My hometown, or rather city, Kingston-upon-Hull on the north bank of the River Humber, in the county of Yorkshire, hit the news in November 2013 and for once it was for the right reasons, as the city was named UK City of Culture for 2017.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, announced that Hull, as it is also called, had beaten Leicester, Swansea Bay and Dundee to win the four yearly title. She said: This is brilliant news for Hull and everyone involved in the bid there. "This year's UK City of Culture, Derry-Londonderry, demonstrates the huge benefits that the title brings. These include encouraging economic growth, inspiring social change and bringing communities together. "It can produce a wonderful mix of inward investment, and civic pride, and I hope Hull's plans will make the most of all that being UK City of Culture can bring."
Will the title make a difference to the city?
Blitzed heavily by Nazi bombers during WWII Hull lost many of its architectural beauties. It also lost some of its squalid, tiny houses but sadly many of those remained for years.
Hull traditionally has high levels of unemployment. The fishing industry was the city's major employer until the Cod Wars between the UK and Iceland during the 1970's. The fishing industry of Hull collapsed. In 2009 the affected fishermen received some compensation from the government but their communities were already lost. It was too little and too late.
Following the global economic downturn of 2008 the caravan industry, which had become a major employer in the city, stumbled. Unemployment rose again.
Dogged at one time by poor housing and drug-related crime Hull now has something to celebrate
The title City of Culture should lead to an upturn in the economics of the city, with predictions of a £60million boost for the city.
What does Hull have to shout about?
For a relatively small city Hull offers visitors a wide-range of museums, a world-renowned art gallery, two theatres, a premier league football team, two rugby teams, modern shopping centres and more.
Sadly like most UK cities and towns it also has many empty shops and run-down parts of town but today we will concentrate on the positives.
Free Museums, yes these are free to visit
Wilberforce House, birthplace of the slavery abolitionist of the same name, combines one of the few 17th Century buildings in Hull with informative displays about the slave trade and its abolition in England. Situated along the old High Street this area of the "old town" gives visitors a glimpse of a bygone era.
Streetlife, Hull's transport museum, the defunct trawler Arctic Corsair and the archaeological museum complete the so-called Museum Quarter of Hull.
Town Docks, Maritime Museum, across town in Victoria Square but only a few minutes walk away, features displays relating to Hull's seafaring past. The building was once the Dock Offices of a vibrant seafaring community.
Queen's Gardens behind the Maritime Museum was once a busy dock. These days it is a green area of flowers, grass and ponds. Concerts during the summer months use the Mick Ronson Memorial stage. Mick was a member of David Bowie's "Spiders from Mars" band along with fellow Hullite Trevor Bolder. Sadly both are deceased.
The Ferens Art Gallery is across the square and houses works of art by Frans Hals, Antonio Canaletto, Stanley Spencer, David Hockney, Helen Chadwick and Gillian Wearin, maritime works of art, modern and old masterpieces. If you are planning a visit check the gallery's program of events.
The Deep is located where the River Hull meets the River Humber at Sammy's Point and although it charges an entrance fee is still worth a visit. This huge Submarium, shaped from the outside like part of a ship's hull suits Hull's history down to the ground.
The New Theatre offers a more traditional programme while Hull Truck Theatre provides more contemporary entertainment. Hull's City Hall is also a venue for comedy and music events.
The KC Stadium home to Hull City FC, or the Tigers, hosts musical events from time to time. Previous shows have included The Who, Sir Elton John and Neil Diamond.
Need I go on?
The above is just a hint of the attractions available.
So was Hull a good choice for City of Culture 2017?
Of course I am biased but, yes I think it was and recognition for this tough city and its people was long overdue. It may be a diamond in the rough but it will rise to the City of Culture challenge.
Note: Famous citizens of Hull include - Tom Courtney-actor, The Housemartins-pop group, Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder-guitarists in David Bowie's Spiders from Mars, John Alderton-actor, the late Norman Collier-comedian, Maureen Lipman-actress, Phillip Larkin-poet, Andrew Marvell-writer, William Wilberforce-slavery abolitionist and politician, Joe Longthorne-singer, John Prescott-politician and one-time deputy prime minister of the UK, Alan Plater-playwright, Amy Johnson-early aviator, Roland Gift-musician and actor, Andrew Motion, Keith Devlin, Nick Barmby-footballer, Barrie Rutter-actor, Sheila Mercier-actress, Francis Durbridge, Ian Carmichael-actor, Herbert Baker, Brian Rix-comedy actor, David Whitfield singer, Thomas Ferens-philanthropist, Thomas Reckitt-philanthropist and business man and Maria Gilhooley (aka Waterson).
A final obscure fact is that Arthur Lucan, also known as Old Mother Riley is buried in Hull!
(C) Eileen Kersey
Kingston-upon-Hull is almost halfway through its year as City of Culture and Friday one famous local fund-raiser celebrates her 95th birthday.
