultural and sociological aspects of ageing carried out recently at Brunel; modern poetry; use of the library for recreation as well as study; records of anti-apartheid campaigner Dennis Brutus; rare books and journals; artwork; and much more.

Do let us know in the comments which were your favourite posts. Perhaps you enjoyed comparing the library building then and now? Finding out about our oldest book? Or our railway photograph collections?

50 objects 48: Elizabethan spies

leftspiesLong before James Bond, there was John Dee and a network of other spies drawn together by Francis Walsingham to serve Elizabeth I. Some research material on such spies in Shakespearian times is found in Brunel’s Holmes collection.

Edward Holmes researched into the authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. He published Discovering Shakespeare: a handbook for heretics (Mycroft : 2001) which discusses the authorship in an accessible way through fictitious dialogue between two people. His research notes were given to Brunel University Library and are housed in Special Collections.  However, the notes are far more extensive than the subject of the book. There are files on many subjects related to Tudor and Elizabethan times, including language, gardens, music, and other literary men. As a tangent to this last, Holmes notes that there seems to be some overlap between writers of literature and drama, and spies or secret agents. leftlit-soldier-spy

Perhaps the most well-known example of this overlap is Christopher Marlowe. Here’s a page of Holmes’ notes on Marlowe’s death and related issues.

marlowe

Holmes goes on to amass a file of information on espionage and ciphers at this time, sometimes interweaving Shakespeare, and similarities to characters in Shakespeare’s plays, with details on other men. Much of the material is in note form and it tends to be brief and cryptic, but forms a basis for further study both of Elizabethan spies and of academic views on them at a particular time.

leftdoulande

There are notes on the life and work of individuals who may have been connected to the network of agents, and theories about their activities. Here Holmes notes information about “John Doulande”, John Dowland the musician who some suspect of being involved with espionage.

Much of the “espionage” file consists of attempts to draw together a unified picture of the web of intrigue at particular point in time, by charting names, places, contacts, and so forth. Below are three diagrams of such networks.

leftnetwork3leftnetwork2leftnetwork1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There seem to be no conclusive findings here, but many questions are raised and ideas generated for further study.

 

For more on the question of Shakespearian authorship, see the De Vere Society and the Shakespearian Authorship Trust.

For more on espionage and secret agents in this period, see

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/spying_01.shtml

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/spies/spies/standen/default.htm

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/who-were-elizabethan-spies.html

For more on John Dee, see the material surrounding the Royal College of Physicians’ exhibiton.

 

50 objects 47: Dennis Brutus’ poems on Solomon Mahlangu

Dennis Brutus (1924-2009) was a poet and human rights activist who grew up in South Africa. He taught in a high school until he was dismissed for activism against apartheid, and he became instrumental in the movement against racism in sport. He was imprisoned and, on release, forbidden from teaching, publishing his writings, continuing to study law, and attending political meetings.

His poems reflect his frustrations and sadness at the political environment, and are frequently concerned with the sufferings of fellow black or mixed-race people.

One poignant set of poems on this topic is In Memoriam: Solomon Mahlangu, published in 1979. Solomon Mahlangu was a South African who was hanged by the apartheid South African government in 1979 after a controversial verdict finding him guilty of murder, and despite the intervention of the UN. The deaths were caused by another man, who was not considered fit to stand trial, and Mahlangu was found guilty on the understanding that he had had a “common intent” with the other man. The booklet begins, and ends,

“Singing
he went to war
and singing
he went to his death”.

The copy of this collection held at Brunel has a handwritten dedication to Brutus’ wife and children.solomon

Another published booklet of poems held in the Dennis Brutus Collection is Thoughts Abroad, by Dennis Brutus but published under the pseudonym John Bruin in order that it could be published in South Africa, where Brutus’ work was banned. This copy has been updated to attribute the work correctly and explain more about Brutus and his work.

There also handwritten poems and drafts by Dennis Brutus, and various works by other poets. The copy of Restless Leaves, a booklet of poems by Mark Espin, is dedicated to Dennis Brutus in thanks for the inspiration he provided.

espin

hearing1

End of a poem written by Dennis Brutus during a UN hearing

 

Further reading on Dennis Brutus:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/dennis-brutus

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/feb/23/dennis-brutus-obituary

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dennis-Brutus