Monday, June 13, 2011

Not the Place's Fault - Philip Larkin in Umbrella Magazine

Philip Larkin 
From Umbrella (Magazine) 1.3 (1959) 
Published by Coventry Arts Umbrella 
Edited by T.C. Watson
This essay is from the “Obscure Coventry-based magazine – Umbrella” as Andrew 
Motion termed it. 

According to biographer Andrew Motion’s book A Writer’s Life Philip Larkin P 500  “Blake Morrison’s main recommendation was that Larkin should include (in Required Writing: Miscellaneous pieces 1955 – 1982) the essay about his childhood, “Not the Place’s Fault”, which had originally appeared in the obscure Coventry-based magazine Umbrella in 1959.Larkin replied gratefully  but insisted, “I have rather a mental block about “Not the Place’s Fault”. In construction it is written as a kind of commentary on the original poem (I Remember, I Remember), but this does not come through and in consequence it seems rather rambling. In addition, I think I said just a little more about myself than I really want known. These are the reasons why I should prefer it to remain in obscurity.” He was equally adamant to Thwaite and Monteith.” I feel,” he told Monteith in November “in some curious way that (the essay) exposes more of me than I want exposed, although heaven knows there is nothing scandalous in it.” “He was a candidly emotional and autobiographical writer who always disguised his self-revelations or passed them off as general truths……If he’d opened his book with “Not the Place’s fault” he would have raised expectations about the essay’s which followed” 

About this volume of Umbrella
Contents of  Umbrella -- Volume 1, Number 3, Summer 1959
LARKIN, Philip, Paul Jennings, R. Bryan Tyson, Ian Lovelock, John Hewitt, Alan Oliver, Taner Baybars, A.E. Burrows, Stephen Joseph, Owen Leeming, and Gerald Morrish) WATSON, Terence.C. =  editor.

Published by The Umbrella Club, Coventry, 1959. Softcover. Magazine. Octavo. 104-142pp. Stapled wrappers. Lightly rubbed with corner crease, near fine. This literary magazine includes Philip Larkin's essay, "Not the Place's Fault," which he came to dislike because he felt it revealed a bit too much about himself and so was not reprinted during his lifetime. Additional contributions from Watson, Paul Jennings, R. Bryan Tyson, Ian Lovelock, John Hewitt, Alan Oliver, Taner Baybars, A.E. Burrows, Stephen Joseph, Owen Leeming, and Gerald Morrish.

In this essay though, despite Larkin’s dismissal of it, is some marvellous description of 
Coventry outside the station in those days – 
“In addition to the man selling the Midland Daily Telegraph there was frequently a white Eldorado box-tricycle that sold lime-green or strawberry-pink ices at a penny each….Beside the paper seller was a cigarette-machine, which gave ten cigarette for sixpence and twenty for a shilling (but with twenty you got a half penny back under the cellophane).” Etc.
Read the full article here in the pdf viewer -

To Download the above article on pdf click the link HERE

And the poem itself - 

I Remember, I Remember

by Philip Larkin

Coming up England by a different line
For once, early in the cold new year,
We stopped, and, watching men with number plates
Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
"Why, Coventry!" I exclaimed. "I was born here."

I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
That this was still the town that had been 'mine'
So long, but found I wasn't even clear
Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates
Were standing, had we annually departed

For all those family hols? . . . A whistle went:
Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.
'Was that,' my friend smiled, 'where you "have your roots"?'
No, only where my childhood was unspent,
I wanted to retort, just where I started:

By now I've got the whole place clearly charted.
Our garden, first: where I did not invent
Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,
And wasn't spoken to by an old hat.
And here we have that splendid family

I never ran to when I got depressed,
The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
'Really myself'. I'll show you, come to that,
The bracken where I never trembling sat,

Determined to go through with it; where she
Lay back, and 'all became a burning mist'.
And, in those offices, my doggerel
Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,

Who didn't call and tell my father There
Before us, had we the gift to see ahead -
'You look as though you wished the place in Hell,'
My friend said, 'judging from your face.' 'Oh well,
I suppose it's not the place's fault,' I said.

'Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.'


The City of Coventry: A Twentieth Century Icon
The Coventry Factor: Philip Larkin and John Hewitt
Adrian Smith University of Southampton New College

This article may also be of interest to you - you can download it on PDF

Extract - " The popular assumption is that Larkin cut loose from Coventry in the autumn of 1940 when he went up to Oxford, and that thereafter he was

clearly indifferent towards ‘home’: he never railed against narrow provincialism (living literally at the end of the line, and being the man he was, this scarcely an option), but he rarely displayed anything more than polite interest in a city which was to experience profound changes throughout the remaining forty-five years of his life. Evidence to support this view naturally
includes ‘I Remember, I Remember’, but a..."

