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Special Collections and the Bloodaxe Archive

Some 37 years ago, in a small room deep within campus, Newcastle University student Neil Astley (BA English Literature 1978, Hon DLitt 1996) set up Bloodaxe Books. Today, it is a world-leading poetry publishing house. Wendy Malkin from the Advancement team looks at how the Bloodaxe archive is attracting readers from around the globe.

Since it was founded, in 1978, Bloodaxe has helped launch the careers of major British poets such as Simon Armitage and Sean O’Brien. Between them, Bloodaxe authors have won four Nobel Prizes in Literature, as well as numerous major literary excellence awards.

In 2013, the Bloodaxe archive was acquired by the University’s Special Collections based in the Robinson Library. Funded through the support of alumni and supporters via the Annual Fund, Special Collections features rare books and manuscripts dating from the thirteenth century to the present day, but it is their Bloodaxe Collection that is currently attracting the interests of literary experts from around the world.

In October 2013, Newcastle University launched an ARHC funded project centred on Bloodaxe called ‘The Poetics of the Archive: Creativity and Community Engagement with the Bloodaxe Archive’.

The aim of the project was to bring together community poets and writers, who have no academic affiliation or academic specialism, but have built up a wealth of literary experience through their own personal endeavours with poetry.

Participants in the project have responded to items in the Bloodaxe archive in a variety of mediums, from drawings and projections, to readings and videos. In doing so, they have generated more content for the archive.

In March, to mark the culmination of the project, Newcastle University hosted the Newcastle Poetry Festival. The festival attracted an international gathering of poets in the North East, from as far afield as Toronto, Rome and Paris. The festival featured discussions, readings and presentations inspired by the collection, and was an appropriate finale for several months of hard work from all those involved with the Bloodaxe project.

To learn more about the Bloodaxe project

If you would like to make a gift to the Library and its Special Collections.

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published on: 1 April 2015