March 31, 2017, and an unusually warm and sunny day here in Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire.
Hull as it is known locally and sometimes called for obvious reasons is the U.K.s City of Culture 2017.
This sometime bruised and battered semi-northern city, situated on the North Bank of the River Humber, just keeps bouncing back after each hit; high unemployment, bad press nationally, increased crime figures, poor health and more have all hit the reputation of this city and its population at one time or another and we are not quite out of the woods yet; in fact we may never be but we will continue to fight for a way out.
In party of the city centre of Hull the world famous Ferens Art Gallery, City Hall music and theatre venue and Hull Maritime building await your discovery.
Some fine statues bedeck a raised part in the middle of these buildings. But Queen Victoria and her cohorts only offer you long established free toilet facilities.
Crossing Victoria Square to access these toilet facilities was a daring feat when this blogger was a child as traffic whirled around but these days like much of Hull's city centre it is pedestrianised.
Until recently a huge wind turbine blade boldly dominated this square as a temporary art installation for the City of Culture festivities.
Initially the square looked so empty when the blade was removed but there have been some changes now.
Construction work, the accompanied staff, equipment and barriers are still visible in parts of the city centre almost one year and five months after work started but the construction sites are shrinking fast as completion nears.
New and stylish seating is in the square.
And appearing to tumble down the outside of the city's former Dock Offices, now the Maritime Museum, are bright red ceramic poppies. These 'poppies' began a tour of the U.K. following a successful installation in London:
The major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War.
In November 2014 BBC News reported "888,246 poppies will start to be dismantled by a team of about 8,000 volunteers" and thousands were to go on a nationwide tour.
The ceramic poppies displayed in London were for sale with money raised going to the British Legion and five other charities; "Chancellor George Osborne has previously agreed to waive the £1.1m VAT from the poppy sales, also using money from Libor fines."
The Maritime Museum was chosen for the Hull installation of "weeping window" because of the sacrifices made by the city's Merchant and Royal Navies.
This blogger's grandfather was a merchant seaman who died during WWII. His vessel was sunk by a U Boat while it was travelling off the coast of Egypt.
But the city has a history of service on land, in the air and at sea during various conflicts.
It has severely bombed during the WWII Blitz though that was kept an official secret nationally for many years.
Hull's "weeping window" is small compared to the installation in London but it sits well in its temporary location.
On a sunny day the blue sky, cleaned up stone buildings and red of the poppies contrast wonderfully.
But remember each poppy represents a person lost in WWI.
The display in Hull will end in May 2017. The ceramic poppy tour of the UK ends in 2018 one hundred years after WWI ended.
Originally written October 2016 Hull Pride is rapidly approaching
"Pride LGBT events feature annually in many UK cities and further afield. But in 2017 the first ever "UK Pride" event will be held and Kingston-upon-Hull which is having its year in the spotlight as the country's City of Culture 2017.
On July 22 Queen's Gardens in the centre of Hull will play host. The venue is not pun intended but a popular city centre area for outdoor events.
A Pride march will be followed by a series of fun-filled events in the "gardens."
There will be a week of events timed to coincide with an important 50-year-anniversary; the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.
But though there was a legal change in 1967 attitudes took a long time to catch up.
There are still hate crimes relating to the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender communities.
Hull should be and hopefully will be proud to welcome the first UK Pride event.
The city staged Hull Pride Summer 2016.
With a range of events on for City of Culture 2017 it is just another one that highlights the diversity of this sometimes troubled but always welcoming northern city.
UK Black Pride
[October 2016 there were reports that pranksters had filled the familiar Queen's Garden's rose garden fountain with washing-up-liquid. The response was mixed with senior councillor Terry Geraghty saying "It's vandalism. We are getting ready now for Christmas and that will be where all the lights are put up again, and this spoils it. It's a lovely part of the city and I don't know what they get out of it. "The rain will wash it away. It's not going to cause any damage. People ought to be more vigilant and report things like this when they happen."]
2018 latest - Pride In Hull, Yorkshire
Radio 1 is staging the big weekend free festival at Burton Constable, near Hull, although in truth it is not quite "free".
