Looking for Liza Langley-Kemp
I didn’t expect to find a novel, I really didn’t.
I started working for Rooftop 3 months ago, and like any other job it sometimes takes a while to sort through other people’s accumulated detritus.
Cupboards of things that are important often turn out to be… well… not needed anymore.
Yesterday the gravitational pull of the Communications Cupboard proved too strong to resist so I had a clear out. Amongst the old brochures, the copies of elderly magazines, and the paperwork for projects that were so old the replacement for them had been replaced I found some treasure.
There were archive photographs of staff events from the 1990’s there were pictures of the opening of the building featuring Kay Alexander from Midlands Today, there were tenant handbooks from the days Rooftop was the EPHA, there were VHS copies of information films… and there was an old blue folder filled with paper.
I checked everything, sorted into archive and recycling, but left the folder for last.
It looked like a big job of sorting sheaves of documents.
It wasn’t documents.
It was a hand typed novel by Liza Langley-Kemp.
I put news of what I’d found on the company intranet notice board and waited for some information.
I googled the name… and nothing came.
I googled the addresses on the manuscript and found that the three addresses listed had all been sold in the last ten years, and this manuscript is much older than that.
It’s hand typed for a start. Word processors have been around for years slowly taking over the typewriter market. When I was a student in the early 90’s I had an Amstrad word processor with a green screen and a dot-matrix printer. I assume that this manuscript probably goes back at least to the 80’s. Probably.
The front page has the authors name printed on it, as does the second page so I thought that this was someone who took her writing seriously, but also didn’t have access to the sort of information technology that would just pop something like that on to the page.
I decided to put it on Facebook to see if anyone had any idea who she was or how to find her.
Then I got more information but a dead end too; Vicky at Rooftop saw my appeal and scampered in to tell me we’d tried to find her before.
Over a decade ago Vicky had tried to help another member of staff track down Liza Langley-Kemp. The manuscript had come out of a house after the occupier had passed away. The occupier wasn’t Liza, and they don’t know if they had any connection with her because it was found when an inspection had been carried out once the house was emptied.
The phone numbers had been called and nothing came of it. The addresses were written to, and nothing came of it (the post codes are in W10, W14 and OX4)
This was all before social media had been invented.
The manuscript had been put away, to see if anything ever surfaced about the author and there it sat for more than ten years, in the back of a cupboard… where I found it.
The Facebook 'crowd source' for information has pointed us towards Luton, and BBC Three Counties radio interviewed me to see if we could find someone who knew anything.
I would love this to go to the family of Liza Langley-Kemp. I would love this to find its way back to people who knew her, I would love this to go home.
I’m not sure it ever will… but I don’t want it to go back in a cupboard for another decade.
Can you help?
by John Rockley