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Peter Preston RIP

3 November 11 words: James Walker
Founded the D H Lawrence Research Society and worked tirelessly to preserve his memory.

 

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'Peter did a lot of steady day to day work in keeping interest in D H Lawrence and William Morris alive, often at times when they had become unfashionable.' Ross Bradshaw

Peter Preston, founder of the D H Lawrence Research Society, sadly passed away on 18 October after a period of illness and will be fondly remembered for his tireless promotion of our favourite bearded author. In 1976, Peter organised the first summer school on Lawrence at the University of Nottingham. In 1985 he served on the organising committee of the Lawrence Centenary Festival in Eastwood, which culminated in a Lawrence symposium at the University. Not content at promoting Lawrence at a local level, he co-organised the International Lawrence Conference in Montpellier In 1990 which led the following year to the D. H. Lawrence Research Centre. Peter retired in 2005 as Director of Continuing Education at the University of Nottingham after almost forty years in education, specialising in contemporary fiction. 

‘Peter’s modesty meant that many of his achievements went unnoticed. However, the filing cabinets in Trent Room A69 contain much of the correspondence associated with these activities; to read it is to realise the rare combination of sheer hard work, passion and good grace he brought to everything he did, and to his dealings with academics, students and enthusiasts alike. His work in forging links between the University and the wider community is one of several sizeable legacies to come down to us,’ said Dr Andrew Harrison, Lecturer in the School of English Studies. 
 
In addition to his involvement in research projects and the planning of public events at the university, Peter was Chair of the Board of Directors of Writing East Midlands and edited the Society journal. Although Peter’s literary interests were wide-ranging, including published work on Dickens and Arnold Bennett, D H Lawrence and William Morris comprised the main subjects of his published work. Most recently, he held a discussion with William Ivory and Miranda Bowen on their adaption of Women in Love as part of the Screenlit Festival at Broadway Cinema. Ross Bradshaw said ‘Peter was a great and generous supporter of Five Leaves. He shared our interest in Nottingham fiction, London novels and Jewish writing - areas that reflected important parts of his life. He was a popular adult education lecturer and his sessions at Lowdham Book Festival were always packed. He also did a lot of steady day to day work in keeping interest in Lawrence and Morris alive, often at times when they had become unfashionable.’ 
 
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                                        Grow a D H Lawrence beard to remember Peter.
My own personal memory of Peter was as a fellow panellist at a Booker event at Arnold Library in which he gave a fascinating critique of Emma Donoghue’s Room. The event was organised by Literature and Reading Development Officer Sheelagh Gallagher who fondly remembers Peter as ‘a great bloke who gave me my first grown-up job.’ 
 
In addition to preserving the memory of Lawrence and Morris, Peter had been working on a nostalgic project called ‘reading with mother’ as a representative of what the intelligent woman reader read. It would be a fitting tribute to purchase a copy of one of these, either from an independent shop or the local library, as a means of keeping his heritage projects going. 
 
Our condolences go out to Peter’s wife Barbara and to his children, Rebecca and Ben. There will be a celebration of Peter's life at the Derek Randall suite at Trent Bridge at 3.00pm on Friday 4 November, which is open to all those who knew him. There will be a more formal event at the University of Nottingham in the future.
 

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