It’s off the beaten track but that would probably have sat well with Anthony Burgess. Head away from the bustling Oxford Road corridor in central Manchester towards the quieter environs of Cambridge Street’s Chorlton and Mackintosh Mills and you’ll find the glass-fronted home of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.
Established in 2003 by Anthony Burgess’s wife Liana, the foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which manages the Burgess estate, encourages interest in Burgess’s vast literary and musical output and regularly presents new work by writers, musicians, film-makers and artists in its intimate exposed-brick venue.
Originally occupying a two-storey house in Withington, the Burgess Foundation relocated to Cambridge Street in 2010. Since then, it has continued to develop its programme of events, its publishing output (more Burgess books than ever are now available in print or as e-books) and increase the numbers of visitors to its bookshop, café, exhibition space and venue. Now – thanks to a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid – the foundation is able to offer a series of free public building and archive tours for the first time in its ten year history. Ever wanted to find out more about the author of A Clockwork Orange? Well, now you can.
Those lucky folk who have secured places on the first tour are in for a treat. Lasting just under an hour, the tours start in the café where you can deliberate over which pre-tour tipple you’d prefer (Earthly Powers pale ale? Chockwork Orange? Or a Marble Manchester Bitter?) and browse books that once belonged to the man himself.
Then it’s into the Engine House – complete with Burgess’s furniture and two of his pianos – for a presentation focusing on the author’s long (he died aged 76) and varied life. Here you’ll learn about Burgess’s humble beginnings – his birth in 1917 in Manchester, his musical father and publican step-mother, his childhood spent in Harpurhey, Moss Side and Rusholme, studying at Manchester University, service in the Second World War, life in the Far East and the sheer breadth and diversity of his lifetime’s output which included 33 novels, 25 works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, poetry, screenplays, reams of journalism and hundreds of musical compositions.
Following the presentation you’ll be guided to the exhibition space beneath the main venue where the curator of the current exhibition – all about Burgess’s lesser-known musical exploits – will reveal the stories surrounding each of the exhibits, from bowler hats and correspondence with Stanley Kubrick to Burgess’s Desert Island Discs selections and stacks of vinyl.
The reading room next door with its floor-to-ceiling shelving groaning under the weight of Burgess’s personal library is the next destination and it is here where you can get up-close to items from the archive. Surrounded by Burgess’s books and other belongings amassed from three of the author’s houses you’ll be able to take a look at correspondence between Burgess and Graham Greene, first editions of Burgess’s novels including A Clockwork Orange, annotated manuscripts, books featuring dedications from contemporaries including Kingsley Amis, photographs, letters between Burgess and his family and Burgess’s extensive collection of matchbooks from around the world offering an insight into the extent of Burgess’s travels and the experiences which influenced his writing.
Finally, after testing the knowledge of the foundation’s staff with your questions, you’ll be able to take away a few limited edition Burgess gifts.
Clare Preston-Pollitt, events and marketing officer at the Burgess Foundation, says: “Burgess is one of Manchester’s most important cultural figures and one of the world’s literary greats. Everybody knows about Burgess and A Clockwork Orange as the book was so ground-breaking and also because of the controversy surrounding Kubrick’s film adaptation, but there’s so much more to Burgess’s career than just this novel.
“We’re thrilled to be able to invite people to our building to reveal more about Burgess’s rich life, to introduce his many other novels to new readers and to tell people about the work we do here in supporting Burgess’s legacy and the cultural life and heritage of Manchester. The tours are just one part of a project to catalogue the collections and make our fascinating resources more widely available. Over the next two years we hope to be able to share the archive and its stories, not just with the people who visit our building but also online to the huge number of Burgess fans found all over the world.”
By Helen Nugent
Main image by Kim May
Tours are free (advance booking required) and take place on: April 9 at 6pm, May 10 at 1.45pm and June 25 at 6pm. More dates will be announced later in the year. For more information follow this link http://www.anthonyburgess.org/