Welcome to the website of the Norman Nicholson Society. The site aims to provide information about Nicholson and his work and encourage the study and enjoyment of this remarkable man's writings. Here you will also find information about the NN Society which holds regular events and publishes the newsletter Comet. The Society is based in Millom, on the banks of the River Duddon and in the shadow of Black Combe (pictured), and has a worldwide membership.
New members are warmly welcomed.
Header picture of Black Combe
NN lines from 'Cloud on Black Combe'
Norman Nicholson was born in Millom, Cumbria, in 1914 and lived there until his death in 1987 with the exception of two years in his late teens when he was sent to a sanatorium in Hampshire to recover from tuberculosis - an event which shaped his subsequent life. His writing career lasted from 1930 until his death and embraced plays, poetry, novels, criticism and essays. He is best known for his poetry and was awarded the Queens Medal for Poetry in 1977 and the OBE in 1981.
DIARY DATE: Sat/Sun October 8/9 - Study Weekend at Cockley Moor, Dockray. Details HERE
NEWS, DISCUSSION AND CHAT
First sight of 'new' Nicholson poem
The new edition of Comet includes the very exciting discovery of an unpublished poem by Norman Nicholson, which is printed in full. Women's Picnic at the Standing Stones has been unearthed by Mary Robinson in the course of researching an article about Nicholson's links with Jacquetta Hawkes, the archaeologist, ornithologist and writer (1910-1996). The poem does not appear in Nicholson's Collected Poems and so far as we are aware has not appeared anywhere outside Nicholson's private correspondence with Hawkes in 1951. It has come to light as a result of Mary Robinson's examining the Hawkes archive at the JB Priestley Library at the University of Bradford.
The latest Comet, edited as usual by Antoinette Fawcett, contains a rich variety of content including contributions from Peggy Troll, David Boyd, Chris Pilling and Christopher Donaldson. Elissa Robinson reflects on the writers' workshop which the Society organised in May, Antoinette herself reports on our AGM and our Summer Event at Haverigg, the Member Profile is with the poet and writer John Killick, and Kathleen Morris reveals her professional connection with Norman Nicholson - as a telegram deliverer! Plenty more as well. Comet is mailed out free to members.
'Forcing the mind to think the impossible'
Norman Nicholson was 'the only major modern writer of the English Atlantic edge' - but why does he refuse to look outward from that edge? And in which direction does he look instead? Interesting and challenging lecture by Professor Andrew Gibson of Royal Holloway, University of London, can be heard on a podcast from University College Dublin HERE. A transcript is also available to download. The lecture was originally recorded in Spring 2013.
Melvyn of the North
The Society's president, Melvyn Bragg, is to present a 10-part series on Radio 4, The Matter of the North, starting on Monday August 29th at 9am and running at the same time each morning for the rest of that week and the next (Mon-Fri). More details HERE.
NN is back on Big City Lit
The online New York literary magazine Big City Lit recently refreshed its online archives, meaning that David Boyd's introduction to the poems of Norman Nicholson "Verse Rooted Like a Tree", the Cumbrian Poetry of Norman Nicholson, is available to access once more. David says: "Although eight years out of date (note the old Calder Hall cooling tower photo!) and fairly savagely edited, it's I think a reasonable intro to NN for those from other lands especially". Find it HERE
A distinctively Northern word?
Word of the Month for July is 'skerry', a word which shows a web of connections between the geological, the botanical and the topographical in Nicholson's works. Find it HERE
Haverigg: reflections and images
Another way to keep in touch
International stage for Neil Curry
Neil Curry, one of the Society's founder members and the editor of Norman Nicholson's Collected Poems, is to appear at the International Poetry Festival in Genoa, Italy, this week. Neil's participation in the event at the Palazzo Ducale on Tuesday is well-deserved international recognition for his wide-ranging output which includes a critique of William Cowper's work, published last year.
Pictures of the Society's display at a special event to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen at St George's Church yesterday. The display included images of the Queen's Medal for Poetry which was awarded to Norman Nicholson in 1977, and a selection of wild flowers which reflect local links to Nicholson.
pictures by SUE DAWSON
The Queen's Medal for Poetry
As part of Millom's celebration of Her Majesty's 90th birthday on Saturday June 11th, Peggy Troll will give a talk about the Queen's Medal for Poetry which was awarded to Norman Nicholson in 1977 - the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. This will part of an afternoon of celebrations at St George's Church, Millom, starting at 2pm.
