To Hull and back: From crappest town to UK City of Culture 2017

Mark Branagan pays a visit to a city which has reinvented itself

Mark Branagan
Wednesday 20 November 2013 19:31
Queen Victoria Square, Hull. Today it was announced Hull would be City of Culture in 2017
Queen Victoria Square, Hull. Today it was announced Hull would be City of Culture in 2017

Even the most loyal of Hull’s residents could have been forgiven for not taking a punt on their home city in the City of Culture stakes.

Only the night before - with local bookies offering odds of 11 to four on a Hull win -only a Dundee was a worst prospect.

So it was with a slightly heavy heart that the 200 people who had spent months working on the bid gathered at Hull Truck Theatre from 7am for the final reckoning.

The 30-strong choir assembled to sing outside the entrance was keeping a wary eye on the darkening skies.

Moments after the victory announcement flashed across TV screens all over the theatre the heavens opened.

But by then everyone was too busy dancing and hugging each other to worry about a spot of rain.

Jubilation broke out on buses as passengers watched on mobile phones and morning customers in Greggs shared the joyful news over sausage and bean pasties.

A measure of the pride felt in a city -where the arts once came a poor third to football and boxing - was summed up by one of the first to raise a glass in his local pub at 10am.

“It’s as big as Luke Campbell winning the Olympics or Hull City getting into the Premier League,” he said.

Nodding in agreement, one of his pals added: “Maybe even bigger.”

Despite Hull being bullish about its chances in the contest a deathly silence descended over Hull Truck in the countdown to the announcement.

Hull Truck Marketing Manager Rich Sutherland, 31, said: “The whole bid team was there and everyone was on tenterhooks.

“The second they said Hull on the TV it went crazy.

“When we looked outside it was chucking it down and the choir was glad they had brought their thermal underwear.

“But by then the spirit of the day had taken over - and we are still partying now.

“We have always been the butt of a few jokes over the years - but now is our time to show the entire country what’s on offer.”

Unemployed graduate and community volunteer Sadie Eggleton, 21, set her alarm early to catch the announcement.

She caught in on the radio minutes before it exploded all over Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

She also had the last minute jitters, she confessed, adding: “I woke up and waited with bated breath.

“We really came together as a community and deserved to win - so it would have been a massive anti-climax if we hadn’t. Hull really needs this.”

The victory came as a surprise even in the city’s trendy Humber Street arts quarter which provided much of the creative energy for the bid.

Humber Street based music promoter Howard Nicklas, 28, said: “Hull has a lot of history but also a lot of new art and a thriving music scene which has really picked up momentum.

“So I had always been confident about a Hull win.

“But about five minutes before it was announced all that went. Then I heard this loud scream.”

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