Once voted as the worst place to live in the UK – and belittled by a former resident as a ‘sad story of unemployment, teenage pregnancy and rampant self-neglect’- Hull has now been named as the UK City of Culture 2017, seeing off competition from Dundee, Leicester and Swansea Bay.
It was given the dubious distinction of winning the inaugural Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK as voted for by readers of The Idler website but like Liverpool (number six in ‘worst towns’ in 2003 and European City of Culture in 2008) Hull has now been awarded a much more prestigious title. Although the authors admit the list is unscientific, it can lead to disillusionment amongst residents.
The council admits one of the aims of the bid is to "change the perceptions" of the city which was cited as one of "Britain's Decaying Towns" in an Economist article last month. The city will hope to see an economic boost from the accolade which could bring in extra investment, tourism and media attention.
Hull, known for being the home of poet Philip Larkin, will hope today's award will erase the embarrassment of 10 years ago.
Hull will follow the 2013 City of Culture, Londonderry. The UK government chooses a new destination every four years.
Hull's plan for its year includes an opening ceremony with 3,000 volunteers paying tribute to its heritage as a major fishing port, a light show and the planting of thousands of trees to create "sustainable gateways to the city". The current city of culture, Londonderry, has seen had around £120 million of capital investment pumped into the city since the title was won in 2009. It hosted high-profile events including The Turner Prize and BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend recently.
Referencing local band The Housemartins' big hit, Happy Hour, former Hull MP Lord Prescott tweeted: "It's Happy Hour again! HullYes Well done."
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller 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."
Ms Miller praised the three losing cities for the "time, effort and determination" they put into their bids.
She said: "I hope they will still take forward many of the fantastic ideas and events they had planned so that their communities can enjoy these innovative cultural plans."
TV producer Phil Redmond, who chaired the advisory panel that helped choose the winner, said all four shortlisted cities showed a "real understanding" of what the award was about.
He said: "But ultimately it was the unanimous verdict of the panel that Hull put forward the most compelling case based on its theme as 'a city coming out of the shadows'. This is at the heart of their project and reminds both its people and the wider world of both its cultural past and future potential.
"We were particularly impressed with Hull's evidence of community and creative engagement, their links to the private sector and their focus on legacy, including a commitment to enhance funding beyond 2017 and I'd like to congratulate all involved."
Its mayor, Councillor Martin Reilly, said: "I am confident that an amazing year awaits Hull as the winning city for 2017, I wish them every success and look forward to forming a working relationship with Hull to share our experiences and learning."
The leader of Hull City Council, Councillor Stephen Brady, told the BBC: "What I'm saying is thank you to the panel for changing Hull. Never again will Hull have the reputation that some people have put on it in the past.
"The people here, the wonderful people of Hull, appreciate what's been done, the decision that's been taken and we are on the move".
The Hull and East Yorkshire Bondholders marketing organisation today hailed the announcement. The private sector-led Bondholders is responsible for the marketing and promotion of Hull and the wider Humber region elsewhere in the UK and abroad.
Bondholders Chair Peter Aarosin said: “Today is a landmark in Hull’s history. For too long the city has been hampered by false and out-dated perceptions of the city. Today’s decision to select Hull as UK City of Culture recognises that the city is a vibrant place, with a wonderfully diverse creative and artistic scene worth of being the country’s capital of culture in 2017.
Solihull was recently voted the best place to live in the UK, whilst Cardiff topped list of best UK cities for young people. London came 55 out of 140 in a poll of the top cities in the world. Market-research organisation, Ipsos, has conducted its first poll to find “The World’s Favourite City” with New York beating London and Paris to the overall top spot. The UK is also the 22nd happiest country in the world according to a UN survey.
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