Umbrella - Coventry Literary Journal c1959 - 61

UMBRELLA MAGAZINE was edited by Terence Watson for the Coventry Arts Umbrella in Coventry in the late 50's and early 60's. Philip Larkin was published in one issue. More of that in another post on this site. Two issues of Umbrella are available below as pdf files.Click on the links above the pictures to view or download free.

Described by Andrew Motion as "an obscure Coventry-based magazine" in Philip Larkin's biography. Here are two of the issues for download / viewing. Further copies can be viewed at Coventry Archives at the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery

To quote from one of the issues 
"Umbrella" provides a medium for expression of opinion regarding the arts and related topics. It also welcomes fiction and poetry having a contemporary relevance."

Download this copy of Umbrella via this Google Docs link  Umbrella Vol No 4 Autumn 1959

Download this copy of Umbrella via this Google Docs link - Umbrella Vol 2 Spring 1960 
NOTE - If you downloaded this before March 29th 2015 - this is a complete version - the previous version had pages missing but I've obtained a complete version now.

Umbrella -- Volume 1, Number 3, Summer 1959
LARKIN, Phllip, Paul Jennings, R. Bryan Tyson, Ian Lovelock, John Hewitt, Alan Oliver, Taner Baybars, A.E. Burrows, Stephen Joseph, Owen Leeming, and Gerald Morrish) WATSON, T.C., edited by

New material March 2014
(There may be some mistakes - the notes are hard to read)
Vol 1 No1 Oct 1958  - Contents

EM Forster - C.P. Cavafy 1883 - 1937 P5
Owen Leeming's Connet P7
R.B. Greenwood - Lit and crit
George Macbeth
Geoffrey Dendline(?) - Smedley's Hydro (Matlock)
A.E Burrows - Product of Shakespeare 
JEM Lucie-Smith - Cardinal Bird
GF Smerrish - Satellites and Spivs 
John Overton - Another Old Coup
W.F. Holland - Separate Buildings


Vol No 2 Spring 1959
John Hewitt - Art critic, literary historian, poet and Art director of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry.


Vol 2 - 1961 No 7

Gianni Zambardi - Drive to Saltburn

A DRIVE TO SALTBURN - by Gianni Zambardi
Published in Umbrella Magazine Vol 2 - 1961 No 7

Huntcliffe at Saltburn

(From The magazine of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club)

County of coves, osiers, red banks
Threaded by switchback roads, curling
into sandy-shelves, over ridge, rocks, cliffs,
stabbed by a criss-crossed shafthead -
Distant tips of gouged iron-earth-ranks
of miners homes, smoke wisps fluttering.
In an inshore wind, staunched by church towers
Black, time-muffled stone under the sky's tread
We feed our eyes, speed for a snatched hour
Break the customary formality of daily
Dying in regular doses, to thrill along.
Past pink pubs, wash the sour
sluggishness form our steps; pick up wet briny
seaweed, and learn a salty land's song.

Gianni Zambardi 1961 -
Travel writer BA King's College London,
Now (1961 that is!) Living in Finsbury. Written two novels Time to Go and Me and My Friend. He also published his poetry in the sixties.

Transcendental Cauldron 1969 (Umbrella Fringe Arts Fest)

The Transcendental Cauldron was an underground fringe arts festival or 'happening', to take place during Halloween, which it's organisers hoped would bring the Umbrella more in line with what was happening at places like The Arts Lab in Drury Lane.

The Programme sheet (posted here) announced -
"During the weekend 31st October - 2nd November 1969, the Umbrella Club is to promote a Fringe Arts Festival. Events planned include Films, Music, Drama, Poetry, Light Shows and an exhibition of posters."

The Transcendental Cauldron took place over the weekend 31st October to November 2nd 1969.

The initiative came from the Umbrella Film Group who initially proposed an Underground film festival but Drama organiser Jo Petter saw this as the nucleu
s of a more ambitious event.

"A catalyst for a great mixed media event, experiment and party."

The organisers were Jo Petter (Drama / Lights, Posters), Mike Taunton (Poetry / Music) Doug Deakin (Folk)  Darell Viner (Lights)- links to his history, Martin Lee (Music).

