The Cutting Edge: New Music since 1945

Heritage Quay’s current exhibition celebrates classical music composed in the UK since 1945. Using the collections of four organisations which have done much to support young and emerging composers, the exhibition explores where and how new work was heard. Find out about performances in venues from concert halls to night clubs, consider public responses to new sounds, and see the influence of technological development on music. With photographs, scores, manuscripts, newspaper cuttings, programmes and more, the exhibition showcases a revolutionary 70 years of musical history.

The exhibition is based on four collections which we care for and make accessible at Heritage Quay, the archive service of the University of Huddersfield. The exhibition is the final piece in a series dedicated to our extensive music holdings programmed for Kirklees Year of Music. Find out more about our extensive music collections.

The exhibition is open Monday to Friday 8am-7pm and Saturday 9am-5pm until 12 January (closed 22 December – 3 January). The exhibition is free and can be found at the heart of the University of Huddersfield campus. For details of how to find us, see our directions page.


Three models of Captain Jean Luc Picard, all with slightly different expressions, arranged one behind the otherWe are delighted to announce that due to popularity, we are extending the run of our current exhibition ‘Patrick Stewart: From Mirfield to the Stars’. Using Sir Patrick’s own archive, the exhibition explores his career on stage and screen using letters, photographs, programmes, costume, merchandise and more. The last day of the exhibition is now Monday 30 October.

The exhibition is free, and open Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm, and Saturday 9am to 5pm. Find us on level 3 of the Schwann Building, on the University of Huddersfield campus.


Free to Improvise: The Derek Bailey Story

Heritage Quay’s latest exhibition explores the life and work of Derek Bailey (1930-2005), a guitarist who was a major force in the development of Free Improvisation.

Bailey’s remarkable musical journey began in Sheffield, with a young lad entranced by the music he heard on his uncle’s radio, and fascinated by the guitar. After leaving school he began to pick up work as a musician, and by the 1960s was playing for big names including Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield and Morecambe and Wise. Around 1969 he left behind this successful – though always precarious – career as a commercial musician to concentrate solely on Free Improvisation. Intent on a sort of music which went beyond style and genre, he worked with people all over the world, ran a record label, Incus, and brought very different people together for spontaneous, organic music-making.

Heritage Quay’s latest exhibition tells this story, using photographs, notebooks, letters, programmes, and the plectrums Bailey made himself using dental acrylic. Many of the items on display have never been seen by the public before. They are all part of the Derek Bailey Archive, which is cared for by Heritage Quay.

The exhibition is part of our Kirklees Year of Music series. It is free, and open Monday to Saturday from 14 August to 30 September. Heritage Quay is at the heart of the University of Huddersfield Campus, and there are details of how to find us here: Directions | Heritage Quay

Handbells at Heritage Quay

In the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the area around Huddersfield was home to the best handbell teams in the world. These groups, which were mostly male and often pub-based, rehearsed, performed and competed with the same seriousness as brass bands. Their story, however, is much less known.

It is this story, of working-class musical activity, fierce local rivalry, and mass entertainment which is showcased in our latest exhibition. Using the recently deposited archive of the Handbell Ringers of Great Britain, it explores the rich local history of handbell ringing, as well as its vibrant – and global – present. The exhibition is free, and open Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm, and Saturdays 9am to 5pm.

A free afternoon event on Saturday 8th July will include an exhibition tour, a performance by the Clifton Handbell Ringers and a chance to have a go at ringing.

Textiles on Toast

In March 2023, Sovereign Design House (which houses Toast House café) hosted Textiles on Toast, an exhibition of work produced by first- and second-year Textile students at the University of Huddersfield.

Some of the students were inspired by Gleneden Post-War Design Archive which is held at Heritage Quay.

Second year student Liza Smeeton describes their experience of using the archive:

Image of textile designs displayed on a table. The designs feature overlapping circles and are presented as sketches, coloured work-ups in blue and orange, and embroidered red wool on card.
© Liza Smeeton

“I’ve never worked from materials in an archive. I’ve normally been given a title or theme and have worked from that.

