Toads in a hole as tributes to poet hit by pond life

THEY were designed to brighten up the environment and to act as a highly visible tribute to one of England's greatest poets.

But a series of giant fibreglass toads unveiled in Hull only days ago have already been attacked by vandals.

Forty of the metre-high toads, each of each has a name, sponsor and a unique identity, were released into the urban jungle last Thursday as part of a series of events being staged in the city to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of poet Philip Larkin.

Several have since been damaged or defaced.

One sculpture – called Punkphibian – placed outside Hull Truck Theatre, has had a bright red Mohican ripped from its head.

Space Hopper, an astronaut toad greeting visitors to Paragon Station, has had its spacesuit damaged and graffiti scrawled across its back.

And Kasey Toad, which has taken residence in Carr Lane, has had a five-inch hole gouged into its shoulder.

At least three other toads have been defaced with marker pens, leaving many residents – who have largely taken the toads to their hearts – hopping mad.

"Have they damaged them already?" asked one lady in Paragon Station. "I'm disgusted. You can't have anything in Hull."

Supporters of the project are refusing to be defeated.

A team of highly trained toad conservation officers has been deployed to repair any damage, and a toad hotline has been set up to enable swift reporting of vandalism.

Police have also taken a firm line and are reviewing CCTV footage in a bid to catch the culprits.

Despite signs requesting people to refrain from climbing on the toads, those behind the scheme say they accept many will want to interact with them, although they are disappointed by the damage.

Clare Huby, project manager at Larkin With Toads, said: "Our toad conservation team are out there as we speak.

"Punkphibian is having a whole new hair-do made and we will be giving the others some tender loving care.

"We knew they would need a regular maintenance schedule and people would want to touch them and hold them, but it is disappointing because they have been fantastically received."

Most of the toads have a local theme – with Hull City AFC, Hull Fair and St George's Primary School each having their own dedicated amphibians.

BBC presenters Peter Levy and Paul Hudson have also helped create their own.

Mr Hudson's, in homage to his job as a weather forecaster, is called Weather Rain or Shine and sits in Queens Dock Avenue, near Mr Levy's toad, which has the rather more enigmatic title of Harlequin, Mischievous Man of Mystery.

A spokesman for Humberside Police said the force would welcome intelligence on who had caused the damage, if people could not get through on the toad hotline.

He said: "It is very disappointing that mindless individuals are vandalising the Larkin Toads in Hull.

"They add colour and interest to the city and the public are enjoying viewing them.

"The offenders are showing a reckless and selfish disregard for the greater community by leaving graffiti on these works of art and spoiling other people's enjoyment.

"Graffiti is a criminal offence that has a negative effect on communities and often makes areas look run down as well as costing taxpayers' money to clean up.

"Therefore, if anyone has information about who is responsible for these offences they are urged to contact Humberside Police," he said.

The special toad damage hotline has a mobile phone number – 07789 029981.