New exhibition lifts lid on leading ‘60s counterculture troublemaker


One of the North’s great unsung anti-heroes is to get the wider recognition he deserves in a major new exhibition opening on Thursday 8 September at Manchester's John Rylands Library.

Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground showcases the prolific work and global influence of the Lancashire-born writer, artist, musician, author and publisher, who died in 2004.

Jeff Nuttall was at the centre of the network of artists and writers that cultivated the 1960s International Underground scene. Driven by social dissent and fear of imminent nuclear attack, Nuttall and his circle pushed the boundaries of decency, art and creative expression as a form of rebellion.

Many elements of modern activism can trace their roots back to Nuttall. Concepts such as flash mobs, performance poetry, magazines as artworks and graphic novels all owe something to his legacy.

Nuttall was regarded by parts of the Establishment as a dangerous troublemaker. His book Bomb Culture was criticised in Parliament and the Guardian labelled him a ‘priest and prophet of permissiveness’, alongside well-known subversives such as Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg and Fidel Castro.

The exhibition features rarely-seen examples of Nuttall’s work including the self-published My Own Mag, a first edition of Bomb Culture, correspondence with other underground writers and original artwork.

Other members of the International Underground whose works feature in the exhibition include William S. Burroughs, Michael Horovitz, Alexander Trocchi, Douglas Blazek, Mary Beach, Charles Plymell, Harold Norse, Carl Weissner and Eric Mottram.

Visitors will be able to flick through virtual versions of My Own Mag, The International Times and a rare Nuttall illustrated manuscript, using a digital touch table.

Nuttall’s contribution to modern British culture is often overlooked but he was a genius of his time. He abhorred the mainstream, challenged orthodoxies but celebrated and cherished what it is to be human. It’s hard to think of anyone today who can match his originality, range or artistic influence.
Jay Jeff Jones , exhibition co-curator

Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground
8 September to 5 March 2017
The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH

Due to the adult nature of the content, the exhibition is not recommended for children.

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