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, and has a worldwide membership.
New members are warmly welcomed.
Header picture of Black Combe from Hodbarrow by JOHN TROLL
NN lines from 'The Pot Geranium' (1954)
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.
Read an appreciation of Norman Nicholson by Fran Baker, former archivist at the John Rylands University of Manchester Library, HERE.
Most frequently-asked question: Where can I get hold of Nicholson's work? Try Faber & Faber HERE or Amazon HERE.
Or click HERE for links to Nicholson's poems online.
Our take on 'April', 'March', 'February', and 'January' in Provincial Pleasures - click HERE
NEWS, DISCUSSION AND CHAT
Phil Houghton on Radio Cumbria
Phil Houghton, poet and NN Society member, is to be a guest on BBC Radio Cumbria's The Arty Show presented by Helen Millican from 7pm to 10pm tomorrow, Monday May 20th.
Arts Council backs our Festival
Arts Council England has awarded the Society funding of £1,000 towards the costs of the Norman Nicholson Festival this summer. We are delighted by this very significant support. It is not just an important financial contribution but a strong endorsement of the objectives of the Festival as we prepare to celebrate Nicholson's work and bring people together for a wonderful and varied cultural weekend in Millom.
The Demix to perform at Festival
The folk/blues band The Demix is to perform at This Place WE Know, the music/poetry event to be held in Millom as part of the Norman Nicholson Festival. The Demix is a guitar/vocal duo consisting of husband and wife Rod and Sarah Demick, who will be making a welcome return to Cumbria having moved away from their former home in the county. Rod is a superb guitarist who toured extensively with David Essex, the Strawbs, and many other bands over the years. Sarah Littlefeather Demick is an Ojibwa Indian from Toronto, Canada, who has been singing since the 1970s, working with Peggy Seeger among a lengthy list of collaborations. She is also one of the poets whose work is featured in This Place I Know, the 2018 anthology of Cumbrian poetry on which this evening of entertainment is based. A full list of poets who have committed to read their work at this event will be published shortly. This Place WE Know is on Saturday June 29th at the Beggar's Theatre, Market Square, Millom, starting at 8pm. Admission is £7 (£5 for members of the Norman Nicholson Society), under-18s free.
Millom CGP Trust
The Society is delighted to announce that we have been awarded a grant of £200 from the Millom CGP Trust towards the costs of the Norman Nicholson Festival. We are really grateful to the Trust for their support and look forward to a wonderful weekend in Millom on June 29/30.
More news of the NN Festival
We can now announce more details about the Norman Nicholson Festival coming up at the end of June. Events, venues and times can now be found on the Festival page. There are still a few events to be finalised, so do keep an eye on this site and our Facebook page.
A new feature exclusive to members
We are pleased to unveil the latest feature on our website, an area dedicated exclusively to members of the Society. This area will add to the value that you receive as members. It includes the three most recent editions of Comet, minutes of AGMs, and a variety of interesting and/or entertaining items such as Nicholson's favourite recipe, his penchant for a good malt whisky, and an audio interview with lifelong Millom resident Dot Richardson, who shares her personal recollections of Nicholson. In this area you can also read an immensely detailed heritage report on Nicholson's house, compiled for the Society by Marion Barter Associates with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of our 'Resilient Heritage' project in 2017/18. More features will be added from time to time.
If you are a member, this is how you can gain access. Go to Log In/Register tab at the top-right of the Home page. Select ‘Register’ (‘Register’ turns black). Add your name (the name by which the Society knows you) and your email. Choose a password (we won’t know what it is, the password is private to yourself). Please check the box stating that you agree to receive promotional and marketing information, or the registration won’t activate. You will only receive the usual communications from the Society. We will not pass on your details to anyone else. Click ‘Register’ and you will receive an email from us as soon as your registration has been accepted. You will then be clear to access our exclusive members-only area on the website.
After your registration is accepted, you can access the Members’ area by clicking on the Log In/Register tab. Then, select ‘Log In’ (‘Log In’ turns black), and enter your details. You will then be able to click through to the Members’ Area.
If you have any difficulty accessing the Members’ Area, please notify us using the Contact form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A productive and creative year
The Society's AGM took place at the Baptist meeting room in Millom yesterday. A good turn-out of members heard reports from the officers of the Society which reflected a very productive and creative year. These included the revival of the Nicholson Literary Fund with the collaboration of Millom Town Council; production and distribution of a schools' resource pack with funding from Millom CGP Trust; a digital project in progress with Lancaster University; increasing links with Cumbria University; plans for the Norman Nicholson Festival coming up in June; decision to make a second application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to enable us to buy Nicholson's old house; a range of informative and enjoyable events over the year; and the continuing publication of the Society's much-loved newsletter Comet.
Our chair, Charlie Lambert, was re-elected for a further three years in the role. Also re-elected to the committee having reached the end of the three-year cycle were Glenn Lang, Antoinette Fawcett, Dot Richardson and Sue Dawson. Glenn announced that the coming year would be his last as secretary and Antoinette made a similar announcement with respect to her role as membership secretary. She will however continue to edit Comet. This means the Society is inviting anyone who is interested in taking on either role to let us know by contacting any committee member or emailing email@example.com.
The AGM was followed by two superbly-researched and enlightening talks about Nicholson's topographical writing. The poet Phil Houghton shared his take on Nicholson's 1949 work Cumberland & Westmorland, and the Cambridge University PhD student Max Long spoke about his study of Nicholson's topographical notebooks. Both were warmly received. It was encouraging to see a number of non-members attending the afternoon session.
Phil Houghton to speak after AGM
Poet and Nicholson Society member Phil Houghton will give a talk about Nicholson's first major prose book Cumberland & Westmorland following the Society's AGM in Millom this Saturday (April 13th 2019).
The book, in which Nicholson describes the places and topography of the two counties, plus that part of Lancashire ‘north of the Sands’, made an instant impact for its down-to-earth focus on life as it really is, in contrast to the Romanticism of previous writers and the advertisements of the burgeoning tourism industry.
‘Cumberland & Westmorland’, published by Robert Hale, is 70 years old this year.
