So, Hull City of Culture 2017 is a week old – but it feels a lot longer. And I mean that in a good way.
I’m already feeling a mixture of exhaustion, exhilaration and childish excitement after what’s been going on in the past seven days, and if it keeps up at this pace, then this year is going to be simply incredible.
It’s been such a long time coming, and after years of hearing the same tired clichés about our downtrodden northern town, it’s hard not to be bursting with pride at the way the people of our city of Hull (and a sizeable number of people not from Hull) have supported the year’s first events. Well over 300,000 attended the opening Made in Hull installations, and whether that’s unique visits or people coming back again and again (and there were lots of them), hardly matters; I haven’t seen the city centre this full to bursting since the Hull City promotion celebration in 2008, and even then that was just one day. Town has been rammed for a week, and rammed with people of all ages. Brilliant to see.
Family commitments (my mother’s just had a heart op and is staying with me) prevented me spending loads of time at Made in Hull, but I managed to see all of the installations one night. Queen Victoria Square blew me away. The first time I saw it (I had to stay and see it again straightaway), I was standing between the Ferens and Hull City Hall, looking back and forth between them in Philomena Cunk-like total wonderment. At the end, as it reached its climax, and when the big WE ARE HULL letters were emblazoned across the buildings’ beautiful facades, I am not ashamed to say I nearly lost it… I can’t really put my finger on the emotion; pride, I guess, but more than that. Vindication, perhaps.
The animation on the Deep was similarly jaw-dropping. Just the fact they perfectly aligned it with the huge tiles on the side of the aquarium (sorry, submarium) pleased me greatly.
A huge round of applause and big hugs to all of those involved in creating these magical moments. I really hope they release an official DVD of the films – and not just the animations in themselves, but as shown on our buildings. I hope the events were professionally recorded for posterity, and I would certainly snap up a copy.
So, what could possibly follow that?
Well, the biggest erection ever seen in the city centre, that’s what. Stop sniggering at the back.
To the hard of imagination, Blade is ‘just a wind turbine component’. But art is what you want it to be, and the unfathomably huge 75m-long structure (which the Hull Daily Mail helpfully pointed out weighs the same as four bull elephants standing on a scale together, bringing to mind that bit in Dumbo where the big circus climax all goes Pete Tong) looks, to me, like a beautiful, smooth sculpture crying out to be touched. So, that’s what it is. To me. It’s subjective. It’s also interesting to see it out of its usual environment. The fact there’s even a debate makes it art. Art is anything and nothing. So move on.
There have been legitimate concerns that the involvement of Siemens equals corporate sponsors dictating, or having unfair influence, over the programme of Hull 2017. Well, we live in a corporate sponsorship world, for a start. Pandora’s Box was opened long ago. It’s infiltrated football in particular to a ridiculous level, for instance, but it’s here to stay and it’s part of modern culture, to an extent. And I don’t think it’s quite the same as having a giant Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire pudding installation (as some wags have suggested). Siemens is a huge corporate behemoth, for sure, but it is employing hundreds of our own people in a progressive industry that could ultimately be crucial to the survival of our environment as we know it. I think that should be celebrated. Sponsors should not be allowed to run Hull 2017, of course, but I don’t think they are doing. They put in, they get out, just like we all do at some level. It’s a win-win.
Constructive criticism isn’t the same as moaning, and thankfully the moaners (“they shud of spended it on mendin potholes!!”) are being almost drowned out on social media. You always get ’em, but at least now the tide is finally turning. CoC is delivering, and audiences are lapping it up.
The only slow handclaps should be reserved for the egregious Allam family, who have so little foresight or business sense that in the year the words “Hull” and “City” are on everyone’s lips, they have all but erased them from their operations, and the Zebedee’s Yard crowd noise installation by Invisible Flock quite prominently featured the “Allam Out” chant. Nice work on that legacy, chaps.
Anyway, bring on the next 51 weeks…