Our 42nd AGM, held at the Lawns Centre, Cottingham on 4 June 2016, showed the Society at a high point. Our finances are under no threat, though Jackie Sewell’s clear and comprehensive Treasurer’s Report recommended various economies which have been put into effect. Our wish to take membership payments by Direct Debit would, she had discovered, be too expensive, but Standing Orders serve the same purpose and are our preferred option. Andrew Eastwood’s Secretary’s entertaining Annual Report recorded among other events, the Dean of Westminster’s visit to the University on 17 June 2015 in connection with the plaque by Martin Jennings to be installed in Westminster Abbey on 2 December 2016. (Members will be informed directly when our limited supply of tickets for this event becomes available.) The other highlight of the year was Rosie Millard’s address ‘Larkin Hull and 2017’ in the Brynmor Jones Library on 2 December 2015 which launched the Society’s contribution to the City of Culture activities. Andrew Eastwood welcomed new members on to the committee: Simon Wilson, Archivist at the History Centre, Chris Cagney who has taken over marketing (and was doing a brisk trade at the back of the room ably helped by his son Joe), Lyn Lockwood who will be responsible for the Education portfolio, and Rachel Galletly, who brings her experience as a teacher to the committee. Andrew reported that our membership stands currently at 217 and asked anyone present who knew of possible new members to encourage them to join.
After a delicious lunch (for which many thanks to the Lawns catering service) the audience, now swollen to over 60, was welcomed by our Chairman, Professor Eddie Dawes. The Society’s President Anthony Thwaite introduced the Distinguished Guest Speaker, Mark Haworth-Booth, former Keeper of Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum, who gave a relaxed, informative talk on ‘Larkin as Photographer’, full of specialist insight and illustrated by some of Larkin’s well-known, and not so well-known photographs. Mark listed the three cameras which Larkin used, each of increasing technical sophistication and bought at what at the time was huge expense. He mentioned Larkin’s expertise with light-meter and tripod and concluded that, though he never ventured into developing and enlargement himself, Larkin’s photographs are well up to professional standard. Highlights of Mark’s talk were a front-lit photograph of Leicester football fans on their way to a match, a carefully cropped and enlarged photograph of picknickers in Pearson Park, a photograph of Eva, the poet’s mother in her garden seen from below, and, of course, most revealing of all, his numerous introspective, often ironic ‘selfies’ taken with a delayed action shutter release.
Mark began with a fascinating account of his own ancestral connections with this area of the country (including a poet who had written a couplet poem 112 pages long, extolling Cottingham), and ended with his own terza rima poem paying homage to Larkin’s example: ‘Walking through the garden in the dark / my forehead breaks a sticky spider thread. / A crescent moon describes a white-cold arc //… And now leaves and branches are silhouetted / against the early morning sky. Blue-grey. / Unscrew the thermos, pour the tea – a blessed / moment – and now the grass is on its way / to green and I recall that Philip Larkin / “loved everything about the everyday”.
Mark’s talk was a unique and rewarding experience for all who were there. His full lecture will be published in About Larkin 42 this autumn.