Phil, whose own poetry was featured in Terry Abrahams’ acclaimed film ‘Blencathra, Life of a Mountain’, will speak at the Baptist Church meeting room, Crown Street, LA18 4AG in Millom on Saturday April 13th, 1.15pm. He said: ‘The book remains a standard. It defines Place, not by its boundary-laden title, but through the granularity of observation, which Nicholson brings – lives, bedrock, industry and nature. He shows us two counties, pressed on the land like the cloven hoof print of the Norse Herdwick, but deeper still into the bedrock, where he senses this lived-in landscape originates. It may be 70 this year, but in terms of understanding the “new” Cumbria, the relevant and defining work that is Cumberland & Westmorland is still far from retirement’.
The event will also include a talk by Cambridge University PhD student Max Long who has studied Nicholson’s topographical notebooks archived in the John Rylands Library in Manchester.
The talks will follow the AGM of the Society which takes place in the morning (registration from 10.30am, start 11am). The AGM is for Society members only but the afternoon session is open to all. More information can be found on our Events page.
Nicholson to be taught on MA course
The University of Cumbria is launching a new MA at its Ambleside campus which focuses on the literary landscape of Cumbria, and will feature the work of Norman Nicholson.
The MA in Literature, Romanticism, and the English Lake District is a year-long taught Master’s programme, which will be offered from September 2019. Literary texts from the
eighteenth century to the present will be studied, and the course will explore the ways in which these texts have played a crucial role in shaping not only our perceptions of Cumbria, but also our responses to the natural world more broadly. The programme begins with formational writers and poets, such as William Wordsworth and John Ruskin, and moves on to explore the two centuries of writing which make up Cumbria’s complex and shifting literary landscape.
The programme leader, Dr Penny Bradshaw, said: 'Norman Nicholson is a key figure within that landscape, and within the continuum of writers and poets for whom this region has been a source of inspiration and creative power. He is important both in his poetic engagement with the legacy of Romanticism and in the new imaginative directions which are explored within his poetry'.
Nicholson’s poetry will be considered in detail on the second semester module Poetry and Place, but Nicholson will also feature elsewhere on the programme, as a significant and perceptive commentator on the evolution of this cultural landscape. More information from www.cumbria.ac.uk/study/courses/postgraduate/literature-romanticism-and-the-english-lake-district/
or email Dr Bradshaw, at:
Resource pack for Millom schools
The Norman Nicholson Society has put together a schools’ resource pack to help teachers get across the message that Millom produced one of the 20th century’s best poets. The pack, which has been produced with the help of the Millom CGP Trust Fund, contains samples of Nicholson’s writing, biographical information, pictures, and audio recordings. Over the last few weeks the pack has been distributed to all schools within the Partnership of Millom Schools.
Committee members Sue Dawson and Antoinette Fawcett have done the lion's share of the work required to pull the project together, with added input from Janice Brockbank and Charlie Lambert.
The Society is grateful to the Millom CGP Trust Fund, Millom Town Council, and to all the schools and teachers for their support.
UPDATE: Antoinette was interviewed by Mike Zeller on BBC Radio Cumbria's breakfast show this morning. The chat can be heard HERE at 49 minutes along the time line. The NW Mail also covered the stoy - read it HERE.
Somewhere-nowhere at our Festival
Two of the UK's most innovative creatives, the photography/writing duo, Rob and Harriet Fraser, are to give a presentation and lead a practical workshop as part of the Norman Nicholson Festival in June. Cumbria-based Rob and Harriet, who work under the banner of Somewhere-nowhere, will be with us on Sunday June 30th. Their work uses the power of curiosity and pause to engage with all the elements that give a sense of place, and let stories gradually reveal themselves. These stories may provoke further investigation or action, or touch on issues of struggle or loss in a local-global system where everything is connected, and balance can be elusive. Through photography and writing, with installations in rural spaces, they deliver creative projects that tap into and tell the stories of the natural environment and the people connected with it. Harriet and Rob's view of the world chimes perfectly with that of Norman Nicholson whose poetry and prose addressed very similar themes. This will be a major highlight of our Festival. More details about their visit, including booking arrangements for the workshop, will be announced in due course.
Nicholson's 'Wall' walks in Kansas
One of Nicholson's best-known poems, Wall, has been brought to life in Kansas in a remarkable art installation by British-born artist Andy Goldsworthy.
Andy Goldsworthy, whose previous works include Storm King Wall, pictured above, built in 1996-97 for the Storm King Art Centre in New York State, has been commissioned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City to create a wall which really does 'walk'. Construction of the 100-metre length of dry limestone wall began on March 3rd. It is due for completion this Saturday. Then, after a 'rest' of almost two months, Andy and his team will advance the wall onward within the museum grounds, then again, until after five different locations the wall becomes a permanent installation at the museum. Andy, who was born in Cheshire, lives in Scotland and works worldwide, has a long-standing affection for Nicholson's poem. His breakthrough piece was Taking a Wall for a Walk, installed at Grizedale in 1989. In contrast with certain other projects involving the building of a wall in the USA, the philosophy behind this wall is that it pushes the boundaries of a city and of nature, and solidifies the tie between the museum and the local neighbourhood.
The wall walks the fell -
Grey millepede on slow
Wall was published in the 1981 collection Sea to the West.
Reimagining Wordsworth in Millom
Millom Library is one of the venues hosting events by the Wordsworth Trust, under the title 'Reimagining Wordsworth on Tour'. The pop-up sessions will visit locations throughout Cumbria between April and September, introducing the work of Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy and exploring their links with individual places in the county. The Millom event is free, on Saturday April 27th from 1030am to 1130am. More information and booking details HERE.
Confirmed: Dr Andrew Frayn to speak
Dr Andrew Frayn, of Edinburgh Napier University, has confirmed that he will speak, and lead a discussion, on the opening day of the Norman Nicholson Festival this summer. Andrew specialises in 20th century literature and has given public lectures on different aspects of Nicholson's work. We are really looking forward to hearing him when he joins us on Saturday June 29th in Millom. More announcements about the Festival will be made in the near future, both here and also on Twitter (@nnicholsonpoet) and Facebook (Norman Nicholson Society).
