New cultural archive featuring Manchester-themed ‘iconic items’ to open in city centre

The British Pop Archive (BPA) will showcase items relating to quintessential British bands, legendary UK television, youth culture, and more.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 6th April 2022

A new national collection that’s dedicated to “the preservation and research of popular culture” is set to open in Manchester.

The British Pop Archive (BPA) has been created by the University of Manchester (UoM) and will open at the iconic John Rylands Library on Deansgate in the heart of the city centre, with the aim of celebrating British popular music and other aspects of popular culture to recognise its “pivotal influence” on the world stage.

Featuring “iconic items” relating to quintessential British bands, legendary UK television, youth culture, counter-culture, and more that have set trends around the globe, the BPA will be an important academic resource for research and teaching, UoM says.

It’ll also be public resource for exhibitions and public events that’s open to all.

Through working with the celebrated music journalist and broadcaster Jon Savage – who was recently-appointed as Professor of Popular Culture at The University of Manchester – the BPA has “ambitious plans” to build on its current collection.


It wants to create a “comprehensive representation” of British popular culture.  

“Britain’s pop and youth culture has been transmitted worldwide for nearly sixty years now,” Jon Savage explains.


“The intention of the BPA is to be a purpose-built pop and youth culture archive that reflects the riches of the post war period running to the present day, and while we are launching with Manchester-centric collections, the intention is for the BPA to be a national resource encompassing the whole UK”.

The British Pop Archive will feature “iconic items” relating to quintessential British bands, legendary UK television, youth culture, and more / Credit: The University of Manchester

To kick-start the action, on 19 May 2022, the British Pop Archive will launch with Collection – which is curated by Mat Bancroft, Jon Savage, and Hannah Barker, and is described as a “distinctively Manchester-flavoured exhibition” to really show why Manchester is the perfect home for the BPA.

It is set to explore the “vibrant cultural scene of a city” that has driven innovation, creativity, and social progress.


The exhibition will feature treasures from British pop history – many of which have never been seen by the public – and some of the highlights include personal items relating to The Smiths, New Order, The Haçienda, Factory Records, Granada Television and Joy Division, such as Ian Curtis’s original handwritten lyrics for ‘She’s Lost Control’. 

“We launch the British Pop Archive with a Manchester focused exhibition full of unique and unseen artefacts,” Mat Bancroft says ahead of the exhibition openeing.

The BPA will open at the iconic John Rylands Library in Manchester city centre / Credit: John Rylands Library

He continued: “These materials tell the story of a vibrant city with art, culture and music at its heart.

“More than that, they foreground the creative catalysts, musicians, producers, artists, designers and writers who have instigated this repositioning of landscape to propose media as the new cultural capital of the city.”

Speaking ahead of the BPA launch, Professor Christopher Pressler – John Rylands University Librarian and Director of The University of Manchester Library – added: “The British Pop Archive is part of our desire to reach into areas not always associated with major research libraries, including pop music, popular culture, counter-culture, television and film.


“This is a national archive held in Manchester, one of the most important centres of modern culture in the world.”

Featured Image – University of Manchester