I’m sure everybody has heard that Hull is to be named UK city of culture 2017, and many of you will have ridiculed the idea. However, how many of those who laugh at Hull winning have ever even visited, let alone lived in Hull?
Hull has a bad reputation as a scruffy city, full of ‘chavs’. This is not entirely untrue: it does have its fair share of bad areas, but doesn’t every city? There are many nice areas in Hull, and indeed many pockets of culture, which are never trumpeted in the national media. In Hull there are several interesting free museums, and even a free art gallery which featured Leonardo DaVinci paintings earlier this year. I’ll bet none of you expected that from the scruffy town in the north. It has been asked ‘what culture has Hull got – gang culture? Welfare culture?’ Being from Hull, I can laugh at these like a sibling laughs at a joke at their brother or sister’s expense; however, like a sibling I also feel protective. It is highly unfair to say this is all we have.
In recent years Hull has seen major investment, and subsequently, major improvement. Hull has played host to the annual Freedom Festival since 2008, which by 2009 was a major event featuring chart-topping acts and art displayed over a free four day festival. The festival is undoubtedly a key part of the winning bid. There is a mix of free art events, theatrical and musical performances from both famous and upcoming acts of all genres. This, like a visit to the world’s first Submarium – The Deep, or to Hull’s answer to the Cavern – ‘Fruit’, is an experience some would argue challenges Edinburgh’s fringe festival. In 2009 over 100,000 people visited the city for the Freedom Festival, and the night-time fire art display was one of the best things I have seen across the world. The festival is named after Hull’s most famous son, William Wilberforce, the famed 18th-century abolitionist, and the festival serves as a great reminder of his important work.
Hull has a rich history, which also contributes to our victory. The Arctic Corsair, docked along the, ahem, beautiful muddy banks of the river Hull, is a largely undiscovered but wonderful museum ship. It provides an experience of the fishing wars with the Norwegian trawlers of the 1960’s which is a huge part of Hull’s culture and heritage, with Hull having been a dock and Fishing town throughout its modern existence until only recently. Indeed it was the falling away of the fishing industry that landed Hull in the position it was when we topped the inaugural ’50 crap towns’ list in 2003. However since then we have improved greatly, and this year we didn’t even make the shortlist. This is testament to our improvement as a city over recent years.
I’m not pretending Hull is the greatest city in the world, but it is a city with as much history and culture, and is a deserving winner of the city of culture award. London and Liverpool are famed for their cultural attractions, and it’s only fair a lesser known city like Hull gets the limelight for once.
And if it wasn’t deserving enough, we are also home to the world’s biggest Yorkshire pudding factory!