Distinguished Leeds-born poet and playwright Tony Harrison, has received one of the city’s highest civic honours.
On hand to present Tony with a ‘Leeds Award’ in recognition of his nationally and internationally acclaimed work was the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Eileen Taylor as part of a special ceremony held at the city’s civic hall. In appreciation of his immense cultural contribution, Tony’s name will now be displayed with pride alongside the small number of people to receive a prestigious Leeds Award in the antechamber of the civic hall.
Born in Beeston, in 1937, Tony has enjoyed a stellar career over seven decades following his study of the Classics and Linguistics from 1955-1960 at the University of Leeds. His wide-ranging volumes of poetry include The Loiners, Continuous, V, The Gaze of the Gorgon and Laureate’s Block, amongst many others. One of Tony’s best-known works is the long poem ‘V’ published in 1985, which described a trip to see his parents’ grave in the Holbeck area of the city.
A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 1984, Tony has written extensively for the National Theatre, The New York Metropolitan Opera, the BBC, Channel 4, and the RSC. In recognition of his unique talent, Tony has received and also won a host of awards. These include receiving the Faber Memorial Award, the European Poetry Translation Prize, a UNESCO fellowship, and winning the inaugural PEN/Pinter prize in 2009, the European Prize for Literature in 2010, the David Cohen Prize for Poetry in 2015 and the Premio Feronia 2016 in Rome.
His incredibly rich archive collection, including over 250 notebooks documenting every aspect of his creative works to this present day, now sits proudly at the University of Leeds after being acquired in 2007.
A measure of Tony’s standing and contribution is underlined by those that nominated him for a Leeds Award from the city’s thriving writing community. Amongst the many to provide a glowing testimonial included playwright, screenwriter and author Alan Bennett and Simon Armitage, former Oxford Professor of Poetry and current Poet Laureate. In his testimonial, Alan described Tony as ‘far and away the most distinguished poet whom the city has ever produced’, whilst Simon cited his achievement as ‘staggering-elevating the native language of his birth and the City of Leeds to the status of literature’.
The full citation of Tony’s Leeds Award, ‘honours his distinguished career as a poet and playwright who put the city of Leeds firmly at the centre of his work, promoting it on both a national and international stage’.
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Eileen Taylor said:
“It was an absolute honour and privilege for me to be able to present Tony who is undoubtedly one of our city’s greatest playwrights and poets, with a Leeds Award.
“Tony’s collection of works over seven decades are both unique and outstanding, and as the citation on his award states, has certainly played a significant part in putting our great city on a national and international stage, especially in arts and culture. The Leeds Award which is one of our city’s most prestigious civic honours was designed to honour those people that have made an enormous contribution and achieved so much in their respective fields, and there is no better recipient than Tony.”
Leeds-born poet and playwright Tony Harrison said:
“The city of Leeds has and always will play a hugely significant part in guiding and informing my work. It is, therefore, a huge honour and a very proud moment for me as someone who was born in Beeston and grew up in the city, to be recognised by this Leeds Award.”
The Leeds Award is a prestigious honour that recognises that there are many people, groups, organisations and teams that bring great credit to the City through their exceptional hard work and dedication.
It has been established by Leeds City Council to formally recognise those whose outstanding contributions are a credit to the City and its people.
It is viewed as a lasting tribute to those contributions that make a real difference to the city.
Recipients of the Leeds Award will have their name inscribed on the ‘wall of fame’ located in the Ante Chamber of the Civic Hall.
A panel comprising of one Member from each Group is responsible for assessing nominations for the award and making recommendations to Full Council.
Criteria for granting the Award:
- Awarded to those who change the life or lives of the people of Leeds.
- For those who perform an exceptional service to their community.
- Normally precluded from a Leeds Award if previously recognised for the same service by a national award, within the last 15 years.
- A person/team/group/organisation may not nominate themselves and, where appropriate, letters of support in addition to the nomination may be required.
- If an individual is nominated by a family member, another independent nomination or letter of support must be received.
The Leeds Award is not for:
- Services that have their own recognition system.
- A person who is in a leadership/chairing role by deed of appointment or election, e.g. Chair of a local Leeds in Bloom group who also have to be able to demonstrate a significant environmental improvement.
Unsuccessful nominations may be re-submitted after two years.