So…I Volunteered

I had thought about becoming a City of Culture volunteer last year when they first announced the volunteer program but I was worried that because I work full-time, I wouldn’t be able to do much to help.  After the first week’s events though, I decided that I really had to be involved with this once in a lifetime opportunity or I would regret it forever.

I looked into it a bit more and discovered that it is really flexible, you really do exactly how much you want to do.  You are offered shifts based on your interests and availability via an online portal and if you want to do it, you sign up, if you don’t then no problem.

I went for an interview and to try on a uniform for sizings in early February and was notified about a week later that I had been accepted.  Two core training sessions followed which were really good fun.  Just a bit of information about how the volunteer program works and a section on local knowledge.  Uniform collected and I was ready and raring to go….’scuse the slippers!IMG_20170402_104955929

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I Wish To Communicate

I just wanted to mention this art installation because this is the kind of thing that I hope the City of Culture year will leave as a legacy – community spirit.

There is an estate just off the City Centre, Thornton Estate.  It has a reputation for drugs, dodgy dealings and prostitution and most of us know little about it but that. However, as in most places, there are also plenty of good people living there and even some of the ‘bad’ ones just may turn out better given half a chance.

Instigated by an artist Silvio Palladino who lives on the estate and assisted by CoC funding and local charity The Goodwin Trust, this was in essence a very simple idea.  Each resident of the flats on the estate had a coloured filter fitted to the external light of their flat, they could choose their own colour.  At night, the flats are awash with colour.  The project was inspired by Hull’s connection to the sea and traditional methods of communication.

Watching the news report on the TV, I saw the various residents getting involved, helping to cut out the filters and choosing colours.  One lady commented that it had ‘got everyone talking to each other’. This is art being used in such a positive way, it’s possibly going to be my favourite installation of the whole year.

I didn’t manage to take any photos myself so have used others gleaned from the internet.  I hope no one minds!

 

A Day of Culture – Humber Street

In years gone by, Humber Street, being adjacent to the Humber Dock was home to the Fruit Market where all the fruit and vegetables would be unloaded from ships into the warehouses of the fruit merchants and the greengrocers would go there to buy their wares.

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Photo from Hull the Good Old Days Facebook Group

 

Humber{_street_oldThe fruit market, such as it is, has been relocated out along the A63/M62 now that transport methods have changed from ships, barges and railways to lorries and motorways. For many years Humber Street was home to nothing but derelict buildings.

Over the past 6 or 7 years, some of the creative folk of Hull have been migrating towards the area, leading to an organic growth.  One of the first was the Oresome Gallery which offers bespoke jewellery pieces and regular classes to make your own piece.  Our annual Freedom Festival became centred around Humber Street, the Marina and the Pier.  Then came Humber Street Sesh in 2011.  I remember the organiser appealing on social media for individuals and businesses to help out financially to get this off the ground. The first year was fairly small scale but like Freedom Fest, it has grown year on year and is now one of the most sought after tickets in town.  Thieving Harry’s started up just as a pop up cafe in an open front warehouse during events and at the monthly Humber Street Market.  There is a Micro Brewery, Yorkshire Brewing Company which as well as it’s core range, brews a few themed beers for events such as the Hull & EY CAMRA beer festival and Freedom Festival. The world’s only Museum of Club Culture started in a unit on Humber Street and I believe is only temporarily re-homed on Bond Street whilst their unit is being renovated.  Dinostar is an interactive museum and fossil shop and popular with families.

It must have been fairly easy to build on this already thriving cultural community for Hull City Council but to give them their due, they have invested a lot of money in refurbishing the roads and the warehouses whilst still retaining some of the feel of the old Humber Street.  The cobbled road has been repaired and is complemented by the brand new granite blocked pavements and I love the wooden fruit crate street art.

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Two newly opened restaurants appeal to trendy diners, Butler Whites and Ambiente and a local chocolatier who started up and still has a stall in the covered market as well as a soon to be opened Gin bar called Humber Street Distillery will appeal to the masses.  There are now several galleries, although we seem to have lost one of the old ones that I can remember visiting a few years ago.

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Patrick and Dead Bod

The day of our visit saw us in the then newly opened Humber Street Gallery, primarily to see Dead Bod now hanging in the cafe bar area of the gallery.

Whilst there, we popped into the exhibit in Gallery 1.  Power in Woman by Sarah Lucas.  For me, this was pretentious art bollocks at its finest!  Basically it was plaster casts of literally topless women, as in their lower halves only, with cigarettes protruding from their orifices.  Quite distasteful really and no matter how many people try to ‘explain’ it, I just don’t get it.  I would have gone upstairs to the other galleries to see the even more explicit exhibit of Coum Transmissions but Patrick had had enough arty-farty stuff for one day so we went for a beer instead!

A Day of Culture – Wandering.

