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 Queen's 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? The Greetings shop, 26 Lapstone Road, Millom LA18 4BU, has a range of Nicholson books in stock. Or try Faber & Faber HERE or Amazon HERE, or click HERE for links to Nicholson's poems online.
Our take on January to August in Provincial Pleasures - click HERE
NEWS, DISCUSSION AND CHAT
A musical treat
The Gildas Quartet have recently recorded two of the pieces from the Seven Rocks suite that they performed as part of Nicholson's centenary celebrations in 2014. They and the composer, Harry Whalley, have generously made the audio tracks available to members of the Norman Nicholson Society. Members can access these in the members-only section of the website. If you are a member and have not yet registered to access your exclusive area, you can do so by clicking on Log In/Register at the top of this page.
Janice is new secretary of NN Society
The Society is pleased to announce that Janice Brockbank is the new secretary of the Norman Nicholson Society. Janice has been a member of the committee since August 2018 and is a key member of the sub-committee which has been working on the Nicholson House project. She takes over from Glenn Lang who indicated at this year's AGM that he intended to step down after nine years in the role.
Chair of the Norman Nicholson Society Charlie Lambert said: 'Glenn has done a wonderful job as our secretary since 2010. He has been a firm hand on the tiller in this key role, as well as placing his literary knowledge and connections at the disposal of the Society. On behalf of all our members, I thank him for the immense amount of time and expertise that he has put in and I am pleased that he will continue as a member of the committee. The secretary's job is an important one in any society and I am delighted that Janice Brockbank has agreed to take over. Janice has outstanding organisational skills as well as wide experience of working with voluntary organisations and we are fortunate to have her on board.'
posted 6/9/19, updated 11/9/19
'Beck' on BBC Radio Three
Nicholson's poem Beck was selected as the Friday Poem by BBC Radio Three's breakfast show last week (August 23rd). You can hear it being read on the programme's website at 1 hour 23 mins 49 secs along the timeline HERE.
We are very sorry to hear of the death of Chris Pilling, award-winning poet, author and translator. Chris was a long-serving member of the NN Society. He hosted the Cumbrian Poets group of which Norman was a member in his later years. It was through that group that Mike Smith first met Norman, a connection which led to Mike making some priceless audio recordings of Norman reading his poems at his home in Millom. We send our condolences to Chris's wife Sylvia and his family and friends.
Kansas 'Wall' continues to walk
Andy Goldsworthy's real-life vision of Norman Nicholson's Wall continues to 'put its foot gingerly' across the campus of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Modern Art in Kansas, USA. It has now 'walked' from land east of the complex onto the museum site itself. It is due to walk onward in the second week in September. Click HERE to see pictures and the latest news of this remarkable piece of art.
Brian Whalley joins our committee
The Society is delighted to announce that Brian Whalley has been co-opted to the committee. Brian was born in Manchester and now lives in Sheffield. Between, he spent most of his academic life at Queens University Belfast where he taught and researched in geomorphology, geology and physical geography. Student field trips were frequently in Cumbria, based in Grange, and from these trips and climbing/walking he knows Cumbria well. His interest in Norman Nicholson stems from the fieldwork and his geological work in 'retirement’. He has written articles on Nicholson and geology for Comet, Word of the Month and The Geological Society of London’s Geoscientist. He has been a member since 2007 and frequently arrives at meetings on his motorbike.
Who is on the Society's committee? See About us
Nicholson books in stock
Looking for a Nicholson book? Try 'Greetings', 26 Lapstone Road, Millom L18 4BU, just round the corner from Nicholson's house. They have a very good selection of books in stock. Tel 01229 772735.
Award for 'This Place I Know'
The anthology of contemporary Cumbrian poetry, This Place I Know, published by Handstand Press last year, has won the Bookends Literature and Poetry Prize at the annual Lakeland Book Awards. It was also in the final four for the Hunter Davies Book of the Year, won by The Corpse Roads of Cumbria by Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park.
This is wonderful news, coming as a fitting reward for the enterprise of the editors, Kerry Darbishire, Kim Moore and Liz Nuttall, and the talent of the poets, many of whom read their work at our festival last month and many of whom are also members of the Norman Nicholson Society.
Congratulations to all!
