The British Music Collection – clean, shiny and accessible!

This month our fantastic team of student helpers have completed a huge sorting and repackaging project that has brought together all of the scores held within the British Music Collection for the first time in the Collection’s history! This is a fantastic achievement that has been 48 years in the making! To celebrate this fact, here’s the history (with a few photos ) of the British Music Information Centre, the organisation that founded the Collection in 1967.

The British Music Information Centre (BMIC) was founded in 1967 by the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain within the Guild’s central London office of 10 Stratford Place, which was also the home of The Royal Society of Musicians. The Centre was formally opened by Lord Goodman on 7 November 1967 and was established with the assistance of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Arts Council, and the Performing Right Society. The BMIC was founded as a charity and its work was dependent on grants and the external financial support that it received.

Founded at a time when national Music Information Centres were rising in popularity (following the formation of the first Centre in the USA in 1939), the BMIC was established as a drop-in centre where users could go to see and hear 20th century British classical music, and to research contemporary composers and their works. The primary function of the Centre was to act as a voluntary library of deposit where composers and publishers of 20th century British classical music could deposit scores and recordings of their work, which allowed would-be performers access to these works to study and play. All works were acquired by donation, and the collection was initially just restricted to the work of members of the Composers’ Guild, and later BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) concert music members; this restriction was later removed. The Centre defined ‘British’ music as being composed by an individual born or living in the UK. The initial core of collection was founded on the deposit of The British Council’s sheet music collection in 1967, which included material dating back to 1900. By 1969 the Centre already held 8000 scores of both published and unpublished works, as well as tapes and reference material for consultation and study. Although initially some publishers were opposed to the Centre because they believed it posed a threat of competition, over the years the BMIC gradually became accepted by more and more publishers and the Centre began to accumulate increasing amounts of published material. This made the library the only permanent collection of both published and unpublished contemporary British music and it significantly contributed to the growth of the collection in both size and diversity throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

By the 1990s the acquisition policy of the BMIC stipulated that eligible works included: work that is published by a major publisher (e.g. Boosey & Hawkes, Faber Music, Chester Music); unpublished work by professional composers of significant standing (e.g. frequently commissioned or performed by leading orchestras); work by full members of a leading professional body (e.g. BASCA, including shortlisted works for British Composer Awards); work commissioned by the BMIC as part of its projects and professional development programmes (e.g. Adopt a Composer, Embedded…); and work commissioned or funded by leading commissioners or funders (e.g. BBC, Arts Council England, PRS for Music Foundation). The Centre was aware that subjectivity influenced these criteria but in practice any disputes over inclusion/exclusion were resolved by the Director of the BMIC or by reference to the composers on the BMIC Board.

Recordings started to enter the collection during the 1970s, firstly on reel to reel tapes and vinyl records, and later on audio cassettes and CDs. The recordings in the collection included both published and private recordings donated by publishers and composers, recordings of concerts and events that took place at the BMIC and the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM), and recordings of BBC Radio 3 broadcasts. A joint project with EMAS (Electro-Acoustic Music Association) in the early 1980s resulted in the Centre starting to acquire recordings of British electro-acoustic music, while during the mid-1980s the BMIC’s reel to reel tape recordings were transferred to Betamax tapes during a migration project funded by the British Library.

By 1885 over 6000 people a year visited the BMIC, with even more users contacting the Centre remotely by letter and telephone.

In addition to the Centre’s primary role as a contemporary music library, the BMIC also ran numerous projects, events and performances in order to promote contemporary British music. By 1985 over 80 events were being held annually, with performers including Michael Finnissy, Jane Manning and John McCabe, and premiers of work including music by Peter Maxwell Davies, Judith Weir, Michael Finnissy and Chris Dench. Some performances were also preceeded by talks. The BMIC’s Salon series of concerts ran for 30 years until 2003 with an emphasis on programming first performances, experimental music and neglected early-mid 20th century repertoire. From the 1980s onwards, the BMIC’s rising profile and increasing number of projects resulted in the Centre working more collaboratively with other organisations to promote contemporary British music, particularly SPNM, EMAS and The Place Dance Services (TPDS).

