Hayden Murphy


Words, at the back of Bristow’s, sell no cars, peddle no bromides, respect no properties, seek love, find fun.

Saturday saw thirty seated on convenient concrete, after drink-time before tea-time, for verse speaking and verse listening. Poets, some six or seven, spoke, spouted, swung from roof-beam reading. Poems from gay complexity to pedestrian solemnity fought fug and triumphed.

A double occasion - opening of Wocjieck Beck’s exhibition of paintings and first of regular Saturday afternoon poetry readings. Verse vernissage.

Jeff Nuttall, crate-plinthed, master minded and called, among others, Tim Sillence, Dave Glendining, Michael Marais and John Kiddell, all “Norch” men, and from Dublin word-wealthy Hayden Murphy, editor of admirable “”Broadsheet,” with a sackful of poetry. Bravo!



Hayden Murphy is a Dubliner who has made his home in the “precipitous city of Edinburgh”. He achieved fame with his series of Broadsheet poetry publications (1967-78) but perhaps he has achieved even greater fame as a literary character in the Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin. Of the Oxford Bar Rankin says “there’s mention of a writer who sits at a table in the back room.  But that’s actually journalist (and poet) Hayden Murphy, who’s been drinking there even longer than me.” It has been noted that Hayden’s “office hours were ruled by the licensing laws.” Of course long-time drinkers in the Oxford Bar become Oxford Dons.     

Broadsheet was a large newspaper-type compilation of poets, writers and artists. The design was well-suited for the concrete poet and Dominican monk Dom Sylvester Houédard (DSH) who was a frequent contributer  

Copies of Broadsheet are quite hard to find outside of archives and university collections and I assumed it was a largely Irish thing. But I asked Hayden if there was much in the way of the Norwich poets and writers published in it. He was kind enough to compile a list of Norwich contributors which includes Tim Sillence, Diz Willis, Oly Accola and Jeff Nuttall. He also said: 

“Broadsheet (1967-78) was international in what and who it published over the ten years of its existence and eventually came to a halt with a special issue to mark a retrospective exhibition in the National Library of Scotland. BROADSHEET: POETRY,PROSE & GRAPHICS (1983). Giles (Bristow) came up to Edinburgh for that exhibition. Sadly he was not at all well and that was the last time I saw him.     

Giles visited me in Dublin in the early 70s and financed an elaborate Bloomsday fraud, involving a faked/sealed limited edition of AMADAN (“fool” in Gaelic) which annoyed many precious bibliophiles (aided and abetted by artist John Behan, the distinguished publisher of Dolmen Press Liam Miller and myself). He was fine then and great company.     

In Edinburgh he was needy and demanding and very hard to take. I did see Tim (Sillence) on a visit to the McCloughan’s in the 90s but by then he was not too well either.” 

Hayden explained his involvement with Giles Bristow: " I first came to Norwich/Norfolk in the early 60s to do summer work in Ross Foods in Worstead. I spent any time off either at market stalls or city bookshops. Then, through Jeff Nuttall, whom I had met in London in 1965, I “discovered” Bridewell Alley and all it contained including the bookshop. When my friends Hank & Barbara McCloughan moved from Donnington, Lincolnshire to Norwich I became a regular visitor."     

Luckily, for me, Hayden had a photo of a reading in the backroom of Bristow's taken in 1969 (above). I think the psychedelic art is an exhibition by Richard Wocjieck Beck. The photos below are from a few years later and were from a reading in a church not far from Bristow's. I think it may not be a church but possibly Bacon's House on Colegate. 

The top one has Hayden with Tim Sillence and in the bottom one he is with Jeff Nuttall.