Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Firminists: The Malcolm Lowry Conference: 70 Years On (a few thoughts)

The annual Malcolm Lowry celebrations oraganised by the Firiminists this special year included Under the Volcano, 70 Years On: A Malcolm Lowry Conference based at Liverpool John Moores University and Bluecoat, Liverpool. Firminist Helen Tookey worked hard on this side of things. 

It opened with a passionate and eloquent keynote address: ‘Lowry’s kindred spirits: 70 years and still counting’, Sherrill Grace (Professor Emerita, University of British Columbia) but I don't have the energy to precis every paper, but just to record how high the quality was. (Note: December 2017: Sherrill's paper did send me off to read Timothy Findley, a great Canadian novelist; I obtained Headhunter, which I found a great read, and one of the best evocations of madness in my experience of literature.)

Sherill Grace talking about Lowry and Timothy Findley (on her screen with cat Ezra as she speaks)

 This year’s Lowry celebrations commemorated not the Day of the Dead, as usual, but Lowry’s 100th birthday and 70 years since the publication of Under the Volcano. This year the Firminists decided an academic conference with a commissioned art work would replace the annual Lowry Lounge and it was a great success. Over the years I’ve recorded it variously on this blog here here and here.

Scholarship at its very best (and I am a poet-critic, never a scholar) involves a care and attention to the text, and an admirable collective responsibility to the community. Friendship over decades and – in the case of Malcolm Lowry – the strange comfort afforded by the professional acknowledgement that readers either ‘get’ Lowry or they don’t. These scholars and enthusiasts do. As they edit and evaluate, they make Lowry.

And the Firminists this year succeeded again in their aim to bring Lowry back to Liverpool.

Lots of good work from Bryan Biggs and Helen Tookey this year.

See postings of previous years' festivities herehere and here. With lots of good photos! And visit Firminist Colin Dilnot's detailed Lowry website The Nineteenth Hole here.) Here's a bit more on Helen too.

One always learns about something new at these events, whether (this year) the novels of Timothy Findley or the TV documentary maker, Tristram Powell (with whom I chatted a bit). See a clip from his Lowry documentary Rough Passage here

Here's a link to the performance pieces written for the weekend:

Poster from our first year!