Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tony Harrison at Ledbury

As a preamble to this year's festival, Ledbury are hosting an evening with Tony Harrison on June 2.

Now 75, Harrison is best known for his political poetry of the 1980s, which reflects especially on his own working-class roots. I first remember becoming aware of Harrison when his long poem 'V', which Channel 4 broadcast as a filmed reading in 1987, provided an opportunity for the usual Tory nitwits in the House to complain about its use of expletives. The fact that Harrison was only citing the kinds of language he saw sprayed as graffiti in his native Leeds, and particularly on the gravestones of his own parents, seemed to pass them by. I guess that, like most scandals about art, it was largely stoked up by people who hadn't actually seen the work in question. Neither had I, being only about 15 at the time, back in those days when Channel 4 was a magnificent source of anti-establishment ferment (and was thus viewed with suspicion by parents). Now they give us Big Brother, Deal or No Deal and Come Dine with Me. For shame.

You can now see the Channel 4 film of 'V' on youtube. In our own days of austerity, it doesn't seem any less relevant.

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