The Larkin Trail – a series of 25 typography-heavy signs scattered around the city of Hull – provides a fittingly literary tribute to one of the the city’s most famous adopted sons, poet Philip Larkin.
Manchester-based consultancy United Creatives worked with charity Groundwork to develop the hand-painted wayfinding, which has been installed following the Larkin 25 event held in Hull last year to mark the 25th anniversary of Larkin’s death.
Employing a somewhat Larkin-esque turn-of-phrase, the consultancy describes the signs – now permanently installed in sites around the city – as ‘a down-turned thumb to the mass of cheap plastic and ubiquitous signage that can be seen on many of the UK’s high streets today’.
The consultancy’s Dominic Latham says, ‘We wanted to take a more sympathetic, traditional approach. Also, a lot of the signs are on Grade I-listed buidlings so they had to be respectful to that.’
The signs each mark a key Larkin site. Some, such as the University Library, where he worked as a librarian for 30 years, are obvious, while others, like the Marks & Spencer store on Whitefriargate that inspired his poem The Large Cool Store, are appealingly banal.
Each sign provides information about Larkin and his work and explains his links to the city. Put together, the signs tell the story of Larkin the poet, the librarian, the jazz fan and the lover.
The signs also each quote a fitting Larkin’s work, so visitors to The Royal Hotel can contemplate the words ‘Hours pass, and all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds, leaving full ashtrays in the conference room,’ (from Friday night at the Royal Station Hotel).
Visitors to the General Cemetary in Spring Bank West a met with the poignant entreaty, from Toads Revisited, to ‘Give me your arm old toad; help me down cemetary road’.