Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing

The Challenge

Taking its lead from Philip Larkin, who writes of poetry as ‘enhancing the everyday’, the Larkin Centre explores the power of poetry and creative writing to change attitudes, improve health outcomes, and tackle some of the most pressing societal and environmental challenges of today. We combine critical approaches with creative practice, and work with industry partners, and across the humanities, health, and physical sciences, to inspire and empower communities through engagement with the written word. Current projects include using historical poetry to raise awareness of flood risks in Hull, and working with disadvantaged communities to co-produce creative responses to the Covid crisis.

'Poet Laureate of Twitter' Brian Bilston chooses his favourites from among the listener requests, including UA Fanthorpe, Henry Reed, Philip Larkin and more. Producer Sally Heaven.

The Approach

Established in 2020, the Larkin Centre is developing a portfolio of interdisciplinary projects across its priority areas: writing and environment, writing for health, and writing for equality. It works closely with colleagues in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Energy and Environment Institute, and with creative and heritage organisations in the UK and overseas.



Research at the Larkin Centre champions the power of poetry and creative writing as vehicles for community engagement and cultural transformation. Its projects and activities work with non-academic partners to find creative solutions to the challenge of engaging diverse communities with real-world problems, combining interdisciplinary research with creative practice to raise community awareness, and prompt community action, over issues including: flood risks and resilience, mental health, inequalities, and bereavement. We use a variety of metrics – including evaluations, surveys, co-design of activities, and co-production of creative outputs – to measure the impact of our projects on communities in Hull, across the UK, and internationally.



  • To be recognised as a hub for cross-cutting, interdisciplinary research across the Larkin Centre’s priority areas: writing and environment, writing for health, and writing for equality.
  • To become a centre of excellence for applied and participatory research that uses poetry and creative writing to kickstart community action over the environmental and societal challenges of today.
  • To grow our network of non-academic partners, regionally, nationally, and internationally, using Knowledge Exchange to co-design and co-produce research outputs and activities.



By the Rising tide of Humber

Flooding Andrew Marvell’s Hull in VR

Opening of new international-standard rugby pitch

Ref! Crossing the Line

Partnered with Rugby League Clubs and Foundations.

University of Hull - Climate Strike

Risky Cities

Living with water in an uncertain future climate

View all projects

By the Rising tide of Humber: Flooding Andrew Marvell’s Hull in VR
AHRC/ XR Stories Creative Industries Cluster Programme Grant, Dr Stewart Mottram
Project dates: 2019-2020

‘Rising tide of Humber’ works across the humanities and sciences and in collaboration with creative industry partners, BetaJester Ltd, to recreate in virtual reality an historical flood of Hull from the time of poet Andrew Marvell, more than 400 years ago. Funded by the AHRC Creative Industries Cluster ‘XR Stories’, the project aims to bring together literature and climate change through technology.

Inspired by Marvell’s representations of flooding in his poetry, the team built a digital model of 17th-century Hull, using old maps and archival and archaeological evidence. This was then embedded into the Energy and Environment Institute’s flood model in order to test out how flood defences in 17th-century Hull would have fared against flooding of the kind experienced in the Humber in recent years - in effect, recreating a known ‘weather event’ from 400 years ago.

Read more about the Rising tide of Humber project, and watch a 360 film of the virtual flood.


Ref! Crossing the Line
Arts Council England/ Heritage Lottery Fund, Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson, in partnership with Space2, Rugby Football League, Red Ladder Theatre Company, and Commonsense Initiative (CSI)
Project dates: 2017-19 (phase 1), 2020-21 (phase 2).

Ref! is a community-inspired play based on the true story of Julia Lee - one of the first women rugby league referees in Britain to be in charge of men’s matches. The play is the catalyst for a larger collaborative project with Space2 – ‘Crossing the Line’ – to uncover and share the stories of women connected to Rugby League.

