Thursday, August 16, 2012

Man of many talents

Interview by Sarah-Clare Conlon.

We're really pleased to be teaming up again with the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. The IABF, on Cambridge Street, will be the Festival Hub for a second year running. Here the centre's Deputy Director, Will Carr, tells us more about the importance of Anthony Burgess on Manchester and what's going on during the Festival to celebrate his many and varied achievements as a novelist, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic.

MLF: Once again, IABF is the official MLF hub. What Anthony Burgess-specific events are chalked up for the 2012 Festival?
WC: We're delighted to welcome the historian Dominic Sandbrook to speak at our launch event for a special 50th anniversary edition of Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange (Fifty Years Of A Clockwork Orange: Thursday 18 October, 7pm, £8/£6 concessions). Dominic is an authority on British culture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s - his books include Never Had It So Good, White Heat and Seasons In The Sun, and he has presented a four-part series about the 1970s for BBC television. He'll be in conversation with Andrew Biswell, who is the Director of the Burgess Foundation, Burgess's biographer, and the editor of the new A Clockwork Orange.

During the Festival our special exhibition, Fifty Years Of A Clockwork Orange, will be up at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate - it's free, and open every day. The show tells the story of the book over the last fifty years and examines its impact and legacy: it includes rare books, manuscripts, photographs and film props from our own collections and those of the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts, London.

Anthony Burgess also features in Ed Glinert's perenially popular Boho Literary Pub Walk, which takes place on Saturday 20 October (5pm, £6).

MLF: What are the connections between Burgess and Manchester?
WC: Anthony Burgess says in his autobiography that he is 'proud to be a Mancunian' - and he was. He was born in Harpurhey and grew up in Moss Side, and studied at Xaverian College in Rusholme and at the University of Manchester; he lived all over the world and had a varied and colourful life but did not reject his Northern, Catholic, Mancunian roots. After the 1939-45 war, he left Manchester, but often returned in later life. His novels often reference the city, especially The Pianoplayers which draws heavily on his own life and that of his father Joe, who played the piano in the music halls and silent cinemas of the 1930s. Anthony Burgess is one of Manchester's great cultural exports.

MLF: It's A Clockwork Orange's 50th anniversary this year - can you tell us a bit about what you've been up to to mark the occasion?
WC: As well as the John Rylands exhibition, this year we have also held a major international conference over three days celebrating the novel, including talks, debates and lectures plus a film season in partnership with Cornerhouse and the European premiere of Burgess's bawdy songs for his stage musical version of A Clockwork Orange. On top of this we're launching a 50th-anniversary edition of the book (pictured above) in Manchester and New York; developing an iPad app for the book with Heinemann; we've just finished a documentary for BBC Radio 4 that draws on our audio collections here at the Burgess Foundation, and we'll have more concerts of Burgess's music later in the year.

MLF: What do you think Anthony Burgess would make of being celebrated in this way?
WC: Burgess loved anniversaries and often used them as a hook for his literary projects, writing about James Joyce, Mozart, DH Lawrence, Beethoven and many more on the flimsiest of pretexts. It's not clear that he loved A Clockwork Orange so much, and he often became frustrated when people would ask him only about that book (or indeed about Stanley Kubrick's film adapation) and ignore his other books (of which there are around 60), some of which he was happier with. However, Burgess never stopped writing about A Clockwork Orange, talking about it, giving interviews about it, thinking about it: it always remained an important part of his life.

MLF: What has IABF got planned going forward, events, publications and research wise?
WC: We're continuing to grow our programme of contermporary literature and music, and have a series of booklaunches and readings with Carcanet, MMU, Unbound Books and plenty more, as well as concerts with the RNCM, Imperial War Museum North and Manchester Camerata lined up until the end of the year; on the academic side we'll also be launching a new journal, The Burgess Review, which looks at Burgess and his contemporaries; and we're planning for 2013 now... We're very open to collaboration and hope to work with more and more people in Manchester and beyond.


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