The music scene too, primarily based around the legendary Adelphi Club – a semi-detached house meets music venue – has produced plenty of artists of note. The Fine Young Cannibals, Everything But The Girl, The Housemartins, Beautiful South and David Bowie’s backing band The Spiders From Mars are all products of Hull. Yet eclipsing even these considerable collected achievements are this city’s theatre-makers.
Since Alan Plater first started making Hull the subject of his TV plays, there have been numerous acclaimed writers creating works about this city and its people, melding details of locality and personality with universal themes that lend their works appeal all over the world. John Godber is the third most performed playwright in the English language; Gill Adams has written some of the best-known TV dramas on British TV – Emmerdale, Band of Gold, Doctors – and current wonder-boy Richard Bean has just had a West End and Broadway smash with One Man, Two Guvnors.
In addition, enormously popular TV comedies like The League of Gentlemen, The Catherine Tate Show and Benidorm are peppered with Hull references and in-jokes thanks to being co-created by Hull-born writers.
Taken together (and I’ve not even mentioned the rich seam of novelists, dancers or other creative types), you begin to understand that Hull is far more culturally rich than many give it credit for. But the best thing is that the city is only just entering its most exciting artistic period. There’s a feeling of tremendous energy on the streets, a sense of excitement and creative vivacity exploding from every doorway and window.
The springboard for this current confidence came, weirdly, not from industrial, corporate or even cultural success, but food and drink. In the 1990s, a generation of Hullensians wanted to have a greater hand in the way the city looked, felt and worked. This wasn’t a conscious movement, but an organic blooming. Bars and restaurants began to open along Princes Ave, in the bohemian Avenues area to the west of the city centre. Men and women in their 30s and 40s, tired of drinking and socialising in chain pubs in the middle of town, banded together and began opening their own characterful establishments.
Within a couple of years of the millennium, Princes Ave was bubbling with independently run pubs, bars and eateries dedicated to seriously good food and drink. These spread into neighbouring Newland Ave before, finally, trickling back into the city centre. The café, dining and social scene of the Hull had been entirely re-invented in little more than a decade. And with it came a wave of culture: the bars were not only inspiring places for artists to meet and plan projects, they also became venues for those projects to be performed or launched. Artists that previously had only a handful of venues to strategise or showcase their work now have a multitude of riches, as well as willing and loyal crowds to soak it up. Hull is rocking again; there’s something to do, see or experience here every night of the week.
Importantly, the city’s own have done this. This wasn’t a revolution borne by outside influence or investment; it was created and sculpted by people who have been here all their lives. It was as self-propelled as the city itself. And it was in this atmosphere that City of Culture status was awarded. As such it feels less like a chance for the city to show what it can do, but the opportunity for the rest of the world to take notice of what we’ve been doing for years. So 2017 is definitely our party, but you’re all very welcome
That said, on the back of winning City of Culture, welcome investment has also reappeared. Don’t miss the long-ignored but magnificent Fruit Market area of the city, currently being transformed at a dizzying rate. Hull has also become a leading green port, with wind turbine production bringing major industry back to the docks in the east of the city. The folk with the money have seen the self-generated energy of this city and its surroundings and they want to harness its natural resources to create a cleaner, greener future. On the subject of which, if you’re looking for scenic splendour, Hull is a 15-minute drive from the spectacular Yorkshire Wolds: the 80-odd mile stretch of fields, rolling hills and woods that inspired David Hockney’s internationally celebrated Royal Academy show. Starting at Hessle (just to the west of the city, where the Humber Bridge is planted) and sweeping in an arc around to Flamborough on the North Yorkshire coast, The Wolds cuddle the outskirts of Hull, meaning that it’s impossible to enter the city without travelling through gorgeous countryside, or along the mighty River Humber.