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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Larkin with Toads

Many of you will know of Philip Larkin. You probably know him as a poet and a novelist; you may even know him as a jazz critic.

In Hull though, he's also known as the librarian of the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull. He became an adopted son of Hull and produced most of his published works here until his death in 1985.

This year, the city of Hull is commemorating the 25th anniversary of his death with the 'Larkin 25' festival.

Two of Larkin's best known poems are 'Toads' and 'Toads Revisited', reproduced here:

Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork and drive the brute off?
Six days of the week it soils with its sickening poison - just for paying a few bills! That’s out of proportion.
Lots of folk live on their wits: lecturers, lispers, losers, loblolly-men, louts- They don’t end as paupers;
Lots of folk live up lanes with fires in a bucket, eat windfalls and tinned sardines- They seem to like it.
Their nippers have got bare feet, their unspeakable wives are skinny as whippets - and yet no one actually starves.
Ah, were I courageous enough to shout, Stuff your pension! But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff that dreams are made on:
For something sufficiently toad-like squats in me, too; Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck, and cold as snow,
And will never allow me to blarney my way of getting the fame and the girl and the money all at one sitting.
I don’t say, one bodies the other one’s spiritual truth; But I do say it’s hard to lose either, when you have both.

Toads Revisited
Walking around in the park should feel better than work: the lake, the sunshine, the grass to lie on, blurred playground noises beyond black-stockinged nurses - Not a bad place to be. Yet it doesn't suit me.
Being one of the men you meet of an afternoon: palsied old step-takers, hare-eyed clerks with the jitters,
Waxed-fleshed out-patients still vague from accidents, and characters in long coats deep in the litter-baskets -
All dodging the toad work by being stupid or weak. Think of being them! Hearing the hours chime,
Watching the bread delivered, the sun by clouds covered, the children going home; think of being them,
Turning over their failures by some bed of lobelias, nowhere to go but indoors, nor friends but empty chairs -
No, give me my in-tray, my loaf-haired secretary, my shall-I-keep-the-call-in-Sir: What else can I answer,
When the lights come on at four at the end of another year? Give me your arm, old toad; help me down Cemetery Road.

As part of Larkin 25, The city is staging a mass participation public art event, which runs for 10 weeks during the summer of 2010, with the result that the city has been invaded by toads.

Special thanks to Mike Wilding, Bryony Booth and Richard Sutton for sending me photographs of the toads that either managed to hide from my view, or were located too far away for me to get to them.

1 "Maritime Toad"

Artist: Pinkyvision

Location: The Deep (3rd Floor)

(Don't worry about having to pay entry to 'The Deep'. Just enter via the southern entrance and take the lift straight up to the 3rd floor cafeteria. The toad can be found on the landing as soon as you exit the lift.)

2 "Typographical Toad"

Artists: Saul Logan and Alec Tear

Location: The Millennium Footbridge

3 "Squatwit"

Artist: Ruth Pickard

Location: Nelson Street

4 "Fish and Chips Toad"

Artist: Emily Fisher

Location: Humber Dock Street / Wellington St West

5 "Archi-toad"

Artist: Hannah Cooper

Location: Railway Street, The Marina

6 "Tigger the Toad"

Artist: Jayne Tunnicliffe

Location: Marina Court

7 "Reflective Colours"

Artist: Sue Kershaw

Location: Queen Street / Castle Street

8 "Neat Toad"

Designed by: Nick and Mez of The Neat
Artwork by: Sarah Pennington

Location: Trinity Square

9 "Hull Fair Toad"

Artist: Pinkyvision

Location: Princes Dock Side

10 "The Larkin Toad"

Artist: Frances Kelly

Location: Princes Quay, Harbour Deck

11 "Kasey Toad"

Designed by: Ian Nicholl
Artwork by: Emily Fisher

Location: Carr Lane

12 "Tiger Toad"

Artist: Domanic Li

Location: Queen Victoria Square
Outside the Maritime Museum

(It's kind of creepy the way this one has its eyes blanked out and its nostrils expressed as eyes to support the tiger appearance. I think it may have been Domanic Li's intention to creep people out, because I met him and mentioned it to him, and he seemed quite pleased.)

13 "The Hidden Toad"

Artist: Sasha Heath

Location: Paragon Street / Queen Victoria Square

14 "The Chiltern Toad"

Artists: Chiltern Primary School, Parent and Children's Craft Group
Supported by: The Arc Creative Team

Location: Jameson Street

15 "Teletoad"

Artist: Michelle Roper

Location: Paragon Square

16 "Space Hopper"

Designed by: NASA Young People's Project
Artist: Liz Dees

Location: Paragon Interchange

17 "Eastwest"

Designed by: Sarah Daniels
Artwork by: Sarah Fallowfield

Location: St Stephen's Shopping Centre

(The East-West reference is to opposite sides of the River Hull [symbolised by the blue down the middle of the toad,] and each side's allegiance to one of the two Rugby League clubs in Hull. The west being Hull FC [Black and White,] whereas the east is Hull Kingston Rovers [Red and White])

18 "Punkphibian"

Artist: Liz Dees

Location: Theatre Square, Ferensway

(Perhaps a bad design choice to include the mohawk hairstyle. Within 24 hours of installation, vandals attempting to remove samples had caused damage to the outer skin of the sculpture.)

19 "Tequila Toad"

Artist: Quentin Budworth

Location: Ferensway / Spring Bank junction

20 "Heat Toad"

Artists: Alec Tear and Saul Logan

Location: Hull Central Library

(Someone told me that this toad was covered with heat sensitive paint, and changed colour when you applied the body heat of your hand to it. I tried it without success. Either people were winding me up, or it's not very sensitive heat sensitive paint, or I'm cold and dead.)

21 "Kiss Me Quick"

Artist: Stephen MacKay

Location: Prospect Shopping Centre

22 "Three Quarter Sky"

Designed by: Sarah Daniels
Artwork by: Sarah Fallowfield

Location: This is a touring toad. Location changes:

The Calvert Centre (until August 6th)
Bilton Grange Health Centre (until August 20th)
The Orchard Centre (until September 3rd)
Longhill Health Care Centre (until September 17th)
Wilberforce Health Centre (until September 24th)

My gratitude to Mike Wilding for this photograph.

23 "Hull Folk"

Designed by: Jean Hartley
Artwork by: Ragna Blades and Dominic Li

Location: Kingston Square

24 "Toad in the Hull"

Designed by: Janis Goodman
Artwork by: Sarah Fisher

Location: Hull History Centre, Worship Street

25 "Lobelia Toad"

Artist: Kerry Watson

Location: Queens Gardens

26 "Weather Rain or Shine"

Artist: Richard Pennington

Location: Queens Dock Avenue

27 "Harlequin, Mischievous Man of Mystery"

Artist: Jayne Tunnicliffe

Location: Queens Dock Avenue

28 "10 - 5 Toad"

Artist: Steve Elliott

Location: Morrisons, Holderness Road

29 "Citiscape"

Designed by: Daycare Services East
Artist: Ruth Piggot

Location: East Park Animal Education Centre
Please note that the Animal Education Centre closes at 4pm (even in the summer) and after this time, the toad is inaccessible.

My gratitude to Mike Wilding for this photograph.
30 "Labyrinth on My Back"

Artist:  Gemma Chaikin

Location: St Ambrose Court, Bransholme

My gratitude to Bryony Booth for this photograph

31 "Topographical Toad"

Artist: Ken Shaw

Location: Woodcock Street

32 "The Newington Toad"

Artists: Newington Primary School, After School Club
Supported by: The Arc Creative Team

Location: Hawthorn Avenue

33 "The St George's Toad"

Artists: St George's Primary School Year 5
Supported by: The Arc Creative Team

Location: St George's Road

34 "The Carnegie Toad"

Designed by: Carnegie Heritage Volunteers
Artist: Lynne Hutchinson

Location: Carnegie Heritage Centre, West Park

 35 "Hull Poem Toad"

Artist: Lonny Pop

Location: Princes Avenue

(In case anyone is interested, the front of the toad's belly reads "Patty in a breadcake." A patty is a Hull delicacy: It's a kind of fishcake, only without fish, being made entirely of mashed potato and seasoning; it's dipped in batter and fried. Breadcake is the Hull name for a bread roll, a bun or a bap.)

36 "Twinkle Toad"

Artist: Rick Welton

Location: Artlink Balcony, Princes Avenue

(This is the only one of the toads I've found that isn't accessible to the public. It's located on a first floor balcony, hence the poor photograph.)

37 "Floral Toad"

Designed by: Daycare Services West
Artist: Gemma Chaikin

Location: Pearson Park

38 "Global Pop Toad"

Artist: Mark Wigan

Location: University of Hull, Cottingham Road

39 "Magenta Toad"

Artist: Ragna Blades

Location: Melton West Business Park, Gibson Lane, Melton

My gratitude to Richard Sutton for this photograph

40 "Tannery Toad"

Designed by: St Nicholas' Primary School
Artist: Sarah Johnson

Location: Flemingate, Beverley

My gratitude to Bryony Booth for this photograph

STOP PRESS: Punkphibian gets his hair back
(together with a new 'cyber-punk' scalp too)

Thursday 22nd July 2010:

Repairs were being made today to Liz Dees' Punkphibian toad in theatre square outside the Hull Truck theatre.

The toad's punk-style mohawk hairstyle (an ingenious use of red cable ties incidentally) had been too much for certain types to resist, and repeated attempts at souvenir hunting by mindless individuals had left the entire hair style torn away, along with the part of the sculpture's fibre glass shell covering its 'scalp'.

Liz and helpers repairing Punkphibian this morning.

I passed there today to find Liz affecting repairs together with her dad and various helpers (including Ragna Blades, the artist responsible for Magenta Toad.)

This time the 'hair' is rooted into a steel plate, which should be much stronger than before. Lets hope that's enough to deter the moronic idiots and drunken souvenir hunters who did their best to destroy the original.

FINAL UPDATE: Farewell to Hull's Toads
(farewell, to most of them anyway)

Sunday 26th September 2010:

Most of the toads will soon begin  to disappear from Hull's streets as the exhibition now comes to an end. As originally planned, each of the toad sculptures were disposed of for charity. Eleven of them were taken by their sponsors exercising their right of first refusal; the other twenty nine were auctioned yesterday at Fruit on Humber Street.

Slides of each toad were shown at the public auction, so as to avoid the necessity of moving them all from their current locations. Many were bought by private bidders, and most will now be removed from Hull's streets by their new owners. A handful though are expected to stay on public view in and around Hull, with four thought to be remaining in their current locations.

The auction exceeded estimates by raising twice the best estimation, each toad raising from around £1,250 to £3,600. The result of this is that £60,000 was raised for charity, which will be shared between The Parkinson's Society, Alzheimer's Research Trust (This year's Lord Mayors Charities,) The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and local arts initiatives.

If anyone plans to visit Hull in the next 10 weeks, it's unlikely that you won't see ANY toads, but in case you'd like to hunt them all down, I've reproduced some maps below, showing the location of each one:

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