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Veneta Haralampieva writes:

Hello everyone,

My name is Veneta Haralampieva and I have just graduated from the University of Manchester obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. You might be wondering what a Computer Science student and Jeff Nuttall have in common. Well, I am currently working on a web-based application which aims to provide a visualisation of the relationships between Jeff Nuttall and other artists by utilising his archive held in the Library, which soon you will be able to visit. But don’t worry: I won’t bore you with a bunch of technical things about the app itself. Instead I would like to tell you about my tour around the library.

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Veneta Haralampieva examines items from the Jeff Nuttall Collection in the Collection Care Studio at the John Rylands Library.

A few weeks ago I and my supervisors and colleagues from the university were offered a unique private tour around the library led by Janette Martin who works there. It is needless to say how excited I was to actually physically see some of the items from the archive I have been working with only digitally (for which I am deeply grateful to Imogen Durant who has digitized all the content).

Our tour started from the Christie Room, which is an exquisite Victorian-style room with wooden chairs and tables where one feels like a hero in a J.K. Rowling novel, exploring the world of magic. We were then taken to the area where the Jeff Nuttall exhibition will be, which was yet another stunning room. I can definitely say that I would love to see how the curators will intertwine the Victorian style of the room with Nuttall’s very modern Sixties look and feel. I am sure it will be a wonderful mix which would make the exhibition even more enjoyable and it will be worth seeing.

What Happened to Jackson

Cover of Jeff Nuttall, What Happened to Jackson (London: Aloes Books, 1978). R226249. Copyright The Jeff Nuttall Estate.

Afterwards, we found ourselves in the most famous area open to the public where one could book a desk and enjoy reading in this marvelous building. After a short wander around we were taken through a metal gate, normally not for use by visitors of the library, which led to a small stairwell. Following Janette and climbing the old stairs carefully we came out into the upper floor of the room, overlooking the visitors below. Janette told us that this is where usually PhD students and researchers have desks to carry out their daily work. How amazing would that be! For a Computer Scientist like me, who has spent the last four years in buildings like Kilburn (where there is little sunlight and definitely no Victorian wooden desks) this looked simply astonishing. Quiet, beautiful and relaxing atmosphere where one could focus without getting interrupted and really engulf in the work to be done. We took the scenic walk around this area and came out of the other side of the room, again taking an ancient looking staircase and exiting through a metal gate.

Our final stop was the research room, which was located in the newer part of the building. The John Rylands Library is outstanding in the way it allows the new and modern to flow into the original style of the building. In there we got to see some of the actual works that will be on display on the exhibition. But don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything for you 🙂 We got a closer look at some of Jeff Nuttall’s publications and his collaborations with other artists which was fascinating. It is incredible how artists from different countries communicated extensively and influenced each other’s work. This is what I truly hope to visualise with the application, the magnitude of the international collaboration. Another thing that I found very impressive is the unique artwork on all the book covers. They seem to illustrate the main ideas of each piece and capture the imagination of the reader. We explored some of the material very carefully (some of it handwritten letters from and to Jeff) and I pondered the fact that we are in fact just seeing a fraction of this man’s life and there will be so much more which has never been recorded and no one will ever know about.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and so did our lovely tour. So we made our way out and into the rainy streets of Manchester and I returned to my work, with one goal, to try and capture some of the extraordinary life of Jeff Nuttall.