As well as The Ferens, we popped into the Maritime Museum to see the Bowhead exhibition. The blurb read:

“Get up close and personal with a Bowhead – also known as a Greenland Right Whale – in this lifelike audio visual installation, commemorating the city’s whaling heritage. Bowhead has been created by the University of Hull and Hull School of Art and Design, showcasing the best of the city’s emerging talent in music and games design.”

I could see that this was very good and that it would take a lot of work to design such a thing but unfortunately Patrick and I found it a bit boring just watching a CGI whale swimming round in circles.  You can’t please all the people all the time as the saying goes.

Next up was Zebedee’s Yard to see The Last Trip, a touching memorial to Hull’s lost trawlermen.  Made of rusted steelwork, it features the titles of all jobs aboard a trawler cut into the steel as well as titles of family members such as ‘husband’ ‘brother’ etc.  Members of the public can purchase a ‘ships bow’ which can be engraved with their own memorium to lost family members and has space for a floral tribute. Personally, I thought the plastic flowers stuffed into these engraved memorials a bit tacky and felt they spoiled the overall effect.  I would have preferred them without the flowers but that’s just my opinion.  It has a light and sound installation and is really very moving.

Continuing our walk down Whitefriargate having grabbed a bag of chips to eat en route. We continue into Silver Street to cut through the stunning Hepworth Arcade, a fantastic example of a Victorian shopping arcade, leading to our indoor market where you can buy almost anything from specialist teas or vinyl records to your weekly shop and then enjoy a coffee at Caffienated whilst admiring the latest match-worn Hull City shirt from past players as loaned by the fantastic Hull City Kits guys

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Eating chips in Hepworth’s Arcade

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Hepworth Arcade is apparently the only L-shaped Victorian arcade in the UK.  It’s also where Marks & Spencer opened their first Penny Bazaar in Hull.  More importantly than that is that it has been home to the amazing Dinsdales joke shop for 80 years!  Most of us who grew up in Hull, me included, would have spend most Saturday afternoons gazing in the window and deciding whether to buy the trick dog poo, the nail through the finger or other such practical jokes.  An excellent article here from the Yorkshire Post.

Whitefriargate, the Market Hall and Hepworth’s Arcade are not specific to Hull 2017 City of Culture of course, they have always been here, part of the rich culture that we have always enjoyed.   It’s not often that I take the trouble to visit nowadays but when I do, these are the places that evoke some of my happiest memories.  When I was growing up, this was ‘Town’.  When people say, they are going ‘to town’ usually meaning the city centre area of the place they live, this was the place we 1970s kids called town.  The place we spent our pocket money or babysitting wages.  For me, Woolworths down Whitefriargate,  Dinsdales and the second hand record stall on the old outdoor market.  Whenever I’m here, I’m transported back in time.

Next, onto Humber Street…more of that in the next post.

A day of Culture – Ferens Art Gallery

I think I’ve visited the City centre more in these first three months of 2017 than I have in total over the last 5 years.  I’m absolutely loving seeing so many people enjoying the city and what it has to offer.

We had a good wander around one weekend at the beginning of February visiting among other places, The Ferens art gallery which has had a multi-million pound refurb.  It re-opened in January to a great fanfare and much press interest due mainly to the addition to it’s already fabulous collection of a newly restored 14th century masterpiece by Lonzeretti and a temporary exhibition of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes. They had 10,000 visitors in the first weekend alone.

A bit of background on The Ferens Art Gallery, it is named for the man who bought and donated the land on which it is built.  The great philanthropist Thomas Ferens who you can read more about here .  He is well worth a read.  He helped establish Reckitt and Colman and as a great supporter of charity, by 1920 was donating £47,000 of his £50,000 earnings to charitable causes.  As an MP for Hull, he was a champion of womens rights in parliament.  A truly great man who I admire tremendously.  One of the Galleries is dedicated to him and his legacy.

I love wandering around the Ferens but there is almost too much to take in for one visit.  When we visited, it was hosting the 50th annual open exhibition for local professional and amateur artists.  As always with these kinds of things, some art we loved, some we hated but all of it made us think and discuss.  As I haven’t visited in a number of years, I enjoyed seeing some of my old favourites again.

 

Elwell, Frederick William, 1870-1958; The First Born
First Born – Frederick Elwell

I’ve always loved this beautiful painting.  From the tenderness of the mother’s gaze at her baby to the pretty bedroom setting.  It’s one I always look for whenever I go in.

Bonheur, Rosa, 1822-1899; The Lion at Home
Lion at Home – Rosa Bonheur

So majestic!  This is one of those enormous paintings that one that you can sit in front of and just soak up.

As well as my old favourites, this new addition really grabbed my attention.  It features neon illuminated lines from the poem by Thomas Hood, Gold Gold Gold.

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Untitled (Gold) by Bik Van Der Pol

If you’ve never visited The Ferens, what’s stopping you?