In 1999 the BMIC established The Cutting Edge, which was an annual thirteen-week concert series held in the autumn. The Cutting Edge series, based mostly at The Warehouse, Waterloo, aimed to put contemporary music from the UK in an international context, and from 2001, each series was followed by The Cutting Edge Tour that took place May-December of the following year. The Cutting Edge Tour showcased up to 20 concerts taken from the previous year’s London series at locations across the UK, along with workshops and learning events. Also in 1999 the BMIC established the New Voices and Contemporary Voices composer support schemes. These schemes provided print, distribution and promotion services for composers at both the beginning and middle of their careers, and intended to fill the gap for composers who were looking to publish independently.

From the late 1990s onwards, with increasing pressure on finances and the rising costs of housing the collection in central London, the staff and Board began looking at alternate locations and organisational structures to manage the Centre.

In 2004 Arts Council England (ACE) instigated a proposal to create a new higher profile body for the new music sector from the merger of a number of music organisations that received funding from ACE, including the BMIC. The original idea to merge a number of music organisations into one larger body had been discussed within the sector since the 1980s but ACE initiated the 2004 project for two main reasons; firstly ACE identified the opportunity to have shared facilities within in a new building in central London (King’s Place, near King’s Cross), and secondly ACE was looking to redress the role of the Contemporary Music Network within ACE. Initially ten organisations were approached about the merger, including the African and Caribbean Music Circuit, British Music Information Centre, Contemporary Music Making for Amateurs (CoMA), Contemporary Music Network, Jazz Services, the Society for the Promotion of New Music and The Sonic Arts Network. This project, initially called The Kings Place Initiative and later The New Organisation (TNO) Project, resulted in the creation of Sound and Music from the merger of the British Music Information Centre, Contemporary Music Network, the Society for the Promotion of New Music and The Sonic Arts Network in 2008. Upon creation, Sound and Music was temporarily located in British Music House, 26 Berners Street, London, before it moved to its current location of Somerset House, The Strand.

Throughout the course of the reorganisation project both the BMIC’s collection and the financial burden of accommodating it continued to increase. The limited space and financial constraints meant that in 2002 sections of the collection had to be moved to alternate premises. Works by composers who had died before 1960 were moved to the Royal College of Music (RCM) Library, and works written before 1960 by composers who had died between 1960 and 2002 were moved to a storage facility belonging to the Performing Right Society (PRS). The material sent to the Royal College of Music Library could be accessed by researchers on site, whereas there was no public access to the PRS’s storage facility and this material could only be consulted through prior arrangement with the BMIC. In 2004 the financial pressures meant that the BMIC moved premises from 10 Stratford Place to Lincoln House, 75 Westminster Bridge Road, London. In 2007 the BMIC could no longer afford to house the collection in central London and so it was sent to a storage facility in Southend. This is where the collection remained until it was transferred, along with the RCM and PRS material, to the University of Huddersfield Archives in 2010. The collection then moved into the University’s new state-of-the-art archive facilities at Heritage Quay in 2014.


With all sections of the British Music Collection now fully catalogued, reintegrated and repackaged into archival-quality materials, the collection has never been more accessible and safeguarded for the future, so what are you waiting for! The catalogue for the Collection can be found here, and all the details that you need to know about how to visit the Collection can be found here. Enjoy!


Online catalogue unavailable – 14th July 16:30 BST to 15th July 10:00 BST

Unfortunately due to important IT maintenance work, both the the Heritage Quay online catalogue ( and the History to Herstory website ( will be unavailable from Tuesday 14th July 16:30 BST until Wednesday 15th July at around 10:00 BST, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience that this may cause.

‘Curly’ Mallalieu – Author, Naval Officer, Journalist, Freeman of Kirklees & Huddersfield MP of 34 years!

We are very pleased to announce that the archive of Sir Joseph Percival William Mallalieu (18 June 1908 – 13 March 1980) has now been fully catalogued and made accessible for the first time.