The event will take place the weekend of 27 May – 28 May 2017 in the grounds of Burton Constable Hall near Hull and for the city's year as City of Culture the big headline act is Katy Perry. The line-up over the weekend also includes Kings of Leon, Little Mix and Stormzy.
Tickets will be available soon;
Booking opens at 9.10am on Monday 10 April and will be handled by Ticketmaster on behalf of BBC Radio 1.
That highlights the first cost.
The second cost comes by way of transport. Access to the site will only be via park and ride or a shuttle bus at a cost of £13 per person.
And if you use the park and ride service to park your car at one of the areas in Hull you will have to stump up a further £7.50 per car.
Organisers claim the access limits to the site are for safety reasons. There will be no drop off points available at Burton Constable.
For regular theatre and festival goers the costs may be acceptable but for local people who are struggling on a tight budget they are still too high.
But at least this time local people may have a better chance of getting a ticket if they have the cash.
With 50,000 tickets available organisers are still warning tickets are usually oversubscribed and if you want get tickets you will need to act fast.
The advice is go online to get tickets. If you do not have Internet access you can ring 0844 453 9012.
Burton Constable, Skirlaugh, Hull HU11 4LN is worth a visit in its own right. Described online as "East Yorkshire's finest historic day out, proudly supporting Hull City of Culture 2017" check it out.
Posting this reminds me that the last time I visited Burton Constable Hall was many years ago, either in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The headline act was the rock band Free. It was a heady, noisy affair very much of the day. There was almost a tragedy as we were pushed along through a tunnel with police and sniffer digs at one end. Well is was the era of sex and drugs and rock and roll.
It was a great event however.
Hull folk festival is during July for 2017, Kingston-Upon-Hull's year as City of Culture.
In 2015 it ran from August 14 until Sunday August 16 and we visited briefly.
Hull Folk Festival 2015
Sunday early performers (starting around 1pm) were blessed with great weather and beautiful sunshine. By the afternoon clouds had wiped away the brilliant blue sky but the weather remained dry and relatively warm.
With many of the events outdoors it could have so easily been a washout.
Kingston-upon-Hull city centre was also playing host Sunday to a 'Sky Ride' event meaning it was very busy; the city centre was alive and bustling. Visitors from around the U.K. and abroad were in the city, some for one event or the other but some for both.
Cafes, bars, restaurants and ice-cream sellers were doing a roaring trade.
We opted for lunch at the long established Minerva pub on the old pier front. A 'Minerva stage' outside was hosting musicians throughout the day.
When it was time to stretch our legs we walked around the 'old town'.
Hull suffered badly in the WWII blitz of the U.K. and that removed so many fine old buildings but some have survived.
The Sky ride was in most parts of the city centre meaning traffic was diverted and roads closed accordingly.
Various musicians, bands and individual performers were dotted around the old town and Marina.
FRUIT which is housed on one of the old buildings that used to be part of a bustling fruit market had stalls and a performer on stage. Along the marina a couple were singing from the top of a boat which was open to visitors. On a long canal type of boat or barge a 'family' of musicians were setting toes tapping.
But have you guessed the best part about Sunday's events yet?
They were all free.
Of course most visitors spent some money here and there on food and drink but it was not compulsory. There was nothing to stop visitors bringing a picnic.
The Hull folk festival sort of morphed out of the earlier version, the Sea Shanty festival.
As always the weather in the north of England can make or break events that are largely outdoors.
2015 was a roaring success and as Hull's preparations for its year as City of Culture 2017 continued we looked forward to 2017 and beyond.
Note; In 2015 - The paid events were Friday at FRUIT, The Tannahill Weavers, £12, and Saturday Martin Carthy at Kardomah94, also £12.
Where is Hull? On the north bank of the River Humber, Yorkshire, England
The Festival of Christmas, Beverley, would just as easily fit in our travel our or Christmas blog but in the end we have opted to post in our events section.
We found out about Beverley's Festival of Christmas almost by chance. Working on the computer with the radio blaring out one December Sunday morning the Festival of Christmas received a plug.
It was being held that very day!
With a limited Sunday bus service we had to get our skates on but in the end arrived in Beverley a little after 1.15pm.
It was a typical grey winter's day with a nip in the air and a cold wind blowing. That however had not stopped visitors to the Victorian market which was heaving.
