Spirit of the city captured in Larkin film

HE was famously scathing about his adopted city and its inhabitants.

But a new film version of Philip Larkin's poem Here, the words read by Hull-born actor Sir Tom Courtenay, paints the city in a far kinder light.

The city's "cut-price crowd" and "grim head-scarfed wives" are little in evidence in the film, which was premiered at the Hull International Short Film Festival yesterday.

Instead the area's ethereal beauty and the searing loneliness of the Holderness plain where "silence stands like heat" shines through.

The three-minute film is intended as a signature piece for the forthcoming Larkin25 celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the poet's death.

Prof Graham Chesters, the chairman of the Larkin25 steering committee, said national newspapers had questioned why Hull was celebrating Larkin when the poet thought the place was a dump.

He said: "It was a phrase I think he used when he first came here in the mid-50s when Hull was still suffering from the Second World War and probably was a bit of a dump.

"Larkin had a line in disparagement that was constant...It was part of his character and normally said with a degree of irony."

But he said the film had "captured magically in three minutes" what Larkin's poem expressed. Opening with a reverse sunset over Brough Haven, there are shots of soon-to-be demolished Clarence Flour Mills, and a classically lonely bungalow on the outskirts of east Hull. The Humber Bridge is nowhere to be seen, the M62 Rawcliffe Bridge pictured instead.

The film was shot in the murk and damp of January and February by Newport-based Classlane Media.

Cameraman Dave Stubbins said they had chosen to stay away from the negativity in the poem, as well as cliched images.

Director Dave Lee was stuck in Cannes after his flight was cancelled because of the volcanic dust cloud and was facing a 13-hour journey of his own back to the UK.

There have been three previously filmed readings of the poem, by Larkin himself, Sir John Betjeman and Alan Bennett. "Tom Courtenay agreed it needed to be more contemporary, a calmer read through than the existing ones. Between us we got to what we thought was the best route," said Mr Stubbins in a pre-recorded interview.

Larkin25 opens with a gala launch at Hull Truck Theatre on June 12.