The Theme

The Programme
"The Cauldron will be a festival or happening to take place during Halloween. The theme is the new underground art forms as exemplified by the work of Arts Lab in Dury Lane.

We hope several types of participants - Umbrella members who attend parties, local teachers and other intelligent and serious students of the current scene, hippies, New Left, 50 visitors from Birmingham, London etc expected."

The Transcendental Cauldron included films, music, lights, drama, music, psychedelia and poetry.

Films (which can be seen on the programme, were Scorpio Rising  - Directed by Kenneth Anger; Relativity and Sins of the Fleshapoids.

Trev Teasdel's memories
" The Transcendental Cauldron was my entry into the Umbrella Club. It was quite exciting and the beginning of a new era for me. I was 18, an apprentice Electrician and had to attend day release at Coventry Technical College. It was there that I saw the poster and knew I had to go to it. I was writing song lyrics and listening to John Peel at the time but didn't really have much connection to the Coventry music and arts scene but I wanted to get to know people who were interested in similar things and this seemed like a portal to the local underground scene - and it was!

Al Docker joined DF Gibbs (where I worked) in the meantime, and we began sharing music in our lunch breaks - some of the new underground albums. Al had been to the Umbrella and was to start organise the bands there soon.

On the Friday night, I met up with Al and he took me around the pubs where musos, students and hippies hung out - The Dive Bar (Lady Godiva) in particular. I met the newly formed Wandering John in there with Al and discovered I already knew one of them - John Alderson - (our mothers were friends and I'd played with him when I was a kid).  John's acoustic blues outfit Last Fair Deal were going to be on later, so I looked forward to seeing John's band.

The Umbrella events didn't start until pub closing time and we made our to Queen Victoria Road. The building was just a town house that could have doubled as a Solicitor's office. As you went through the door, there was a small reception desk into a  narrow hall. Stairs on the left and a Tolkien like mural on the wall, a function room - dining room size on the right and into the Coffee bar - a very tiny kitchen where you could by coffee, tea and hot dogs - but no alcohol.

Small as it was, the coffee bar was the scene of some amazing late night and heated discussions between hippies, 'straights', beadred folkies. Just sitting in the coffee bar listening was an education and cultural experience that you'd not get anywhere else except perhaps the University and even then...Out the back was a small wooden hut - the Theatre! It held 50 people and some of the bands played there or rehearsed. The room on the right as you went in was used for various events and meetings, poetry, music or lectures. The main function room was upstairs - a long room like someones front room. Here the main events were held and there was a piano too. The rest of the rooms upstairs and on the next floor were administration rooms.

The Transcendental Cauldron was the  first mixed media event and obviously made an impression on me. In 1997 I created a Teesside and North Yorkshire wide arts festival called Merlin's Cauldron.This was a three week festival with workshops performances, exhibitions and street theatre.

I don't think we saw the films or the other events - more interested in the music at that stage."

Friday 31st October Lounge 8pm - 11pm and Midnight - 3pm -
Last Fair Deal - Asgard

Saturday 1st November Lounge 8pm - 11pm and Midnight to 3am - Ra Ho Tep / Chris Jones Aggression.

Sunday 2nd November Lounge 8pm - 11 pm Dando Shaft.

Folk: There will be no meeting this weekend but regulars are invited to the Cauldron where the music room has been reserved for Folk activity.

Light Show - Lounge 7pm. This is under the direction of Alan Worral.
The Bands
Last Fair Deal - were an acoustic blues trio culled from mainly from the electric blues and R & B band Wandering John. It consisted of John Alderson - Dobro, John Gravenor - Vocals (both from Wandering John) and John Westacott (bassist with progressive Jazz Rock outfit Whistler (Kevin Harrison's early band) but here playing blues harp and fiddle. The covered country blues songs like The Louisiana Blues, There's a Man Going Round Talkin' Names.

Here is Youtube Footage of both the mother group Wandering John and Last Fair Deal from their Reunion Concert in 2010
The reunion concert was filmed for DVD at the Sphinx Club in Coventry September 4th 2010 by Gordon Smith (AKA Nomad) and his wife Mary Ball of Lyme Regis Internet TV. The concert was a tribute to wandering John's former manager Dave Sullivan who died of cancer and the very well attended reunion concert raised a lot of money for the Macmillan Cancer Trust. The band, who hadn't played together since 1971, were in excellent form.

