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.

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.

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
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.
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
I was rather proud that I recognised this was a crab!  Maquette for a Crab by Bernard Meadows
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.


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.


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.

Made in Hull, the first week (Part two)

After seeing the light show and the fireworks on the opening night, we set off to see some of the other installations but most were too crowded and to be honest, we skimmed over them and we were a bit too tired to do them justice. We’d seen the main events and so decided to head home and visit again one evening during the week to seek out the other things and see them properly.

On the Thursday evening, we hopped on the bus into town and were absolutely gobsmacked at the crowds.  The official estimate is that there were 100,000 visitors to the light show that night alone and I think most of them were there at the same time as us!  It was heaving with bodies and we couldn’t actually get onto the square so watched the show from down the side of the Maritime Museum.  We were able to view it on City Hall that time, rather than the Ferens as we had the first time.  It was interesting to see it on a different ‘screen’ and both agreed that Ferens, being mostly flat fronted was a better screen but some of the parts of the film looked better projected on City Hall.  The Hull Fair clip in particular and the blitz scene with windows smashing and buildings crumbling looked so realistic, as though the windows of the City Hall really were shattering.

From there we made our way across to Whitefriargate to see several installations set up in the windows of vacant shops.  Some better than others, a little summary of them all below.

Amuse Agents.  This is a mock up of a newsagent with Small Ad notices in the window.  Absolutely hilarious and proved so popular that it is the only one of the installations to be given a stay of execution after the week and is actually still there now in mid-April.

Pauline’s Gift Shop Emporium.  A tribute to a second hand shop in Hull’s Princes Avenue which became a bit of a local legend as did it’s owner, Pauline Gift.  Customers came from far and wide and this installation was a mock up of the shop, featuring genuinely interesting vintage items along with the accumulated junk that is always to be found in these kinds of shops.  A sound track of people’s memories of Pauline, which were actually quite touching played along in the background.

Reflections. A bit odd this, just a film which filled a whole shop window of various people sitting on a bench down Whitefriargate.  Not quite sure what it was all about.

We’re all going on a summer holiday. In recognition of the caravan industry which is a very large employer in the Hull region.  In one side of the shop window, a set up of the inside of a caravan with two women playing board games whilst in the other window a film played showing a production line in a caravan manufacturing company.

The Heart of Rugby.  In case you don’t know, Hull has two rugby league clubs.  Hull Kingston Rovers, the Robins, in the East and Hull FC, the Airlie Birds, in the West.  This display in a double fronted shop showed films and memories of both clubs, one in either window with kit and fan memorabilia displayed around the screens.  I’m originally from the East of the city so a Robin in case you wondered!

On then to other areas. Projected onto the side of the C4Di building near Humber Street we had photographer Quentin Budworth’s Hullywood Icons where ordinary (or slightly bonkers depending on your viewpoint) people of Hull recreated iconic scenes from Hollywood movies but with Hull as their setting.  Enormous fun, I followed this on the site blog as the photographs were being taken and only wished I could have thought of a scene to do myself.

At the High Street Underpass we had something called Embers, which the blurb told us was a multi screen and sound installation recreating self expression in the the protective womb of the club space.  In reality it was a screen showing dancers at a rave with a soundtrack that didn’t seem to go with it.  Not impressed I’m afraid.

On Scale Lane, projected onto a gable wall was (in) Dignity of Labour.  It wasn’t to my taste if I’m honest, it showed scenes of people working in boring manual labour, along with a depiction of young people constantly building blocks one on top of the other and then them all collapsing to be built up again.  The cleverest part of this was that it was in the full view of the offices of Oriel House which is where anyone who has ever had to claim benefits in Hull knows is the place where they make the decisions on how much or if you get any money this week!

Last but certainly not least, down at our iconic aquarium The Deep, where our two rivers meet, a projection on the side of the building called Arrivals and Departures told the story of the ebb and flow of people, animals and cargo from distant shores through our City over the years. We are “A place built on working hands washed here by the sea”.  See it here. Arrivals and Departures

Made in Hull, the first week. (Part One)

Talk about In With A Bang!!  Wow. We certainly started it off in style with a fantastic light show of Hull’s historic moments and events over the past 70 years or so.

On Sunday 1st January, New Years Day, Queen Victoria Square, Hull was the setting for a spectacular film and sound extravaganza shown across the facades of the beautiful buildings surrounding it.  The former town docks offices, now the Maritime Museum, The City Hall and Feren’s Art Gallery all became screens for the film to play out on a continuous loop every evening from 4pm to 9pm.  Images and sounds of events such as Amy Johnson’s solo flight to Australia in her gypsy moth, Jason, the magic of Hull Fair, the blitz of WW2 and a very moving depiction of the lives lost from our trawlers.  I felt so proud standing there watching not only the show but the faces of the people around me, looks of wonder and awe on their faces and tears in their eyes.  As we finished watching it that first night, I remarked that although it was so busy, I expected that a lot of the spectators were also in town for the firework display which was to be later, down at the pier and I hoped it wouldn’t be empty for the rest of the week. How embarrassing would it be to have a light and sound show playing out each night to an empty Victoria Square?  How wrong could I have been and how proud and happy did it make me to be so.  The crowds swelled in number as the week went on and people were going back over and over again.  Civic pride in bucketloads and this is the reason for it.

Made in Hull Light Show

I mentioned fireworks earlier.  Well, this was a ticketed event due to safety reasons and crowd control, although the tickets were free.  Unfortunately, the morning they were released online, the City of Culture website became overloaded and just couldn’t handle the volume of traffic.  We were not lucky enough to get tickets at that time but luckily for us, Patrick’s sister Tina had two going spare and so offered them to us.  I nearly snapped off her hand!  So after the light show, we headed off to meet Tina and Andrew to collect our tickets and walk down to the pier together ready for the firework display which was to commence at the symbolic time of 20:17.  In the event, it was a few minutes late starting but I think you’ll agree, it was worth the wait.

In with a BANG!

There were several other fantastic art installations around the city centre for that first week.  I’ll tell you all about them in the next post.

Hull’s Year in the Spotlight.

When in 2013 the announcement was made that Hull had won it’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2017 I’ll admit it here, I cried.  I’ve championed Hull, my home city, all my life. Argued against not only strangers who have never set foot here but sometime family and friends, that it’s not a dump or somewhere where there is nothing to do or see but that if you take the time to look for it, has lots of things going on.  It’s long been a place with culture aplenty so that we were to be given the funds and the means to show the world was a cause for celebration for me and many others.  Not least all those involved in putting together this fabulous film as part of the bid.

This blog is just my own personal experiences during this special year, recorded for my own memories.  If it interests anyone else along the way then I’m pleased to be of service. I am to be a City of Culture Volunteer so expect to see some posts relating to that as well as my adventures as a tourist in my own home.

Just one more film link that I want to have a record of for my memories then on to the blogging.  The City Speaks – poem by Shane Rhodes