Welcome to the website of the Norman Nicholson Society. The site aims to provide information about Nicholson and his work and encourage the study and enjoyment of this remarkable man's writings. Here you will also find information about the NN Society which holds regular events and publishes the newsletter Comet. The Society is based in Millom, on the banks of the River Duddon and in the shadow of Black Combe (pictured), and has a worldwide membership.
New members are warmly welcomed.
Header picture of Silecroft shore
NN lines from 'Comet Come' (1986)
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, archivist, 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.
NEWS, DISCUSSION AND CHAT
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com .
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 Millom Partnership of 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
Contact Us / Become a Member
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). Please contact us via the Contact page
The Wall Walks the Fell
Who, what and when
Norman Nicholson's Cumbria
Explore 25 top locations with close links to Norman Nicholson on our online map. Click HERE to find it
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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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