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Manchester’s new pop archive showcases the city’s sonic brilliance
By Ella Joyce | Art | 8 April 2022

Image from ‘Rave One’ by Peter J Walsh

Already home to the likes of Shakespeare’s first folio, a Gutenberg bible and the earliest known extract of a New Testament text, John Rylands Research Institute in Manchester is now welcoming a different kind of cultural worship into their archive. The institute’s British Pop Archive [BPA] will open this spring with its inaugural exhibit titled Collection, chronicling Manchester’s storied sonic heritage.

Telling the story of Britain’s pop and youth culture over the past six decades from the post-war period up until the present day, a selection of artefacts and memorabilia has been curated by Mat Bancroft, Jon Savage and Hannah Barker to prove why Manchester is BPA’s perfect home.

Pieces from the likes of Sex Pistols (whose iconic 1976 Lesser Free Trade Hall gig is one of music’s most legendary nights), New Order and The Smiths will sit alongside artwork from Factory Record’s Peter Saville, renowned photographer Kevin Cummins and highlights from the nightclub where it all happened, the Haçienda. Original handwritten lyrics from Joy Division’s 1979 hit She’s Lost Control penned by late frontman Ian Curtis will be on display, as well as artefacts from the cobbles of Coronation Street – arguably of equal importance to British identity as decade-defining music.

Ian Curtis’s handwritten lyrics to She’s Lost Control, 1979, British Pop Archive University of Manchester

Lead curator Mat Bancroft said of the archive; “These materials tell the story of a vibrant city with art, culture and music at its heart. More than that they foreground the creative catalysts, musicians, producers, artists, designers and writers who have instigated this repositioning of landscape – to propose media as the new cultural capital of the city.”

The British Pop Archive opens its doors on May 19th, more info here.

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