The sights, smells and sounds made for a noisy enjoyable experience. There were so many people being swept between the stalls it was difficult to look at anything too closely.
We opted to take lunch in the King's Head which was also packed to the rafters but service was good.
The food was a little pricey but tasty. Hot mulled win was available at £3 for a tall glass.
For those who preferred a cheaper lunch hot snacks and drinks were available outdoors in the market.
Other cafes were also open.
By the time we were back in market square the crowds had thinned a little. It was still busy but I managed to take a few snaps and look at the goods on offer more closely.
Many of the stalls were selling food stuffs such as a variety of cheeses, quirky beers and wines, meats, confectionery, cakes, jams, honeys and more.
There were also many craft stalls. Plenty of the goods on sale were pricey but the event was free.
Stall holders had rose to the occasion and dressed up in Victorian style clothes. Others were spotted here and there dressed in a myriad of strange attire.
Shops in Beverley were also open and trade was booming.
Where is Beverley?
The historic market town of Beverley is around seven miles from the city of Kingston-Upon-Hull on the North Bank of the River Humber. It is in the county of Yorkshire.
In summer race-goers flock to the town but Beverley racecourse is also host to other events.
For a small town Beverley has plenty to offer including historic buildings, the Saturday and Wednesday Market, folk music events, pubs, cafes, restaurants and the Westwood which is a great area for walks.
Check out the Festival of Christmas website and bookmark the page for upcoming details of next year's event.
Bonfire Night in England: Remember, Remember the 5th of November, Guy Fawkes head of England's first terrorist gang?
What's it all about then?
If you live in the UK you will probably know at least a little about Bonfire night, Guy Fawkes night, Fifth of November or call it what you will, for those of you who don't, read on.
England is a strange place and its people rather quirky. At least we think they are and this blogger was born and bred in England, and still lives there.
There can be few places around the world that would still celebrate an event, such as a terrorist act meted out against the government, centuries after the event. They may mark it in a sombre way. However we in the U remember this event in a dramatic and party like way.
In 1605 a man called Guy Fawkes, and his co conspirators, hatched a plot to blow up Parliament in London and whoever was there at the time. We will detail a little of this event below but would just like to ask a question first. Do you think any other country in the world would still celebrate this event 400 years plus later? Just as we thought - No.
So as we move into Autumn, Bonfire night approaches and families and the like are beginning to stock pile their own arsenals of fireworks.
Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York, England. It would seem that some of what was behind the plot, which he and others planned in 1605, was religion. Nothing changes, does it? Parliament in England was as grey an area back then as these days. However, back then there was much more than mere expense scandals afoot.
Robert Catesby was the head honcho of this plot but yet it is Fawkes who we remember more than 400years later. There were six main conspirators. We probably remember Fawkes because he was to be the perpetrator of the actual explosion. With some knowledge of explosives and fighting he was deemed the most suitable candidate from the gang of terrorists. Such is his fame that even the word GUY for a man is part of his legacy.
The plan was to blow up Parliament when, ideally, the King and aristocracy of the day where in the building. This would have inevitably blown up noblemen of both the Protestant and Roman Catholic faith. However, as is often the case with such extremists, the cause was felt to be worth it.
Fawkes and his gang hoped to rid England of a Protestant King and return England to the Holy Roman Catholic faith. Caught in the act as he was, Fawkes behaved suspiciously, and the plot was discovered in the nick of time. The plotters had managed to get 36 barrels of explosives into the building and so the King was one very lucky Royal in reality. As news spread, of the King's lucky escape, the people celebrated by lighting bonfires around London, and the tradition continues to this day
Memories of Bonfire night
As a child Bonfire night came hot on the heels of Hull Fair. This meant that for me, and other local children, it was a magical time of the year. Back then, the street where we lived had two bomb sites left over from the 2nd World War and the German Luftwaffe's war efforts. These bombies were perfect for our huge street bonfires.
Many families still had their own small bonfires in their postage stamp sized gardens or yards. Local parks also built huge organised fires and had free firework displays. Money was tight back then and our Dad, like many others, would gradually buy our fireworks over a period of time. These would be stored in a metal biscuit tin for safety. Then Dad, following all the safety precautions, would ceremoniously light these little treasures, one at a time. By today's standards our celebrations were meagre but we loved them.
