On 13 October 2009 alumni were treated to a fascinating talk by acclaimed biographer Professor Denis Judd, on the subject of renowned children’s author and Manchester graduate, Alison Uttley, whilst enjoying afternoon tea in the charming Christie Bistro at the University.
Professor Judd, who is Professor Emeritus of British Imperial and Commonwealth History at London Metropolitan University, had previously written Alison’s authorised biography and has now published her edited diaries in order to mark the 125th year of her birth.
Some of the revelations uncovered by Professor Judd included; Alison’s fascination with time-travel, dreams and magic, her estranged relationship with Margaret Tempest (the illustrator of most of the Little Grey Rabbit books), her bitter resentment of the success of her Beaconsfield neighbour Enid Blyton, and of Beatrix Potter, with whom she resented comparisons. Then there were difficulties of her family relationships, especially with her husband James, who killed himself in 1939, and also her over-close relationship with her son, John, who was eventually to commit suicide in 1978.
Professor Judd also portrayed Alison’s extraordinary talent as a writer of beautiful English, and her sentimental but also sharp-eyed relationship with the old-fashioned, rural England of her birth in the Derbyshire countryside, which she continually celebrated in her literature and which is powerfully recalled in her Diaries.
Following Professor Judd’s presentation alumni heard readings from the diaries delivered by Sheila Griffiths and Sylvia Crummett who both work at Ashburne Hall (where Alison was based during her time at Manchester). There was then a lively and often amusing general discussion between the audience and Denis Judd.
Information courtesy of the University of Manchester