I initially visited the archive [at Heritage Quay] with lecturer Claire Barber as part of the Introduction to Theoretical and Ethical Studies module and then lecturer Matthew Taylor introduced us to the designs in the Visual Research module where we had much more time to examine and work with and from them.

I was quickly drawn to a very simple design in muted browns, but I’ve worked with this in several ways, simplifying the design, changing the colours, creating stencils and cut paper, working the design in hand and machine embroidery and using the stencil to create prints on fabric which I then stitched into. These samples are what I’ve exhibited in the Toast House.

I focused on archives for my theory written report and visited a textile archive in Sheffield where I live. The research and papers I read for this paper shows there are clear benefits from using archives to help in creating new designs, as long as these are modified and not copied from the original and that the original source is referenced. Having the original Gleneden design as a starting point gave me something to work from, so that I wasn’t starting from scratch, it helped me to produce new work much more quickly and to develop new ideas from that starting point.”


First year student Rebekah Fuller also describes their experience:

Display of textiles design using a floral pattern in red, green, range and black. There is a sample of cloth hanging on the wall next to a coloured diagram showing the pattern. On the table in front are a variety of fabric samples.
© Rebekah Fuller

“I had never used materials from an archive before in my studies. I had never previously even considered using items from an archive to inspire my artistic process. I first learnt about archives when we visited Heritage Quay as a class as part of the Introduction to Theoretical and Ethical Studies module where we had a session with Assistant Archivist Fran Horner.

When I first saw some of the designs from the Gleneden archive, I was amazed by the intricate, detailed nature of the florals. Slightly overwhelmed, I chose a design with a colour palette I was drawn to and also the curved shape the florals created together. After painting this design, I was really pleased and throughout this year it has been a design I have been drawn back to again and again. Because of this, it was the most well-rounded collection I made this year. I used it especially in my weave rotation, considering ways I could abstract the design. I also managed to explore this painting within CAD creating a repeat pattern.”

You can book an appointment to view items from the Gleneden Post-War Design Archive by filling in our online booking form and quoting the reference number ‘GLN’.

If you are interested in using Gleneden as part of a research, teaching or art project, please email us on




New Exhibition: The Bhangra Lexicon

We are delighted to announce our latest exhibition, guest curated by academic, artist and dancer, Hardeep Singh Sahota.

The Bhangra Lexicon explores the roots of this art form in Panjabi folk culture, through to the artists and recordings which have made Bhangra a global sensation. It also looks at Bhangra in Huddersfield, which was home to one of the first Bhangra groups formed in the UK. All this comes out of Hardeep’s research into the history of Bhangra and into its wide repertoire of movement.


Bringing together instruments, photographs, textiles, jewellery, books, recordings and more, the exhibition is a rich celebration of the dance and music of Bhangra.

The exhibition is free, and open 29 April – 10 June 2023, Monday-Friday 8am to 7pm, and Saturdays 9am to 5pm.

Setting the Record Straight: Women in Rugby League

In 2007, Rugby League Cares deposited the Rugby Football League Archive at Heritage Quay (HQ) in Huddersfield, only a few minutes’ walk away from the George Hotel, the birthplace of the sport. This archive contains kit, programmes, recordings of matches, administration records, photographs, posters, memorabilia, player registers and more. There are around 800 boxes of fascinating items – however, there was only one box dedicated to the women’s game!

This is no longer the case.

Two people cataloguing some rugby league kit. A woman wearing purple nitrile gloves and a black top and trousers is holding up a purple drill top while a man sat at a computer records details about it for the catalogue A woman sat at a table in the archive reading room. She has several items wrapped in tissue paper in front of her. She is holding up a wooden plaque and recording details from it.


Since February 2022, HQ has worked with Julia Lee and a team of volunteers to collect, catalogue and make accessible archives and collections which document the history of the women’s game. This work was supported by the Women in Rugby League Heritage Lottery funded project Life with the Lionesses. This project has been integral in uncovering the stories of the pioneering players and staff and celebrating their achievements which, until this project, had not been officially recognised.

