We always hope to introduce our April newsletter by waxing lyrical about tip-toeing through the tulips and the advent of spring, but after some hopeful glimmers of sunshine at the weekend, it seems it was a false alarm so we might have to wait until May instead.

Weather summary over, our latest News of Note has a global flavour this month, with various pictorial tit-bits coming to you via a paranormal archive in Sweden, customs and ceremonies in Spain and jazz music in South Africa. We also remember a much-missed colleague.

Paranormal Activity

Mary Evans Picture Library's unrivalled paranormal archive, built up by Mary's husband Hilary, over decades, is our only collection not housed in Blackheath. In the autumn before Hilary's death in 2011, he donated the antiquarian books, magazines and ephemera to AFU (Archives for the Unexplained) in Sweden and all 5.5 tons of it was whisked off to Scandinavia.

Last week, Mary and Hilary's daughter, Valentine, visited AFU in the old industrial city of Norrköpping. AFU works to "establish and preserve a worldwide heritage of archives and libraries related to paranormal phenomena and the unexplained", and now occupies 16 basements, tucked away under residential flats. The books are meticulously organised, covering everything from alien abductions to yetis.

Hilary's collection was the largest single donation, adding around 10,000 books plus numerous other items. Wandering among the extensive shelving, you can pick up almost any book and there is a good chance it will have Hilary's initials inside and in many cases, annotations in his familiar hand, rather like the one pictured which clearly fell short of his high literary expectations!

The images from Hilary's collection are available via our website - click here for an edited selection - and the archive in Norrköpping is open to visitors, mirroring our founding ethos sixty years ago: to keep archive material accessible often centuries after its original publication.

Spanish stories

Photographer Jon Santa Cruz, one of our new contributors, brings us several picture stories based on photos shot in Spain in the early years of this century. Three of these relate to religious festivals, including the Holy Week (Semana Santa) custom of flagellation in La Rioja, the only village in Spain where flagellation still takes place as part of a Catholic ceremony.

There is also a series of the Almiruete Carnival in Guadalajara, where villagers process in masks to ward off evil winter spirits and welcome the more fertile season to come. Like many traditional Spanish fiestas, this one survived the years of being banned during the 36-year Franco dictatorship.

Closer to home, a small set of images records life at a Kent boarding school in the 1990s, and more bleakly, another set focuses on illegal migration from North Africa to Spain shot in 2003, when the EU was becoming concerned about migrants, and Spain was on the point of receiving funding to secure their borders.

Cape Jazz

We've recently added a terrific set of photos by Ian Bruce Huntley as part of the african.pictures agency.

Ian Bruce Huntley, who died last year aged 84, was a titan of photography on the South African jazz scene. His images documenting jazz in Cape Town from 1964 to 1974, in the years before apartheid closed down the venues, are full of passion and soul.

More Nancy Sandys Walker

We're continuing to discover more material from the archive of photographer Nancy Sandys Walker and have just added a small selection of covers shot by Nancy for Woman's Illustrated magazine during the 1940s. They all feature the same model, Peggy Chester, in an eclectic variety of outfits including a natty nautical suit, knitted undies and a halo-like floral summer bonnet.

Despite the exigencies of wartime, it's a set of pictures that show forties fashion at its flamboyant, frothy best.

Gillmor Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Heather Robertson of Glasgow Life Museums, who was the lucky winner of the giveaway in our last News of Note and is now the proud owner of a coffee cup and playing cards set featuring Robert Gillmor's Aerial Manoeuvres linocut.

Keep an eye out for more giveaways in future newsletters. It's our 60th anniversary this year so we're sharing the love!

Gill Stoker 1954 to 2024

We were greatly saddened at the death of our friend and colleague, Gill Stoker, who passed away on 13th February after being diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour last summer. If you've ever used a Mary Evans picture, or even just browsed our website, you will have no doubt been helped in your search by Gill's captioning and keywording at which she worked diligently, meticulously and with great expertise every afternoon for a period of twenty-five years.

Gill also ran our hugely popular Poems and Pictures blog which we will continue in her memory.

Away from the Mary Evans office, Gill had studied drama and music, and appeared on stage and screen on numerous occasions, she was an associate lecturer at the Open University having gained a doctorate through her research into Sir John Tenniel, and gave English lessons online via an award-winning Youtube channel which had an incredible 1.97 million subscribers. You can read more about her extraordinary life and achievements here.

Gill's funeral took place at Hither Green cemetery on 18th March and was a true reflection of her wide-ranging talents and interests. We watched her give an online EFL tutorial, listened to a recording of her singing, and heard readings of poems and an excerpt from Essentially Ethel, the one-woman show she had written and performed about the composer and suffrage campaigner, Ethel Smyth.

Afterwards, we invited friends and family here to the library to celebrate her memory; a heart-warming and convivial occasion, despite the sadness.

We've set up a fundraiding page for St. Christopher's Hospice in Gill's memory. If you'd like to make a donation, you can do so here.

Let us know what you think

We hope you continue to find our email missives useful and informative. Whenever you need a hi-res picture, a search, a quote, or have any other questions about using the library, drop us a line at pictures@maryevans.com or call 020 8318 0034.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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