The catalogue can be accessed here:

To say that ‘Bill’, ‘William’ or ‘Curly’ Mallalieu (as he was known to various people) had an interesting and varied career would certainly be an understatement! And to prove it, here’s a biography of his life that we’ve pulled together using the records that are now available in the archive.

JPW & Rita Mallalieu with Mr & Mrs Arthur Gardiner
JPW & Rita Mallalieu with Mr & Mrs Arthur Gardiner, c1950s

JPW Mallalieu was born in Delph, Saddleworth, on 18 June 1908 into a Nonconformist family with a rich political background. His father, Frederick Mallalieu, was Liberal MP for Colne Valley from 1916 until 1922, when he was defeated by Philip Snowden, the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. While his brother, Sir Edward Lancelot ‘Lance’ Mallalieu, was also Liberal MP for the Colne Valley constituency, 1931-1935, before he joined the Labour Party and served as MP for Brigg, Lincolnshire, from 1948 until he retired in 1974.


Like his father and brother, JPW Mallalieu studied at Dragon School, Cheltenham before going on to Trinity College, Oxford where became the first person in history to win a Rugger Blue and be president of the Oxford Union. After Oxford, Mallalieu won a Commonwealth Fellowship in economics at the University of Chicago and spent two years in the United States engaged in economics research. While in America Mallalieu underwent a political conversion from Liberalism to Socialism after witnessing the depravity brought about by the Great Depression; this led him to join the British Labour Party from Chicago in October 1931. During his time in America Mallalieu also began his career as a journalist, working on local newspapers in Kentucky, including The Lexington Herald where he covered stories such as the Police beat and sports, notably American Football and ice hockey. He then spent six months in South Africa and seven months in continental Europe, mostly in France, before returning to Britain in 1932 and being appointed American Editor for The Financial News in London. Mallalieu was then made political correspondent for the paper and spent a year and a half reporting from the House of Commons. Mallalieu continued to write for London newspapers from 1933-1942, including The Financial News, The Evening Standard, The Daily Express, he also wrote sports journalism for the Spectator.


Upon his return to Britain at the end of 1932 Mallalieu joined the Holborn Labour Party. He was then adopted as the Labour candidate for Huddersfield in 1936 but because of the intervention of war it was another nine years before he got the chance to fight his first Parliamentary election.


Mallalieu started the Second World War as a Conscientious Objector which he said was ‘entirely for political reasons’ because he didn’t believe in the Chamberlain government of the time, but he quickly changed his mind upon realising the intent of the Nazi leadership. He joined the Royal Navy in 1942 as an ordinary seaman and rose to the rank of Lieutenant by the end of the War. His active service involved protecting the convoy routes to Russia through the Arctic waters, he served on board a destroyer which was camouflaged as HMS Meltham. During his service he wrote the novel Very Ordinary Seaman (1944) which was based directly on his experiences of serving in the navy during wartime. The navy had appointed him to the role of Commander’s Messenger, Portsmouth, and gave him two months in which to complete the work; the only condition was that the book should be ‘broadly favourable to the navy. Not a whitewash but not a hatchet job either’ (On Larkhill, p.204). The book proved to be very popular, selling 64,000 copies in hardback and many more in paperback. Speaking to Yorkshire Life magazine in 1979, Mallalieu answered the question of why he had chosen that title for the book, ‘Because that’s what I was, a very ordinary seaman. I couldn’t even tie knots properly.’ (Yorkshire Life, March 1979). The royalties for the book would see Mallalieu through his election campaign in 1945 when he had no other source of income.

JPW Mallalieu as naval seaman, c1942
JPW Mallalieu, naval seaman, c1942

Very Ordinary Seaman was Mallalieu’s third book. He had written his first, Rats, in a London air raid shelter during the blitz. The book was a criticism of big business that profited from the war (e.g. munitions companies), and was published in 1941 under the pseudonym, The Pied Piper. He wrote his second book, Passed to You, Please, in 1942 in a Huddersfield nursing home where he underwent an operation shortly before he enlisted in the navy. This book was a criticism of the bureaucracy, red-tape and inefficiencies of the Civil Service.


