Local interest

Announcing the winners of the 2023 Walter Greenwood Essay Prize

Aiden Simpson and Mahirah Rahman, students on the English MA module Regional and World Literatures, have been awarded prizes for their engagement with the Walter Greenwood Archive in their assessment.

Greenwood was a working-class writer born in Salford in 1903. His debut novel, Love on the Dole, was published in 1933 and was an immediate success. Greenwood went on to have a career as a writer and film maker. He sold his archive of manuscript works, fan-mail, press cuttings and photos to the University in the 1970s. Some of the material is available on Salford Digital Archives.

In this blog post, Aiden and Mahirah write about their experience of using the archives.


“The Walter Greenwood Collection is one of the most interesting archives I have been lucky enough to have access to. From letters from Greenwood, and his many fans and reviewers of his work, to photos of Greenwood and Salford from his childhood, the archive has a multitude of resources from Greenwood’s life.

I utilised the digital archives to read through the entirety of Greenwood’s collection of short stories titled The Cleft Stick, which served as a of form of prequel to his renowned text Love on The Dole. The actual content of the stories was incredibly interesting, and according to reviews at the time Greenwood created a dark, realistic depiction of interwar Britain. It is not a text to read if you are hoping for a light and jolly read!

Hankinson Street, Salford

The collection was an incredible primary source for my essay because these stories have almost entirely gone under the radar of other academics, making it a very significant example of the sort of unique material that can be found inside the archives.

For me, looking back on not just Greenwood’s work but the way it affected the people who read it, felt surreal: as if I was stepping foot back into the 1930s itself. The experience of looking through the archives was truly incredible and something I recommend every student does at least once because you never know what sort of hidden treasure of the past you’ll discover.


“I’ve never done archive work before this module. It wasn’t something I thought would interest me, I didn’t know how I really felt about going through someone’s life who wasn’t here anymore.

I remember looking at the letter I was touching and thinking, ‘Why did Greenwood choose to keep this?’. It seemed, at first glance, that he only kept certain things: photos of his home, letters from fans that could now be considered ‘fan mail’, some of his manuscripts and journal articles. It looked incredibly positive, and it made me raise my eyebrow a bit. Did Greenwood only want to be remembered in a certain light? I was determined to turn the positive image Greenwood wanted audiences to have on its head a little, and question who he really was.

Walter Greenwood sitting at his desk

By my second visit to the physical archive collection I could piece together where Greenwood was and where he lived during certain publication dates by looking at photos of his homes. I spent much time there surrounded by Walter Greenwood’s life. Everything in the Archive was always so tidy and so well organized. I went through probably hundreds of letters. Alex helped me read handwriting that I couldn’t understand, and we had discussions about his marriage, his houses, and why he kept all the things that he did. By looking at different material in the collection such as photos, letters, and articles, I developed a core understanding of the progression of Greenwood’s life.”

The Greenwood Essay Prize is issued by The Library. To access the physical Walter Greenwood Archive or find out more contact

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