Word of the Month is 'lish'
How interesting that Nicholson, in a poem called ‘Cave Drawings’, uses the word ‘lish’ to point up a series of contrasts between the active and inactive, between vitality and frailty, between mortal life and near immortal art.
'Lish' is our 'Word of the Month for June. Find it HERE
Summer and Autumn Events
The Summer Event will take place in Haverigg, Millom on Saturday July 2nd, and will include a walk in the dunes to study some of the flowers associated with Nicholson’s poetry, and a question and answer session with David Boyd about his recent work on Nicholson. We will also have our traditional study groups and an alternative event, based on the poem ’St. Luke’s Summer’, for members who are unable to take part in the dune walk.
This promises to be a really interesting event, led by Chris Powell and Sue Dawson, with the afternoon session featuring David Boyd.
There will be the chance for some creative writing exercises, as well as for plenty of discussion and the opportunity to be immersed in the places and landscapes which inspired Norman.
Refreshments will be provided, but lunch is at your own arrangement to keep the cost as low as possible. Most people usually pack a picnic lunch but there are places in Haverigg where you can buy a simple meal too.
The cost is £5.00 for the whole day. The event will start at 10.00 a.m. for 10.30 and finish at approximately 4.00 pm. Members will receive a booking form in the next few days.
AND THAT'S NOT ALL.....
We are delighted to announce that our Autumn Event will take place at Cockley Moor, the house near Ullswater which became famous in literary circles in the 1940s and was a major source of inspiration to Norman Nicholson.
The event will be over a whole weekend: Saturday and Sunday October 8th and 9th.
Cockley Moor was owned by the art collector and patron Helen Sutherland, who used the house to entertain selected artists and writers for what must have been inspiring house party weekends.
Norman visited Helen Sutherland at Cockley Moor on a number of occasions. Here he met luminaries such as the poet Kathleen Raine and became familiar with the art of Winifred and Ben Nicholson (who were not related to Norman). The place, and the people he met there, were important for his development as a poet.
Places will be limited to 30 people, so if you would like to be put on a pre-booking list, please do contact us as soon as possible using the Contact Form on this website. In the first instance, these places will be available primarily for members of the Society.
We’re very excited about the opportunities this event will give us to understand and deepen our knowledge of this part of Nicholson’s life and work, and to immerse ourselves fully in such a special environment.
This will be our first ever Study Weekend, and we’re hoping that it will lead to many more such opportunities. More details will be published here in due course.
Antoinette's work shortlisted
Editor of 'Comet' Dr Antoinette Fawcett has been invited to speak at a prestigious literary event in London on Thursday (June 9th). Antoinette's sample translation from Kristien Dieltiens' book Kelderkind [Cellar Child] has been selected as one of six shortlisted translations to be presented to a live audience and a jury of publishing experts. The event is open to all and Antoinette says: "If any of you could be at the event to support me, it would be fantastic!"
The details are as follows:
THURSDAY 9TH JUNE
FREE WORD LECTURE THEATRE
60 FARRINGDON ROAD
LONDON EC1R 3GA
Tickets can be booked on the Free Word website: https://www.freewordcentre.com/whats-on/translation-pitch
More about the event here: https://www.englishpen.org/event/translation-pitch-new-literary-voices-with-pen-presents
The Society's former chair Dr Ian Davidson celebrates after being presented with an engraved whisky glass as a token of appreciation for his hard work. Illness prevented Ian from receiving the award at our AGM in April. Committee members Peggy Troll, Sue Dawson and Dot Richardson had the pleasant task of making the presentation.
pictures by JOHN TROLL
'A great poem by Norman Nicholson'
NN Society member Mike Alldred writes: As a keen walker I am a member of the Ramblers Association. In the Summer edition of the RA magazine, "Walk", there is an interview with broadcaster & writer Stuart Maconie. In addition to references to Walt Whitman (positive) & Wordsworth (less so) he also mentions "a great poem by Norman Nicholson, in which he writes about washing up in his kitchen and seeing Scafell Pike as he looks out of the window....". He goes on to describe what Nicholson fans will recognise as the poem "Scafell Pike".
It's encouraging to discover references to Nicholson, such as this, which might result in more people choosing to seek out his writing. And, who knows, maybe seek out the Norman Nicholson Society.
Dr David Cooper is a leading participant in an event examining the role of language within experiences of place. Vocal Landscapes: Bodies, Language and Place is 6pm-8pm on Wednesday June 1st at Number 70, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 5NH (it's the building formerly known as the Cornerhouse, very close to Oxford Road rail station). The evening is organised by In Certain Places, a project based at the University of Central Lancashire. Admission free. More information here.