Converted not to poetry, but to a poet
Committee member Antoinette Fawcett received a surprise email on Friday 12th July with the subject line: NORMAN IS HERE.
It turned out that two of Norman’s poems, ‘Weeds’ and ‘Nobbut God’, were being featured at the Cartmel Fell Church Flower Festival, which took place from the 11th – 14th July 2019.
St. Anthony’s Church is a simple and beautiful ancient church on Cartmel Fell, Cumbria, which was built in 1504 as a Chapel-of-Ease, so that the fellside community would be spared from having to walk seven miles or more to Cartmel Priory for the Sunday services, and then seven miles back.
When Antoinette visited the Flower Festival, she discovered that the two poems were presented as large works of pyrographic art set amongst a beautiful natural display of fellside and woodland flowers, with guest appearances from a slowworm, a mole and an owl. Nicholson would have been delighted to find his work remembered so affectionately in this context.
The information from the artist, Sheila Jackson, who created the poker work, was as follows:
At Infant School I was introduced to William Wordsworth and Daffodils. In my twenties I read more by the Lakes Poets: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, and even Thomas de Quincey. I visited Dove Cottage and went to exhibitions, but I decided I had no soul for poetry. Then a few years later I read ‘Sea to the West’ by Norman Nicholson of Millom. The language and places were familiar, and I was converted not to poetry, but a poet.
The email was right. Norman is still here, in his work, and that work is providing inspiration in unexpected places and forms of art.
Festival boosts Millom economy
The economy of Millom benefited by more than £4,000 as a direct result of the two-day Norman Nicholson Festival, held in the town at the end of June. Our analysis of information provided by attendees through feedback shows that well over £3,000 was spent on overnight accommodation and meals. Venue hire and bar takings at the Clock Tower and the Beggar’s Theatre take the estimated figure to more than £4,000. The figures don’t take into account expenditure by those who didn’t submit feedback forms, or expenditure on items apart from accommodation and meals. In reality, the economic impact will have been much higher than £4,000.
Tribute to Peggy Troll
Peggy was a personal friend of both Norman and Yvonne Nicholson. She was a founder member of the Norman Nicholson Society and our first chair, and remained an active member of the committee until she passed away in September 2017. As a tribute to Peggy, our current chair Charlie Lambert read her poem St George's Church at the Norman Nicholson Festival on June 29th 2019.
video by CHRIS LEA
The trapdoor of memory
A new feature has appeared on the Millom landscape, highlighting a quotation from Norman Nicholson's poem Do You Remember Adlestrop?
A large slate stone has been positioned in Millom Park, inscribed with the words:
Yes, yes! he shouted, as the happy accident
Unsnecked the trapdoor of his memory.
The stone is part of a landscaping project being conducted by Millom Town Council and St Mary's Hospice in Ulverston, which provides hospice care for the people of south Cumbria. The hospice is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The theme of the stone is the importance of memory. The reverse side displays the word 'minning', old Norse for memory and remembrance.
The stone was donated free by Burlington Stone and the carving was carried out by Ulverston stonemason Phil Atkinson, also free of charge.
'Unsnecked' was discussed by Kathleen Morris in Word of the Month HERE.
Schoolchildren learn about Nicholson
Sue Dawson, the Society's Schools & Community Officer, has hosted four visits by schools to the Nicholson Room at Millom Discovery Centre. The children were from St Bega's, Eskdale; Haverigg School; and two separate groups from St James's, Millom. They studied Nicholson's poem In A Word, took part in some role play (involving Nicholson-style flat cap and whiskers) and learnt something about the way to make the ordinary extraordinary. Sue worked with our committee member Brian Charnley, and Jade Hughes and staff at the Discovery Centre, to make a great success of the visits which expanded on the Nicholson Resource Packs distributed by the Society to schools earlier this year.
A wonderful line-up of Cumbrian poets
We are delighted to announce a truly impressive line-up of contemporary Cumbrian poets who will be reading their work in the home town of one of the county’s greatest-ever poets, Norman Nicholson. Nicholson, who died in 1987, is respected to this day for his ability to identify with locations and the communities who live there, regardless of geography. Towns like his own home town of Millom, he once wrote, may be far from the centre of things, but they are close to the heart of things.