Credits - 
John Gravenor - Vocals / Tamborine, John Alderson - Lead / Rhythm guitar and Dobro (with Last Fair Deal)
Ade Taylor - Bass Guitar and Backing Vocals.
Paul Hayes - Drums (Paul Hayes was courtesy of Third Alert - an excellent drummer but not an original member) - The original drummers were Al Warder (who couldn't be present) and Jim Pryal who was in the audience dancing!).
Guest Musicians who joined them on stage - Neol Davies (Guitar / Vocals) (of the Selecter), Tim James (Harmonica and vocals) Ex Ra Ho Tep. Trev Teasdel - introduced the show with some rapping poetry and Tim Healey - Mixing desk.

Here's the full Wandering John / Last Fair Deal Concert in parts - 
Part 1

Part Two

Part Three - Last Fair Deal Set

Part 4

 Part Five


Asgard were the next band on. They were based at the Umbrella and after this event I'd sit in on their rehearsals in the Theatre. Neol Davies (later of Selecter) used to play sometimes with Asgard, adding in acoustic or sitar. Asgard were a kind of Pink Floyd outfit and indeed were being courted by John Peel who put them on at Mothers in Birmingham after Pink Floyd recorded Ummagumma there. The band split unfortunately before Peel could fully work his magic. 
To give you a glimpse - Asgard recorded a demo - the recording quality is not great but it's the only record we have of the band. One track is on You Tube there are others on Reverbnation

Ra Ho Tep were next on. Tim James's avant garde jazz outfit.I have no audio but here's a photo.

Next up were The Chris Jones Aggression. Chris's blues band were regulars at the Umbrella - songs like Catfish Blues with Chris's scat singing. Chris is still going strong today with his new band after touring the continent with Khayyam, playing the Speakeasy and Ronnie Scotts and more. His website is and you can find tracks by his new band on Reverbnation and Soundcloud
On the Sunday was Dando Shaft - Coventry's brilliant Acid folk band who recorded for Youngblood and RCA Neon.Martin Jenkins went on to play with Mathew's Sourthern Comfort, Bert Jansch, Whippersnapper and many more. The band are Cov legends. 

Theatre -
Friday 8pm & 12pm
Saturday 8pm & 12pm
Sunday 8pm.

Underground Films - Scorpio Rising
Director Kenneth Anger - (Colour, Sound 31 minutes 1964.)
"Occultists believe that 1962 was the end of  2000 years of Christian domination, and the beginning of a period of pagan domination coinciding with the Age of Aquarius in Astrology. Anger, seeing pop music, drug abuse and American Nazi style Motorcycle cultists as evidence of demonic forces at work, made Scorpio Rising to illustrate to the death throes of the 'Old Age' and beginning of the 'new age'.

A film extract is on Youtube

Director: Ed Emshwiller (Colour, Sound, 38 minutes 1966)
This is an experimental feature made with the aid of a grant from the Ford Foundation. This metaphorical work about man's place in the universe uses ultra-high speed photography, pin point lighting in black limbo together with careful framing and superimposition to achieve complete visual control of time flow..

NB both these films have been refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Censors.
(Can't find this film on youtube or anywhere else)

Sins of the Fleshapoids - Director Mike Kuchar - Colour, sound, 50 minutes 1964
From the age of twelve the Kuchar brothers have specialised in producing parodies of Hollywood Movies. Early film included A Tub Named Desire, I was a Teenage Rumpot, Pussy on a Hot Tin Roof. The choice of film titles showing their humourous technique of talking Hollywood style to extreme. Mike Kuchar's Sins of the Fleshapoids features a cast of robots and overdeveloped women intent on taking over the world.
This is a trailer but the full film in several parts is on Youtube. This is the first part - the other parts follow on on youtube.


10 minute supporting short directed by Richard Bartlett

Music Marathons - 1969 and 1971

Umbrella Club Music Marathon weekend 
21st to 23rd November 1969

Following the successful Transcendental Cauldron at the end of the previous month, another weekend event was planned. This time focusing entirely on the local underground music scene.

This was the second event I personally attended at the Umbrella before becoming a member and involved with the band nights.

Friday 21st Evening - Lounge

In the Theatre

Modern Jazz Symbols

Saturday 22nd November
In the Lounge
Gaels (Folk Club)
Trad B Jefferson

In the Theatre
Andy and Jan Smith

Sunday 23rd November

In the Lounge

In the Theatre
Dave Beaufoy Trio
Rod Felton and Cliff Cowling
White Heat
Joy Hyman
Terry Wisdom

(Not sure what day Indian Summer and Rockit were on - have a feeling Cliff Cowling's rock a boogie band were called Rockit - if so they would have been on Sunday under Cliff Cowling)
Down Country Boys on the Hobo  - Coventry Folk scene Blog.




