Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)MS42
TitlePapers of Henry Valentine L. Swanzy
Extent2 standard boxes
DateMid-20th cent
DescriptionCorrespondence of Henry Valentine Leonard Swanzy, editor and broadcaster, principally relating to his work as editor and producer of the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] radio programme 'Caribbean Voices', a literary programme which ran between 1945 and 1958. The programme, which was broadcast back to the West Indies, featured poems, stories and other literary material by West Indian writers and provided an important and rare opportunity for writers of West Indian poetry and fiction to have their work publicised.

Letters, which span the years 1945-1956, include correspondence between Swanzy and Mrs Gladys Lindo, the BBC's local representative in Kingston, Jamaica, which give detailed information about the format, content and organisation of the programme and provide evidence of the significance of the programme in raising the literary standard of Caribbean writing. The letters between Swanzy and Gladys Lindo include their opinions on the work of many individual writers.

Other correspondence includes letters to and from contributors, some of whom became personal friends of Henry Swanzy. Correspondents include writers and poets such as: Derek Walcott of St. Lucia [awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992]; John Figueroa, Andrew Salkey and Gloria Escoffery of Jamaica; George Lamming, Frank Collymore and Kamau Braithwaite of Barbados; Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul [awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001] and Samuel Selvon of Trinidad; Edgar Mittelholzer, Arthur J. Seymour and Wilson Harris of Guiana.

There are a few letters between Henry Swanzy and Una Marson. Marson was an activist and writer, producing poems, plays and radio programmes. She was the first black woman employed by the BBC. In 1942 Una became producer of the programme 'Calling the West Indies', later turning it into 'Caribbean Voices', which became an important forum for Caribbean literary work.

The collection also includes letters of comment, criticism and appreciation from listeners. The papers indicate the enormous level of support and encouragement which Swanzy gave to West Indian writers, by assisting them in their efforts to find publishers for their work and by finding them employment as readers on the programme.

The papers also contain a small number of programme notes.
ArrangementThe collection has been arranged into two series. The first series contains correspondence of Henry Swanzy from 1945-1956, arranged chronologically and containing a total of 12 files, one file for each year. The second series contains programme notes and contains two files.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers.
Finding AidsA Catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the full catalogue as a PDF file by clicking in the document field below. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department.
Access StatusOpen
Physical DescriptionSome letters in the collection are fragile and should be handled with care.
Creator NameSwanzy, Henry Valentine L,1915-2004, editor, broadcaster and BBC Producer
Administrative HistoryHenry Valentine Leonard Swanzy was born near Cork on 14 June 1915. He moved to England in 1920 and began a career in the civil service after his education at Wellington College and New College, Oxford. He initially worked at the Colonial and Dominions Office from 1937 to 1940 as Assistant Principal in various geographical departments and then, in 1940, at the Dominions Office as Private Secretary to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. In 1941, Swanzy joined the BBC as News Talks Assistant, Empire Department, Overseas Division in 1941. Apart from a period when he was seconded to the Gold Coast (later Ghana) Broadcasting Service as Head Of Programmes between 1954 and 1958, he remained with the BBC until his retirement in 1975. At this point he had risen to the position of scriptwriter in the Central Talks and Features section of the External Services.
In 1946, Henry Swanzy became producer of a weekly radio programme, 'Caribbean Voices', which was broadcast in the British West Indies. 'Caribbean Voices' was a literary programme featuring poems, stories and other literary material by West Indian writers. The programme helped launch the careers of many successful writers, including Derek Walcott, George Lamming and V. S. Naipaul, and included readings of new work and literary criticism. Swanzy also served as editor of the Journal of the Royal African Society.
Swanzy married twice: in 1946, to Tirzah Garwood, who died of cancer; and to Henriette Van Eeghan in 1952. He died on 19 March 2004, aged 88.

[Reference: The University of Birmingham, Research Libraries Bulletin (Number 6 Autumn 1998); Phillip Nanton and Anne Walmsley (2004), Obituary of Henry Swanzy, The Guardian, 20 March.]
AcquisitionThis collection of Swanzy's correspondence was purchased by the Centre for West African Studies and formally presented for deposit in the Special Collections Department at a small ceremony in June 1997.
Archival NoteCatalogued by Angela Skitt, February 2012. Prepared in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.
CopiesCopies of the correspondence are held by: The Alma Jordan Library, The University of the West Indies.
PDF scans of MS42 made by Cadbury Research Library staff June 2021. On staff R drive.
Associated MaterialsGB 0162 MSS.Brit.Emp.s.501, Papers of Henry Valentine L. Swanzy, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, Rhodes House, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RG
Publication NoteNanton, Philip, 'What Does Mr Swanzy Want - Shaping or Reflecting? An assessment of Henry Swanzy's contribution to the development of Caribbean Literature', Caribbean Quarterly, 46:1 (2000: March).


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