The Society makes grants both to individuals and to organisations in support of cultural and scientific activities which increase innovation, outreach and diversity in Leeds and its immediate area. It also supports local museums and galleries and publications relating to the city.

About the Society

The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, founded in 1819, is a charity that promotes interest in science, literature and the arts – in the city of Leeds and beyond. We have meetings, lectures, entertainments, publications and visits.

Atlantic Flowers

The artist-illustrated ‘Atlantic Flowers’ is the 54th edition of the New Arcadian Journal (77/78, 2022). The NAJ was launched in 1981 by the Leeds-based New Arcadian Press. It was the grant of £1000 from The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society that was instrumental in realising this unique project.

The purpose of ‘Atlantic Flowers’ is to broaden the understanding of the internationally renowned poetic garden, Little Sparta, by addressing the place as a garden of remembrance. Created by the poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006), the wide range of memorials not only embrace cultural heroes but also the ‘Flower’ Class corvettes of the Battle of the Atlantic (1939-45). Never before have the warships within the garden’s fleet of maritime sculptures been considered as naval memorials. The NAJ also locates Finlay’s practice of memorialising within the tradition of the 18th-century English Landscape Garden.

The theme of naval memorials is explored from the first commemorative print and sculptural maquette (1972) to the cluster of artworks (1999-2001) that culminate in the monumental installation, ‘Camouflaged Flowers’. This is an epic composition of garden and landscape, planting and sculpture, weather and seasons, whose meanings are animated by leaves, blossom and berries. Indeed, ‘Atlantic Flowers’ emphasises that planting is integral to Finlay’s sculpture, and that this practice is brilliantly demonstrated by the brick, bronze and cotoneaster sempervirens that embody ‘Camouflaged Flowers’ (2001).

‘Atlantic Flowers’ also emphasises the longstanding relationship between the NAJ and Little Sparta. The text is composed of primary material gathered from correspondence and conversation (1979-2006) between the author, Dr Patrick Eyres, and the poet-gardener, Ian Hamilton Finlay. The 228 pages are elegantly designed and garlanded with 204 illustrations in colour and monochrome. These include a selection of the photographs taken by Eyres over the years since 1979. The artist-contributors include the NAJ veterans, Catherine Aldred (including cover), Chris Broughton, Howard Eaglestone and Andrew Naylor, as well as Ron Costley, Gary and Jo Hincks and Kevin Lycett.

Moreover, Finlay’s important but unrealised set of proposals for a circuit walk punctuated by landscape sculpture, ‘The Peterhead Power Station Projects’ (1978), has been reproduced in full for the first time. Not only does this sustain the maritime theme of ‘Atlantic Flowers’, but these ‘Projects’ also showcase the consummate drawings by Ian Appleton (1939-2020), who was the architect of the Leeds Playhouse (1985-90). When opened, the building was hailed by one critic with the back-handed compliment that it was the new national theatre that should have been built in London.

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