Sean O'Brien to speak at our Festival
The Society is delighted to announce that SEAN O'BRIEN will be the keynote speaker at the Norman Nicholson Festival in Millom on June 29/30. He will speak on Saturday 29th at the Festival HQ in Millom Network Centre. Sean is a multiple award-winning poet whose laurels include the TS Eliot Prize, Northern Writer of the Year, and fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. We know that Sean is a huge admirer of Nicholson, and last year wrote an entertaining article in the Times Literary Supplement about a trip to Millom to explore Nicholson country. It will be a wonderful privilege to welcome him to our Festival.
Heritage Lottery briefing
Our chair, Charlie Lambert, and committee member Janice Brockbank attended a briefing by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Lancaster on Monday (February 25th). The Fund has undergone a number of changes and the purpose of the briefing was to update organisations like ours as to the new procedures and criteria. It was a useful event, which gives us a springboard to recommence work on our project to buy Nicholson's former home, something which we will be pursuing in the coming weeks. And it was a lovely springlike day in Lancaster.
posted 1/3/19 photos by Charlie Lambert
Scribbling in the margin
Did you scribble notes on the pages of the poetry books you read as a youngster? And probably got into trouble as a result? Who would have guessed that such scribbles might one day be treated as things of value! Yet that is the conclusion in an article in the Guardian, which references Norman Nicholson among other poets whose work attracted ad hoc comments from young readers. The article reports on research by a former teacher, Julie Blake, who has studied the history of poetry anthologies, from the first printed anthology (1557) to the present-day national curriculum which sees a greatly expanded range of poetry being studied, but in a much smaller selection of anthologies compared to the 1980s. The Nicholson poem brought into the spotlight by classroom scribbling is South Cumberland, 10 May 1943. Read the article here.
Choral version of Nicholson's Carol
There is a lovely choral rendition of Nicholson's poem Carol available on Soundcloud HERE. The music is composed by choral specialist Bob Chilcott who is principal guest conductor of the BBC Singers. The piece, published by Oxford University Press, is titled 'Mary's Child'. The poem was
included in Nicholson's debut collection, Five Rivers (1944).
'Millom the Mighty'
One of the more unlikely pairings in international sport, Millom v Red Star Belgrade, led to an equally unexpected mention for Norman Nicholson live on BBC Sport. Shortly after the half-time break the commentator, Dave Woods, referred to Millom's cultural roots and that Norman Nicholson came from the town, adding that he was 'known for his local concerns, straightforward language, and elements of common speech - a very rugby kind of approach'. He went on to commend the bust of Nicholson on display at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.
The match was screened live on the BBC Sport website. Millom won 38-10.
Rugby was important in Norman's family. His Uncle Jack, also well known for his cricketing exploits, played for a Millom team which enjoyed a triumphant era in the 1890s, described in Norman's autobiographical work Wednesday Early Closing (Faber & Faber 1975). Norman references a newspaper article at the time, headlined 'Millom the Mighty'. Uncle Jack played in a controversial cup tie against 'one of the leading Yorkshire clubs' when Millom lost 3-0, the controversy arising when Millom's Sam Bucket crossed for a try which would have tied the game at the very least, only for the referee to disallow the score. Decades later, writes Norman, he happened to meet a man who remembered the game and the disallowed try. 'The referee made a mistake,' the man said. 'Were you there?' asked Norman. 'Were you a spectator?' 'No lad. I was the referee.' The same tale is told in Nicholson's earlier prose work Cumberland & Westmorland (Robert Hale, 1949).
posted 27/1/19, updated 21/3/19
Simon Armitage discusses Nicholson
Simon Armitage, recent recipient of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, discussed Norman Nicholson and read an extract from The Pot Geranium on BBC Radio Three this morning. Simon was the guest of presenter Ian Skelly on Essential Classics, on air 9am to 12 noon. Simon described Nicholson as 'an important writer for me for all kinds of reasons, and one was justifying staying local'. The relevant section can be found at 1 hour 50 ins 48 secs along the timeline on BBC Sounds HERE. Maintaining the Cumbrian flavour, Ian followed Simon's interview by playing the finale from Piano Concerto in A minor by the Windermere-born composer Sir Arthur Somervell, whose father was the founder of K Shoes in Kendal.
Our Lottery bid: an update
What's happening about the Society's plan to buy and renovate Norman Nicholson's old home in Millom? Behind the scenes, quite a lot. We are gearing up for the launch of the Heritage Lottery Fund's new-look grant scheme, which will be unveiled next month. The Society has been invited to attend one of four launch events to be staged by the HLF in the North West and we will be represented at the Lancaster event on February 25th. That will give us the inside track on what has changed since our previous application, and we will immediately begin working to prepare our new bid. We have also added new advisors to our team, extending the range and depth of expertise available to us. Meanwhile, the house will be open to visitors during the Norman Nicholson Festival on June 29/30 in Millom this summer.
January 8th, a notable date
Norman Nicholson was born in Millom on this date in 1914. He was the second child of Joe and Edith. Their first, a son called Harold, was born when they lived in Holborn Hill, and died aged six months. It was another seven years before Norman arrived, the Nicholsons having moved by then to 14 St George's Terrace. Nicholson writes in his autobiographical work Wednesday Early Closing (Faber & Faber 1975) '...there was a sadness in my mother's life during that Edwardian decade because of the death of her first child...Then, on the 8th of January 1914, when I was, perhaps unexpectedly, born, I turned out to be a sickly child, with not much chance of living even as long as my brother. And when, after all, I did manage to survive those first six months, the War broke over us, with all its privations and hazards...'
January 8th has been a notable date for birthdays. Stephen Hawking, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, and Shirley Bassey all share Norman's date of birth.
Sauntering with Norman
Nicholson's work frequently crops up in the output of contemporary writers, and one example is the blog of walker and runner (and retired university professor) John Self,
'Saunterings'. John's readable and informative blog references Nicholson in two entries. No 23, The Kentmere Diatomite, draws on Nicholson's knowledge of the mineral diatomite and its production in the Lake District in his 1977 book The Lakes (Robert Hale), previously published in 1963 as Portrait of the Lakes. And No 32, Russet Rusland Valley, references Nicholson's own take on the Rusland valley expressed in Greater Lakeland (Robert Hale 1969). We have added 'Saunterings' to our list of online links featuring Nicholson which can be found on this website here. Thanks to our member Ann Thomson for alerting us to John's work.
