Birmingham Group (authors)

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The Birmingham Group was a group of authors writing from the 1930s to the 1950s in and around Birmingham, England. Members included John Hampson, Walter Allen, Peter Chamberlain, Leslie Halward and Walter Brierley.

Part of Birmingham's vibrant literary and artistic scene in the 1930s[1] that also included the poets W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Henry Reed; novelist Henry Green, the sculptor Gordon Herickx and the Birmingham Surrealists;[2] the Birmingham Group shared little stylistic unity, but had a common interest in the realistic portrayal of working class scenes.[3]

The group was christened by the American critic Edward J. O'Brien, who published several of their short stories in journals he edited and assumed they all knew each other. This became self-fulfilling, and for a while the group met weekly in a pub off Corporation Street.[4]

Although the Birmingham Group are often described as working class novelists, they in fact had the varied social backgrounds that characterised Birmingham's distinctive high level of social mobility.[5] The Birmingham-based poet Louis MacNeice described how

At this time, 1936, literary London was just beginning to recognise something called the Birmingham School of novelists. Literary London, hungry for proletarian literature, assumed that the Birmingham novelists were proletarian. Birmingham denied this. It could be conceded however that they wrote about the People with a knowledge available to very few Londoners.

— Louis MacNeice, The Strings are False: An Unfinished Autobiography[6]

Notable works[edit]


  1. ^ Nicholls, Tony (6 March 1999). "Obituaries: Professor Ronald Willetts". The Independent. Independent News and Media Limited. Retrieved 1 January 2009. It is difficult at this distance to appreciate the artistic and intellectual ferment of the Faculty of Arts at Birmingham in the 1930s. Louis MacNeice, Henry Reed, W.H. Auden, Walter Allen and the other members of the "Birmingham Group" were around and very active
  2. ^ "As I Was Walking Down Bristol Street". Media Archive for Central England. University of Leicester. Retrieved 1 January 2009.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Baldick, Chris (2002). "The Modern Novel as Social Chronicle". The Modern Movement (1910-1940). The Oxford English Literary History. Oxford University Press. p. 184. ISBN 0-19-818310-0.
  4. ^ Hawtree, Christopher (2 March 1995). "Obituary: Walter Allen". The Independent. Newspaper Publishing Plc. p. 18.
  5. ^ Feigel, Lara (2007). "Buggery and Montage: Birmingham and Bloomsbury in the 1930s". In Burrells, Anna; Ellis, Steve; Parsons, Deborah; Simpson, Kathryn (eds.). Woolfian Boundaries. Clemson, SC: Clemson University Digital Press. pp. 51–57. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  6. ^ MacNeice, Louis (1965). The Strings are False: An Unfinished Autobiography. London: Faber and Faber (published 1996). p. 154. ISBN 0571118321.