Counting down to Christmas

01 Dec 2011 13:00:00.000
PA 368/11

Forget your supermarket advent calendars this Christmas — The University of Nottingham is launching a free calendar with an interactive twist.

From the first day of December through to Christmas Day, the University’s Digital Advent Calendar will revive some unusual stories and seasonal memories from Nottinghamshire and beyond; ranging from Christmas spent as a prisoner of war and digging for victory; to forgotten festive recipes and rare pieces of music performed by our own students. Also included are rarely seen images of Victorian Nottingham residents ice skating on the River Trent — from the record-breaking winter of 1895.
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The calendar will include videos, audio material, pictures, blog posts and digital manuscripts. A new item from the calendar will be released every day and will be hosted on our blog         

Digital Communications Officer Debs Storey is in charge of putting the calendar together: “It really does unearth some brilliant Christmas stories,” she says.

“As well as celebrating Christmas, we’re also promoting Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University, who hold a vast number of historical collections in their extensive archives.”

The campaign launches with a recording of a little–known piece of 18th Century music; Glee for Three Voices, composed by John Percy.

“The piece is from our collection of early music,” says Dr Dorothy Johnston, Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections. “It’s a musical setting of the popular song on winter, When Icicles Hang by the Wall, which comes from Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labours Lost.    

The piece — caught on camera — was performed by five first year music students; Claire Whiting, Mia Beklvalac, Andrew Randall, Greg Link and Edward Reid.

“It’s one of just thousands of items from our archive and library holdings,” adds Dorothy. “A big part of what we do is to make our collections accessible to the general public. We do this through a number of projects, but it’s particularly pleasing to be able to present them in a festive context.”

Also featured in the blog will be the BBC’s Stephen Moss — nature writer, broadcaster, TV producer and guest lecturer at the University— who exposes some little known facts about Britain’s iconic Robin red-breast.

In a video with Dr Robert Lambert he tracks why such a small bird has become such a massive British cultural icon and why it’s so closely associated with Christmas.

The University archive and rare book holdings, which are looked after by Manuscripts and Special Collections, have built up over more than 80 years. They support research and teaching and are made available for wider public enjoyment through online resources and in exhibitions at Lakeside’s Weston Gallery.  The department works in collaboration with other local heritage providers and actively promotes local educational use of the resources.

Digitisation of manuscripts is a key project within the University’s new appeal,Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, which is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More information is available at

For more information on the wide range of historical materials available please see the Manuscripts and Special Collections website — their blog ( or contact the curators via email on

Please Note: Items will be added daily and not all at once. If you’d like to preview upcoming content for deadlines, please speak to Debs who will be able to help you.


Story credits

More information is available from Debs Storey, Digital Communications Officer, The University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 823 2598,
Andrew Burden

Andrew Burden - Digital Communications Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8313 Location: University Park

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