Hull bids to become Britain’s City of Culture 2017

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:27 17 November 2013

Hull's landmark Humber Bridge

Hull's landmark Humber Bridge


Later this month Hull will learn if it is to become Britain’s City of Culture 2017, and winning would mean a transformation in its fortunes. Andrew Vine reports

Generations of seafarers set sail from Hull, and now the city itself is ready to take a voyage into an exciting new future. Hull is hoping to win the prestigious City of Culture 2017 title, a prize that would bring millions of pounds pouring in, creating jobs, tourism, confidence, and boosting its efforts to forge a new and prosperous future.

The city is on the shortlist of four presenting their cases for the title later this month, battling it out against Swansea, Dundee and Leicester for the accolade, which runs for four years, and provides a significant and much-needed economic boost. The title brings with it an immediate investment of 11m, and that is expected by all four shortlisted cities to be just the start. The current City of Culture, Derry, has seen its income from tourism double, and calculates that every 1 of the funding spent has brought a return of 5.

Thats a prize worth having for Hull, which is classified by the Government as the 10th most deprived local authority area in England, with above-average rates of unemployment, and below-average rates of educational attainment. It has been hit hard by the recession, adding to the problems caused by the long-term decline of its traditional fishing industry. Those problems are readily acknowledged by Hull City Council, which is spearheading the bid, with cross-party support and enthusiastic backing from the private sector and the citys already vibrant cultural and tourism attractions, among them the sealife centre The Deep and the Hull Truck Theatre.

The councils portfolio holder for the City of Culture bid, Steven Bayes, said: Its about trying to improve the perception of the city, as well as an opportunity to showcase Hull and hopefully improve the citys infrastructure. We hope that at the end of the four years, if we win, there will be more people doing arts and more awareness of culture, as well as helping to generate jobs.

Hulls bid describes it as coming out of the shadows, re-establishing its reputation as a gateway to the world as part of a 10-year, 190m programme that puts culture at the heart of the citys regeneration, along the way developing a major new gallery, a dance centre and a music venue. Hulls proud history, taking in seafaring and its role in the abolition of slavery, is woven into the case it will make to the panel of judges who will decide on the City of Culture.

The city proposes a huge programme of arts events, with special shows at Hull Truck, Hull City Hall, Hull New Theatre, and The Ferens Art Gallery, building on the success of major exhibitions of the work of Andy Warhol and David Hockney.

There would also be a major literacy and literature programme including a childrens literature prize.

Some 25 festivals would be staged, taking in music, dance, comedy, jazz and fashion, along with a celebration of the citys architecture featuring light, sound, film, words and theatre. The city skyline would become a riot of colour with the Flags, Winds and Wave spectacular, involving commissioning international artists to create hundreds of flags celebrating Hulls relationship with the sea.

Artists will also be at the heart of the 12 by 12 by 12 programme, in which a dozen will be matched with iconic locations among them a composer in residence at the Humber Bridge and a choreographer at the KC Stadium. A food festival will celebrate the diversity and differing cultures of a city whose sea trade has always drawn in people from other countries

The bid also places great emphasis on the close involvement of the people of Hull in bringing the citys culture to life. And so, ordinary people will have the chance to house the citys art collection in their own front windows and workplaces. Residents are to be invited to take part in the Hull Mystery Plays, community performances about the city, and to join a drive to get the city singing.

Hard-headed economic reasons underlie Hulls determination to win. A vibrant cultural scene will make it more attractive to companies thinking about investing, like German industrial giant Siemens, which plans a 210m plant to manufacture wind turbines, holding out the prospect of 700 new jobs in the factory and thousands more in its supply chain.

There has to be a mix of things available, said Councillor Bayes. A lot of big inward investors have senior people who will need to relocate, and they ask the question, What is the place like? What can you do there? And its important to think of this as part of what Hull has to offer. Whatever the form of art, you have to make sure the offer is diverse, so that people looking at the city as a place to invest see it as somewhere where there are things to do.

Tell the World is the citys motto for 2017. If Hull wins, the world will hear a tale worth hearing.

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