The project partners with Rugby League Clubs and Foundations based in Hull and West Yorkshire and takes interactive community workshops into those communities. A performance of the play Ref! at the Houses of Parliament (Jubilee room) is being sponsored by the All-Party Parliamentary Committee for Rugby League.


The Key: Engagement with child sexual exploitation and cultural memory
Lincolnshire City Council, Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson working with C. Mogg (Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Child Protection Unit) and V. Kerridge (Bishop Grosseteste University).
Project dates: 2018

The project involves working with the CSE Team and wider Social Services Teams in the County Council.


We All Rise
British Council, Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson
Project dates: 2017- 18

We All Rise evolved out of Hull Rises, which was part of the University programme for the City of Culture, 2017, working with the BBC and the British Council, Kraków, Poland.


Risky Cities: Living with water in an uncertain future climate
AHRC/SPF UK Climate Resilience Programme, Dr Briony McDonagh (PI), Dr Stewart Mottram (Co-I)
Project dates: August 2020-July 2022

The Risky Cities project draws on Hull’s long history of living with water – as recorded in its artistic, literary, and cultural heritage – as a means of engaging communities living in flood risk areas today.

Mottram leads one of the project’s three work packages: Fictions of Flooding, exploring the poetry, prose, drama and (more recently) news media that have arisen alongside, and in response to, the experience of loving with water in Hull, from the early medieval period to the present day.

Read more about the Risky Cities project.

Outputs and publications


Dickenson, S.J. (2020), Ref! Crossing the Line [Website]. Available online: https://www.womeninrugbyleague.org.uk/ref-crossing-the-line/ [Accessed 1 December 2020]

Mottram, S., McDonagh, B, Skinner, C., and BetaJester Ltd (2020). By the Rising Tide of Humber: Flooding Andrew Marvell’s Hull in 360 VR [Video]. Available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyLkIpEPIEA [Accessed 24 November 2020]



Mottram, S (2020). ‘A Most Excellent Medicine’: Malaria, Mithridate, and the death of Andrew Marvell. The Seventeenth Century, in press.

Mottram, S (2020). Re-reading Ruins: Edmund Spenser and Scottish Presbyterianism. In Memory and the English Reformation, ed. Brian Cummings et al. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 223-37. Available online: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108900157.015

Mottram, S (2019). Ruin and Reformation in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Marvell. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 272 pp. ISBN 9780198836384. Available online: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/ruin-and-reformation-in-spenser-shakespeare-and-marvell-9780198836384?cc=gb&lang=en&

Conroy, C. Dickenson, S.J. Mazzoni, G. (2018) ‘The Not-Knowns ‘Playwriting, Psychology

and participation’. Research in Drama Education. (RiDE) Vol: 23 NO 1, pp56-72.

Dickenson, S.J. (2019) REF! Barbican Press

Dickenson, S.J. (2018) The Not Knowns. Routledge: Taylor & Francis

Mottram, S (2018). The religious geography of Marvell’s ‘An Horatian Ode’: Popery, Presbytery, and Parti-Coloured Picts. The Seventeenth Century, 33.4: 441-61. Avalable online: https://doi.org/10.1080/0268117X.2018.1484636.

Mottram, S (2018). ‘With guiltles blood oft stained’: Spenser’s Ruines of Time and the saints of Saint Albans. Spenser Studies, 31/32: 533-56. Available online: https://doi.org/10.1086/694442

Research Students

Ali Cargill

‘Fictionalising Memoire’

Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson, Dr Bethan Jones

Mathew Commerford

‘Memory, autobiography and the Novelist’

Dr Sarah Jane Dickenson, Dr David Eldridge

Rebecca Devine

‘Philip Larkin’s Letters’

Dr Stewart Mottram, Dr James Underwood

Anna Stevenson

‘Ted Hughes and myth: Poetic Reflections on the Inner Self’

Dr Stewart Mottram, Dr Sam Perry


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