Larkin25 / Hull celebrates Britain’s favourite poet with giant toads
Report by Guardian.co.uk‘s Alison Flood
Hull to mark 25th anniversary of Larkin’s death with giant model toads.
City most closely associated with Philip Larkin’s life and career prepares to honour his memory with giant fibreglass sculptures.
Hull is to be inundated with a plague of toads this summer, in celebration of the life and work of the city’s most famous son, Philip Larkin.
Larkin, who died 25 years ago this December, wrote two poems about the amphibians, both taking a wry look at the working life (Larkin worked as a librarian at Hull University). “Why should I let the toad work / Squat on my life?” he writes in 1955’s Toads, going on to admit that “something sufficiently toad-like / Squats in me, too”. In Toads Revisited (1962), he writes of the men “you meet of an afternoon … All dodging the toad work / By being stupid or weak”. “Give me your arm, old toad; / Help me down Cemetery Road,” he concludes.
Larkin’s work will be celebrated in Hull this summer with a 10-week public art event. Giant toad sculptures will be placed on a trail around the city in an attempt to “brighten up working days and holidays” for local residents and visitors. The one-metre high fibreglass models will be designed and painted by artists and community groups, with designs to include a toad inspired by Larkin’s poem The Whitsun Weddings, and one modelled on the man himself, “sat on his comfortable cushion and supported by his books”. Organisations are being asked to sponsor a toad, choosing their own design from the range on offer, while a “people’s toad” will give individuals the option to donate £25 and have their name incorporated into Sasha Heath’s Escher-inspired design.
“A visual arts project of this size is unprecedented in Hull and I’m sure Philip Larkin would be quietly amused to have his work remembered this way,” said Graham Chesters, chair of Larkin25, a national programme celebrating Larkin which begins on 12 June and ends on 2 December, the anniversary of Larkin’s death in 1985. “Larkin with Toads marks this significant anniversary in a way that is worthy of both the poet and the city with which his creative and professional life is most associated.”
The toads will be officially unveiled on 17 July, and will be auctioned off following the project for the benefit of environmental, animal welfare and artistic projects, as well as a contribution to the lord mayor’s charity.
Image: The Larkin Toad, sponsored by the Princes Quay Shopping Centre in Hull, and designed by Frances Kelly. Photograph: Larkin25
For more information on Larkin25, visit www.larkin25.co.uk