New home for Lancashire Authors’ Association’s Collection

The Lancashire Authors’ Association’s Collection has found a new home at the University of Bolton. 

Covid 19 didn’t help. It never does, does it? The move of the Lancashire Authors’ Association’s special collection from Accrington library to the Peter Marsh Library at the University of Bolton posed a few challenges.

With both the university campus and all public libraries locked down, what could be done?

Well the elves set to work and as a result of amazing cooperation between the staff from Accrington library and university staff, under the supervision of Tim Leonard, Academic Liaison and Collections Senior Team Leader, the collection is now safely housed at the university.

111 boxes of books and other materials were transferred. It has still to be fully catalogued though a skeleton catalogue is available here.

The collection is a valuable asset for the university. Already students of Victorian Literature and Creative Writing have accessed the collection. In its present location it can be made easily available to LAA members and even the wider public.

Why does this collection exist? It is now one hundred years old and is one of the biggest collections of regional literature. The association, formed in 1909, proposed that a library should be established.

The collection was transferred to the Manchester Reference Library in 1934 and after World War II was dispersed to various local libraries before being collected together again at Accrington Library.

The collection contains books on the history of Lancashire, books written in dialect and also other works of literature written in Standard English. Included are works of Edwin Waugh, Elizabeth Gaskell and Samuel Laycock.

There are also many works by writers who were born, lived or worked in Lancashire or who wrote about Lancashire. There are some other interesting materials, including the minutes of all of the committee meetings of the LAA, the annuals of the Co-operative Society Wholesalers Limited and some “magazines” that contain handwritten stories by members. Also important are the works of Joan Pomfret (1913 -1993) of which the LAA own the copyright.

What is the Lancashire Authors’ Association in fact? Well it’s an association for authors who live, write, study, work, were born, write about or have a strong association with Lancashire. Some write in dialect, others don’t.

There are writing competitions for members and the Association also runs a competition open to non-members once a year. This is for a piece of flash fiction exactly one hundred words long. You can find details here.

There are several meetings a year and two of them include Lancashire hotpot. Entertainment at the meetings has included songs in dialect, clog-dancing, quizzes about Lancashire (to whom is a toast made on Lancashire Day, for example?) and talks by some authors. Members and competition winners often have the opportunity to read out their work.

The association has published several times a year a booklet entitled The Record. This has included news about the association and the winning entries for competitions plus the adjudicators’ comments.

As of 2022 they are moving on to a newsletter produced at regular intervals and one paperback book per year, also available as an e-book, which will contain the competition winning entries.

Copies of the book can be sent to local establishments such as museums and libraries and members will be able to buy further copies. Copies may also be bought by the general public. And of course copies will be added to the collection at the University of Bolton.

The collection is a fantastic resource for the people of Lancashire and celebrates its heritage. The aim now is to make it more visible to the people of Lancashire.

Already because of it being housed at a university, it is accessible to many young people and older scholars who live and study in Lancashire and may particularly appeal to those studying Creative Writing and English and who are on courses about the creative industries and arts management.

The Association is applying for funding to:

· Showcase part of the collection via a special web site

· Get the collection properly catalogued and even archived

· Bring the collection to life through adaptation and performance, first of all at the university itself and then in wider Lancashire in settings that will engage with local people

Of course the collection will continue to grow and the University of Bolton and the Lancashire Authors Association will remain as joint curators.

Lancashire offers a geographical challenge anyway but that is part of its richness.

Is this of interest to you? You can find out more about the LAA here and about the collection at the University of Bolton here.

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