Hull UK City of Culture 2017 : Larkin : New Eyes Each Year

Larkin exhibition
New eyes each year
Find old books here,
And new books,too,
Old eyes renew;
So youth and age
Like ink and page
In this house join,
Minting new coin.


Philip meets us of the train at Hull Paragon Station

Last Friday I travelled to Hull with friend Ann in order to check out Hull City of Culture 2017 before it’s all over. The University of Hull is my alma mater (Class of ’73). In many ways the city itself has changed but the friendly and helpful people haven’t and the University is looking very much the same.


The Middleton Hall and Geography and Psychology Building

great white way

The Great White Way leading to …

Brynmor Jones

The Brynmor Jones University Library

We took the bus from the station to the University in order to visit the exhibition “Larkin: new eyes each year” about poet, and former University Librarian, Philip Larkin. It was great fun and had been wittily curated by someone with a sense of humour and of the absurd. Every visitor is given the accompanying handout which opens like a book with a date label stamped with the day’s date and a short description of the organisers’ “clues about how and why we have chosen to display these things this way” … as you will see.

fullsizeoutput_b3fThe Library Counter Area has changed

This biographic exhibition at the University of Hull, where Larkin spent three decades as Librarian, lifts the lid on the life of one of Hull’s most influential creatives.

Featuring his love of music, unseen letters, photography and personal possessions, Larkin: New Eyes Each Year explores connections between Larkin’s life and work in Hull and the writing that led to him being described as Britain’s best loved poet.”


From Larkin’s Time Line

Philip Larkin was Librarian at Hull whilst I was there but I never actually met him or even remember seeing him but apparently he used to cycle to work each day, in his beret, from his home nearby at Pearson Park.

So we followed the library shelving round guided by the library signage and background notes leaflet. Photography is allowed and here are some of my highlights from the show.


A psychedelic welcome to the exhibition. The shelving and displays follow Larkin’s own classification. ‘What are days for?’ These are more or less all of Larkin’s books which were retrieved following the death of colleague and lover Monica Jones. More or less shelved in his own sequence and with coloured slips denoting each location.




Larkin by Richard Cole (b.1942) signed and dated 1988, pen and ink monochrome watercolour.



Between the books we’ve placed objects related to people in Larkin’s life such as these china figurines, stationery and textiles depicting Beatrix Potter characters. Larkin assigned animal characters to friends and family members.”


In this box is a small sample of a vast collection of unused cards and stationery that was found in the house.”


All the books in this bay were given by Philip Larkin to Monica Jones and inscribed with personal messages”


Items in this bay represent Larkin’s school days and his lifelong use of  schoolboy humour”


Self’s the man: 041-050 – L:NEEY In this installation we can see how Philip Larkin projected his physical image to the world through his choice of clothes and his photographic self-portraits.”  [He was a keen amateur photographer] He said : “My trousers seem to have been made for a much bigger creature – probably an elephant”


Ann is amazed to see the huge collection of ties – The Tree of Ties. We are asked – do we recognise any of the insignia?


And here’s his love of Jazz and music. He wrote reviews for the Daily Telegraph and published a collection in his “All What Jazz?”


In 1961, while filming a BBC ‘Monitor’ documentary, Philip Larkin told John Betjeman that his oeuvre consisted of two novels, some slim volumes of poetry, and several volumes of Library Committee minutes.


Can you spot the two novels (top), slim volumes of poetry (below) and Library Committee Minutes (bottom)?

This modest output has inspired millions of words about him and his work as well as documentaries, dramas and exhibitions. There were a couple of library shelving trolleys of Larkin’s books and many written about him which we were welcome to browse.


8 comments on “Hull UK City of Culture 2017 : Larkin : New Eyes Each Year

  1. Elizabeth says:

    A trip down memory lane for me too.

  2. Fran says:

    Great displays…especially those ties!

  3. ms6282 says:

    I had thought about visiting the “City of Culture” while I was working near Goole a few weeks ago but opted for Beverley instead due to having limited time. So missedout.
    This looks like an interesting exhibition. It can be difficult to make something stimulating from the lives of authors but looks like they’ve done a good job here

    • Still another 4 months to go but Beverley was an excellent choice and I must soon make a return visit there myself. Although I never pass up an opportunity to view a writer’s home if I can help it, I do think you have a point. Witness Buddenbrooks House where there was so much to read but not a lot to see.

  4. Sarah Cuthbertson says:

    Thank you for this. We visited the exhibition and enjoyed it greatly, but your photos are much better than mine!

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