Jean Bishop aka The Bee Lady cuts a tiny figure as she buzzes around the city raising money for Age UK dressed as a rotund bee.
She is a fund-raiser extraordinaire and Friday a party is being thrown in her honour at the Guildhall, Hull
In 2013 she was awarded the Fundraiser of the Year gong but she has never appeared in the Queen's honours list.
One young Hull resident has created a petition to the current PM Theresa May to try to change that. Ellie writes:
"I'm Ellie Broadley a 13 year old girl from Hull. Since I was little I have always seen the bee lady walking around the streets of Hull raising money for the charity Age UK. This lady is called Jean Bishop she is 94 and so far has raised £110,000 and is aiming for £200,000.
This lady is an inspiration to everyone in Hull. Jean has been awarded a 'Pride of Britain' in 2013 but I believe that she deserves to be on the Queen's Honours List. The bee lady has been in and around the local shopping centre's in Hull forever, since I can remember. She is such a lovely lady and always has a smile on her face.
Most importantly I don't know the outstanding Jean Bishop but I think she should receive the award that she thoroughly deserves.
Sunday 5th February.
On Friday 3rd February, the wonderful Bee Lady came to my school bringing with her, the Hull Daily Mail reporter/photographer and Viking FM (our local radio station). I just thought a photographer was going to come and take a few pictures. But to my surprise, Jean and the reporters all came. When I found out she was coming, I was overwhelmed! Everyone knew except for me.
She is one of the kindest and nicest people I have ever met. When I told her how many people so far had signed the petition (1,300 at the time) she was blown away with the thought of everyone doing it just for her. She said 'I thought things like this only happened to filmstars' and that she 'couldn't believe one person could do such a lovely thing' for her.
They came at dinner time so everyone was watching and as we walked out the doors I told Jean to look up. Everyone was shouting 'Bee Lady' she was so happy to see older children wanting to see her. She thought only little children liked to see her. She smiled and waved at everyone.
In my half-term holidays, Jean has invited me and my family to go for tea and biscuits at her local knitting club which, of course, I will be honoured to attend.
Saturday 4th March.
I went to see Jean and all her friends at her knitting club. They all were so lovely and me and my mum stayed all day. But the local news came, Look North, and filmed us all! Also BBC Radio Humberside came to record me and Jean to play for the next morning. Then at 8:30am the next day, I had to go live on radio and they played the recording.
I wrote a letter to Theresa May too, asking her to help in getting Jean on the Queen's Honour's List. Today I got a reply from Downing Street and they have forwarded it on to the Cabinet Office, who makes all the decisions. I will hopefully here from them soon too.
Monday 17th April.
I haven't got a reply off the Cabinet Office yet I'm still waiting but I have now sent a handwritten letter to the Queen and I am waiting for a reply. Today I have featured in the Hull Daily Mail again to tell people how much this would mean to Jean, and of course how much this would mean to me.
Keep your fingers crossed for Jean, we can do this!
Thanks to everyone supporting this and please keep sharing. Ellie. xx"
Follow this link and sign Ellie's petition here
Bee Lady Updates
Statue of Hull's Bee Lady Jean Bishop unveiled - but it's not what you'll expect
Why Hull's Bee Lady still gets a buzz out of fundraising at the age of 96
City of Culture 2017 Kingston-upon-Hull hosts various events throughout each and every year.
Take the city's Big Bus day and our review from 2015.
"The Big Bus day Hull 2015 was held Saturday September 19. The sun shone and the crowds rolled in. It was a busy old time around the 'Old Town' area of Hull with cafes, pubs and restaurants doing a roaring trade.
The free to enter, council owned and operated, Transport Museum was filled to the rafters when we dropped in around lunchtime Saturday. The amount of people we encountered around the city centre that day indicates it was busier still as the afternoon rolled on.
The best way to share the day is with a few images of ours from in and around the transport museum.
Special mention to the young man with young son both dressed in local bus company's uniform. We were having a dumb day and it took time for us to cotton on when the adult told us the boy was a celebrity-aka Minnie Driver!
It was the first Big Bus Day we have visited but it won't be the last, hopefully.
Bus enthusiasts flocked to the event but it was good fun and a great day out whether buses are your thing or not.
2015 was a bumper year for events in Hull which was a promising start in the run up to the city's year in the spotlight as UK City of Culture 2017.
The bonus in 2015 was most events luckily experienced good weather. Well it is Hull, south Yorkshire and close to the North Sea.
[From the Big Bus Day on Facebook September 21-Thanks to everyone who came to Big Bus Day on Saturday, we had over 7,000 visitors, and raised lots of money for charity! We'll update you on a total later this week when all the donations are collated and counted, and we'll add some pictures of the day to this page later. Thanks to everyone for sharing their photos of the event on this page, love seeing your pictures!]"
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.
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. Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filled the Tower's famous moat between 17 July and 11 November 2014. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the 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
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