This blog is part of the AHRC-funded project “Poetry, song and community in the industrial city: Victorian Dundee,” a Collaborative Doctoral Award between the University of Strathclyde and Dundee Central Library’s Local History centre.
My research looks at how people wrote, performed and listened to poetry and songs in 19th century Dundee, and how their creativity shaped and was shaped by a sense of place. There were many overlapping creative communities – including the poets who gathered at Lamb’s Temperance Hotel, the street singers and patrons of the Poet’s Box (a small shop which sold broadsides and song lyrics), the working-class poets who published work in Dundee’s many newspapers. Dundee was an integral part of a much bigger network, inspired by and inspiring work from Glasgow, Aberdeen, Manchester, Ireland, Canada, and elsewhere. But this material has been often overlooked, dismissed as poor quality or sentimental, or simply forgotten by critics and scholars.
As Dundee became an industrial, then a post-industrial city, its physical landscape has changed: many places today would be unrecognisable to Victorian Dundonians. But some things remain, not least creativity. On this blog, I will write about material (mostly) from Dundee Libraries’ Lamb Collection, and how these Victorian works connect to Dundee and its creative life today.
Some of you may recognise the title of this blog from the notice board on the High Street. In Ma Fair Toon – an anagram of Information, letters jumbled by a little iron monkey (possibly the likeness of one who belonged to a mid-20th c street musician in the Murraygate) who to me represents something about the spirit of Dundee poetry and song – a willingness to embrace transformation with humour, the permanent readiness to play with words, a very relaxed attitude to the boundary between literature and life.