Writing workshop a great success
The life-writing workshop led by Kathleen Jones on Saturday, 14th May 2016, was a great success. The event, which explored connections between our Selves and our Environment, was a joint collaboration between the Norman Nicholson Society and Kendal Library. It was called ‘A Local Habitation’, not only as a reference to Nicholson’s 1972 collection of the same name, but also in honour of Shakespeare, whose 400th anniversary we are celebrating this year.
The three hours passed very quickly, but there was time for participants to produce two pieces of writing and to share these with the group. Kathleen set Nicholson’s work within the context of current thinking about home, exile and story-telling, linking these themes to contemporary eco-writing, both creative and critical. We were also encouraged to think about memory and truth, childhood and trauma – sources both of pain and inspiration for poets and writers.
As well as reading and thinking about Nicholson’s poem ‘The Elm Decline’ (Collected Poems p. 283), we considered Heaney’s ‘The Barn’ and Riemke Ensing’s ‘Fictions’. At the end of the workshop we came away not only with our own two pieces of writing – the basis perhaps of further work – but full of the kinds of thoughts and feelings which mean you’ve been provoked in the right way.
Word of the Month is 'voe'
A word that indicates a link back to Nicholson’s own Norse ancestors is our Word of the Month for May 2016. Read Brian Whalley's analysis of 'voe' HERE.
'A highly knowledgeable exploration'
Workshop sold out
All places for Kathleen Jones' writing workshop in Kendal on May 14th are now taken. Thanks to everyone who has booked and we look forward to seeing you there.
Writing workshop with Kathleen Jones
Bookings are being taken now for a life-writing workshop with the author Kathleen Jones at Kendal library on Saturday May 14th, 10am to 1pm. The workshop, organised by the Norman Nicholson Society in collaboration with the library, is inspired by Nicholson's writings and will explore the connections between our Selves and our Environment. More detail on our Events page.
AGM held in Millom
The Society's AGM took place at Millom Network Centre on Saturday and was followed by a talk by Dr David Cooper on New Contexts for Nicholson's Writing. There was also an exhibition to mark the Society's 10th anniversary. A full report can be found on our EVENTS page.
Part of the Society's 10th anniversary display
posted 18/4/16, updated 21/4/16
Nicholson exhibition on the move
The exhibition dedicated to Norman Nicholson at Millom Discovery Centre has been refreshed and updated, and moved to a different location. This is the result of a wider reorganisation within the Centre. The move has involved a lot of work by NN Society committee members and helpers, taking down everything on display in the old room and then re-hanging and displaying all the items in the new room. There isn’t room for everything to be on display at once so the items in the room will be refreshed from time to time.
View the slideshow below:
Millom Discovery Centre admission charge is valid for one year so once paid people can visit as many times as they like during the following 12 months.
There is a selection of NN books available for sale at the Discovery Centre.
photos by SUE DAWSON
Could it be you?
There are vacancies on the Society's committee. If you would like to put your name forward, or if you'd like more information, please get in touch using our Contact form before the AGM on Saturday April 16th.
'Fire of the Lord' - signed copy
We've been notified that a signed copy of Nicholson's first novel The Fire of the Lord is available to buy. The inscription reads: Rev. S. Taylor from Norman Nicholson Millom Cumberland Sept. '44
The book is in good condition, but lacks a dust jacket.
Cost is £45, including postage. From NW Book Fairs. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicholson family links
Can you help Richard Rees-Jones who has contacted us with this query:
In his book Greater Lakeland NN talks about his grandparents coming from Cartmel. I am researching my own family history which links with the Nicholsons at Collinfield, Cartmel Fell. I'd be interested to know if our two families are connected. Is there anyone in your group who could help me?
If you have any information please let us know via our Contact Form and we will forward it to Richard.
Dr David Cooper to speak at our AGM
The Society's AGM will take place on Saturday April 16th at the Millom Network Centre, starting at 1pm. The agenda is posted on our Events page. There are vacancies on the committee - would you like to get involved? Following the formal AGM there will be a break for refreshments. After the break our former chair Dr David Cooper, Senior Lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University, will speak on New Contexts for Nicholson's Writings. David initiated new academic interest in Nicholson through his doctoral study in 2007 of Nicholson as a poet of place and space.
A new book about Nicholoson has just been published. Norman Nicholson's Nature is written by conservation campaigner Ian Brodie, price £12.50.
