About BACW About BACW

View featured items from our the archive, including glimpses from our Doris Lessing collections.

For visitor information, please visit UEA Archives homepage.

If you are a writer, interested in knowing more, please contact the BACW Archivist, Justine Mann.

Key features:

The University of East Anglia's British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) builds on the University’s international reputation for creative writing, the status of Norwich as a UNESCO City of Literature, and UEA’s strong links with writers of world renown through its international literary festivals (now UEA Live) and links with the British Centre for Literary Translation and the emerging National Centre for Writing which is based in Norwich.

UEA intends to grow existing collections significantly, most notable of which is the extensive personal archive of the Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing, and literary material from other prize winning authors such as Naomi Alderman, Tash Aw, Malcolm Bradbury, Amit Chaudhuri, Adam Foulds, Andrew Cowan, Richard Beard, Charlie Higson, J.D. Salinger, Roger Deakin, Lorna Sage, Mark Cocker, Sara Taylor, WG Sebald and the acclaimed playwright Snoo Wilson. 

The Archive also includes more than four hundred and fifty interviews with prominent authors across twenty-nine years’ of its literary festivals (now UEA Live) including: Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis, Anne Enright, Salman Rushdie, John Fowles, William Golding, Seamus Heaney, Alan Hollinghurst, Kazuo Ishiguro, P.D. James, Ian McEwan, Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, Harold Pinter, Salman Rushdie, Ali Smith to name just a few. These recordings are available for consultation in our archives reading room.

The Archive also provides an insight into the changing landscape of publishing throughout the twentieth century, through the papers of the oldest literary agency in the world, AP Watt, and the publisher Charles Pick including correspondence with Michael Holroyd, Nadine Gordimer, Anita Desai, Monica Dickens, Paul Gallico, Richard Gordon and Graham Greene.

Nature writing is also a key theme within the BACW which already includes the archive of Roger Deakin, pioneer of the wild swimming movement and author of the acclaimed and highly popular, Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey through Britain.

To further enhance the archive, UEA has established a storehouse initiative, an opportunity for authors to loan manuscripts and related literary material at a much earlier stage in their careers. The aim is to raise author profiles, to build up a truly contemporary archive, and for the wider research community to gain access to materials that would not otherwise be available until much later in an author’s career. The Storehouse adds value by organising and cataloguing the collections and making them more accessible even if authors need the flexibility to remove materials at a later stage. A number of writers have deposited material under the model and others will be announced in the coming months. 

Although the archive looks to build some of its collections from UEA’s own community of emerging writers it is also keen to attract material from other acclaimed authors produced in, or translated into, the English language. 

Our history and the background to establishing the archive:

View our launch announcement and a longer version is downloadable in PDF here [, 215KB]

Hear a BBC interview with Professor Christopher Bigsby, Academic Director of the BACW, on the formation of the archive.

Supporting statements

'It's a delight to see the British Archive for Contemporary Writing come into existence at the University of East Anglia. Given the context of creative practice at the university, surely its future as a world-class resource is already assured? It's a great honour for me to loan some of my working papers to this remarkable archive.' The novelist and critic, Amit Chaudhuri

'I'm delighted that my archive will be stored at UEA. I have very happy memories of my year of MA study, which really changed my life, helping to form my writing and my working habits. Many of my papers relate to my time there - and it seems the natural home for them. I'm thrilled to be in such distinguished company, and to be working with a team who are helping to make sense of the objects and papers of my life.' The novelist, broadcaster and online games writer, Naomi Alderman

'My papers contain the imprint of who I am. UEA is the natural place for me to store my archives – I studied there, and continue to visit Norwich regularly; and I see both the City and the University becoming more international, more connected to South East Asia and beyond. From a practical and sentimental point of view, the UEA Archives are a natural home for my papers, which themselves link Asia to Britain.' The novelist, Tash Aw

'The University of East Anglia plays a distinguished role in encouraging and developing contemporary writers.  As a globally renowned centre, it is a fitting host for this new archive, providing the opportunity for researchers from the UK and abroad to learn more about the writers and writing that make the literature of the UK today so exciting and inspirational.' Cortina Butler, Director of Literature within the Arts Group at The British Council

'English Literature is read and celebrated around the world. It is one of our greatest exports and therefore it is wonderful to see that a new home for contemporary writers’ archives will be created in Norwich, a UNESCO City of Literature. Based at the University of East Anglia, the new archive is ideally placed to share the work of contemporary writers’ with researchers, both here and around the world. Norwich is a city that brings literature to life and this new addition will only add to the rich cultural fabric of the city.' Antonia Byatt, Director, Literature and the South East, Arts Council England

'The University of East Anglia is vital to Norwich’s status as England’s UNESCO City of Literature. As the home of creative writing teaching in the UK and the base for the British Centre for Literary Translation, the University of East Anglia is a world leading centre for the production, reception and translation of contemporary writing. The founding of the British Archive of Contemporary Writing at UEA will only further this reputation. A bold and visionary undertaking, the BACW will be the first archive of this kind in the UK and will drive research, exhibitions and engagement opportunities of a scale and quality that will only reinforce Norwich’s place on the global literary stage. Norwich UNESCO City of Literature is delighted to support the British Archive of Contemporary Writing and looks forwards to collaborating with the project in the coming years.' Chris Gribble, Chief Executive of the Writers’ Centre Norwich

'Building on UEA’s longstanding commitment to literature and creative writing, the British Archive for Contemporary Writing will provide an outstanding research resource.  The availability of materials from writers, agents and publishers united in one archive allows a unique opportunity to explore the entire lifespan of a contemporary creative work. The archive will provide a focus for new research at UEA and we look forward to working with students and researchers in the future.' Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Film & Television Studies

Why a British Archive for Contemporary Writing?

Some major British literary archives are currently located overseas, particularly at American universities (the Beinecke, at Yale, the Lilly Library, at Indiana University, Boston University), the most famous being the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas (holdings include Julian Barnes, Elizabeth Bowen, Anthony Burgess, Anita Brookner, Jim Crace, Penelope Fitzgerald, John Fowles, Penelope Lively, Barry Unsworth). Indeed, concern with the extent to which such material has left the country led to the creation of the UK Literary Heritage Working Group in 2005. Within the UK, the British Library has a number of significant holdings (J.G. Ballard, James Berry, Wendy Cope, Ted Hughes, Mervyn Peake, Harold Pinter). A number of British higher education institutions hold collections representing some highly significant authors. However, as yet, there has been no archive entirely dedicated to a contemporary British collection focusing on practising contemporary writers. 

What is meant by ‘The Storehouse’?
The archive is in two parts: The Collection part of the archive contains writers' archives fully gifted to the University or on long term loan, with an emphasis on long term preservation, discovery and access.

The Storehouse, is an innovative model that enables writers to house their emerging archives at UEA on a temporary basis. It is expected to be dynamic, evolving as new writers come on stream while offering the writer the flexibility to remove materials at a later stage.

Why UEA? Why Norwich?

• In 2012, Norwich became the first English UNESCO City of Literature in recognition of its status as a leading centre for national and international literature. The National Centre for Writing runs a range of collaborative literary programmes and is a key focus of many other literary activities in the region
• UEA established the country’s first MA in creative writing and remains the best, and best-known, having facilitated the emergence of new writers for more than forty years including: Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Anne Enright, Tracy Chevalier, Adam Foulds, Andrew Miller, John Boyne and David Almond to name just a few. https://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/creative-writing/alumni
• Its teachers have included Angus Wilson, Malcolm Bradbury, Angela Carter, Lorna Sage, Michelle Roberts, Patricia Duncker, Andrew Motion, Giles Foden, Lavinia Greenlaw, Trezza Azzopardi and Andrew Cowan.  https://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/creative-writing/alumni
• There is a year round events programme UEA Live 
• UEA is also the home of the British Centre for Literary Translation, whose founding director was W.G. Sebald. http://www.bclt.org.uk/   The archive also holds significant collections of manuscripts, papers and correspondence arising from literary translations including those working within the UEA's British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) Website: www.bclt.org.uk 
• In 2013 UEA appointed as its new Chancellor, Rose Tremain, winner of the Whitbread Award and the Orange Prize, a one-time undergraduate there who was inspired by the presence of Sir Angus Wilson and Sir Malcolm Bradbury to become a writer, later returning to teach on the creative writing MA.


The University of East Anglia is grateful for the funding it has received from the Foyle Foundation and the Doris Lessing Estate.