As part of the Norman Nicholson Festival, 16 poets who know all about the current state of Cumbria will come together to read their work at ‘This Place WE Know,’ an evening of music and poetry to pay tribute to Nicholson, at the Beggar’s Theatre, just around the corner from Nicholson’s lifelong home. The poets are all contributors to the anthology This Place I Know, published last year by Handstand Press.
They will be joined by guest poet Patrick Wright, contributing editor of Write Out Loud and co-leader with Antoinette Fawcett of a creative writing workshop at the Festival. Patrick has a new poetry collection, Shadows on the Ceiling, to be published by Eyewear this year.
‘This Place WE Know’ also features folk/blues duo The Demix and will be compered by Ross Baxter. The event is at the Beggar’s Theatre, Market Square, Millom, at 8pm on Saturday June 29th. Admission is £7, or £5 for members of the Norman Nicholson Society. Pay cash on the door. Poets and under-18s free.
The line-up is:
Mary Robinson – winner of the Second Light Poetry Prize and the Mirehouse Poetry Prize; collections include The Art of Gardening and Uist Waulking Song.
Kelly Davis – Maryport poet whose work has appeared in Mslexia and SpeakEasy magazines as well as a number of anthologies.
Kerry Darbishire – her latest collection Distance Sweet on my Tongue follows A Lift of Wings (2014) and Kay’s Ark (2014).
Josephine Dickinson – her first collection, Scarberry Hill, appeared 18 years ago. Three more collections have followed.
Geraldine Green – a poetry editor as well as a poet in her own right, Geraldine has produced three collections including Passing Through (2018).
Mike Smith – a playwright and essayist as well as a poet, Mike knew Norman Nicholson personally and produced a priceless CD, recording Nicholson reading his own work.
Gary Liggett – poet, writer and a film-maker whose work is held in permanent collections including the Wordsworth Trust and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Deborah Hobbs – her poems have been published in various anthologies. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Kate Swann – born in the Lake District, Kate now lives in Yorkshire and writes about the countryside and the characters she finds there.
Ann Miller – an artist as well as a poet, Ann graduated from Hartlepool College of Art. She is a founding member of Mungrisdale Writers.
Charlie Lambert – former BBC sports correspondent who began writing poetry three years ago. He is chair of the Norman Nicholson Society.
Andy Hopkins – well-established poet who runs the Carlisle Poetry Symposium and is a past editor of SpeakEasy magazine.
Jonathan Humble – well-known to regulars at the Verbalise sessions at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. Jonathan’s work has appeared in print, online and on the radio.
Kathleen Jones – Kathleen has published four collections of poetry as well as biographies of Norman Nicholson, Catherine Cookson and Katherine Mansfield. She is a vice-president of the Norman Nicholson Society.
Antoinette Fawcett – the editor of the Norman Nicholson Society’s ‘Comet’ newsletter and a literary translator from Dutch. Antoinette has seen her poetry published in Agenda, Poetry London and Poetry Review among many other outlets.
Phil Houghton – poet, writer and fell-walker who was featured in Terry Abraham’s 2017 film ‘Life of a Mountain – Blencathra’. His words and pictures elevate Twitter to a higher level.
Cathy Whittaker – shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and a poet whose work frequently appears in Quintet and a wide range of publications including the women’s anthology #Me Too.
Patrick Wright (guest poet & co-leader of the creative writing workshop at the festival). Patrick has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and was included in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2018 anthology, judged by Maggie Smith. He also writes short stories, creative non-fiction, and place writing. His poems have appeared in several online and print journals, including Agenda, Wasafiri, The High Window, The Reader, Brittle Star, London Magazine, Iota, and Envoi. He teaches Arts and Humanities with the Open University.
posted 4/6/19, updated 16/6/19
Poster unveiled for the NN Festival
We are delighted today to unveil the poster for the Norman Nicholson Festival 2019. It has been designed by Maryport artist Alan Roper whose work was featured on the BBC TV show Countryfile last year. Alan was also the designer behind the very striking poster for When Percy met Norman in Maryport. We feel privileged to have had Alan working on our behalf; his interpretation of Norman and his environment is excellent. The poster will be seen in publicity in Millom and throughout Cumbria in the coming weeks.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Students experience the
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Who, what and when
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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