Note the dates: June 29/30 2019
We are delighted to announce that the Society will be organising a two-day Norman Nicholson Festival in Millom next summer. The dates are Saturday and Sunday, June 29th and 30th 2019. The event has the official support of Millom Town Council, Millom Discovery Centre and Millom Library. Local schools will be involved and Nicholson's lifelong home, 14 St George's Terrace, will be open to visitors. Details are still being finalised and there will be further announcements, and a formal launch, in the New Year.
Christmas Tree Festival
The annual Christmas Tree Festival at St George's Church in Millom opens today (1pm). The Norman Nicholson Society has decorated a tree at the festival for many years, selecting a poem which chimes with the festival's theme. The theme this year is 'Goodwill to All, Peace on Earth'. Our team - Sue Dawson, Dorothy Richardson and Janice Brockbank - selected Nicholson's wartime poem The Evacuees as the inspiration for our tree, which has been decorated with appropriate items along with the names of some of the many evacuees who arrived in Millom and Haverigg from Tyneside in the autumn of 1939.
Four years ago
They came to this little town
Carrying their bundles....
The poem, published in Nicholson's first full collection Five Rivers in 1944 and included in Collected Poems (p53), describes the arrival of the children, how some families later returned home while others stayed, and speculates where the future might lead them:
Grant that in the future they may find
A rock on which to build a house for heart and mind.
The church is open 1pm-4pm Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun until Sunday December 30th with a final open day on Wednesday January 2nd, 1pm-4pm. As usual, our tree is located by the Nicholson memorial window.
posted 14/12/18 photos: SUE DAWSON
Millom event cancelled
An event due to take place in Millom on Friday, featuring the Society's former chair Dr David Cooper, has had to be cancelled because of a bereavement in Dr Cooper's family. He was scheduled to be in conversation with Irene Rogan at the Palladium as part of the Moving Mountains festival. We send our condolences to David and his family.
Perfect recipe for Christmas gathering
We enjoyed a lovely occasion on Saturday when members gathered at the Netherwood Hotel in Grange-over-Sands for the Society's annual Christmas lunch. We were extremely well looked after by the hotel staff and as in previous years were provided with exclusive use of one of the lounges for drinks and conversation before and after the meal.
The Society's membership secretary and editor of Comet, Antoinette Fawcett, made a presentation to Doreen Cornthwaite, Norman Nicholson's cousin, in recognition of, and gratitude for, her unstinting support for the Society over many years.
There's an opportunity to read the winning poem from the Poem and a Pint competition held in Ulverston in September. When the words go is by Ross Baxter, a member of the Norman Nicholson Society. You can find it HERE. Another member of the Society, Kerry Darbishire, was highly commended for The Moment. More information about the competition, including upcoming literary events in the Ulverston area, HERE.
Date of next year's AGM announced
Diary date: our AGM next year will be held on Saturday April 13th at 11am in Millom. More details to follow.
Looking for a Christmas gift for someone with an appreciation of literature? NN Society member Brian Whalley has these suggestions.
Armitage, Simon, Stanza Stones, 2013 Enitharmon Press, London. (r.r.p £15) ISBN 978-1-907587-30-6
This hardback, with colour plates, has the six poems that Simon Armitage wrote as part of the Stanza Stones project on the moors between Marsden and Ilkley in Yorkshire. The book is also a record of the planning for the stones in the landscape (by Tom Lonsdale) and the cutting of the poems in the stone by Pip Hall. As well as the poems readers will also enjoy the photographs of the stones, including detail of the lettering and the local landscapes. (I hope to write something more about this project for an edition of Comet. Note that the front of the dust jacket reproduced here, July 2107 reprint, is not the same as on the Amazon Website.)
Goodwin, Mark, Steps, 2014, Longbarrow Press, Sheffield. (r.r.p £12.90 + £1.70 p and p.)
Mark Goodwin’s Steps contains a collection of his poems that reflect his affection for rugged areas. Cornwall figures in a long poem along the lines of a Richard Long ‘walk’ but the Lakes figures too in Mountain Mass, at Forty (last night across langstrath’s valley/Pike o’Stickle purpled/under sky-sculpted light). This book, like my next suggestion, comes from Brian Lewis’ Longbarrow Press (www.longbarrowpress.com) from where you can order these and other poetry books. They are beautifully produced and designed hardbacks where the dust jacket is part of a ‘good read’ and is good value.
Clegg, Matthew, The Navigators, 2015, Longbarrow Press, Sheffield. (r.r.p £12.90 + £1.70 p and p.)
Another ‘mountain and moorland’ book with poems that will be enjoyed by Nicholson readers. It has ‘Lakes’ links too (Climbing to Another Climate: Across the valley/the Lion and Lamb/free-floated on a carpet). And also Mexborough; as in Mexborough Bridge S2. Norman Nicholson and Mexborough? See The Affirming Blasphemy, Collected Poems, p. 411. Other Nicholson links too as in, When They Next Make You Redundant. Both Steps and Navigators provide excellent gifts for the poetry reader.
Christmas lunch deadline is Dec 1st
The Society's annual Christmas lunch will take place on Saturday December 8th at the Netherwood Hotel, Grange-over-Sands, 1230 for 1pm. Please book your place now, but there's no need to part with any money until the day itself when you will pay the hotel direct. Cost is £22.90 for a three-course lunch, plus coffee and mince piece. Drinks are not included in the price. Deadline for bookings is December 1st. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place.
Threads of dead years in the TLS
A visit to Millom to find the locations which inspired Nicholson's poetry is described in the October 26th edition of the Times Literary Supplement. Poet and critic Sean O'Brien writes about a trip undertaken at the end of the summer to see for himself the town and Nicholson's "small terraced house in the town centre", where "Nicholson knew that his own rootedness gave him access to the globe and its fiery origins".
