Fonds MsC-128 - Al Neil fonds

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Al Neil fonds

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  • Multi-media

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of fonds.

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Dates of creation area


  • 1907–2010 (Creation)
    Neil, Al

Physical description area

Physical description

1.54 m of textual records
ca. 1009 photographs : prints, negatives, slides
ca. 19 posters
18 watercolours
4 drawings
28 audio reels
2 audio cassettes
3 audio discs
1 audio reel
8 video cassettes
1 video reel
2 optical discs

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Al Neil was born in Vancouver, BC in 1924. In 1941, he worked as a surveyor with the Department of Transport, helping to build the wartime airfield at Port Hardy, Vancouver Island. He served in Normandy during the Second World War. After the war Neil worked at a variety of jobs, including clothing salesman, postal clerk, roof tarrer, lighthouse keeper and jazz musician. Neil passed away in Vancouver on November 16, 2017

Al Neil co-founded Vancouver's Cellar Jazz Club in 1952 and performed with artists such as Art Pepper, Conte Candoli and Kenneth Patchen. He married Marguerite Sanders circa 1964; they separated in the early 1970s. During the 1960s and 1970s Neil became known for solo and ensemble performances which combined music with texts, art assemblages, slides and prepared tapes. He performed regularly at the Western Front in the early 1980s, and his collage works were exhibited in galleries such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, Coburg Gallery, and Atelier Gallery.

Neil lives in Vancouver, BC, with his partner and collaborator, Carole Itter. Their Dollarton beach cabin was the last remaining of a number of beach shacks in North Vancouver, and was removed from the waterfront in 2015. As of 2016, a collaboration of grunt gallery, Creative Cultural Collaborations (C3) and Other Sights is working to remediate and repurpose the cabin as a studio for a floating artist residency program.

Neil’s published writings include “West Coast Lokas” (Intermedia 1972), “Changes” (Coach House Press 1975; reprinted by Nightwood Editions in 1989), and “Slammer” (Pulp Press 1981). In 2003, Neil was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Emily Carr University of Art & Design. His work was the subject of a retrospective entitled The Al Neil Project, in 2005, organized in part by grunt gallery. Al Neil’s artwork was featured on the poster for the 2008 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which included a concert called Homage Collage: Improv for Al Neil. In 2014, Neil received the Vancouver Mayor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Custodial history

Records were in the custody of Al Neil and Carole Itter prior to their acquisition by Simon Fraser University Library Special Collections and Rare Books in 2010. Further materials were acquired in 2013. Some material was sorted by July Smith in May 2005 for the Historical Jazz Society and the Al Neil Project. Audio and video recordings of Al Neil’s music kept by Howard Bloomfield were donated by Robin and Jillian Ridington in 2016.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records generated from Al Neil's work as a musician, artist and writer, as well as his personal and family records. These include family photographs, records from Neil's military service, correspondence, documentation of performances, art exhibitions and collages, clippings of interviews and reviews, original manuscripts and drafts, published writings, grant applications, posters, and material related to his and Carole Itter's cabin at Dollarton, North Vancouver, BC.

Fonds has been arranged into the following eight series: Correspondence (1959–2010); Writings (1968–1996); Professional records (1936-2009); Reviews and clippings (1958–2009); Personal records (1940–1994); Photographs ([185-]–[200-]); Videos (1978–2005), and Sound recordings (1976–1987).

Notes area

Physical condition

Some records had mould and insect damage and were frozen upon arrival to SFU Library. One poster is torn and requires conservation.

Immediate source of acquisition


Arrangement of the fonds was based on Neil's division of records within and between boxes. Accessions were processed together as one unit.
For preservation reasons, photographs in files of textual records have been removed and are located in separate boxes. See file list for locations of photographs.
A list of books and publications owned by Al Neil is available in the inventory file. The majority of these were duplicates of existing copies in the library’s collection, in poor condition, and weeded in consultation with the Contemporary Literature Collection Librarian Tony Power.

Language of material

  • English

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Restrictions on access

Access to files with personal information (e.g. medical records and tax returns) is restricted.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Works in this fonds are under copyright. Researchers are required to secure permission from the copyright holders for usage of this material, except for those covered by fair dealing.

Finding aids

A list of publications kept by Al Neil is available in the inventory file at SFU Special Collections and Rare Books.

Generated finding aid

Associated materials

An Al Neil Collection is held by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

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Rules or conventions

Canadian Rules for Archival Description (RAD), 2008 edition.



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Created December 24, 2014 (Shyla Seller)
Revised September, 2016 to include file- and series-level descriptions. (SS)

Language of description

  • English

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