I have failed in my duties as Hull Ambassador. I should have told you all about this months ago, when I first planned to. I don’t know what happened though – I wanted it to be a good post but for some reason couldn’t find the words so I just kept putting it off and putting it off. And then I knew that I was going to have to do some serious photo mosaic-ing and it just never seemed to happen.
And now it’s too late really to share it all with you.
Do you remember my post about Roy Hattersley and about how we Hull people like to adopt those that have anything vaguely, remotely to do with our city? (Don’t get us started on Maureen Lipman baby.) We have another adopted famous person – one Phillip Larkin. No he isn’t originally from Hull but he worked here (at the University of Hull library) and lived here and that’s good enough for us.
This year is the 25th year since he died and there have been a host of commemorative events organised by Larkin25 which are taking place between 12th June and the 2nd December.
The largest part of this project has been the Toad trail – which saw 40 giant fibreglass toads placed all around Hull city centre and the wider area. They were inspired by two of Larkin’s poems Toads and Toads Revisited.
The exhibition/installation/whatever arty word is appropriate has not been without its low points. Unfortunately there are times when Hull disappoints me and none more so when it comes to culture. It’s just not given a high enough premium in the city. People “don’t see the point” in having cultural exhibitions in the city, it’s seen as a waste of money. When the Toad project was first announced, it caused a storm of publicity for all the wrong reasons. Council money was earmarked for the project and when there was an outcry from culturally-deprived people that it was a waste of money, the Council didn’t have the guts to stick by its conviction and instead withdrew their funding.
I hope they are hanging their heads in shame now.
The Toad project was reduced in size, but went ahead anyway, with most of the toads being sponsored by local businesses and schools. And guess what? It’s been ridiculously popular. The Council missed out on a huge trick here – they could have raked in money in merchandise, but because they have no balls and are as short-sighted as some of the people they represent they have lost out big time.
And when the toads were first plonked down in their locations there was a massively irritating spate of toad vandalism in the first couple of weeks. Poor Kasey Toad had a big hole kicked in his side the first weekend he was out and someone pulled off Punkphibian’s mohican. I so desperately didn’t want that to be the story of the toads – Hull doesn’t get to have nice cultural things because there are morons who just want to spoil it – and fortunately it wasn’t. After the initial vandalism, things calmed down and we began to just view them as part and parcel of the furniture.
I became over-the-top ridiculously excited about this project. Having seen the Cow Parade in Manchester and Prague I was loving the idea of having toads all over the city and the first day that they arrived I rushed out to Tourist Information to get my toad map. Once it was in my sweaty little hands I made a declaration – I was going to photograph each and every one of these toads. By hook or by crook they would become mine.
I don’t really know quite why I took to it so wildly and somewhat worryingly. I think it was just that it coincided with a fairly crappy time in my life and this gave me something fun to focus on. It allowed me to spread my little independent wings – some of these toads were spread across the city and not having a car doesn’t make them easier to get. Had I still been with my boyfriend we would have gone in his car to get them – it was important to me that I get as many of these toads on my own as possible, this was a demonstration that I could do things on my own.
(That’s not to say that I didn’t have help – on the way to stay at Culture Friend’s house she took a small detour so I could capture Magenta Toad and also walked with me around the docks and marina on our Day of Culture and my Mum took me on a trip out to Beverley to see Tannery Toad.)
It was more that this was a project for me to get excited about. Oh it’s hard to explain. This is why this post is so delayed you see, I couldn’t find the words to tell you that I liked this project not just because it was amazing, but because it somehow became representative to me of my new life.
And now I sound like a twat.
Anyway. I should have told you about this much earlier and persuaded you to come to Hull and see them for yourself. But I didn’t and now it’s too late because they were auctioned off this weekend (my plan was to provide photos but I ended up not being able to go) and today they are being moved and taken to their new loving homes.
So I’m hoping that you’ll indulge me with a couple of posthumous toad posts today and tomorrow as I try (and try and try and try) to explain how important this exhibition was both to Hull and to me.