Hull – an historic city going places reports Chris Titley
PUBLISHED: 08:33 20 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:34 20 February 2013
The traditions of art and storytelling are thriving in Hull, one of Yorkshire's leading ports, says Chris Titley<br/><br/>Photographs by Neil Holmes
Hull has lost a few famous sons recently. Alan Plater was brought up in the city he was friends with actor Tom Courtenay at Kingston High School. The screenwriter of such television classics as Z Cars and The Beiderbecke Affair died in June aged 75.
The same month saw the loss of provocative artist Sebastian Horsley, whose life was summed up perfectly in the title of his autobiography: Dandy in the Underworld.
Old school actor and child of Hull Ian Carmichael left the stage in February, while thriller writer Lionel Davidson died last year.
Though saddened by such losses, the people of Hull know that their successors are even now at work. This city has always been a hive of creativity.
Look back and the roll of honour boasts poets like Andrew Marvell, Stevie Smith and Philip Larkin, filmmakers such as J Arthur Rank and Carry On director Gerald Thomas, and musicians including Mick Ronson, guitarist on many of David Bowies classic tracks.
On a list of current graduates from Hulls creative hub would be actor-writers like Maureen Lipman, League of Gentleman star Reece Shearsmith and the creator of ITVs Benidorm Derren Litten. Youd also have to find a space for musicians as varied as Joe Longthorne, members of the folk group The Watersons and former Housemartins like Paul Heaton and Norman Cook, now better known as Fatboy Slim.
There are too many more to name. So how has a place of only 260,000 souls produced so much creative talent?
Because its a special city, says Dave Windass, a playwright born in Hull 44 years ago. It was Larkin who said its a great place to come and write. You can get your head down and achieve quite a lot. When youve done your shift of writing you hit the streets and normal life resumes.
Dave was an ordinary Joe who worked in the building trade and woke up one day and thought I should write some of this stuff down and he relishes Hulls DIY approach to culture.
That is best exemplified in the story of Hull Truck. It began very much as a community theatre with rehearsals in a rented house before moving into a converted Methodist chapel on Spring Street. Under the direction of John Godber and specialising in plays with an intensely local flavour, Hull Truck has flourished and moved into a flash new home on Ferensway.
Many of Daves plays have been performed there, including Kicked Into Touch and Sully. A special type of theatre is performed there a unique style born out of the intimacy of the venue. When youre sitting in the audience you feel youre in the show.
Hull Truck Theatre is only one such venue, he says. If you go and see live music at the Adelphi, which is kind of a converted house, you get that kind of feel as well. Theres a club called The Welly on Beverley Road which is another small venue.
The regeneration of Hull, which has brought swish new retailing to the city including the 200 million St Stephens shopping centre also created opportunities for the arts. Dave points to the old warehouses in the former Fruit Market, now home to galleries and a theatre space.
Another testament to Hulls place as an arts friendly city is the fact that writers lined up to take part in its literature festival, Humber Mouth, in July. Roger McGough, Roy Hattersley and former poet laureate Andrew Motion who taught English at Hull University were all on the bill.
But then, theres something intrinsically romantic about a port. The jutting prow of The Deep, the citys famed aquarium, marks the point where the River Hull joins big sister the Humber on her endless roll out to sea.
Follow the smaller river north along the cobbled streets of the old town, and youll find yourself in the Museums Quarter, hosting four different attractions including Wilberforce House, once home to the anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce.
Go west along the bigger river bank and there, before you, shines the modern Humber Quays development, where the citys own World Trade Centre resides.
The close proximity of old and new sums up Hull today: an historic city which is going places. True, there will be bumps along the road. The creators of The Deep this year pulled out of a scheme to build a sister attraction called The River. Hull Forward, the citys economic development agency, is to close in September, a victim of more austere times.
Hull City, whose remarkable promotion to the Premier League was a massive tonic, were relegated last season and a bid to include Hull as part of Englands campaign to host the 2018 World Cup came to nothing.
But there is still a huge sense of optimism here. Sports fans have two great rugby league teams, Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers, to support and will no doubt roar on the footballing Tigers in their campaign to get back to the top division.
And the return of the boats competing in the Clipper 09-10 race to the Marina in July, 10 months after they set off from the port, perfectly combines Hulls maritime history with its contemporary colour and excitement.
Nowhere is there a bigger buzz than in Hulls artistic community. Colourful toads appearing in and around the city are part of the Larkin25 festival, celebrating the poet over 25 weeks till December 2nd he wrote two famous poems about toads.
And thats only one of many artistic events, shows and collaborations that seem to be sparking this fine old city into a new direction.
If you want to get involved in the arts its kind of easy here, added Dave Windass, because theres a community of artists at work who are quite welcoming if youve got some ideas and a bit of passion.
And we have a laugh here. I tend to spend most of my days laughing out loud at the stuff that I see, with the people that I meet. Its a very funny place to live peculiar at times, but for all the right reasons
How to get there: Hulls Paragon Interchange brings people to and from the city by train, bus and coach. There are 12 off-street car parks in and around the city centre providing 2,500 spaces see www.hullcc.gov.uk for full details.
What to do: Youre spoilt for choice. See the giant creatures of The Deep, Hulls world famous submarium. Witness history as it comes to life in the Museums Quarter. Shop in the Princes Quay and St Stephens shopping centres.
Where to eat: Ceruttis on Nelson Street specialises in fish, as befits a restaurant overlooking the Humber. You can travel the gastronomic world by walking down Princes Avenue, with a taste of Malayan and Moroccan cuisine among the highlights.
An historic city going places
The traditions of art and storytelling are thriving in Hull, one of Yorkshires leading ports, says Chris Titley
Photographs by Neil Holmes