The title of Sean's article is taken from To the Memory of a Millom Musician, reflections on the part-time musician Harry Pelleymounter, which appeared in the 1972 collection A Local Habitation. In the poem it's Harry's daughter who is pulling at threads as she researches a history thesis.
There are still many threads in Millom.
Translation award for Antoinette
The Society's membership secretary and editor of Comet, Antoinette Fawcett, has been awarded third prize in the annual Stephen Spender Poetry Translation Competition. It is the second time Antoinette has achieved this success. The competition, run by the Stephen Spender Trust in conjunction with The Guardian, recognises excellence in the translation of poetry from any language into English. The judges of the 2018 awards were Margaret Jull Costa, Olivia Cannon, and Sean O'Brien. Antoinette's entry was her translation of De ontdekking van de poezie (How poetry was discovered) by Abdelkader Benali, which can be read here. Olivia McCannon commented: 'Antoinette Fawcett's work won us over again, this year, for her beautiful handling of a subversive prose poem by Abdelkader Benali'.
Delmar Banner's view of Scafell
Vice-President of the Society David Boyd has purchased this lovely painting by Delmar Banner, husband of Josefina de Vasconcellos whose life and work members learned so much about at our Autumn event. The work is titled Scafell from Calf Sedbergh, dated 1935. David writes: 'I discovered that 40-plus years later than Delmar I was in fact a student at Delmar's HE establishment - then Regent Street Polytechnic (Josefina studied there too and that's where they met) and apparently in the Fyvie Hall at 309 Regent Street there are many murals that he did for them when a student - it's all now a Grade 2 listed building. Delmar's family I think was from Sedbergh. Both he and Josefina were independently wealthy. He must have been 39 years of age when he painted this watercolour.'
Inspired to take a walk to the Calf? Start here!
Christmas lunch 2018
The Society's annual Christmas lunch will take place on Saturday December 8th at the Netherwood Hotel, Grange-over-Sands, 1230 for 1pm. Please book your place now, but there's no need to part with any money until the day itself when you will pay the hotel direct. Cost is £22.90 for a three-course lunch, plus coffee and mince piece. Drinks are not included in the price. Deadline for bookings is December 1st. Please email email@example.com to reserve your place.
Situating Nicholson's poetry
Dr Andrew Frayn of Edinburgh Napier University is to give a talk entitled 'Edgelands without a centre: Industrial decline and rurality in Norman Nicholson's poetry,' engaging with and questioning recent theories of the 'edgelands' to situate Nicholson's poetry. This will take place in Room 1.06, 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9JU, at 4.30pm on Friday November 23rd. Dr Frayn specialises in 20th century literature and culture.
'Matter Matters' event in Millom
There's a notable event scheduled for Millom this Friday evening (November 2nd) when the artist Irene Rogan presents an evening of performance, film and installation, 'Matter Matters'. The programme features the singer-songwriter Kris Wilkinson Hughes, film producer Jane Topping, sound artist Mark Vernon, and Black Combe Primary School Choir. Jane and Mark's new film and soundwork Disaggregated Industries, will be screened. The event is at Millom Palladium, St George's Road, LA18 5DW, 6.30pm to 8pm. Irene is the inspiration behind Moving Mountains, the art festival which has been running in Millom since the summer. The Norman Nicholson Society's former chair Dr David Cooper is scheduled to speak as part of the festival on December 14th, also at the Palladium, at 6.30pm.
Top poetry prize for Martyn Halsall
Congratulations to Norman Nicholson Society member Martyn Halsall on winning the Borderlines/Carlisle Literary Festival poetry prize. Martyn's poem, Schedule of Dues, submitted anonymously, impressed the judge, Neil Curry, who said: 'Here, from the very first line, were totally unexpected words. Also, to my delight, such fine alliteration - once the staple of English verse.' You can read the poem on the Literary Festival's website HERE.
Antoinette to give talk at Ulverston
Antoinette Fawcett, the Norman Nicholson Society's membership secretary and editor of 'Comet', is to give a talk at Ulverston Library at 7pm on Thursday (Oct 25th) about her work translating the novel 'Bird Cottage' from the original Dutch. The novel by Eva Meijer, published by Pushkin Press, is about the English musician, ornithologist and writer Len Howard. Antoinette will talk about the true story behind the novel, and the challenges that accompanied her translating of it. Admission is £1. More information from the Library, tel 01229 404151.
Read Antoinette's essay on the task of translating the book on the Asymptote website here.
The rock face, temple, mouth and all
The Society's Autumn Event focused on Josefina de Vasconcellos, the sculptor who found global fame from her studio in Langdale. Josefina, who died in 2005 three months short of her 101st birthday, was a good friend of Norman Nicholson. A well-attended event at Haverigg Primary School was addressed by contemporary sculptor Shawn Williamson, a former assistant of Josefina, who is currently creating a scuplture trail at Low Wood on the eastern shore of Windermere. Shawn spoke about projects he worked on with Josefina, including the impressive Escape to Light, which is located above Haverigg beach, Josefina's final sculpture. After lunch, we heard from Chris Powell, former warden of the Harriet Trust, a charity inspired by Josefina which converted the Harriet, a Fleetwood trawler, for use as a base on the Duddon Estuary to offer memorable holidays for children, including youngsters with disabilities.
Shawn and Chris then accompanied attendees to Escape to Light where Shawn pointed out many details and explained more about Josefina's vision for the piece.
The afternoon ended with reading and discussion of some of Nicholson's poems which reveal Norman's own interest in, and knowledge of, geology, led by Antoinette Fawcett.
It was a memorable day which gave us priceless insights into one of Nicholson's key contemporaries, who shared many of Norman's passions and found her own unique way of communicating them.
Read more about Josefina HERE
Our next event: Josefina de Vasconcellos
We are delighted that one of the country's foremost sculptors, Shawn Williamson, has accepted an invitation to speak about his one-time mentor, Josefina de Vasconcellos (1904-2005), at our next event which will take place in Haverigg on Saturday October 20th 2018.
This is a wonderful opportunity to find out about de Vasconcellos and her friendship with Norman Nicholson. Josefina's work included a bust of Nicholson and the striking 'Escape to Light' work which is located at Haverigg.
The event starts at 11am (arrivals from 1030) and includes presentations by Shawn Williamson, and Chris Powell, former Warden of the Harriet Boat, whih was part of a children's charity founded by Josefina and others. There will be an opportunity to walk to Haverigg beach to see 'Escape to Light,' Josefina's last sculpture.
Admission is £6 (£5 for members of the Society). Pay on the door but it would helpful if you could book your place in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Bring your own lunch.
More details on our Events page.
READ NW MAIL ARTICLE ABOUT THIS EVENT HERE
posted 7/10/18, updated 13/10/18
I would write a poem...
I would write a poem
Precise as a pair of scissors, keen,
Cold and asymmetrical, the blades
Meeting like steel lovers to define
The clean shape of the image.
from 'Poem' by Norman Nicholson (Collected Poems, Faber & Faber 1994).
Today is National Poetry Day. As Chris Riddell writes in today's Guardian: 'the great power of poetry is its ability to distil thought, observation and emotion into a form that moves us profoundly.'
Happy Poetry Day!
When Percy met Norman
The friendship between Norman Nicholson and Percy Kelly was brilliantly celebrated at a two-day festival, 'When Percy met Norman', organised by the Maryporters and staged at the Settlement in Maryport on Friday and Saturday, September 27/28.
Heritage Lottery decision
We are disappointed to pass on the news that the Heritage Lottery Fund has turned down the Society’s application for funding to buy and renovate 14 St George’s Terrace, Millom, the lifelong home of the poet Norman Nicholson. But we are not giving up on this very worthwhile project and we intend to submit a second application, incorporating our experience from this initial bid.
The Society is looking for a sum in excess of £500,000 to carry out the work, in order to restore the house to its appearance at the time when the Nicholson family lived there, and include exhibitions of Nicholson’s work and memorabilia, a café, and accommodation for a writer in residence.
Chair of the Society, Charlie Lambert, said: “We are obviously disappointed that this initial bid has not succeeded, but this is not the end of the story. The feedback from the HLF indicates that they approve of all the main elements of our application but they want more information about some of the documentation and activities that are planned after the house re-opens. They have told us we are welcome to apply again.”
To place this in context, only a minority of applications for HLF funding are approved at the first time of asking.
Charlie Lambert added: “We see this as a staging post in a lengthy journey. We are part of a structured and professional process, and submitting a second application has paid off for countless heritage schemes in the past. We will examine the feedback in detail, learn, adjust, and move forward.
“This is a good point to assess how much this project has accomplished already – the award of a £9,000 Resilient Heritage grant in 2017, a positive feasibility study, expert analysis of the decoration of the house, a priceless account of the history of the house, detailed plans for its renovation and future use, raised profile for Nicholson and the Society, public support from many well-known individuals, the backing of Millom Council, generous donations from individuals, and a fabulous audio archive from Radio Cumbria which only came our way because of publicity surrounding our bid.”
For information: The Heritage Lottery Fund is moving to a new application system with updated criteria, which means they will not accept any applications until the new system is launched early in 2019.
Neil Curry reading cancelled
Unfortunately the reading by Neil Curry at Millom Library on Friday September 28th has had to be cancelled. Neil had been due to give a reading from his latest book of poetry On Keeping Company with Mrs Woolf. The other two literary events which we posted on September 12th go ahead as planned.
Inspirational day at Cockley Moor
Poetry by Norman Nicholson and Kathleen Raine, and by Roy Marshall and Eavan Boland, inspired a wonderful day as participants in our creative writing workshop gathered at Cockley Moor, the very space which, 70 years ago, played host to Nicholson, Raine and others. The workshop was expertly led by Kathleen Jones, who also referenced the work of Winifred Nicholson, Samuel Beckett and the Danish artist Anna Ancher in the course of a stimulating event. Thanks to everyone who took part and contributed so vibrantly, and also to Hilary Rock for inviting us back for this second visit to Cockley Moor.
The Society's next event is at Haverigg on October 20th when we will be finding out about the work of Nicholson's friend, the sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos. More information on our Events page.
Neil Curry reading at Millom Library
Neil Curry, the Society's vice-president, is to give a reading from his latest book of poetry at Millom Library on Friday September 28th at 3pm. Neil's book, On Keeping Company with Mrs Woolf, was published in May. Tickets are £1, to include refreshments, from the library, 01229 772445. UPDATE 17/9/18 - Unfortunately Neil's reading has been cancelled. The two events below go on as scheduled.
Two other upcoming literary events at Millom Library are:
Thursday September 20th, 3pm - author Ruth Sutton will discuss her crime novel Burning Secrets, set in Cumbria during the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001.
Thursday October 11th, 3pm - Matt Hilton will discuss his latest novel in the Joe Hunter series, Marked for Death, as well as his new series centred on Detective Inspector Kerry Darke. More information from the library, 01229 772445.
Join us for an inspirational day
The Society is delighted to announce a very special event - a one-day creative writing workshop with Royal Literary Fund fellow KATHLEEN JONES at the famous literary location COCKLEY MOOR, on Saturday September 15th. Places are limited to just 16 to ensure everyone gets the maximum from the day. Kathleen is an experienced and talented author whose work includes an acclaimed biography of Catherine Cookson, recently re-printed, and the official biography of Norman Nicholson. Cockley Moor, overlooking Ullswater, is one of the most important artistic locations of the 20th century, having been the home of the arts patron Helen Sutherland and a place where many of the leading lights of the time assembled, including T S Eliot, Kathleen Raine, and Norman Nicholson. The Society enjoyed a two-day event at Cockley Moor in 2016 and we are privileged to have been invited by the owner Hilary Rock to return. Weather permitting, the day will include a visit to the Kathleen Raine poetry stones, located on the Ullswater Way. Cost is £20 (£15 to members of the Society). Tea and coffee will be provided but bring your own lunch.To reserve your place, please complete the Contact form on this website or email email@example.com
Comet - nothing to celebrate?
