There is only one place for a Larkin lover to be on the 9th of August 2022, or indeed on the many days and months that follow, and that is the city of Kingston upon Hull!
Fittingly, the city where Larkin spent thirty years of his life takes centre stage as he turns 100. We will use his birthday to formally launch a series of exciting and innovative centenary events, now confidently extending to the end of the year thanks to vital support from our key partners: Hull City Council, Hull History Centre and the University of Hull. The day kicks off with an incredible afternoon of poetry, dance and music entitled ‘Finding Home’ at Hull Truck Theatre — it will feature Imtiaz Dharker, Matthew Sweet, Vicky Foster, The Broken Orchestra, Wes Finch and the JoinedUp Dance Company. It promises to be an afternoon to savour. A celebration of a city to which Larkin, like so many before and after him, came for a year or two and stayed for a lifetime: a place which he sometimes called ‘home’ and which made, and continues to make, astonishing poetry possible. Booking details can be found here.
Afterwards we shall follow the Larkin Trail down to the University of Hull’s Middleton Hall for an evening in the company of Simon Armitage. There is something incredibly special about hosting the Poet Laureate in the very building where Larkin himself hosted readings by other major poets, including a previous Laureate in Ted Hughes. Book tickets via this link.
Simon will also feature in ‘Larkin Revisited’, a series of ten 15-minute programmes on Radio Four starting on August 8th, in which he explores ten iconic Larkin poems, unpicking the poetry and the riddles that lie behind them, as well as visiting places such as Coventry and Hull which Larkin’s poems understood intimately. In what is described as a ‘road test’, he sets out to discover what survives of them in 2022.
August 9th also sees the opening of an exhibition by the artist DJ Roberts called ‘Larkinworld 2’, a reworking of DJ’s acclaimed installation at the National Poetry Library on London’s South Bank in 2017.
The exhibition will be hosted in the University of Hull’s Art Gallery at the Brynmor Jones Library, running from August 9th to September 25th. It aims to replicate the diversity and often exuberant nature of Larkin’s world. Among works on display will be lines from two of Larkin’s poems in neon, excerpts from his writings on a screen monitor, his contribution to ‘The Blues’, paintings of books he enjoyed, and a wall of record covers. It will be the first Larkin exhibition to be held in the gallery since the much-loved New Eyes Each Year exhibition in 2017.
Two new Larkin publications are to be released in time for his birthday.
Hull History Centre will be launching a print copy of its amazing Larkin Source Guide, already available online. It provides an important entry point for Larkin scholars and indeed anyone interested in finding out more about the incredible Larkin Archive.
Astonishing The Brickwork – Philip Larkin set to music by James Orwin will also be published on August 9th. This thoroughly researched volume catalogues ‘the attempts of composers across the world to prove that they and the poems of Philip Larkin are equal to the task’. It will provide a vital research tool for any Larkin scholar, particularly in relation to the musical potential in so many of Larkin’s poems. Members of the Philip Larkin Society will benefit from a £4.50 discount on the listed price of £30 if they purchase their copy from the PLS website shop after the publication date. We will be sending the discount code to all members shortly.
On Thursday August 11th there will be a showing of Your Mum and Dad: A Devastating Truth, a film by Klaartje Quirijns, at Parkway Cinema in Beverley. It’s a film which echoes the sentiments of Larkin’s most quoted poem and in which he makes a brief appearance. Beverley, a favourite Larkin haunt, will also feature in a Larkin walk on 20th September as part of the Walking East Yorkshire Festival.
In another exciting development, Larkin will find a place in Hull’s acclaimed Freedom Festival which returns to the streets of the city from 26th August to 9th September. It’s an amazing spectacle of theatre, dance, contemporary circus, sideshows, audio walks, music, art exhibitions and so much more, featuring artists from across the world. We’re keeping our powder dry but, at the very least, expect a host of Larkin-like poets travelling around the city telling stories and performing poetry; perhaps some of them might even be on bicycles!
Away from Hull and East Yorkshire, events will be taking place across the country, including a revival of Ben Brown’s brilliant play, Larkin With Women, at the Old Red Lion, Islington, from 31st August to 17th September. The finale matinee performance on 17th September will feature a question and answer session between Ben Brown and PLS President, Rosie Millard. Two days earlier there will be a Larkin Day in Wellington, Shropshire, where Larkin began his career as a public librarian. In addition to a guided walk and a talk in the library, we are featuring the premiere of a short film, ‘Larkin in the West Midlands’, made by Dan Cummings and Lee Harris as part of the Cummings Your Way series.
We are delighted to be supporting centenary events hosted by some of our sister literary societies. On 4th September, PLS Trustee Daniel Vince will be giving a talk entitled ‘A few green leaves can make such a difference’: Pym, Larkin, and rural retirement’ at the Barbara Pym Society AGM and conference at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Full details here.
On 24th September, there will be a joint conference with the Betjeman Society in Leicester entitled ‘A Coming Together of Sorts: the collaborative adventures of John Betjeman and Philip Larkin’. Full details of what promises to be a fascinating day are available via this link.
Honorary Vice-President, Andrew Motion, will feature in two online events in September. On the 14th September he will be joining Wendy Cope and Zaffar Kunial in a Faber and Faber members-only event entitled ‘In focus: Philip Larkin’. Details can be found here. On the 17th September, Sir Andrew joins PLS President Rosie for what will be a fascinating online conversation. Booking details will be released shortly.
The new PLS YouTube Channel will continue to post content relating to various Larkin places, as well as recordings of some of the Larkin100 talks and lectures. We are still hoping to upload more video content generated by members and followers: we encourage contributions to be sent to us via the email address Larkin100.email@example.com.
On 25th October, PLS Honorary Vice-Present, Alan Johnson, will join us for an evening of conversation at Hull Truck Theatre with Rosie Millard. Booking details can be found here.
On 4th November, we are organising a Larkin Day in Loughborough. Join local author, Lynne Dyer, and Philip Pullen for a guided tour of the town, covering places relevant to Larkin and his mother, Eva, who lived in the town for many years and who Larkin visited and stayed with on a regular basis. This will be followed by an evening of Larkin-related talks hosted by the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Loughborough. Booking details to follow.
Finally, a shout-out for a centenary event featuring another fantastic poet who was born within a fortnight of Philip Larkin. On Sunday 18th September Barrie Rutter and Shane Rhodes celebrate the 100th birthday of Hull-born poet, Maurice Rutherford, at Hull Truck Theatre. Another event not to be missed. Booking details can be found here.
And there is bound to be more! In fact, we are planning something very special during the final few months of the year. Be sure to keep a close eye on our website, Twitter and Instagram accounts for updates and announcements.