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SSMT ARCHIVE PROGRAMME
The archive programme is overseen by Lady Spender (Stephen Spender’s widow), Professor John Sutherland, emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of English at University College London, who is Stephen Spender's authorised biographer, and by Professor Warwick Gould, Director of the Institute of English Studies at the University of London.
AIMS
The Stephen Spender Memorial Trust plans a long-term, multi-phase programme of acquisition and curatorship of primary materials relative to Stephen Spender, his circle, and the cultural milieu over the whole period (effectively 1928-95) in which he lived and wrote. The ultimate aims of this programme are to stimulate and (most importantly) facilitate constructive research and scholarship over the coming generations, and to widen knowledge of 20th Century English literature, with particular focus on Stephen Spender's circle of writers.
OBJECTIVES
To see the establishment of a national Stephen Spender archive that is open to the public; to develop a comprehensive and systematic resource for scholarship in the field of Spender studies; and to organise readings of Stephen Spender’s work.
WORK TO DATE
Stephen Spender, over the long course of his adult life, was more than merely a major British poet and unusually accomplished man of letters (although he was both these things). He had cultural and international connections which are unrivalled for a writer of his time. Over the last three years Professor John Sutherland and Lady Spender (Stephen Spender's widow) have been interviewing and recording reminiscences from contemporaries who knew Spender. These interviews (which already run to an estimated 200 hours) represent an extraordinarily rich and living witness not just to Spender's personal achievement, but to his time, his circle, and his cultural milieu. When completed, this unique oral history will provide an extraordinary record of Twentieth-Century cultural history, covering literature, publishing, art, music, politics and society. It is anticipated that the recordings will be deposited with the National Sound Archive.
EVENTS
Spender centenary reading, The Chapel, University College, Oxford, October 2009
The readers at the Oxford centenary reading on Tuesday 13 October were Fleur Adcock, Grey Gowrie and Craig Raine. Grey Gowrie taught alongside Stephen Spender at University College, London in the early 70s, while Craig Raine was for many years his editor at Faber, so both began their readings with some personal anecdotes. With thanks to the Master of University College, Sir Ivor Crewe, and to the Institute of English Studies, at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Spender centenary symposium, the Institute for English Studies, University of London, February 2009
Papers at the conference organised by the Institute of English Studies on 27 February 2009 explored Stephen Spender's poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and his relationship to the political and historical developments of his time; they also reassessed his achievement in the light of recent archival research and new critical perspectives. The speakers were John Sutherland, Barbara Hardy, Val Cunningham, Peter McDonald, Mark Rawlinson, Alan Jenkins, Stephen Romer and Michael Scammell.
Spender centenary reading,The Royal Institution, February 2009
The readers at the Royal Institution’s in the Royal Institution’s splendid 450-seater Faraday Theatre on the evening of 26 February were Grey Gowrie, Tony Harrison, Seamus Heaney, Barry Humphries, Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Natasha Spender. The 90-minute programme was devised by Lord Gowrie and was supported by the University of London’s John Coffin Memorial Bequest. The event was jointly organised with the Institute of English Studies, at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. To listen to a recording of the evening, click here.
Auden centenary reading, Shaw Theatre, February 2007
On 21 February 2007 (the 100th anniversary of W. H. Auden’s birth) a reading of Auden’s poetry was held at the Shaw Theatre, the result of a collaboration between the Trust and the British Library. Lady Spender, who knew Auden well, selected the readers (all poets themselves): James Fenton, John Fuller, Grey Gowrie, Andrew Motion, Sean O’Brien, Peter Porter and – in recognition of the years Auden spent in the United States – American poet and academic Richard Howard; the programme was devised by Lord Gowrie, a founding member of the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust and an Auden scholar, and featured poems predominantly from the 1930s and 40s, as well as ‘Auden in Milwaukee’, written by Stephen Spender in 1940.
Auden centenary reading, Shaw Theatre, February 2007
On 21 February 2007 (the 100th anniversary of W. H. Auden’s birth) a reading of Auden’s poetry was held at the Shaw Theatre, the result of a collaboration between the Trust and the British Library. Lady Spender, who knew Auden well, selected the readers (all poets themselves): James Fenton, John Fuller, Grey Gowrie, Andrew Motion, Sean O’Brien, Peter Porter and – in recognition of the years Auden spent in the United States – American poet and academic Richard Howard; the programme was devised by Lord Gowrie, a founding member of the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust and an Auden scholar, and featured poems predominantly from the 1930s and 40s, as well as ‘Auden in Milwaukee’, written by Stephen Spender in 1940.
Spender reading, South Bank, May 2004
In May 2004, three of the Trust’s Committee members – Seamus Heaney, Tony Harrison and Harold Pinter –generously agreed to celebrate the publication of Spender’s New Collected Poems with a reading of his poetry and some of their own. They were joined by Jill Balcon (widow of Stephen Spender’s friend, C. Day Lewis) and Vanessa Redgrave. The 90-minute programme was devised by Lady Spender and directed by Joe Harmston; all 900 seats of the Queen Elizabeth Hall sold out.
Symposium, Institute for English Studies, University of London, January 2001
The Institute for English Studies, University of London, hosted a successful one-day symposium in January 2001 on ‘Stephen Spender and his Circle in the l930s’ with contributions on Edward Upward, Isherwood, Auden, Spender and MacNeice, with an unpublished article on these poets written in the Thirties by Isaiah Berlin; the speakers were a combination of those who knew Spender and his circle at first hand and scholars working on them today.

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