The latest edition of Comet, the Society's magazine edited by Antoinette Fawcett, is on its way to members. It contains a wide-ranging and often surprising variety of articles, from Brian Mitchell's personal take on flora and fauna in the poetry of Nicholson and others, to Brian Whalley's expert examination of geology in Nicholson's work, to reports on the Society's activities, a new poem by Martyn Halsall, and much more. Comet comes out twice a year and is free to members. If you'd like to join the Society and benefit from the information and opinion available in Comet as well as the events we organise, please fill in the Contact form here or simply email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Charles Causley Trust
Our chair, Charlie Lambert, has visited the Charles Causley Trust in Cornwall to find out how they set about restoring the poet's home in Launceston, and what advice they could pass on in respect of our own ambitions for Norman Nicholson's home in Millom. Charlie writes about this visit in his blog here.
Cumbria's best known dialect word?
August's 'Word of the Month' is lile, or lyle. Kathleen Morris's commentary on a word which appears surprisingly infrequently in Nicholson's work is here.
The Society's membership secretary Antoinette Fawcett has had her first full-length translation published: Bird Cottage, by the Dutch author Eva Meijer. See the Pushkin Press website for details https://www.pushkinpress.com/product/bird-cottage/.
An exciting two-day event to celebrate Norman Nicholson and Percy Kelly is to be held in Maryport on September 28 and 29, 2018. The festival is being organised by The Maryporters Town Team and the Settlement at Castle Hill. It was at the Settlement where Norman first met the remarkable artist Percy Kelly in 1959, the two of them forging a lifelong bond. The festival, titled 'When Percy met Norman', will feature talks, readings, an art workshop and exhibitions. The Norman Nicholson Society's vice-president Kathleen Jones will appear at events on each day, two members of the Society's committee, Dr Antoinette Fawcett and Brian Charnley, will also play prominent parts, as will former committee member Professor Alan Beattie. You can check out the full programme HERE.
The festival also includes a Youth Poetry Competition for 13 to 18-year-olds living in Allerdale. Details HERE.
Mary Robinson's 'Word of the Month'
Word of the Month welcomes a new contributor! Mary Robinson, long a champion of Norman Nicholson’s work, is herself a well-regarded published poet, now living in North Wales. Mary has written articles for Comet and organised a memorable Society event at Isel Hall and Church in 2014, the Nicholson Centenary year. Mary shines a light on the word 'brog' and examines its useage in the poem Across the Estuary in July's Word of the Month here.
On the Closing of Millom Ironworks
The closure of Millom Ironworks 50 years ago this September was the theme of the Society's Summer Event yesterday. Local writer Bill Myers gave a talk about the history and development of the works before leading a walk along the embankment where the rail tracks ran to the site of the works. Three of Nicholson's poems which were inspired by the closure were read and discussed. More details on our Events page.
Change of venue for event on July 7th
There is a change of venue for the Society's event on Saturday July 7th, when we will mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of Millom Ironworks. Instead of the original venue of Millom Baptist Church the event will be held at Millom Methodist Church, Queen St, Millom LA18 4DN. This is due to the kitchen currently undergoing a re-fit at the Baptist Church. All timings and other details remain the same - arrive from 1030 for 11am start. More information on our Events page.
Any Amount of Books
Robin Healey, of the Alliance of Literary Societies, has been in touch to advise us that the celebrated bookshop Any Amount of Books has some minor Norman Nicholson MS material for sale, mainly carbs of typewritten notes, but signed by Norman. Click here to visit the shop's website.
Janice joins NNS committee
We are pleased to announce that Janice Brockbank, former headteacher of Haverigg Primary School, has been co-opted to the committee of the Norman Nicholson Society. Janice has been a member of the Society's working group on the Norman Nicholson Project since its inception and has played a prominent part in the project's progress. She has taken a leading role in securing funding for a number of important projects over the years, including the Lighthouse Centre in Haverigg and the Hodbarrow Lighthouse project. She is chair of the Partnership of Millom Schools. We are delighted that Janice's experience and expertise will now be available to the full committee as well as the working group.
Society to mark anniversary of closure of Millom Ironworks
This summer is the 50th anniversary of the closure of Millom Ironworks, an event which features significantly in Nicholson's poetry. The Society will mark the anniversary by holding an event on Saturday July 7th when local writer Bill Myers will give a talk and lead a walk to the Ironworks site. We will discuss some of Nicholson's writings on this theme. Registration and refreshments from 1030am for 11am start. Bring your own packed lunch. Full details on our Events page.
Make a date with Neil Curry
New editor of Word of the Month
We are delighted to welcome ANN THOMSON, a long-standing member of the Society, as the new editor of WOTM. Ann takes over from Antoinette Fawcett who has done a wonderful job over the last few years, setting up and editing this feature. Of course, any column is only as good as its content, and Ann would welcome all offers, suggestions and contributions. You can contact her via the Contact Form on this website here. Thank you to KATHLEEN MORRIS who provides the first article of Ann's tenure, here.
BBC TV reports Society's Lottery bid
BBC Northwest Tonight reported on the Society's Heritage Lottery bid last night. Reporter Stuart Flinders and camera crew Dave and Alex spent yesterday morning filming at 14 St George's Terrace with Society chair Charlie Lambert and working group member Janice Brockbank. The completed report included interviews with both Janice and Charlie, plus lovely archive of Norman from a 'Look Stranger' programme originally produced in 1973. The item can be seen on the BBC I-Player here, at 21 mins 53 along the timeline. It is available until 1045pm tonight.
News that our application has been submitted also made the front page of the NW Mail on Wednesday June 6th.
Our bid is in!
This afternoon we submitted our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for just under £550,000 to allow us to proceed with the Norman Nicholson House project. We will find out the result in September. Big thanks to everyone who has helped and supported us, especially the Society's indefatigable Working Group, Mike Darwell of John Coward Architects, and our patrons. You can find out about this project here.
Nicholson discussed at international conference
Dr Andrew Frayn, lecturer in Twentieth Century Literature and Culture at Edinburgh Napier University, examined the work of Norman Nicholson in delivering the first panel sesssion at a conference at the University of Nottingham last Wednesday.
Dr Frayn's paper was titled Northernness, Rurality and Modernity in the works of Norman Nicholson. He argued that 'Nicholson’s unsentimental attitude to place offers a necessary alternative to the fetishization of the Lake District, and rural Britain more generally'. The abstract is available here.
If the full paper is availabe anywhere, or if anyone has more information about this event which they would like to share, please contact us via the contact form.
Dr Frayn's session was part of a two-day event, Orientations: A Conference of Narrative and Place. Orientations was described as an interdisciplinary, international conference exploring the relationship between narrative, space and place.
New data protection legislation, known as GDPR, came into force today. The Society's revised data protection policy can be seen here.
Who gives this woman?
Discussion in the media about whether Meghan Markle would be given away by her father at the Royal wedding tomorrow brings to mind Norman Nicholson's poem 'Epithalamium for a Niece' (Collected Poems, 429-30). As long ago as 1984, Norman queried the idea that a woman needs her father to 'give her away' in this day and age.
'Who gives this woman to this man?'
The parson asks....
....while the air
Waits on the Prayer Book's questionnaire,
Let silence ring its loud reply:
'She gives herself - what can a man ask more?'
The Society's membership secretary Antoinette Fawcett will read this highly topical poem at the AGM of the Alliance of Literary Societies in Birmingham tomorrow.
On May 25th 2018 the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect. This requires all organisations to have a proper policy in place regarding their retaining of the personal data of individuals. The Norman Nicholson Society is committed to correct and legal procedures when handling personal data and has carried out a review of its procedures to ensure it is fully compliant with the legislation ahead of deadline. Personal data is retained solely for the purposes of fulfilling the Society’s obligations to members; it is not retained once any need has lapsed; the data of those who cease to be members is deleted (unless specifically requested otherwise); and anyone who wishes to check what data is held, or to have it deleted, may do so by request to the Membership Secretary. The Society does not share any personal data with third parties.
Thank you Fran, and good luck
We are sorry to learn that Fran Baker is moving on from her post as archivist at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, where she has been in charge of the Norman Nicholson collection for many years. Fran has done a wonderful job, organising the Nicholson papers and making them available, and generally promoting Nicholson's work. While we are sad to see her leave, we wish her every success in her new post as from next month, as archivist and librarian at Chatsworth House.
Neil Curry poetry launch
Neil Curry, the Society's vice-president and formerly a long-serving committee member, has produced a new poetry collection, On Keeping Company With Mrs Woolf. The collection will be launched in Carlisle on May 24th, at the Cakes & Ale Cafe, 17-19 Castle Street, Carlisle, CA3 8SY, 7.30pm-9pm. Tickets are £3, including a glass of wine, from Bookends (01228 529067). The collection is published by Shoestring Press, £10.
UPDATE 17/5/18: This book launch has been postponed. No new date has been announced so far.
Mines inspector's report: 'Uncle Jack'
Thanks to Jonathan Powell who conducted us via the contact form. Jonathan has tracked down the official report into the death of Nicholson's uncle, John Nicholson (Uncle Jack), who features in Norman's poetry both for his cricketing ability and his tragic death in Hodbarrow mine. The inspector's report is available at Durham Mining Museum here.
Society's AGM 2018
The Society's AGM took place on Saturday April 14th, kindly hosted by Millom Cricket Club. Minutes will be available in due course but the main points were:
Dr Chris Donaldson was elected to the committee, having been co-opted last autumn. Chris takes over the universities liaison brief from Professor Alan Beattie who retired from the committee last year.
Treasurer's report showed that the Society had received a one-off grant of £9,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in respect of the Norman Nicholson House project. These funds had been duly spent, in line with the terms of the grant, on a feasibility study led by John Coward Architects of Cartmel.
A proposal that issues of Comet from more than three years ago should be made available on the Society website, to enable the sharing of articles of academic and general interest with the wider community, was passed unanimously.
The formal meeting was followed by lunch. In the afternoon local historian Marshall Mossop gave a presentation about Millom Cricket Club and Nicholson's connections with it, which included a short stint as club secretary in 1938/39. This was followed by a walk around the boundary and the day concluded with a talk about Nicholson's writing on cricket by Charlie Lambert.
Padded up for our AGM
The Society's AGM takes place tomorrow at Millom Cricket Club, a place that was special to Nicholson and features prominently in his work. Registration from 1030am for 11am start. As well as the usual business there will be an update on Project 14, the Society's project to buy and renovate Norman Nicholson's old house; a guided boundary walk by local historian Marshall Mossop; and a talk entitled 'Nostalgia is the besetting sin of many who write about cricket' by the Society's chair and former sports reporter Charlie Lambert. Lunch is provided. Non-members are welcome to join us after lunch for the walk and the talk.
Details of our Summer Event on July 7th, in which we will mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of Millom Ironworks, are now posted on our Events page.
A talk entitled 'Norman Nicholson - A Regional Poet' by Dr Antoinette Fawcett was enthusiastically received by the Dalton Local History Society yesterday. It was the Annual Phillipson Lecture, named in honour of the Society's former Chair, John Phillipson. Antoinette's talk presented some of the research she carried out at the John Rylands Library and the Whitehaven Archive in 2016. The talk showed that Nicholson's work was not only important at a local and regional level, but that it had national and international significance. She explored Nicholson's many links with Scandinavia and Italy and discussed some of the reasons why his work was interesting to readers, writers and translators from these cultures, particularly in the post-war world of the late 1940s and 50s. The talk ended with the remarkable and amusing reaction of the Italian academic Spartaco Gamberini to the publication of Nicholson's 1954 poetry collection The Pot Geranium: 'you are a European poet, free at last from the cosmopolitan provincialism of London'. We like to think that Norman would have roared with laughter at that lovely and pugnacious phrase!
'Countryfile' visits Maryport
The BBC's Countryfile programme is to focus on West Cumbria in its edition of April 15th. They are due to film in Maryport tomorrow where they will visit the Settlement community arts centre and interview Chris Wadsworth about her biography of Norman Nicholson's 'Cumbrian brother' Percy Kelly.
Students experience the
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New members of the Norman Nicholson Society are warmly welcomed. Membership fees are £15 per annum or £20 for a couple living at the same address, and £6 youth membership (up to age 25). Check out benefits of membership here. Please contact us via the Contact page
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Norman Nicholson's Cumbria
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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!'
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