Verse and worse: BBC broadcasts Tony Harrison’s obscenity-strewn polemic about Leeds football yobs

Writer and poet Tony Harrison
Writer and poet Tony Harrison
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A POEM containing a torrent of swear words which sparked outrage 25 years ago is being broadcast on Radio 4 after being recorded on location in Leeds.

Dramatist Tony Harrison penned V in 1985, after discovering that football hooligans had desecrated his parents’ gravestones in the Beeston area of the city with obscene graffiti.

Channel 4 was criticised when it broadcast a film version, directed by Richard Eyre, in 1987.

Now BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a new recording, made by the poet on location in Leeds and in a studio.

The 30-minute poem will air next month, following an introductory feature by the author and poet Blake Morrison.

Tony Phillips, Radio 4’s arts commissioning editor, said V, which was written during the 1984-85 miners strike and tackles subjects such as racial and religious conflict, was a “seminal work” which had made an “impact on society”.

“V did cause a little bit of a flurry of activity in the 1980s when it first went out,” he said.

“We’ll find a way to put it on air without compromising Harrison’s poem at all. We’ll have lots of signposting. Yes, it will present us with some challenges but I’m sure we’ll be able to overcome them.”

He added: “One of the interesting and most powerful things about the poem for me... is that the area where the graveyard was, where his parents are buried, is the Beeston area of Leeds.

“That area was also the area... where one of the 7/7 bombers is from. So it just strikes me as a really poignant and potentially really interesting revisit of this poem, knowing that one of the 7/7 bombers at that stage would have been a very young child.”