The Bard of Hull’s poems get a new lease of musical life
FOR a man who spent so much time peering fearfully into the grave, it is mordantly ironic that Philip Larkin’s death proved such a good career move. In the 25 years since he passed away on a hospital bed in Hull, his popularity has soared.
The Philip Larkin Society promotes the poet’s life and work both here and abroad and, arguably, today no other English poet is more quoted than the author of The Whitsun Weddings.
He has spawned an industry that stretches far beyond his slender collection of carefully crafted poems and includes numerous TV dramas, documentaries and plays. There has also been no shortage of musical tributes over the years and now a selfemployed painter and decorator from Hull has added his name to the list.
Jim Orwin, a local songwriter and ardent Larkin fan, has produced All Night North, an album of Larkin poems set to music, having spent years researching Larkin’s musical connections.
“ Well over a third of the poems from Larkin’s Collected Poems have been set to music on at least one occasion. Music and Philip Larkin are my two great passions, so it seemed a logical progression to get local bands from the area to have a go at doing something similar,” he says.
Like many fans, Orwin first became interested in Larkin’s work as a youngster.
“For me, Larkin’s work appeals because its language is accessible. It’s often colloquial and deceptively simple but it rewards the reader on lots of different levels. He produced more great poems than any other poet of his generation which, in my view, makes Larkin the greatest poet writing in English of the 20th century.”
Orwin has been involved with the Philip Larkin Society for more than a decade and he thought a music album could be a fitting way to mark the 25th anniversary of the poet’s death. He began searching for songwriters from East Yorkshire back in November 2008. “I asked them to choose which Larkin poem they wanted to set to music and let them get on with it,” he says.
The album, which contains 12 songs, features everyone from punk and indie bands, to folk singers and country outfits. The record was funded by Hull City Arts Unit, through Larkin25 and The Philip Larkin Society, and Orwin is delighted with the end result. “I really love everything on the album,” he says.
“The idea was to bring Larkin’s work to a younger, musical audience and hopefully we’ve done that.”
All Night North is out now.
TRIBUTES: Philip Larkin.