One past player commented “When I used to talk about my playing career I sometimes felt that if people went online to check these things (as it’s a major thing!) they should expect there to be something in the archives, but there wouldn’t have been so I used to think they may think I’m not telling the truth . . . So I stopped telling people.”

The archives collected at HQ were used in several ways throughout the project such as:

  • to gather statistics for player profiles
  • to compile and enter data on women players on the Rugby League Record Keepers’ database for the first time
  • to provide evidence for the awarding of heritage numbers and caps at the Pride of the Lionesses event and inducting the first women into the Rugby League Hall of Fame
  • for display in the Life with the Lionesses: 25 Years of Women’s International Rugby League touring exhibition and exhibition currently on at Pontefract Museum
  • to increase women’s representation in a male dominated game

Our biggest cataloguing achievements have been to make two major collections accessible for the first time: the Julia Lee and Jackie Sheldon collections. Julia Lee was the first woman to referee men’s professional rugby league. Jackie Sheldon, a former player, was Assistant Coach for the Great Britain squad in 1996 and Head Coach for the Great Britain squad in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003.

If you are interested in seeing items from these collections, you can book a free appointment at HQ.

We would like to say a special thank you to Julia Lee and Jackie Sheldon for entrusting us with their collections!

Two people, Julia Lee, Rugby League trail-blazer, and Rebecca Bowd, University Archivist, holding a rugby ball in the archive strong room. They are surrounded by racking full of archive boxes. Both wear facemasks and purple nitrile glovesThere are now 38 boxes of archives about women’s rugby league!

We would also like to say a great big thank you to the volunteers Jane Auty, Dave Backhouse, Ceri Evans and Charlie Spencer who have collectively put in around 700 hours working with the archives at HQ.

You can find out more about our collections on our Discover page or browse our collections on our online catalogue. If you are interested in discussing your collection with Heritage Quay, please email

Fanfare for Brass Bands

Black and white image of six men. Four are seated, wearing military uniforms and holding bass brass instruments. Two are wearing dinner suits and are standing behind the seated men. In the middle is a very large ornate trophy.
Members of St Hilda’s Band in an advert for instrument makers Besson

We are absolutely delighted to now be home to the 80,000+ items in the Brass Band Archive.   The collection includes scores, recordings, photographs, trophies, programmes and more. All this belongs to Brass Bands England, the national body which supports the genre, who have worked closely with specialist staff at the University to prepare the materials for the move to Heritage Quay.

Behind the scenes image of an archive strong room. A woman with long red hair is unwrapping trophies on a table. There are pencils, cotton tape and tags on the table. In the background are boxes on storage racking.
Assistant Archivist Fran Horner unwrapping brass band trophies in the Heritage Quay Strong Room

The collection’s arrival in Huddersfield has been years in the making. The archive was started in a flat in Wigan, by two band players keen to preserve the banding movement’s history. It was acquired by Brass Bands England in 2018 and moved to their store in Barnsley which they decided what to do with it. Luckily for Huddersfield, they thought that Heritage Quay might be interested in taking it in and making it available. BBE recruited staff and volunteers who spent many painstaking hours sorting, listing and re-boxing the materials before they made the short journey to Heritage Quay. As one of banding’s heartlands, it is fitting that the collection is coming to live in Huddersfield as a brilliant new resource for the musical life of the town. The catalogue, which lists all the items in the collection, can be found online here.

Hat from a brass band uniform. The peak is shiny black, the hat band is black with gold trimming, and the rest of the hat is purple. The badge is gold, and has the initials B & R
Brighouse and Rastrick Band Hat

To celebrate the arrival of this extraordinary collection in Huddersfield, a new exhibition ‘Brass Bands: History and Culture’ is on display from 4 March to 22 April 2023. Alongside stories of star conductors and gigantic contests are those of local organisations and self-taught music. The exhibition explores how banding became a hugely popular movement, attracting audiences of tens of thousands. It also looks at distinctive aspects of banding culture, through uniforms, trophies, photographs and letters.

The exhibition is free, and open to the public from Monday to Saturday. There will be lunchtime tours of the exhibition on 15 March and 19 April at 1pm.