Hull prepares for the 2017 UK City of Culture festivities

PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 January 2014

Maritime Building.

Maritime Building.

Joan Russell Photography

Hull is striding boldly into a bright new future after being named UK City of Culture 2017. Andrew Vine looks at what a year of glittering events will hold, and how social media is helping


Now the hard work really starts for Kingston upon Hull, to use its Sunday-best name. The great port erupted with joy when it was named as the next UK City of Culture by a panel of judges who recognised its ambition and determination to use arts and festivals to help it bounce back from decades of economic problems. Hull is now laying its detailed plans for a vibrant year of celebrations that will not only transform the city into Britain’s biggest festival, but also bring real benefits to its people.

Hull’s planned programme is twice the size of Derry’s, the 2013 City of Culture, and the city council believes the £15m it intends to spend will generate £60m in 2017 and sustain a cultural legacy from which the city can continue to profit.

Social media has played a vital part in bringing the people of Hull together to back the drive to become City of Culture, and will play a key role throughout 2017. Online supporters already number more than 16,000 and the Twitter campaign trended UK-wide six times during the process, using the hashtags #Hull2017 and #HullYes.

The city is urging its supporters to like and share content on its Facebook page, upload photographs on to Instagram, tagging them using #Hull2017, and commenting via the Hull2017 YouTube channel, which features a specially commissioned film about Hull’s ambitious plans entitled This City Belongs To Everyone, narrated by one of the city’s best-loved sons, actor Sir Tom Courtenay.

Making the plans for the year a reality will be the responsibility of Hull Culture Company, bringing together the city council, business and artists behind a wide-ranging programme of more than 1,500 events involving both the city’s residents and a cast of stellar international artists.

It will begin with the Four Rivers opening ceremony featuring 3,000 local people, as well as dancing white telephone boxes and life-size model elephants walking the streets of Hull. It will be created by Tracey Seaward, who grew up in Hull and went on to a hugely successful career as a Hollywood producer, including Steven Spielberg’s Warhorse.

The year of events will close with an equally spectacular finale, Sonic Lumiere, involving lights, magic and dance. Internationally acclaimed choreographer Durham Marenghi will create the show, featuring 500 dancers. His previous work includes lighting the London Olympics and working on The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The director of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony, Mark Murphy, and outdoor arts company Walk the Plank will stage a breathtaking aerial event with fireworks to tell Hull’s story against the iconic backdrop of the city’s tidal barrier. The theme of the event aims to honour one of Hull’s most famous alumni Philip Larkin and embody one of his immortal lines: ‘What will survive of us is love.’

Larkin himself will be commemorated with a major retrospective of his work at the University of Hull, where members of the public will be invited to read his lines beneath a giant umbrella, and throughout the year, The Larkin Lamp, a huge light, will shine on buildings that inspired his best-known work.

In The Frame will see entire streets turned into living art galleries, and the city’s maritime heritage will be celebrated by the Flag, Wind and Wave Festival, in which flags created by international artists will fly over the city.

Hull’s 2017 programme will follow a number of themes to celebrate the city including Roots and Routes, Made in Hull, Freedom and Quirky. The proposed programme will include 15 national and international commissions, 12 artists’ residencies, 25 festivals, eight major community participation projects and a programme of conferences.

And it’s not just Hull that is alive to the benefits – both economic and cultural – that the arts can deliver.

Another of our great cities, York, is looking at how it can build on its vibrant cultural scene by bidding to become a UNESCO City of Media Arts and join the global Creative Cities Network.

City of York Council, in partnership with business leaders and institutions, is leading the bid which, if successful, would see it gain an accolade currently only held by Lyon in France.

Success would include membership to the Creative Cities Network, a global network of culturally-significant centres of excellence across a range of creative fields, including literature, design and film.

With world class creative events such as the annual Illuminating York festival and the growth of media arts industries in the city, the council felt the time was right to bid.

And, as in Hull, there’s a solid economic case behind celebrating culture. York has an international reputation as a thriving centre for creative, media and digital production and participation, and success would help forge links with other leading creative cities.

Further details on Hull’s UK City of Culture programme and how to get involved are at To follow via Twitter, @2017Hull or like the Hull City of Culture Facebook page

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