Larkin, Hull and 2017: Marking the anniversary




The Philip Larkin Society was the organization that inspired the six-month long commemoration marking the 25th anniversary of Larkin’s passing in 2010.That programme of events, known as Larkin25, culminated in the 2nd December unveiling of the wonderful Martin Jennings statue of the poet on the concourse of Hull’s Paragon Station.

Now, five years later, Deputy Chairman of the Philip Larkin Society and former member of University staff Professor Graham Chesters writes about a very special evening to mark the 30th anniversary.

Rosie Millard (BA Drama, 1987)

On Wednesday 2nd December 2015 (6.00 – 9.00 PM), in the new Exhibition Hall of the refurbished Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull, the Society in partnership with the University of Hull has invited Rosie Millard to speak on ‘Larkin, Hull & 2017.Rosie, one of the University’s most eminent alumni, is Chair of Hull City of Culture 2017 and was the BBC News Arts Correspondent for 10 years and arts editor of the New Statesman.She will speak about the significance of Philip Larkin in shaping the cultural events and activities planned for 2017. Tickets (including buffet reception) cost £10 for members and guests may be purchased online or by contacting Society Events Secretary Carole Collinson (tel: +44-1482 847047, email:


51EwT4-A8dL._SX431_BO1,204,203,200_The event also marks the opening of an exhibition of Larkin’s own photographs, ‘A Poet’s Lenses: Another Look at Larkin the Photographer’. The exhibition was originally curated by John Osborne. Its re-showing here coincides with the publication of Richard Bradford’s The Importance of Elsewhere: Philip Larkin’s Photographs.

It is common knowledge that Larkin excelled in many spheres: a world-class poet; a distinguished novelist; a major jazz critic; a provocative literary essayist and reviewer; and an outstanding University librarian and academic administrator. It is much less well known that for a time he pursued photography with something of the zeal he brought to these other enthusiasms, experimenting with delayed-action shutters, cropping and enlarging individual images, and gathering his pictures into thematically unified albums.

This exhibition combines family snaps of his childhood with examples of the mature Larkin’s portraits of his women companions and literary friends, landscape photography, cityscapes, semi-abstractions, and, not least, self-portraits. Many of these pictures are valid art works in their own right; but even the lesser ones testify to the passion for photography that informs such poems as ‘Whatever Happened?’, ‘Wild Oats’ and, triumphantly, ‘Lines on a Young Lady’s Photograph Album’. There is even a snapshot of the hedgehog more famously memorialized in ‘The Mower’!

Larkin statue
Statue of Philip Larkin at Hull Paragon, by Martin Jennings

The annual commemoration on 2nd December is an important event in the Larkin Society’s calendar. In 2010 it culminated in the unveiling of Martin Jennings’ statue of Philip Larkin in the Hulll Paragon Train Station.

In 2016, it will be the date on which the memorial stone for Larkin will be unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner.

©Professor Graham Chesters

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