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
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