During his naval service in Portsmouth he met Rita Tinn (Harriet Rita Riddle Tinn) who was an officer in the Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service). Rita was the daughter of Jack Tinn, manager of Portsmouth Football Club, and prior to the War Rita had worked as her father’s Secretary, where she was the only female executive in football at the time. Mallalieu and Rita were marred in 1945 shortly before the General Election took place on 5 July. They went on to have two children; Ann Mallalieu (later Baroness Mallalieu QC) was born on 27 November 1945 and was Christened at the House of Commons in the same year (photos of this occassion can be found within the archive); and Ben Mallalieu, who wrote the tailpiece to his father’s final book On Larkhill.


JPW Mallalieu left the navy as a Lieutenant to fight the General Election as the Labour candidate for Huddersfield. Throughout the election campaign JPW and Rita Mallalieu stayed with Arthur Gardiner who was Secretary for the Huddersfield Labour Party and Mallalieu’s agent and friend. Upon opening his election campaign at Northumberland Street School in June 1945, Mallalieu declared that ‘I have not the slightest intention of sailing under any false colours. I am a Socialist, and it is as a Socialist and nothing else that I am going to ask for your votes on July 5.’ Mallalieu won the election, achieving the biggest swing of votes in the country, converting the previous Liberal majority of 13,000 into a 9,000 majority for Labour. On the day that the result was announced he addressed a crowd in Huddersfield’s Beast Market estimated to be 20,000 strong.


Of his work in Clement Atlee’s post war government (1945-1951) Mallalieu said that it was ‘A really exciting period… we had a tremendous programme and we worked steadily through that torrent of legislation. I suppose it really spoiled us. There was nothing like it again… I remember one week when we had three all-nighters in a row. One evening I went on to the Commons Terrace for a breath of fresh air, sat down on one of the benches and was awakened next morning by the sound of traffic going across Westminster Bridge. It was 11am, and I suddenly realised I had slept on the terrace all night!’ (Interview published in many national newspapers on 14 Aug 1978).


Upon reaching parliament Mallalieu gravitated to the left of the party, often following the movements of Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, which sometimes brought him into conflict with the rest of the party. After voting against the Ireland Bill in 1947, he was sacked as Private Secretary to John Strachey, Ministry of Food. He also found himself in conflict with a large section of the Party in 1953 when in an article for The Tribune he suggested that many Labour MPs only pretended to agree with left-wing policies in public but secretly voted with the right wing of the Party in parliament. He argued that to prevent this Labour MPs should vote on policy decisions by voice rather than secret ballot, which was against Labour Party rules. This resulted in an NEC meeting to discuss whether he should be expelled from the Party, but Mallalieu managed to retain his position by apologising for his comments.


JPW Mallalieu went onto be Member of Parliament for Huddersfield 1945-1950, and then for Huddersfield East, 1950-1979, following boundary changes to the Kirklees area. In 1964 Labour won the General Election for the first time in 13 years, and Harold Wilson appointed Mallalieu to various ministerial positions over the course of his term. First Junior Navy Minister (1964-1966) and then Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (1966-1967), before being appointed Minister of State at the Board of Trade (1967-1968) and the Ministry of Technology (1968-1969). During his time as Minister of State at the Board of Trade, Mallalieu instituted new safety measures for merchant shipping and trawlers at a time when ships were being constantly lost at sea. These measures centred around the idea of having a “mother” ship in the middle of any shipping fleet that was captained by a naval officer who had the authority to return ships back to port if the weather became too dangerous.

Mallalieu fitted with a parachute during a visit to the British Overseas Airways Corporation as Minister for Transport, c 1968-69
Mallalieu fitted with parachute at visit to British Overseas Airways Corporation as Minister for Transport, c 1968-69

Throughout his political career Mallalieu continued as a writer and journalist. In the 1950s he continued writing sporting essays for the Spectator and wrote political commentaries for the Tribune and the New Statesman. On radio he was a regular member of the Any Questions? panel for over 20 years, and on television he was one of the first members of the Tonight team and one of the four regular presenters of What the Papers Say on Granada TV during the 1950s. He also went on to publish four more books, Sporting Days, 1955, and Very Ordinary Sportsman, 1957, were collections of some of his favourite sporting essays, while Extraordinary Seaman, 1957, was a biography of Captain Lord Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald who had a successful and eventful career within the British, Chilean and Brazilian navies during the 19th century.


