Shakespeare is here!

Earlier this month we welcomed the poet Ian McMillan to Leeds to launch our new exhibition at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.


We’ve been bowled over by the popularity of our latest exhibition, For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire,  in the Treasures of the Brotherton. Over 1000 visitors have already been to see the rare Shakespeare items left to Leeds University Library by Lord Brotherton of Wakefield. All four 17th-century folios are on display alongside other books that help reveal the history of Yorkshire.

We opened the exhibition in style on 6 September with poet Ian McMillan’s barn-storming introduction to the display, which brought the house down. The Bard of Barnsley encouraged us to “cut the endless ribbon of Literature with the rusty scissors of criticism” and embrace two of his favourite words; “Shakespeare and Yorkshire”. Ian had the crowd whooping and almost stampeding to see all four of Shakespeare’s folios up close.

Outside the Gallery, two giant posters of Shakespeare’s head comprising of mini Shakespeare heads that visitors had coloured in ‘by number’ provided a backdrop for feedback on Post-It notes. “Inspiring”, “fascinating”, and “mind-blowing” were just a few of the adjectives used to describe people’s reaction to the exhibition.

It’s also been exciting to see regional and even international coverage of the exhibition, especially when the news items feature interviews by our incredibly talented guest curator, Kit Heyam.  Our most surprising appearances so far have been in the Irish Examiner online and the Republika online (which we think is Indonesian!) We must also thank local press such as Radio Leeds, Made in Leeds TV and the Yorkshire Evening Post for splashing us across their channels and newspapers.

People’s continuing passion for Shakespeare proves that the Bard truly is “for all time”.


These are just some of the exciting programme of events on a Shakespearean theme we have arranged to accompany the exhibition:

30 September

Kit Heyam, co-curator of the exhibition, will be giving a talk entitled “Notorious kings and Yorkshire tragedies: what Shakespeare and his contemporaries did with English history”. From cautionary tales to opportunistic gossip, Kit will examine how English history was used – and abused – by early modern writers.

11 October

Members of Leeds Baroque will mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death with a performance of music linked to the famous commemorations held at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769.

26 October

Michael Brennan and Mark Westgarth will be presenting a talk on “Re-reading and Collecting Shakespeare”, exploring the fascinating and sometimes bizarre collecting of Shakespearean items during the 18th and 19th centuries.

You can find out about all these events and many more, including how to book your place, in the Events section of our website. Events are free but booking is essential.

Our exhibition runs until the end of January 2017. We look forward to welcoming you to the Gallery!

Byron’s dramatic poem ‘Manfred’

This post is by Joe Whelan, a Leeds student, who spent 12 weeks working on the Freemantle Collection under the University’s Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship Scheme.

Researchers have recently been exploring and cataloguing the music manuscripts of the author and organist W. T. Freemantle (1849-1931) with the aim of making them more accessible.  Many of the manuscripts are part of Lord Brotherton’s original collection and were acquired from the sale of Freemantle’s library.

During the research a setting of Byron’s ‘Manfred: a dramatic poem‘ by the English composer E. J. Loder has been rediscovered.   Excitingly 2016 is the bicentenary of Byron’s writing of the play.  This has provided the impetus for an event at the Ilkley Literature Festival ‘Lord Byron’s Manfred and its Musical Settings’.  The event will explore the play and the music it inspired including works by Robert Schumann and Tchaikovsky.  Excerpts from Loder’s setting will be performed by Soloists and by the Chamber Choir, The Clothworkers Consort of Leeds.

The hero of Byron’s play, Manfred, is a nobleman racked by a mysterious guilt linked to the death of his beloved Astarte. He summons seven spirits from whom he requests forgetfulness.  The supernatural elements in ‘Manfred’ reflect the popularity of the ghost story in England in the early 19th century.

Loder’s setting is now easily accessible to future researchers as Leeds student, Joe Whelan, has catalogued many of the uncatalogued Freemantle manuscripts.  His detailed work has been uploaded to the Special Collections online catalogue.  This includes some of his research into the provenance of the archives

Currently, Joe is studying in the School of Music for a BA in Music.  His work on Freemantle was part of a placement funded by the University’s Undergraduate Research & Leadership Scholarship scheme (UGRLS).  Joe will soon be promoting the collection further through a fascinating online exhibition.

How the Institutional Data Repository helped me promote my data

Guest post from James Mooney, Lecturer in Music Technology, University of Leeds

As part of International Data Week, Sept 11-17 2016, James Mooney reflects on his experience of using the Research Data Leeds institutional data repository.


I have recently completed a project that involved curating, researching and staging three performances of live electronic music compositions by the English composer Hugh Davies (1943-2005). Staging these concerts has, in many cases, involved building the equipment required to perform them from scratch, based on incomplete or ambiguous information gleaned from archival documents. In addition, these are experimental pieces, with scores that comprise text-based instructions and descriptions rather than standard notation, as well as other inherently unpredictable elements that mean that the pieces turn out differently every time they are performed. These were, in other words, pieces that could only be fully understood by performing them. In this situation, the practice-based elements of the project – that is, the performances – are a valuable project output in their own right, since they convey much more about the nature of the pieces than could ever be understood from any abstract or theoretical description of them.


I was interested in using the Research Data Leeds Repository because it offered the possibility of rendering these performances as outputs – entities as concrete, readily identifiable, and as easy to reference as, say, a journal article would be.

Using the Repository allowed each of these three concerts to be packaged as an output, complete with title, abstract, DOI, and authorial information, as well as video-recordings of the pre-concert talk and each of the pieces themselves, and programme notes in PDF format. In this way they could be: (a) preserved for posterity; (b) viewed and auditioned by individuals who were not able to attend the original events; and (c) used and referenced in future research.

Preparation of Materials

In anticipation of their inclusion in the Repository, all three performances were video recorded. Detailed pre-concert lectures delivered in advance of each of the three concerts were also video-recorded. Extensive programme notes – prepared in hard copy for the performances themselves – were also retained in PDF format for inclusion in the Repository.

Decisions also needed to be made in relation to the ‘granularity’ of the materials to be presented. Would we, for example, package each individual piece as a separate entity within the Repository, or would one entity per concert be preferable? Would we include separate video files for each individual piece performed, or a single continuous video file for each concert? Or both? Ultimately, we opted for one entity per concert but with separate files for each individual piece. This configuration, we felt, represented the best balance between representing the original aims of the project (which had specified three concerts as outputs), and catering the potential needs of future researchers (who might appreciate being able to refer to individual pieces quickly and easily).

Having made these decisions, the video-files naturally had to be prepared accordingly. The videos of the concerts were edited so as to provide an individual video-file for each piece performed. Titles and credits for each individual piece were added using Final Cut Pro.

Readying these materials for the Repository also necessitated gaining permission from the various rights-holders, including composers (or their next of kin, if deceased), performers, and in some cases, publishers. If carried out methodically, this need not represent too onerous an administrative burden. In this case, a standard email was drafted, and responses recorded in a spreadsheet, which was then uploaded to the Repository along with the other materials.

Access the Hugh Davies data online.


Benefits and Applicability

Packaging the concerts as outputs in this way represents a more sustainable option than using websites like YouTube and Vimeo, where the continued availability of the videos is contingent upon the integrity of one individual’s user account (which could cease to be maintained for a variety of different reasons), and upon third-party terms and conditions that may change unpredictably. It also represents a preferable option to hosting such outputs on an individual’s personal website, or on a bespoke institutionally-hosted one, since these options will only be effective for as long as somebody is ready and able to maintain them. In contrast with these less-than-ideal options, the Repository allows these outputs to be preserved in perpetuity, theoretically at least.

Depositing materials in this way would potentially be beneficial for any research-based activity that incorporates a practice-based element. For the current project, similar repositories are planned as documentation for the project exhibition, and as a ‘video proceedings’ for the project conference. So long as appropriate materials (e.g. video and other digital formats) are gathered while the practice is under-way, such materials can be combined with a title and abstract at a later date, and packed as an output, complete with digital object identifier (DOI).

Colleagues writing funding proposals may wish to build plans for packaging outputs in the Repository into their grant applications. This would doubtless be attractive to funders, who will welcome any efforts to assure the sustainability of digital outputs.
James Mooney
Lecturer in Music Technology
School of Music
Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications
University of Leeds

Related links