Ten years ago Hull was voted the worst place to live in the UK. It took the top spot in my book Crap Towns after thousands of people wrote in suggesting, to take one example, that come Judgement Day the Humberside city would be “leased out indefinitely to Satan to provide housing for the Damned”.
I stand by that dubious accolade. But today things seem different. Now that Hull has been named the 2017 City of Culture, I’m having to eat my words. In fact, on Twitter, quite a few Hull residents have suggested another place I might like to shove the book.
But this is all to the good. Another tweeter wrote: “In a strange sort of way, maybe you helped. There’s real power in anger.” I hope so. I can’t take too much credit for the transformation. I’m sure if you asked most people in the city they would say that it has happened in spite of, not because of, Crap Towns.
Even so, in my vainer moments I do like to think that being named and shamed gave Hull some momentum. Or at the very least it marked the moment the city hit bottom.
This successful City of Culture bid is icing on the cake after a decade of hard work. When I revisited the subject this year, while writing Crap Towns Returns, the feedback I got about Hull was overwhelmingly positive. Where once I heard stories of council corruption, of cash squandered and of people pooing in phone boxes, now it was all about serious regeneration, pride and hope.
The city has even, I was told, got rid of its notorious pong. I had to feature it in the new book as an improver – a judgement more than validated by the successful City of Culture bid. Ten years ago people couldn’t wait to get away from Hull. Now they’ll be queuing up to visit. I’ll be with them, if I’m allowed in. That’s a pretty impressive turnaround.
Sam Jordison is the co-editor of Crap Towns