Hull City of Culture 2017 – James McGuire – 23th October 2017

“City of Culture” is an event held every four years highlighting one location in the UK and promoting arts and culture as a means of celebration and regeneration.  In 2013 Kingston upon Hull was one of several cities to submit a bid for the event  Their submission was successful based on the proposed use of thousands of volunteers and a budget of £12m.  They managed to recruit Martin Green as the CEO and Director of a new independent company and charitable trust named “Hull UK City of Culture 2017”.  He has experience of organising large events including parts of the London Olympic Games.  He at an early stage set the budget for the event at £18m and set about raising the money.  In the event over £30m was raised.

James McGuire was born and educated in Hull and is employed for 2017 by the new Company as the Audience Engagement Manager.

He explained how the City was extensively bombed during WW2 to be followed by the loss of its fishing industry to Iceland.  The main long standing industries include Smith & Nephew, Armco, BP and prefabricated buildings and caravans.  Despite its well regarded university and its motorway connection, there was a feeling in 2013 of a community in decline.  A local joke at the time was “you’ll find more culture in a yogurt pot than in the whole of Hull”.  The present Hull is very different.  It has a growing off shore wind turbine industry, its tourism industry is expanding with a new hotel in the city center and a proposed passenger liner terminal planned to augment the ferry terminal.  By attracting 2,500 local volunteers and refurbishing city center buildings there is a welcoming buzz and a belief in the future of the city.

Although the city of culture is a 12 month event, the impetus gained will continue into the years ahead.  In 2017 the activities were centered on four seasons. The 1st (January to March) was “Made in Hull” and challenged preconceptions and showed what Hull is really made of.  The 2nd (April to June) was “Roots and routes” and explored Hull’s place in a constantly changing world.  The 3rd (July to September) was “Freedom” where it celebrated its rebellious streak and its freedom of thought, unbounded by convention.  The 4th (October to December) will look to the future and “Tell the world”.  It will look at how Hull is redefining itself as a key city within the North.

The talk was a wake up call to embrace a city on Sheffield’s doorstep that has been ignored for too long.  Useful addresses for Hull City of Culture are listed below:

Turner Prize 2017 (Ferens Art Gallery, on until Sunday 7 January 2018)

Walking Tours (Hull’s Old Town)

Hull New Theatre and Hull City Hall

Hull Truck Theatre