Swanzy Papers

Scope and Content

The letters, which span the years 1945-56, largely relate to Swanzy's work as editor and regular producer of the BBC radio programme Caribbean Voices , a literary programme which ran for many years 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. The letters, which include correspondence between Swanzy and Gladys Lindo, the BBC's local representative in Jamaica, 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.

Other correspondence includes letters to and from contributors who included such well-known individuals as Derek Walcott and Figueroa; and letters of comment, criticism and appreciation from listeners. The papers also 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.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Swanzy began his career in the civil service after his education at Wellington College and New College, Oxford. He initially worked at the Colonial 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, and, apart from a period when he was seconded to the Gold Coast (later Ghana) Broadcasting Service as Head Of Programmes between 1954 and 1958, 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.

Reference: The University of Birmingham, Research Libraries Bulletin ( Number 6 Autumn 1998 ).

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

A small collection of Swanzy's correspondence was purchased by the Centre for West African Studies and formally presented for deposit in Special Collections at a small ceremony in June 1997.

Other Finding Aids

See full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.