Publishers Wildtrack say: This book looks afresh at Nicholson's writing and suggests that we need to regard him as a much greater committed nature writer than previously recognised. The book explores the writer's relationship between people, place, nature, industry and geology and concludes that in Nicholson's writings we can find the basis for a contemporary conservation ethic. Ian Brodie has spent a life in campaigning for access, landscape conservation and, more latterly, nature conservation. Before retirement he was on the staff of Friends of the Lake District and lectured on Lancaster University's Lake District Studies Course. He was formerly a member of the Lake District National Park Authority. His recent publications include, Thirlmere and the Birth of the Landscape Conservation Movement and Why National Parks?
The book is available from the publishers here. It's also available in bookshops in Cumbria. We've spotted it in the Tourist Information Offcie in Broughton and we'll add any other stockists if anyone can notify us via our Contact Form.
Nicholson on Radio 4
Nicholson's poem Beck was featured in BBC Radio 4's Poetry Please on Sunday February 7th at 4.30pm and repeated on Saturday 13th at 11.30pm. The programme is also available on the BBC i-player for 30 days.
This comes from a request by NN Society members Brian Whalley and Kathleen Morris.
posted 6/2/16, updated 13/2/16
Lifting the latch
Norman Nicholson - Beyond Lakeland
Dr. Antoinette Fawcett, Joint Secretary of the Norman Nicholson Society, has secured a three month Visiting Research Fellowship at the John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester, which houses the university's Special Collections. They include the Norman Nicholson Archive and the Norman Nicholson Book Collection, as well as many other literary papers relevant to Nicholson Studies. Antoinette's research project is entitled "NORMAN NICHOLSON – BEYOND LAKELAND: An examination of archival and bibliographical evidence for the translation and reception of Norman Nicholson’s work in non-Anglophone cultures".
She will examine evidence relating to the translation, publication and performance of Nicholson's work in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Italy, and Russia, among other places, with the aim of demonstrating that Nicholson's work in several genres had an impact beyond the Anglophone world.
Arts Council England has designated the Rylands collections, kept in the wonderful neo-Gothic John Rylands Library, as being of outstanding national and international importance.
If anyone has information about the reception of Nicholson's work in other countries, please do get in touch with Antoinette via this website - our Contact form is HERE.
'Shepherd's Carol' inspires our Christmas tree
The Norman Nicholson Society has again decorated a tree for the annual Christmas Tree festival in St George's Church, Millom. The festival is open for viewing from Friday 11th December until Sunday 3rd January 2016.
The times for viewing the festival are: Monday - Thursday 12 noon - 4.00 pm. Friday - Sunday 11.00 am - 4.00 pm.
The theme for the festival this year is 'Christmas Story' and the Society has chosen 'Shepherd's Carol' as the poem to provide the inspiration for decorating their tree. Peggy Troll, Dot Richardson and Sue Dawson have developed a rustic, rural theme for the decorations this year as it was felt that this was the best way to interpret the content of the poem appropriately. Most of the decorations are made from twine, card and twigs.
The three 'practical farmers from back of the dale' can be seen pointing the way to the 'the latest arrival newly born' from the drystone wall at the base of the Nicholson Society's tree. The sheep that are left at the 'bottom of dyke' are Herdwicks, of course! The pub the shepherds head for is based on the Woolpack Inn at Eskdale and there are even some Cumberland sheep counting on labels to continue with the shepherd's theme.
Refreshments are available daily in the church and there are around 40 decorated trees to enjoy during a visit!
A word for the season
"A blunt-sounding word, plain and to the point." Antoinette Fawcett inspects the latest Word of the Month: backend. Click here.
Melvyn on Youtube
The BBC TV documentary 'From Wigton to Westminster' which featured the life and career of the Society's president Melvyn Bragg is now available to watch on Youtube. Here's the link. It was first broadcast in July.
Festive lunch enjoyed by all
Charlie Lambert on BBC Radio Cumbria
Our new chair Charlie Lambert was interviewed on BBC Radio Cumbria on Friday November 20th. Asking the questions was presenter Gordon Swindlehurst, a self-confessed Nicholson enthusiast. The chat aired during Gordon's lunchtime show. You can hear the interview on our Soundcloud HERE.
