Collections focus: music

Background to the collections

The collections reflect major social, cultural and political movements of national and international significance, which have a common thread in relating to Huddersfield and the region as a key location for associated activity.

We currently hold 73 individual archival collections and 55 individual Special Collections (of published material).  These collections occupy 194 m3 and contain more than 200,000 individual items. The individual collections vary considerably in their size. The largest are the University’s own internal archives (at least 950 boxes), the Rugby League (Board) Archive (approximately 900 boxes), Hopkinson’s business archive (approximately 421 boxes), the British Music Collection (approximately 365 linear metres) and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival archive (approximately 171 boxes). Most other archive collections are between 1 box and 72 boxes, and the special collections between 1 and 90 linear metres. The total number of individual items is around 214,349.

 A wide range of formats are covered, including files and individual sheets, textile samples in bound volumes, large formats including maps, plans, drawings, posters, magnetic video and audio cassettes, photographic formats of a wide range of types and dates, many of them plastic based (acetate and nitrate), long playing records and digital material both sound and image.

The vast majority of the collections date from the mid-19th century to the modern day, although there are a few items dating back to the 18th century and one or two items even earlier.  


The music collections are becoming a remarkable feature of the University’s heritage collections.  The current collections along with the expected accruals will mark the University out as a critical destination for anyone wanting to study British classical or “art” music of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries in particular. The key collections include the British Music Collection, The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF) archive and The Goldberg Ensemble archive.

However, the collections also clearly depict the notable local music heritage of this apparently unassuming northern town with the Slaithwaite Brass Band Collection and smaller collections such as that of composer Haydn Wood.   Alongside the HCMF, these collectively portray different aspects of the music that has been created and/or performed (often for the first time) in Huddersfield and the surrounding valleys.

British Music Collection

The British Music Collection (BMC) is a wonderful and unique resource for contemporary British music. Its remit is to provide a place of deposit for scores and recordings by UK-based composers.  This resource was originally based in Somerset House, as the British Music Information Centre, and available for public consultation until it was moved out into storage in 2008.  The vast majority of the collection is self-published work and therefore differs from the material held in the British Library which collects published work.  It comprises a large collection of around 39,580 scores dating back to 1855 and 21,436 recordings.  There are recordings from the 1920s onwards; the earliest probably dates from 1925.  However, the vast majority of recordings cover the 1980s to the 2000s.  The BMC has a very wide remit.  ‘It’s the only type of archive that brings together a cross-section of contemporary music including film, choral, brass and modern.’ Since the 1980s the British Music Information Centre amassed a large amount of electroacoustic work but classical form music is also included. The collection is not fully representative of UK contemporary music scores and recordings. But it is coherent and has always had a strong collecting policy to avoid obvious gaps.  Nevertheless the collection has its own idiosyncrasies, as it was open to deposit from any professional composer from the 1940s onwards.  A significant proportion of the content is unique work that cannot be found anywhere else. For example, whenever the Arts Council commissioned work it deposited a recording of the first performance with the British Music Information Centre. There are also many composer files providing contextual information that would not be available in a standard music lending library.

Search the catalogue of the British Music  Collection.

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

The archive of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF) documents this annual festival (started in 1978 by Professor Richard Steinitz of the then Huddersfield Polytechnic).  The Festival remains a vibrant and key international event for the contemporary music community and attracts visitors from all over the world. Many compositions have been premiered at the Contemporary Music Festival and its extensive repertoire covers cutting-edge jazz, orchestral, choral and electroacoustic performances, along with film, dance and music theatre. Guest composers who have taken part in the festival include Karl Heinz Stockhausen, Terry Riley, Brian Eno, John Cage, Will May, Steve Reich, Daniel Giorgetti, Jonathan Harvey, and Sir Harrison Birtwistle. The Festival takes place in a number of venues including the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield Town Hall, St Paul’s Hall, St Thomas’s Church and the Creative Arts Building of the University of Huddersfield. Some performances are broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

This major collection is a coherent record of both the live performances and the organisation of the Festival.  It includes a large selection of recordings of performances including many premieres of compositions. There are also written records including correspondence with world famous composers and financial records. Printed records include a complete run of programmes, reviews and publicity material such as posters as well as a few artefacts such as T-shirts.

The Goldberg Ensemble

The Ensemble is a British freelance string ensemble dedicated to promoting string ensemble music. From its creation in 2000 to 2008 the Ensemble commissioned 39 pieces and toured the UK with this music as well as hosting accompanying children’s and student composers’ workshops. The compositions included works by the University of Huddersfield Professor Michael Clarke and a former student of the University, Joe Cutler, who went on to become Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire and a featured composer at the 2005 and 2010 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festivals.  The collection held by the University comprises 19 original scores of pieces commissioned by the Goldberg Ensemble from the British composers with notations by Malcolm Layfield (Artistic Director for the Goldberg and Head of the School of Strings for the Royal Northern College of Music) for the world premiere performances.  There are also details of the 8 ‘celebration’ tours plus correspondence and 2 CDs recorded by the Ensemble.  It is a collection that strongly complements the HCMF and BMC collections, continuing the theme of original composition of contemporary music.

Slaithwaite Band

Slaithwaite Band is a thriving exemplar of the brass bands that sprang up across the industrialised north of England in the C19th and early C20th, taking their members from the mills and mines and often centred on a specific industrial concern.  Slaithwaite was formed in 1892 and 120 years on is still one of the finest brass bands in the UK.  The core of this coherent collection is its scores, including hand-written arrangements of orchestral music for brass, often used for the hotly contested competitions that have always been such an important part of the ‘banding’ world.  There are even hand-written arrangements by composer Haydn Wood (whose papers are also in the University Archive). But it also holds other material such as uniforms, tickets and music stands with cigarette stands!  Many bands folded in the 1980s and few found a home for their collections.  The Slaithwaite Band Collection provides a potted history of banding.  It is a rare survival of a musical heritage, much of which was lost with the de-industrialisation of the UK.

Other music collections

Smaller collections that support the music theme include:

  • The papers of Haydn Wood who was a prolific C20th composer of orchestral music and violinist. Well-known compositions include the three-movement Fantasy-Concerto and the song Roses of Picardy (1916).  He was born in Slaithwaite in Yorkshire in 1882.
  • The Incorporated Society of Musicians, Huddersfield Branch
  • Papers of Keith Jarvis, organist of the University of Huddersfield in the 1990s
  • The Huddersfield Amateur Operatic Society


To find out more about any of our collections, please contact us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *