Following the spectacular and successful launch of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture, I was inspired to take a closer look at the Hull 2017 programme and to commit to experiencing the widest possible range of events – be it art, history, music or the downright strange.
The organisers have designed the year around four distinct seasons, each focusing on different aspects of the city, it’s people and culture. The first three months, “Made in Hull”, will tell the story of what Hull is really about and how it has and continues to contribute great people and great ideas to the world.
Here are just a few of my City of Culture experiences of the last couple of months.
The art – but is it art?
As I wrote previously, within hours of the opening light and sound show in Queen Victoria Square being dismantled, a new art installation was being carefully put into place. Blade, created by artist Nayan Kulkarni, uses one of the 75 metre rotor blades made in Hull as part of its new and growing offshore wind turbine industry.
Whilst the concept may seem strange on paper, the visual effect is simply stunning, with the blade bisecting the square and rising up into the air to allow traffic to pass underneath it. Some of the photos are amazing and it has become quite an attraction. Indeed, there are many people asking whether it could become a permanent feature. Art? Definitely.
The history – the King’s town charters
The Hull History Centre opened its doors to Hull 2017 with an exhibition that told the story of the early development of the city through its royal charters, a selection of which were also on display. In 1296, King Edward I bought the land where the Rivers Hull and Humber meet from a local monastery, primarily to provide a base for supplying troops in Scotland. In 1299, a royal charter was issued, naming the town Kingston-upon-Hull and bestowing on it the right to hold markets and a fair. The city of Hull was born.
Subsequent rights, privileges and responsibilities were granted in charters issued over the following centuries, including by Henry VI (who created the county of Hullshire), Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria who granted city status in 1897. Because of its trading, commercial and military importance Hull was often granted a degree of self-governance not seen in much of the rest of the country.
Although there are no longer royal charters, Hull has continued to receive Letters Patent from the monarch, most recently in 2013 when the ancient posts of High Steward and Sheriff of Hull were revived. Hull is also the only place in the country to have its coat of arms (known as Three Crowns although technically they are ducal coronets!) protected by an Act of Parliament.
The music – a world premiere for Hull 2017
Sir Karl Jenkins is acclaimed as the world’s most popular living composer, famous for works such as the Armed Man mass for peace, Adiemus and a host of film and TV scores. His latest work, 6000 Pipes, has been inspired by Hull, in particular it’s music hall heritage (and the old Tivoli Theatre) and fishing industry. The work for organ and orchestra was commissioned by the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra as the centre piece of their City of Culture celebrations, and received its world premiere at the Hull City Hall on 25 February.
The Hull City Hall is a tremendous, and often underutilised, concert venue, and the organ (built a century ago and boasting nearly 6,000 individual pipes) is one of the finest and largest in the country. This grand and beautiful instrument, coupled with the skillful playing of the Hull Philharmonic, brought to life this wonderful, moving and fun musical tribute to our city. The packed audience was left calling for more. For those that missed it, the concert will be broadcast on Classic FM during April.
The Circus of Horrors – definitely strange
I’m not really sure what to write, as I’m really not sure what I witnessed when the Circus of Horrors came to town. Advertised as Cirque du Soleil meets Quentin Tarantino, this was more…well…I really don’t know…
It was strange, odd and a bit disturbing (definitely not one for the kids). But at the same time was performed with its heavy metal tongue very firmly in cheek. There was no doubting the skill of the performers, although how you discover you are good at the things they were displaying is beyond me. The audience (well most of them) loved it however, and although I might not make a return trip, it was certainly something a bit different. Which, after all, is part of what the City of Culture is all about.
I have been particularly impressed with the number and range of events that have been planned so far. Yes, there will be some large-scale events that will draw much attention (Radio 1’s Big Weekend, the Royal Ballet and the Turner Prize prime examples), but there is also plenty to experience by simply walking around the city and finding half an hour or so to enjoy the smaller shows and exhibitions. Truly culture for everyone.
So, get yourself over to Hull and join in the fun. You might even learn something!