Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Larkin with Toads - Part 2

To begin to explain why Larkin with Toads was so brilliant, you have to explain that it was brilliant because it was special to Hull. Yeah fine London had elephants and Chester had rhinos but we had toads for a specific reason – they were linked to Phillip Larkin and thus linked the Hull.

But it goes deeper than that.

The name of the exhibition? Larkin with Toads? It might not make sense to you but it made us laugh – up here ‘larking out’ means ‘playing out’ and if you’re from Hull you must drop the g at the end (which is why no-one ever believes I’m from Hull) and so, growing up you were asked if you were “larkin’ out”. See? We understand the double meaning behind the name of the exhibition and we’re an inclusive lot, Hull isn’t so good sometimes at opening its arms wide to the outside community and although this is frustrating at times, in this case, it was great. The exhibition became ours. We understood what it was all about.

Then there were all the designs. Many were submitted and only 40 were chosen, some of the designs were pretty, some were funny, some were quite frankly boring (yes Architoad, I’m looking at you here) but the best ones were the ones that represented something to do with us.

Architoad - yawn

Take Eastwest toad. You might think he’s just a strange black and red and white striped toad with a blue stripe running down his back but you’d be wrong. In Hull we have two rugby league teams (just call us awesome). We have Hull FC (black and white) and Hull KR (red and white). Which team you support is determined by which side of the river you grew up (Hull is divided East and West by the River Hull - see the level of detail you need to know here?!). So this toad isn’t just a stripy toad. He’s a toad that explains, in one simple toady movement, the rivalry and importance of rugby league in Hull. (In case you were wondering, I’m from the East so it’s Hull KR for me. Although technically it’s neither because I can’t be doing with rugby.)

Eastwest toad

And take Hull Poem toad. He might just look like a pale blue toad with some writing on it. But that writing is important. They’re all things that we say – he has the word “Tenfoot” on one of his back legs – that’s what we call the back alleyway between rows of houses (because it’s ten foot across. Geddit?). And he says “Patty in a breadcake” because Hull is the only place you can get patties from the fish and chip shop – and no don’t ask me to explain what it is or what goes in it, just come here and have one for yourself. And what’s that he says on his side? Only what I was talking about in a previous post – the importance of the Humber Bridge to us.
Hull Poem Toad

What about 10-5 toad? You might wonder what he’s doing in Morrison’s car park down Holderness Road. He’s there because that’s the sight of the old Hull KR ground and 10-5 was the score when Hull FC and Hull KR were both down in London for the Challenge Cup in 1980.

10-5 toad

And you must surely know that Tiger Toad is so special because Hull City FC are known as The Tigers?
Tiger Toad

You know teletoad? You have to look closely but his design is made up of white phone boxes stood end to end. Hull has white phone boxes you know because we have our own telecommunications system called Kingston Communications. No BT here (which is actually incredibly annoying but we’re talking about how proud we are of things so I’ll let it slide just this once). No red boxes here peoples.

Teletoad - see his eyes are telephone receivers!

I could go on. But I won’t. I sense you’re getting annoyed with me. But I hope I’ve done a little to show just how great this exhibition was. Not only in terms of bringing in interest and tourism to the city but also in going some way to instilling a bit of pride. This isn’t always necessary, we’re ridiculously proud of our city and will defend it to the death but this was an opportunity to showcase our pride in our background and heritage that didn’t involve kicking the shit out of someone because they’d slagged us off.

I guess I should really pick a favourite and many have asked me over the past couple of months. But I find it too hard.

I have a soft spot for Tequila Toad (known affectionately by me as Doley Toad because he’s outside the JobCentre) because he was the first toad I spotted, one sleepy morning on the way into work.

And I love Floral Toad because I would see him every day as I walked in and out of work.

Reflective Toad was just beautiful and the first time I saw him I felt a little taken aback – there beside the tremendous noise of Clive Sullivan Way was this beautiful little mosaic amphibian.

And Spacehopper you have to love because he’s...well...he’s got a freakin’ spacesuit on hasn’t he?!

What about Global Pop Toad who needs to be loved just because he’s the coolest most colourful toad alive?

And oh my goodness I shouldn't really miss out Magenta Toad who went through the trauma of being stolen, before being returned back to his rightful spot - seriously, what did they think they were going to do with him? "What? This giant pink toad? Yeah I've had it for ages mate."

Left to right from the top: Tequila Toad, Floral, Reflective Colours, Spacehopper, Global Pop Toad, Magenta Toad

See? I can’t play favourites with my toad babies. I love them all (apart from the rubbish ones and I would never say which those were because this is art and totally subjective).

But you know who I might love the most?


Which I purchased for the princely sum of £15 (and no I couldn’t really bloody afford it) and is my own plastic little number, waiting for me to paint him in whatever design I so choose. I just need to buy some acrylic paints (which will be the 12th of never seeing as I couldn’t afford to buy him in the first place) and let my creative juices flow. Don’t be expecting to see him any time soon, I’m so unlikely to be able to afford the paints that I’ve asked my Mum to get me them for Christmas – he’ll be ready in the new year!

I’m going to miss my toady pals now that they’re up and disappearing. I hear that some of them will be staying where they are, having been purchased by their sponsors, and I hope I’ll still be able to see some of them. And when I look at them I’ll be reminded that although this summer was a fairly painful one it was also one where I stood for what I believed in, no matter what other people thought, and sat resolutely (although hopefully somewhat more gracefully) like a toad, refusing to be budged.

All the toads can be seen on Flickr, you can gasp in amazement at my awesome toad photographing skills – but only if you want to.


  1. I really wish I'd been able to go around Chester to take pictures of all the rhinos, there were even ones at Liverpool airport and Euston station. Still love Elvis toad bestest.
    Also, I have a dislike for Teletoad, but thats because I know too much about Kingston thanks to my economics lessons and my previous job.
    I like Eastwest toad best

  2. How big are the toads please? Tiger Toad is my fave.

    Patties as in fish patties? We have them here, and I know the difference between a patty and a fishcake, but don't know which is which?!

    On a linguistic note, everyone I've ever known from Hull pronounces it 'Ull' - is that what you all do?

  3. Love the toads, love your explanations for all the toads, even loving Hull cos of the toads.

    Go toads!

  4. Well being an aspiring hippy, I really love the floral one! I bet it did bring a sense of togetherness and community, which is lovely. Susie xxx

  5. not meaning to lower the tone, but that toad of yours looks a bit like a plastic penis?! maybe not, i don't know, it's the first thing that came to mind when i saw it - hmm, that doesn't say much about me does it!

  6. hahaha!!!! i'm sure you can't look at it in the same way now!! ;-)
    oh, it's mostly the colour i guess? it'll look a lot less penis like once it's painted i'm sure!

  7. Oh wow I'm loving the toads, we just have the two legged male variety round where I live ;)


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