Friday, 15th September, 2023
Download the Ted Hughes’s Expressionism Symposium Call for Papers
The Ted Hughes Network is a public-facing research centre based in the English Literature and Creative Writing Subject Area at the University of Huddersfield. Ted Hughes was born, raised, and was formed as a poet in Yorkshire and maintained strong links with the county throughout his life. He was born and spent his early childhood only twelve miles from Huddersfield, in Mytholmroyd in the Upper Calder Valley. At the age of eight, his family moved to Mexborough, about thirty miles from Huddersfield, in what is now South Yorkshire.
Hughes came of age and became a poet in Mexborough, but he also spent two important National Service years in Patrington, East Yorkshire, before going up to Cambridge in 1951. Hughes was formed in Yorkshire and it is Huddersfield’s topographical location at the heart of Hughes’s Yorkshire that makes it a fitting place for the location of the Ted Hughes Network.
The Network was formed in 2016 by Director of Research, Professor Jessica Malay, and Head of Department, Dr Merrick Burrow. Dr Steve Ely was recruited as Director and Dr James Underwood as Deputy Director. Steve has written several papers and a monograph — Ted Hughes’s South Yorkshire: Made in Mexborough — and James has published on the importance of Hughes’s National Service period in Patrington as well as work placing Hughes in the context of twentieth-century poetry.
The work of the Network is now overseen by a steering committee including Steve, Jessica and Merrick along with Professor Heather Clark (author of The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and the multi-award winning Red Comet), Dr David Rudrum (David has also written on aspects of Hughes’s work) and Dr Michael Stewart. The Ted Hughes Network has sought to develop an international scholarly community and has forged links with universities in the United States and France. A number of postgraduate students are researching Hughes-related themes, including Hughes’s Elmet poems and Hughes’s relationships with other modern and contemporary poets. The Ted Hughes Network has also begun to shape the undergraduate curriculum, with Hughes-related content being taught on several creative writing and literature modules.
The networking function of the Ted Hughes Network extends beyond the academic world. David Rudrum is a director of the Elmet Trust, a Mytholmroyd-based charity that promotes the work and legacy of Ted Hughes in the Upper Calder Valley by running an annual Ted Hughes Festival and taking care of Hughes’s birthplace. Steve Ely is a founding member of the Ted Hughes Project (South Yorkshire), a Mexborough-based community arts group that until 2019 ran an annual Ted Hughes Poetry Festival, adult creative programmes and school workshops.
The Network has also developed links with a number of other organisations with an interest in Ted Hughes: the Ted Hughes Society, Calderdale Council, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, Hebden Royd Town Council, Mexborough Business Centre, Mexborough Heritage Society, Patrington Parish Council and Royd Regeneration. This consortium is responsible developing the Discovering Ted Hughes’s Yorkshire, a series of Literary and Heritage Trail maps and accompanying website designed to engage wider audiences with Hughes’s writing and the heritage that informs it. The consortium is currently reinventing itself in preparation for developing its next project, with additonal partners, including the Fox Gallery, the Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank, Pennine Heritage and the friends of Heptonstall Museum Trust. We are delighted to say that our work is generously supported by Hughes’s wife, Carol.
Since its formation, the Ted Hughes Network has facilitated a range of academic, engagement and impact activities. In 2017 we ran a highly successful conference on Ted Hughes and Place at the University’s Heritage Quay, with over twenty papers presented by leading figures in the field. Two issues of the Ted Hughes Society Journal were devoted to papers arising from this conference, including a Special Issue guest-edited by James Underwood. In 2018 the Network hosted The Motley Muse, an event celebrating the diversity of contemporary poetry and run in partnership with the Poetry Centre at the University of Leeds. In 2021 the Network ran a range of launch activities – poetry readings, poetry in the landscape events, guided walks and school workshops, in order to launch the Discovering Ted Hughes’s Yorkshire project. In 2022 the Network hosted the triennial Ted Hughes Society conference, and, in the same year, in partnership with Centre for International Contemporary poetry and Professor John Goodby of Sheffield Hallam University, organised two one day symposia focused on the poetry of the 1940s and its legacies: Apocalypse I & Apocalypse II. Additionally, the Ted Hughes Network has sponsored and supported festivals run by the Elmet Trust and the Ted Hughes Project (South Yorkshire), and Steve Ely, David Rudrum and James Underwood have given talks and run workshops at these events. Members of the Creative Writing team, including Simon Crump, Steve Ely, and Michael Stewart, have run workshops and masterclasses in schools and with community creative writing groups.
A conference, Ted Hughes’s Expressionism: Visionary Subjectivity, organised by Steve Ely in partnership with the British Library, with funding from the AHRC, will take place at the British Library in September, 2023.
The Ted Hughes Network has also developed a significant Ted Hughes Archive at Heritage Quay. With generous funding from the University we have acquired an almost complete collection of Hughes’s limited edition and small press work. In 2022, with generous funding from the Friends of the National Libraries, the ACE/V&A Purchase Fund, the National Lottery Memorial Fund and the University, we acquired the internationally significant Mark Hinchliffe Ted Hughes Collection. Mark was a Huddersfield-based poet and Hughes collector—and great supporter of the Network—who died tragically young in 2019. Heritage Quay also holds the Donald Crossley papers, and the Christopher Reid papers. Donald was a childhood friend of Hughes who re-contacted him in later life; their correspondence and related documents as related to Hughes’s Elmet poems make up the major part of this deposit. The poet Christopher Reid was Hughes’s editor at Faber & Faber. His deposit comprises the papers related to his edition of the Selected Letters of Ted Hughes in 2007. The Ted Hughes Archive also holds a range of other Hughes-related items, including recordings of interviews, copies of the Mexborough Grammar School magazine the Don & Dearne, and some unique items, such as A Bundle of Birds, a holograph ‘fine book’ made by Hughes for his sister Olwyn. All of these items are accessible to scholars and the general public.