This Sunday (April 30th) marks the 80th Birthday of Tony Harrison, whose literary archive is held in Special Collections.

Tony Harrison, one of the UK’s most celebrated (and sometimes controversial) poets, was born in Beeston, South Leeds, in 1937. He won scholarships to Leeds Grammar School and then to the University of Leeds, where he studied Classics and Linguistics. He was a student here from 1955 to 1960. 

Also known as a playwright, film maker and librettist, Harrison has said that ‘poetry is all I write, whether for books, or readings, or for the National Theatre, or for the opera house and concert hall, or even for TV’.

Harrison continues to write poetry, and his work is recognised nationally and internationally. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 1984, he has been awarded the Faber Memorial Award, the European Poetry Translation Prize, and a UNESCO fellowship. He won inaugural PEN/Pinter prize in 2009, the European Prize for Literature in 2010, and was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Poetry in 2015.  

Special Collections was able to acquire his archive in 2007. It is an incredibly rich collection, with over 250 notebooks documenting every aspect of his creative work up to the present day. The archive is one of the highlights of our modern literary collections, and is a magnet for researchers from around the world.  

Several events and broadcasts are planned to mark Harrison’s birthday. 

 BBC Radio 3 broadcast a profile of Harrison on 23rd April (see: and will host the world premiere of his new play ‘Iphigenia in Crimea’ this Sunday, 30th. 

 A British Council Conference ‘New Light on Tony Harrison’ will be held in London on  Thursday 27th & Friday 28th April. 

Harrison will be celebrating his birthday on Sunday 30th with a Poetry Reading at Salts Mill, Saltaire. Details are available at: