JAMES ORWIN was born in Scotland. Educated at Riley Technical High School in Hull, he left school aged 16 — with three O’ Levels and a CSE (!) — to begin an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator. In 1982 (with a mortgage and two children) he was made redundant, and consequently made the decision to become a sole-trader, setting up his own painting & decorating business.
In 2000, he began studying for a degree with the Open University (He was awarded a 2:1 BSc (Honours) Information Technology and Computing in 2009). It was around this time (late 1999/early 2000) that he also became an active member of The Philip Larkin Society, which led to a long-term research interest in musical settings of Philip Larkin’s poetry. Prominent Larkin scholar Dr John Osborne, in his monograph Larkin, Ideology and Critical Violence: A Case of Wrongful Conviction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) refers to him as ‘the the world authority on musical settings of Philip Larkin’s poetry’.
In 2010, as part of the activities organised to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Philip Larkin’s death, he curated (and was executive producer of) all night north, a CD of new songs by young bands and songwriters from Hull using poems by Philip Larkin as lyrics.
He has published two short collections of poetry: Hold Something Warm (1996) and Lost Thoughts and Radio Waves (1999), and has had several articles (and a number of his poems) published in About Larkin, the biannual journal of The Philip Larkin Society. He has presented papers relating to his specialist subject at a number of academic conferences and Study Days. As a poet, he has had work published in several small magazines and anthologies, including The Rialto, Magma, The Hull Connection and 10 Miles East of England.
He set up a small publishing imprint Dancing Sisters in 2016, and has published small pamphlet collections by several poets, including Mary McCollum, Frank Newsum and Dean Wilson. In 2017 he published Hull 2017: 2017 facts about Hull and people associated with the city; and on 9 August 2022, the centenary of the birth of Philip Larkin, he published his research on musical settings of Larkin’s poetry Astonishing the Brickwork: Philip Larkin set to music. The book was published by Dancing Sisters in association with The Philip Larkin Society, and is available from the dedicated larkintomusic.com website.