Entertainment & Arts

Tony Harrison to perform controversial poem V on Radio 4

Tony Harrison. Photo by Sandra Lousada
Image caption V caused a furore when it was aired on Channel 4 in 1987

A controversial 1985 poem by British writer Tony Harrison, which includes profanities and racial epithets, is to be broadcast on Radio 4 next month.

The poet's new recording of V will be broadcast on 18 February at 23:00 and be prefaced by warnings.

Radio 4's arts commissioning editor Tony Phillips said the station would "find a way to put it on air without compromising Harrison's poem at all".

He called V a "seminal work" that had "had an impact on society".

Written during the 1984-85 UK miners' strike after the author discovered his parents' gravestones had been daubed with obscene graffiti, the poem tackles subjects such as racial and religious conflict.

The broadcast will be preceded by an introductory feature by the author and poet Blake Morrison reflecting on the poem, the furore it provoked and its contemporary resonance.

The 30-minute recording, which Phillips said would have "lots of signposting", is one of a range of Radio 4 events and initiatives celebrating poetry in 2013.

Others include Seize the Day, a day-long celebration of the art form taking place later in the year that will feature a marathon reading compered by Poetry Please presenter Roger McGough.

Born in Leeds in 1937, Harrison has published numerous collections of poetry and has written for the National Theatre in London.

In 2004, Morrison described him as "one of the finest poets in the English language".

V caused a furore in 1987 when a film of Harrison performing it, directed by Sir Richard Eyre, was shown on Channel 4.

Its broadcast prompted an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, proposed by a group of Conservative MPS, entitled Television Obscenity.

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