Fifty years of A Clockwork Orange

24 Aug 2012

A landmark exhibition marking the novel's anniversary opens at the John Rylands Library.

2012 marks the fiftieth anniversary of A Clockwork Orange, the controversial novel by Manchester-born writer Anthony Burgess.

The magnificent surroundings of the Historic Reading Room at the John Rylands Library provide the backdrop to a major new exhibition of rare books, photographs, manuscripts and film props.

Including previously unseen material from the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts, London, the show tells the story of A Clockwork Orange over the last 50 years and examines its impact and legacy.

An underground hit on publication in 1962, A Clockwork Orange went on to reach a global audience in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film. The violence and sexuality in both the book and the film remains controversial and retains the power to shock.

Its powerful themes, such as the relationship of the individual to the state, the terrifying potential of the young, and the possibility or otherwise of redemption, remain entirely contemporary; and its linguistic innovation, totalitarian imagery, fierce ultraviolence and fiercer moral questions still resonate.

A Clockwork Orange has appeared on stage, in fashion, in visual art, in music and in popular culture all over the world: its dark humour, powerful themes, linguistic innovation and distinctive style still have a seductive hold over our imagination.

The exhibition includes rare editions of the book, manuscript letters between Burgess and Kubrick, behind-the-scenes images from the film set, Herman Makkink’s important sculpture Rocking Machine and much more.

Rachel Beckett, Head of Special Collections and Associate Director of The John Rylands Library, said: “As an iconic cultural building in the centre of Manchester, we are delighted to be the host for this landmark exhibition which explores an iconic work of literature and its ongoing cultural impact.

“Anthony Burgess is regarded with great affection and respect by many people in his native Manchester, and around the world, and we hope our visitors will enjoy this unique opportunity to view material from the collections of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation alongside items from the Stanley Kubrick Archive, loaned by the University of the Arts, London, and artwork loaned by the Arts Council. A fascinating and heady mix!”

Notes for editors

Images are available.

The exhibition is open Monday 20 August - Sunday 27 January 2013; 10am - 5pm Tue - Sat, 12pm - 5pm Sun - Mon; Free admission.

Exhibition venue: The Historic Reading Room, The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, M3 3EH, Tel: 0161 306 0555

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation is an educational charity that encourages and supports public and scholarly interest in all aspects of the life and work of Anthony Burgess. More details at

John Burgess Wilson (1917-1993), who wrote under the pen name Anthony Burgess, was a novelist, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic. In total he wrote thirty-three novels, twenty-five works of non-fiction, two volumes of autobiography, three symphonies, more than 150 other musical works, enormous quantities of journalism and much more.

He was born in north Manchester, grew up in Harpurhey and Moss Side, and was educated at Xaverian College and The University of Manchester. He served as an education officer in the British army from 1940 until 1946. In later life he lived in Malaya, Malta, Italy, Monaco and America, among other places. His books are still widely read all over the world.

More information from:

Will Carr
Deputy Director
International Anthony Burgess Foundation
0161 235 0776

Jacqui Fortnum
Public Programmes Manager
The John Rylands Library
0161 275 8742

Suzanne Ross
Media Relations Assistant
The University of Manchester
0161 275 8258