The Society's new chair
He said: “Norman Nicholson was an outstanding poet who had the ability to touch the heart and the conscience. His view of the world – whether the world on his doorstep in Millom or the wider universe – was original, perceptive, humorous and heartfelt. Yet he never received due credit from the metropolitan so-called elite. I feel extremely honoured to have become chair of the Society and I will do all I can to promote the works of Nicholson and to further the aims of the Society. I would also like to pay tribute to Ian Davidson for his excellent work on behalf of the Society; we all owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Charlie was born in Windermere and gained a degree in English from Bristol University. He spent 20 years on the staff of the BBC, becoming sports correspondent for the TV programme Northwest Tonight as well as broadcasting regularly on Radio 4 and Radio 5. He is currently senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. He lives in Liverpool.
'It's mending worse...'
We were pleased to see that Hilary Mantel selected Nicholson's poem 'Old Man at a Cricket Match' for a Remembrance Weekend feature in Saturday's Guardian. Find it HERE.
More Tales from a Small Town
The Millom Writers group, run by NN Society member Ron Creer, has just had its third collection of work published. It is being launched at Millom Network Centre on November 6th at 2pm. All Society members are welcome to go along.
"A word which would once have been on every Viking’s lips, but which has now shrunk back to the fringes – to Iceland, the Faeroes, and Lakeland." Word of the Month for October by Kathleen Morris - find it here.
Alan and Kay Beattie performed the play The Fell-Whisperers, written by Alan, at the Society's Autumn Event on Saturday. The play contained three dialogues which dramatised Nicholson's relationship with fellow poet Kathleen Raine and the artists Sheila Fell and Percy Kelly. There's a report on our Events page.
posted 12/10/15 pictures by JOHN TROLL
Glamming it up in Manchester
Antoinette Fawcett, secretary of the Norman Nicholson Society, will speak about Nicholson at a meeting of GLAM - Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts - at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, on Thursday October 1st. Fran Baker, custodian of the Nicholson archive held at the Library, will also speak.
Nicholson WILL rock Coventry!
The fund-raising scheme launched to help organise a second performance of Seven Rocks, composed by Harry Whalley for Norman Nicholson’s centenary last year, has hit the target!
Members of the NN Society were among those who backed the campaign which targeted £380 and currently exceeds £420. It means Seven Rocks will be performed by the outstanding Gildas Quartet, as planned, at the INTIME symposium at the University of Coventry on Saturday October 24th.
Harry says that the surplus funds will go towards financing a new composition based on a Nicholson poem.
Nicholson features in travel guide
Norman Nicholson - a Literary Life
Norman Nicholson - a Literary Life by David Boyd, a long-standing member of the Norman Nicholson Society, has just been published by Seascale Press Ltd. It's available by post or as a Kindle download. Full details and order form HERE. As a taster of David's writing, here's a link to an article he wrote for the New York online literary review nycBigCityLit.com. Congratulations to David on completing this highly-anticipated work and good luck with the all-important sales!
From Wigton to Westminster
Melvyn Bragg, the Society's president, was the subject of last night's 75-minute documentary 'From Wigton to Westminster,' on BBC2. The programme, produced by Olivia Liechtenstein, tells the story of Melvyn's life, relationships and work in intriguing and revealing detail. It also includes wonderful archive of Wigton. It's available on Youtube here
posted 19/7/15, updated 23/11/15
Off to study Nicholson in India
The Society has been contacted by an editor from Macmillan Publishing (India) who wants to use the Norman Nicholson poem Off To Outer Space in the Morning in texts for schools in India. We're delighted to hear of this interest in Nicholson's work and hope that Macmillan are successful in obtaining the necessary copyright clearance in order to go ahead.
The Society's Summer Event
Members and friends took part in a day of dry-stone walling and felting linked to discussion of Nicholson's poem 'Wall' on Saturday June 27th. Please visit our Events page for a full report and more pictures.
Nicholson and geology
There's a fascinating and informative article about Nicholson's use of geology in his writing on the website of The Geological Society, written by NN Society member Brian Whalley. Brian includes this quote from Nicholson: "In no other part of England has the life and character of a district and its people been so controlled by the nature of the rock and by the forces which acted upon it."
The article mentions Millom Rock Park which is just outside the town and well worth a visit if you're interested in the geological make-up of the area.
Contact Us / Become a Member
New members of the Norman Nicholson Society are warmly welcomed. Annual subscription is £12, or £18 for couples and £6 youth. Please contact us via the Contact page
Norman Nicholson's Cumbria
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Keep in touch and join in the chat. Log onto Facebook and type into the Search box Norman Nicholson Society.
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Inspiring youngsters today
This photographic interpretation of Nicholson's poem 'Windscale' by pupils of Millom School shows how his writing inspires young people today. See more in 'Our Page!'
For previous posts please visit our News Archive.