Larkin Toads in Hull City Centre / Local businesses hop on board

Hull’s three main shopping centres are the latest local businesses to sponsor artist designed giant toads in an initiative to attract thousands of extra visitors to the city as part of Larkin25 – a 25 week long season of high quality cultural events, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of poet Philip Larkin, which will run between June and December.

Larkin with Toads is based on similarly successful mass participation public art events in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Norwich which have seen spending in stores rise by up to 20% and visitors boosting local economies by millions of pounds. It is inspired by Larkin’s poems Toads and Toads Revisited.

Larkin25 programme director Emily Penn said: “It’s really great to have Hull’s three anchor shopping centres signed up for this exciting project. We all appreciate that these are tough economic times, but businesses are expressing that this is precisely why an innovative way of attracting visitors to the city is more important than ever. “

Princes Quay Shopping Centre was the first sponsor to be announced at the launch of the Larkin with Toads project and they have now selected the design of their toad from around 60 submitted by artists from across the country. Centre manager Mike Killoran has chosen Larkin Toad by Francis Kelly. He said: “We thought that a toad that looked like Larkin was not only a bit of fun, but helps make the link with the whole project.

“We not only hope that people will get to appreciate that the nation’s favourite poet lived in and was inspired by Hull, but also that the whole project will bring more visitors into the city. I would encourage more stores and businesses get behind this and make it a huge success.”

The Prospect Centre has selected Kiss me Quick by Stephen McKay – a white toad covered in big red lipstick kisses. Manager Pete Barber explained: “We have a lot of beauty related stores in the centre and I think it will make people stop and stare, and hopefully put a smile on their faces.

“From a practical point of view I’m also hoping it will bring in more visitors as people follow the trail of toads across the city during the summer. And of course I do expect it to turn into a beautiful princess when kissed!”

Last but not least, the final shopping centre to complete the trio of toad sponsors announced today is St Stephen’s. They have looked to unite the city through a design inspired by Hull’s two Superleague rugby teams, with Eastwest by Sarah Daniels. Half the toad is decorated with red and white stripes, the other in black and white, with a ‘river’ running down the middle and the silhouette of two rugby players on its back.

St Stephen’s manager Jim Harris explained: “We thought this was a great way of capturing the spirit of the city and its love for rugby, despite the passionate rivalry. It’s great to remember that we still have much to celebrate in sport with two hugely successful Superleague teams in the city that remain at the heart of their communities.

“When you see the huge success of similar art projects in places like Liverpool and Norwich, I think it’s great for Hull to be doing something imaginative that shows we can also be in the ‘super league’ of city shopping destinations.”

Larkin25 organisers say they have now secured in excess of 20 sponsors who are in the process of selecting from the submitted artists designs, or looking to work with community groups, while a few others are working on their own designs for consideration. They will all be announced in the next few weeks as the selection of designs is finalised.

Emily Penn added: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’re receiving for the project from all sorts of organisations right across Hull and East Yorkshire. We are talking to literally dozens of potential sponsors at the moment and are delighted to have secured in excess of 20 firm commitments so quickly. Everyone is very enthusiastic to help and get involved, with some organisations collaborating to share the cost of sponsoring a toad.”

The cost of sponsorship is £2,750 + VAT. (Artists receive £750 to design and decorate a toad). At the end of the event the toads will be auctioned off to raise money for charity, with the opportunity for sponsors to pay a reserve to keep their toads.

To see all the toad designs and to discover more about Larkin25 visit: www.larkin25.co.uk

Larkin25 is a partnership programme led by Hull City Council, the University of Hull, Visit Hull and East Yorkshire, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Philip Larkin Society.