Mallalieu’s final book was On Larkhill, an autobiography that covers the years of his life before he became an MP. Mallalieu died before he could complete the first draft of the book but it was published posthumously in 1983. According to Ben Mallalieu’s Tailpiece to the work, his father’s intention for the book was to ‘write about his times and his background and what had led him to be standing in the 1945 election as a candidate on the left wing of the Labour Party.’ (On Larkill, p. 206)


JPW Mallalieu retired in 1979 after nearly 34 years in Parliament and was knighted in James Callaghan’s resignation honours list. He is Huddersfield’s second longest serving MP (after Barry Sheerman), having kept his seat through all eight General Elections that took place since 1945. He held his 397th and final surgery for constituents on 6 June 1979 in the Labour Rooms, Station Street, Huddersfield. Mallalieu was appointed the first Freeman of Kirklees on 27 Jan 1980 in a ceremony that took place in the Great Hall at Huddersfield Polytechnic University. He was also made a life member of the Press Club, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Huddersfield Branch of the NUJ. He was a keen sportsman, playing cricket until he was 58, for both the Lords and Commons teams, his Buckinghamshire village (Ickford), and he organised the Tribune v Statesman matches. He was also a dedicated fan of both Huddersfield Town Football Club and Yorkshire Cricket Club.

Joseph Percival William Mallalieu died on 13 March 1980. The address at his funeral was given by Michael Foot, MP, who had been a very close friend of Mallalieu’s throughout his literary and political career.

JPW Mallalieu after receiving his knighthood at Buckingham Palace, 3 Nov 1979
JPW Mallalieu after receiving his knighthood at Buckingham Palace, 3 Nov 1979

The British Music Collection exhibits on The Google Cultural Institute for International Women’s Day

We are delighted to share with you a fantastic online exhibition that showcases items from the British Music Collection on Google’s new online exhibition platform, The Google Cultural Institute.

BMC Exhibition for International Women's Day 1

A Wo(man)’s Work is Never Done’ has been curated by Poulomi Desai on behalf of Sound and Music for International Women’s Day. The exhibition reveals some of the personal stories of women composers within the British Music Collection and examines the relationships between the works these composers created and the social, cultural and political contexts of their time.

As Poulomi’s introduction says,

‘Using the idiom of “A wo(man)’s work is never done”, an exploration was called for of what might be considered ‘feminist’ and ‘radical’ – recordings, notes, videos and scores from anyone who considered themselves to be on the margins – artistic, social, cultural, political. There were specific interests in finding: ‘Unfinished’ scores and pieces, and Noise based, Dada, Fluxus, ‘nonsense’, poetry, text sound works and graphic scores. One of the aims was to highlight work that is on the fringes of contemporary new music scenes and interweave this with the archived works of composers in the British Music Collection.’

BMC Exhibition for International Women's Day 2

It was a pleasure to assist Poulomi with her exploration into the British Music Collection and we are delighted to support such an interesting piece of research into the unique collections that we care for. We certainly hope that this will inspire many more to explore the fascinating range of stories that are awaiting discovery within the Heritage Quay searchroom!

Feeling inspired? Then why not search the online catalogue here and get in touch with us

New Year Catalogue Cheer!

With the Heritage Quay search room open once again to welcome in 2015, here’s a list of the latest archive catalogues that are now fully searchable on the online catalogue. All of these collections are freely accessible for study and research at Heritage Quay. Please see our Visit Us page to make an appointment.