In 1971, Trev Teasdel (who was organising the Friday night band nights) and Lyndie Watson (Brimstone) who was involved with the drama group and acting as Programme Secretary) decided it would be a great idea to organise an event like some of the 1969 events, especially the Music Marathon. The Umbrella Committee were up for it and so we began organising. There were no shortage of local bands and Lyndie put an advert in Friendz and International Times to try and attract some bands from elsewhere in the Midlands. From Birmingham we got Ascension and Valhalla and from Leicester Medusa among others. We managed to attract bands and volunteers and had got up a head of steam. The Marathon was earmarked for the weekend beginning July 2nd 1971.
Lyndie's to do list for Trevor

Unfortunately the premises at 18, Queen Victoria Road had been crumbling for sometime and they received notice that the building had been condemned. It would be demolished early 1973. Meanwhile the Umbrella had to be closed for several months during the summer for essential repairs and so the Marathon was off unless we could find another place to host it. Not easy - the Umbrella wasn't close to residential premises and so the noise factor wasn't the problem it would be else where. We had no luck identifying anywhere that would host t he Marathon and the Umbrella suggested the Charterhouse (a Medieval / Elizabethan mansion and adult education centre set in its own grounds) and the place where eventually the Umbrella would migrate to in 1974.

The Charterhouse were up for it but we had to get the ok from the Police, Fire brigade and so forth. They were convinced that our very humble, small Umbrella style festival was going to turn into a Woodstock requiring major diversions, safety and policing issues. Needless to say they couldn't be convinced and our efforts to organise the 2nd Marathon had gone as far as we could take it. Although we kept searching for a venue almost up to the time when the Marathon was die to start - including the Deaf Centre, Catherdral Refectory, Technical College, Henley College.

Bands that we'd asked included Chris Jones Aggression, Ra Ho Tep, Pete Waterman (for Contacts), Clive Jackson and more.

The wording for proposed poster for the 2nd Music Marathon, before the Umbrella as a venue was out. We outsourced the design of the posters to a number of artistic Umbrella members and the umbrella was going to get them printed via a contact in London, free of charge! However plans changed.

One entry from my diary

May 17th Mon - Pete King from Birmingham came to Umbrella to discuss playing at Umbrella Music Marathon. Getting organised now. Lyndie arranging sleeping arrangements for bands from out of Coventry. The two Jan's were doing posters. Talked to the Umbrella Drum circle. Gaynor helping with publicity and selling tickets for the marathon. To phone Pete Waterman about band contacts.

 Met Bazz of Chris Jones Aggression - discussed doing the Music Marathon with him."

Another entry

June 2nd Weds - Umbrella Club were told we didn't have local authority clearance to hold the 2nd Music Marathon at the Umbrella advised to checkout other locations. Lyndie and I went to the memorial Park and then to the Charterhouse, met with the representatives of the police and fire brigade and local authority."


June 21st Mon - Stayed in Birmingham. It was looking like our best efforts had been thwarted about the Marathon. Getting a suitable venue was proving difficult as the the weekend marathon would go on all weekend all night. It worked before at the Umbrella but the Umbrella at that time was used to gigs that went on late. Other venues were more normalised! we'd gotten a lot of support from bands and music fans but not any support from the venues or the powers that be. And yet it was a positive thing, providing bands with gigs and young people with a bit of culture.

June 24th Thurs - Marathon was off - nothing was going to give - wrote to all the groups and those who had showed support both in Cov and Birmingham. Don't ask how it felt after a lot of hard work trying to promote Cov music. We went to the pub!"

Lyndie was on a drama course at Brookland's and during the summer we moved to Birmingham on the day the 2nd Marathon should have happened, sharing a house with members of one of the groups for the summer and got involved with The Arts Centre in Cannon Hill Park. Although I attended events at the Umbrella when I returned in the autumn and the Umbrella reopened, I didn't get involved with organising anything further until July 1972 when I began organising the Humpoesic Happenings - experimental folk and poetry sessions until the Umbrella finally closed at Queen Victoria Road towards the end on 1972.

With some initial help from the Umbrella I continued work on the Coventry Music Scene through Hobo Magazine and Hobo Workshop at the Holyhead Youth Centre in 1973 to 75 - the subject of a related blogspot.

From Umbrella Newsletter 1971

Some Youtube of a couple of the bands - Indian Summer