I’m sure most of you will remember the beautiful poppies of the weeping window at the Tower of London. Well the poppies have been on tour and 5000 of them were pouring out of the window of our beautiful Maritime Museum in March. Like Blade before them, they were the subject of many photos and selfies. Here are a couple of mine.
In April I had my first volunteering shifts. Both at Hull University, first up was the Science Festival. This is an annual event and to be honest, I’m pretty sure they could have managed just as well without us vollies but it was lovely to have the opportunity to be a part of such a fun event. It was a day crammed full of children’s activities, all science based of course.
Next up was a shift of gallery invigilating and visitor welcoming at the BP Portrait Awards exhibition in the Brynmor Jones Library, the same place as the Lines of Thought was held. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to enjoy the amazing portraits on show. When you are there for 3 hours, it’s plenty of time to see them properly rather than rushing round which is what we all usually do if we are honest. A few pictures below of some of my favourites.
There was an exhibition in the Streetlife Museum that I kept seeing mentioned on Twitter. It was called Fantastic Felines and was a display featuring picture postcards designed by a music hall singer Violet Roberts. Although born in Hammersmith in 1895, her family moved to Hull when she was 6 and she spent the rest of her life in Hull and later, Beverley.
A very talented lady, as well as singing, she was a postcard artist. In Edwardian England, the postcard was almost like today’s text message. Postal deliveries were several times a day so you could send a postcard in the morning and get a reply by the afternoon post. Violet’s postcards featured drawings of comically dressed cats with amusing captions and the exhibition featured a number of them.
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!
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!
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.
The 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.
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.
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!
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
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.