  • Albert Booth photographic library, 1928-2006 – The professional library of Albert Booth, notable Huddersfield photographer.
  • David Canter Environmental Psychology Library, 1892-2007 – The library of works on the discipline of environmental psychology, collected by Professor David Canter and deposited with the University in 2011.
  • Stanley Chadwick Archive, 1830-1971 – Wide range of printed material on topics including politics, economics, war, the press, and the working class movement. The archive also contains Stanley Chadwick’s mother’s Sunday School prizes!
  • Norman Culley Archive, 1857-1966 – This collection is the private library of Norman Culley which will be of special interest to students and historians of architecture, as the library demonstrates the changing architectural trends and themes over time. Norman Culley was born in 1880 and studied at the Huddersfield School of Art 1895-1897, he later taught at the School.
  • Library of Cedric Cullingford, 1908-2007 – Formerly a Professor in the University of Huddersfield’s School of Education and Professional Development, Cedric Cullingford’s library consists of two main sections: on education, and on war.
  • Library of Arthur Gardiner, 1841-1987 – Library collected by Arthur Gardiner, notable conscientious objector during the First World War and later Mayor of Huddersfield.
  • Library of Alistair Wilson, 1865-1986 – Part of the library of Dr Alistair Wilson, Aberdare GP and active member of the Communist Party.

Calling all audiophiles!

The Heritage Quay Listening Room is now open for researchers to explore over 90 years of music and sounds recordings from the archive!

Heritage Quay Listening Room
Heritage Quay Listening Room

Music forms one of the most important strengths of the Heritage Quay collections and this is reflected by the sheer volume of audio recordings found within the archive. The British Music Collection itself contains over 21,000 individual recordings of 20th and 21st century British classical/art music, and the archive also holds extensive collections of sound recordings that relate to viol music, jazz, and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival hcmf//.

The volume and diversity of the recordings is also reflected by the variety of different audio formats that the recordings are stored on. The Heritage Quay Listening Room has been equipped with a range of professional playback and digitisation equipment to enable the long term access of these vital records into the future, regardless of format.


Analogue vinyl and audio cassette formats can be played and digitised to ensure preservation and to promote access

Access to the audio and written records of a collection allows us to get even closer to the subject; not just seeing/touching history but hearing it too!


The Listening Room is open to researchers during search room opening hours. Details about visiting the service can be found here.

Judging scores by their covers

This week our team of student helpers have been making amazing strides in sorting, ordering and interfiling large sections of the British Music Collection. This vital work will dramatically improve access to thousands of scores in the collection and enable researchers to browse, study and experience the collection in the way that the British Music Information Centre intended. However during this interfiling we’ve also been thoroughly enjoying lots of the artwork in the collection, here are some of our favourites…

Six jester songs by Granville Bantock
Six jester songs by Granville Bantock
Cat walk for Leo by Sonja E Grossner
Cat walk for Leo by Sonja E Grossner
Misper by John Lunn
Misper by John Lunn
Baba Yaga's daughter by Lydia West
Baba Yaga’s daughter by Lydia West


Mug grunt by Richard Orton
Mug grunt by Richard Orton
Christus by Francis Pott
Christus by Francis Pott

Noise in the archives!

Sadly the picture below doesn’t capture the excitement with which I unwrapped this latest addition to our service! As part of the fantastic new facilities in Heritage Quay we will have a dedicated Listening Room that will allow us to make thousands of archival audio recordings fully accessible to our users for the first time. With a turntable and specialised PC (with a digital audio workstation) our users will be able to listen to vinyl and digital archival recordings to their heart’s content.

HQ Tape deck

Meanwhile the significance of this tape deck reflects the fact that a large proportion of our audio recordings are currently stored on obsolete cassette formats that place these unique audio records at significant risk. Good quality playing equipment for such formats is becoming increasingly difficult to source and the fragile nature of cassette tape increases the risk of damage and the loss of these vital records for future generations. In response to this, our listening room will be equipped with archival quality digitisation equipment that will allow us to migrate these records onto much safer and more stable formats, thereby ensuring their continued access into the future (when subject to our professional collections management procedures obviously!). However the value of undertaking this digitisation work is not just limited to the improved preservation of the recordings. Migrating these records to digital formats will allow us to increase access to them and enable our users to engage with them in far greater and more diverse ways.

Plans are being devised as I speak, but I’m sure they’ll be involving our exploration space and the big curvy screen, not forgetting our Participation and Engagement Officer of course!