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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Cumbrian Hunter Davies gives £1m Beatles collection to British Library

Hunter Davies believes he’s found the perfect home for his £1m collection of handwritten letters and lyrics by John Lennon.

Hunter Davies photo
Hunter Davies

The Cumbrian author has become the first person to be granted tax relief under a new scheme by giving the highly sought-after items to the British Library in London.

The six items Mr Davies has donated include the lyrics to The Beatles songs Strawberry Fields Forever, In My Life and She Said She Said.

They are being given under the Cultural Gifts Scheme, introduced in March, which encourages people to donate work considered to be pre-eminent in its field and of benefit to the nation. It allows individuals to reduce their tax bill by 30 per cent of the value of the objects over five years.

Mr Davies, who has a home in Loweswater, near Cockermouth, and grew up in Carlisle, was the official biographer to The Beatles and had unparalleled access to the Fab Four throughout 1967.

The 77-year-old acquired the song lyrics after they were discarded on the floor at the end of a day’s recording at London’s Abbey Road studios.

He asked if he could have them.

Mr Davies said: “The Beatles were in their twenties and were not thinking of posterity. I’m a terrible compulsive hoarder and I needed them to remember some of the song lyrics for the biography as the album hadn’t been released.

“I want them to be available to the public.”

Mr Davies’ gift was used this week to highlight a new way in which people can donate to the nation.

He is handing them over permanently under the scheme which allows people to donate items during their lifetime in exchange for a reduction in their tax liability. Davies’s gift will reduce his tax by £319,500.

Mr Davies said: “I’m the first person to make use of the new system.

“I want my Beatles collection to be kept together, in one place, and on public display, and the British Library is the perfect home for it. I have always been pleased to see them in the treasures gallery, next to the Magna Carta, and works by Shakespeare and Beethoven, because that’s where I honestly think they belong.

“Working on a new book about the Beatles’ lyrics made me determined that the British Library should have the world’s best public collection of Beatles manuscripts. I’m really pleased the cultural gifts scheme has helped me make this a reality.”

The Government has been keen to encourage philanthropy as a way of financing culture and the arts.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “It’s fantastic that the first treasures to be donated to the nation through the Cultural Gifts Scheme include the handwritten lyrics to some of the world’s best known songs, by one of the world’s most loved artists.

“Incredibly generous donations like these are testament to the strong culture of philanthropy that exists in Britain today, and I look forward to seeing what other treasures may soon find a home in our national collections as a result of this scheme.”

British Library chief executive Roly Keating said: “We’re delighted to receive these iconic items on behalf of the nation.

“The case devoted to The Beatles is one of the most popular in our Treasures Gallery. Visitors from all over the world are thrilled to see such legendary lyrics in their very earliest draft form.”

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