Radio 4 plans to air 'obscene' 1980s poem V by Tony Harrison


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The Independent Culture

Mary Whitehouse must be spinning in her grave. A quarter of a century after she led the uproar over Channel 4 broadcasting the notorious poem V, the work is to be reprised by BBC Radio 4.

The angry Tony Harrison poem is set in the Leeds cemetery where his parents are buried and is based on the poet’s reaction to finding the graveyard daubed with obscenities.

In one line, Harrison addresses the imagined author of the graffiti. “‘Listen, cunt,’ I said, ‘before you start your jeering / the reason why I want this in a book/’s to give ungrateful cunts like you a hearing!’”

Mrs Whitehouse called the piece a “work of singular nastiness”. Its broadcast in 1987 prompted an Early Day Motion, headed Television Obscenity, from a group of Conservative MPs.

The controller of Radio 4 Gwyneth Williams today said that she was bringing back the “era-defining” piece as part of a revival of poetry on the network.