Some children would build a Guy to be thrown onto the fire. This would usually be some sort of stuffed effigy dressed in a collection of old clothes. Traditionally some kids would stand outside of public houses and at the end of streets, asking for a "Penny For The Guy". We were not allowed to do this though as, in our Dad's eyes, it was begging, and not safe we assume. What fun though? Of course the streets were safer 50 years ago. The guy was pushed from here to there usually in an old pram.
The street bonfires would be built high with unwanted furniture, wood and the like. A Guy, that is an effigy of Mr Fawkes, would be set on the top. Usually he was sat in someone's old chair that they no longer wanted. The fire would be lit and the fireworks set off. It was a good time for householders to get rid of unwanted broken furniture and the like. Kids would collect this for weeks and store it all in a "safe house"
The night before Bonfire Night is known as Mischief Night but this is celebrated more in Scotland, than England
Locally our only encounter with this event was some years ago. We had been out for the evening and returned home to find that our six foot high gate had been lifted of its hinges and leant against the frame. As we lifted the latch to open the gate the whole thing went crashing down onto the path in front of us. There was no damage to us, the gate or the path but we did feel foolish. The whole road of houses suffered the same fate.
Still back to Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes is from my neck of the woods and so pertinent. In fact there is some link to his plotting and one of the few very old public houses in our hometown. This pub is located along The Land of Green Ginger. Now isn't that a fabulous name for a street?
Guy Fawkes was hung, drawn and quartered. What a fate. The full list of his co-conspirators is:-
In January 1606 those found guilty suffered execution by being hung, drawn and quartered. Those conspirators who had already been killed had their bodies exhumed. Their heads were cut off their bodies and displayed on poles at Traitors Gate alongside the heads of those who had been executed.
Initially it was an effigy of the Pope that was used as a Guy on the bonfires. It would seem that conspiracy theories are nothing new though. Some people believed that the whole thing was a set up and the purpose was to blacken the character of Catholics and strengthen the Protestants hold on England. We shall never know the truth now.
The 5th November 21st Century style
These days cynicism has set in. If you have pets Bonfire Night is just a pain. The fireworks last longer than they used to and are much louder. These days they can be heard from any time in October until the New Year. Of course, children will still love all of this.
However, when we were children, and Bonfire night was just one day a year, it was much more special, and that's not just because we were young.
Shanklin Theatre is one of those rare traditional Victorian theatres which is surviving against the odds. It is located in Shanklin town on the Isle of Wight.
We visited Thursday September 8, 2016, for an evening show called Best of the West End and beyond.
The cast, five men and five women gave their all for around two hours with a much needed mid-way fifteen-minute interval.
They sang, danced, made the audience laugh at times, did multiple quick changes and smiled their way through what must have been a gruelling couple of hours.
The show was probably something we would not have booked at home but during a week's vacation we thought, why not, and we were very glad that we did
The show included songs from shows old and new and even included a brief scene from the Full Monty with the guys stripping off, well almost.
Staff on the door, selling refreshments in the bar and working front of house are usually volunteers.
We sat in the downstairs stalls and it brought back memories of years gone by theatre visits. The seats were the traditional kind and a million miles away from modern theatres.
But that just added a special quality to the night.
So would I reccommend the show?
Absolutely it was highly enjoyable and the audience loved every minute.
However even some residents of local hotels such as the local Shanklin Beach opted to arrive by coach. For them the distance between their hotel and the theatre must have seemed huge as it incorporated a steep hill and a long promenade.
The only other quick and easy way up from the beach is the traditional Shanklin lift. That costs £1 going down and £1.50 up, pensioner concessionary price.
Check out full lift details here.
The lift is not a 24/7 affair but is a quick, smooth and easy way up or down the 45 metres to or from the beach. It is operated by the local council. The lift was closed briefly for repairs but is up and running again summer 2016:
Easter to 23 May 10am to 6pm
24 May to 23 July 9am to 10pm
24 July to 31 August 9am to 11pm
1 September to 26 September 10am to 10pm
27 September to 31 October 10am to 6pm
Prospect Rd, Shanklin PO37 6AJ
It has a full programme which you can check out here
Box Office: 01983 868000
Friends of Shanklin Theatre