Griffiths, Bill, 1948-2007Alternative names
Bill Griffiths was a poet, small press publisher, local historian, academic, archivist and scholar of English dialect. Born in Kingsbury, Middlesex in 1948, where he grew up and went to the local grammar school, he later graduated from University College London in 1969 with a degree in Medieval and Modern History. Drawn to the world of poetry he began performing during the 1970s with the sound poets Bob Cobbing and Paula Claire as part of the group Konkrete Canticle. His day job, at the print shop in the Poetry Society in London, also introduced him to the production of poetry pamphlets and Griffiths set up his own small press, The Pirate Press. This allowed him to write and produce handmade mimeographed poetry booklets that he distributed through subscription and stalls.
He was also attracted to the life of bikers, particularly Hells Angels, at this time and was a sometime member of the Harrow chapter. However, after being remanded at Brixton Prison for carrying a pocket knife he changed focus and proceeded to complete a Masters and PhD in Old English at Kings College London in 1987. Anglo-Saxon and Old English language, literature and legends continued to be an inspiration and passion throughout his career and many of his publications, particularly in the 90s, were modern illustrated translations of old texts.
Griffith’s original press, The Pirate Press, was superseded by Amra Imprint in the 80s. Between both initiatives he wrote and published hundreds of small pamphlets, booklets and small press editions of poetry, often hand produced, designed and coloured. In addition, Griffiths was also anthologised and published by Etruscan Press, Tern Press, Woodcraft Press and Paladin, amongst others. He is the author of Split Cities with Bob Cobbing, as well as Durham & Other Sequences, Future Exiles, Nomad Sense and The Mud Fort, amid many other essays, poems and stories.
Due to a houseboat fire in the late 80s Griffiths relocated to Seaham, County Durham. He became part of the Northern poetry scene and picked up work at the Centre for Northern Studies at Northumbria University. He became increasingly interested in local history and dialect, writing and publishing guides to the area and dictionaries of slang and dialect, such as A Dictionary of North East Dialect, a subject which interested him until his death.
In 1997 Griffith became an archivist at Kings College London, where he catalogued the collection of his mentor, the poet and scholar, Eric Mottram.
He was a prolific letter writer and active friend. A number of the letters in the collection concern his publications and research, and show a questing mind always hungry for new information. Due to an early encounter with the prison system, he became involved in campaigning for better conditions in prisons, as well as being in written touch with some prisoners, the most notable being a correspondence over a few decades between Bill Griffiths and Ray Gilbert, who was serving time in a series of English prisons. He was also an energetic member of his local community and participated in neighbourhood activism to improve Seaham’s coastline and harbour.
Bill Griffiths died in 2007, just before the publication of The Salt Companion to Bill Griffiths .
From the guide to the Bill Griffiths Collection, 1972-2007, (Special Collections, Brunel University Library)
|creatorOf||Bill Griffiths Collection, 1972-2007||Special Collections, Brunel University Library|
|referencedIn||Sherman, William David. William David Sherman papers, 1966-2002 (bulk 1990-1999).||Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library|
|associatedWith||Alfred, King of England, 849-899||person|
|associatedWith||Anning, Mary., 1799-1847||person|
|associatedWith||Cobbing, Bob., 1920-2002||person|
|associatedWith||James, M. R. (Montague Rhodes)., 1862-1936||person|
|associatedWith||Sherman, William David.||person|
|associatedWith||Weller, M. J. (Michael John)||person|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|England, North East|
|Social Life and Customs|
|Traditional medicine--England--History--To 1500|
|Prisons discipline--Great Britain|
|Community power--Great Britain|
|Prisons and race relations--Great Britain|
|English language--Old English, ca. 450-1100|
|English literature--Old English, ca. 450-1100|
|Ghost stories, English--History and criticism|
|Dream of the rood|
|Local and regional action|
|Poetry in Old English Translations|
|Coal miners--England, North East--Language|
|British poetry revival|
|English poetry--20th century|
|Small presses--England--History--20th century|
|English essays--20th century|