Tony Harrison, whose epic poem V came to define Thatcherite Britain, has agreed to headline the Leeds Big Bookend festival and on Sunday 9th June, 7.30pm at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, when he will read his poems and answer questions from author Anthony Clavane.
“It is a great coup to get Tony”, said Clavane, whose book ‘Promised Land’ looked at the post-war emergence of Leeds writers like Harrison, Alan Bennett and Keith Waterhouse. “He has written poems that give the forgotten sections of society a voice. The divisions he describes in V – especially between the north and the south and the haves and have-nots – have, sadly, hardened.”
V stands for ‘versus’, an emblem of the bitter divisions of the Thatcher era. Even rightwing commentators such as Bernard Levin hailed it at the time as “one of the most powerful, profound and haunting long poems of modern times … a meticulously controlled yell of rage and hope combined, a poisoned dart aimed with deadly precision at the waste of human potential.”
The event will take place a day after Clavane and Wes Brown’s discussion of Leeds’ literary legacy in a talk entitled ‘Made in Leeds ’. Brown will launch his new novel ‘Shark’ and promote ‘LS13’, a project looking for 20 of today’s best young Leeds writers.
Other events will include former Chumbawamba star Boff Whalley who will play some of his music, read from his most recent book, Run Wild , and talk about his life. Red Ladder Theatre will stage Whalley’s tale of a northern suffragette, Wrong ‘Un.
“With the debate about Thatcher’s divisive legacy resurfacing following her death, Tony’s astonishing body of work is so relevant”, added Clavane. “But his poems are simply timeless in their beauty and raw power.”
If you would like to get involved with the Big Bookend, you can support it by buying a ticket to an event, volunteering, or making a donation through a crowd funding initiative on PleaseFund.Us. Big Bookend is organised by a small team of volunteers with no public funding.
For more information visit www.bigbookend.co.uk, Facebook/Bigbookend and Twitter @bigbookend
Video from the recent launch of Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here? at the London Jewish Museum: