PJ Harvey’s gifts to Dorset Museum

DORSET-born singer-songwriter, musician and poet PJ Harvey has visited Dorset Museum in Dorchester to present a hand-corrected proof of her dialect poem Orlam and a photograph showing her wearing traditional Dorset buttons.

Accompanied by her mother Eva, she spent an afternoon at the museum, starting in the library. Here she presented the interim director Elizabeth Selby with a hand-corrected proof of Orlam, and the exclusive signed photograph, as well as a published copy of Orlam, which she signed and wrote into the frontispiece, “I’m so proud to be a local!”’

PJ (Polly) Harvey drew upon the work of 19th century Dorset dialect poet and co-founder of Dorset Museum, William Barnes, to write Orlam.

During her visit she was shown a number of items from the museum’s William Barnes collection, including manuscript poems, early editions of published works including Barnes’ Dorset dialect glossary and a replica of a humstrum, a traditional instrument described by Barnes in his poem The Humstrum.

She also met Grace Peters-Clarke, currently the museum’s writer-in-residence, as part of a black writer scheme developed and funded by the international Bridport Prize literary competition, in collaboration with best-selling author, Kit de Waal.

During their tour of the museum they were particularly interested in a pair of buckled shoes worn by William Barnes, a replica of the Dorset Ooser (a wooden head or mask used in the 19th century folklore of Melbury Osmund, and referenced by PJ Harvey in Orlam), and Thomas Hardy’s writing pens.

Born in 1969 in Bridport, Polly Jean Harvey grew up in the Dorset village of Corscombe and released her first album Dry with her band PJ Harvey in 1992. She is the only musician to have been awarded the Mercury Music Prize twice, in 2001 and 2011. In 2013, she was awarded an MBE for services to music.

Her debut poetry collection, The Hollow of the Hand, was published in 2015 and created in collaboration with photographer Seamus Murphy. Orlam, a narrative poem set in a magic realist version of the West Country, was published on 28th April.

Elizabeth Selby said: “PJ Harvey’s award-winning career, which spans over 30 years, has been extraordinary and wide-ranging – her achievements and creative output are something of which Dorset can be proud. She follows in a long tradition of writers including William Barnes, Thomas Hardy and Sylvia Townsend Warner whose work is shaped by Dorset, and who are represented in the museum’s collections. It is only fitting that these items should be deposited here.”

Pictured: PJ Harvey in the Dorset Museum library, and with writer-in-residence Grace Peters-Clarke.