Lines of Thought

The exhibition Lines of Thought has been at the Brynmor Jones Library at Hull University between 3rd January and 28th February 2017.  It was previously at Poole in Dorset at the end of last year and will go on to Belfast after leaving us.  Being one of only three venues to host this prestigious exhibition, I felt that as the venue is literally 10 minutes walk from our house, we really should make the effort to go along.  I am very pleased that we did.

I’d mentioned it to Patrick’s sister Coral and as they were coming to our house to pick up some beers from us, she and William decided to go along too.  After a nice lunch of homemade carrot and coriander soup (thanks Patrick!) and a sandwich, off we all tootled through the wind and rain.

The Brynmor Jones Library, named after the chap who initiated research into LCD technology in the 1930s, is where poet Philip Larkin spent 30 years as Librarian.  In 2015 it underwent a £28million refurbishment, part of which was the new gallery and exhibition space to house the University’s impressive Art collection, which was previously a bit tucked away in another building.  The gallery  was easy to spot with the queue outside it and the two blue and pink clad volunteers handing out tickets to punters.

Once inside we set about viewing the drawings in the exhibition space on one side of the gallery.  This ranged from drawings by 15th Century masters such as Da Vinci right up to current artists.   I’m not sufficiently ‘arty’ to pretend to understand it all but basically it was all about how drawing is really just thinking in pictures. It was arranged by types of thinking rather than by date and the five sections were: The Likeness of a Thought, Brainstorming, Enquiry and Experiment, Insight and Association and Development and Decisions.  Have to say that angle went over my head really and I just enjoyed seeing the pictures.  I’m always a bit blown away by the thought that I am looking at something that someone drew 500 hundred years ago!

I did take some photos myself but I’m not the world’s greatest photographer so I’ve borrowed some pictures from the British Museum website instead.

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Studies for Adam & Eve by Aldrecht Durer, 1504.  This really caught my eye because I like the thought of old Aldrecht back in 1504 doodling away trying to find the right look for Adam’s arm
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Studies of a turbaned African man by Jacques De Gheyn II c.1603-1629.  This one really impressed me for it’s detail.  The folds of the clothes and turbans, the features, ears and skin.  I spent a good while looking at this and wishing I could draw.
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Asian Elephant by Rembrandt c.1637.  I just loved this one.  I’d have this on my wall as it is. I’ve no idea if Rembrandt ever converted this to a painting but if you click here, it does give quite a lot of information about this particular elephant, called Hansken who arrived in Holland in 1633 as a gift to the Prince of Orange.

The other half of the gallery houses the University’s own Art collection with paintings by the ‘Bloomsbury set‘, sculptures by Jacob Epstein as well as many others.

Madrid crowd
I rather liked this one.  Madrid Crowd 1931 by Sylvia Gosse
Maquette_for_crab
I was rather proud that I recognised this was a crab!  Maquette for a Crab by Bernard Meadows
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Coral and I liked this one because she looks as if she is about to say to some hapless guy “Just you effing dare!”  Portrait of Mrs Randolph Schwabe 1917 by Augustus John

So a really enjoyable afternoon viewing rare art that we wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to see.  Might not be everyone’s idea of fun but I loved it.

Blade

No sooner had the dust begun to settle on the last showing of the Made in Hull light show on the evening of Saturday 7th January when workmen surreptitiously began removing certain items of street furniture.  Street lights, bollards etc. began to disappear from the city centre streets.  We all had no idea that this was happening and certainly no idea why…. but in the dead of night, a 75 metre wind turbine blade began it’s slow, careful journey from Alexandra Dock, in East Hull, towards its home for the next 3 months in Queen Victoria Square.  We awoke on Sunday morning to the avalanche of social media posts showing the film footage of it’s journey and placement and it’s fair to say, the citizens of Hull didn’t know quite what to make of it at first.  Me.  I was smitten!

The artist responsible for the idea is Nayan Kulkarni.  Was it art?  Well the blade itself, no. It is a marvellous feat of engineering but not art… but the placing of it and the respresentation of this new, modern future for Hull’s industry against these beautiful Victorian buildings of our past, yes I think that was art.  Most of us may not have seen it as that to start with but by the time it left in March, I think most of us had fallen in love with it.  A master stroke by Siemens to cement their place in Hull’s future history.  Last week was all about the past, now this is the future.  It engaged people like no one expected it to.

IMG_20170115_142626879For most of us, it was impossible to walk under it without reaching up to touch it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You just couldn’t resist taking a photo every time it came into view as you walked through town.

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We all took selfies with it.

Everyone was completely blown away by the sheer size of the thing.  75 metres long, 3.5 metres diameter at it’s base and weighing 25 tonnes.  Our Hull blades are actually the world’s largest fibreglass components cast in one single piece.

Blade at night 1

It got people talking, it engaged and interested people. It fascinated children and divided opinions as to whether or not it was ‘art’.  When it left on March 18th, I think we all felt a little bit sad to see it go.

However, it’s not lost to us forever.  It was a gift from Siemens to the people of Hull.  The first ever blade off the production line at their Hull factory and is to be displayed outside their Alexandra Dock offices.