First impressions of the city at the end of the road.
I’ve lived in England for 37 years now, in Liverpool, Barrow in Furness and now back in Liverpool again. From both of these places I’ve travelled all over the place, North, South, East, but until recently I’d never gone so far east that I’d reached the end of the M62, the umbilical link between Liverpool and Hull. The impression I’d been given over the course of the years was that it wasn’t worth the trip, it was a rundown fishing and whaling port ravaged by the disinvestment of successive governments and really to be avoided.
Surely though, Hull should have been the Jewel of the North of England? Geographically on the right side of the country when we joined the E.U. those years from 1973, a city like Hull, or to give it its full title Kingston Upon Hull should have been well placed to capitalise on free access to the European mainland?
This year Kingston Upon Hull is UK Capital of Culture and so I decided that it was time to throw my pre-determined views in the bin and go see for myself. I decided to visit on the weekend when John Grant brought his North Atlantic Flux Festival to the City Hall and the Jubilee Church. It was a fantastic festival of music and art and it was such a pleasure to attend.
That’s not what this is about, however. While there I had time to wander about a bit, checking out the art and walking about a bit. What a lovely city it is! The Ferens Gallery had a fabulous exhibition of Ron Mueck sculpture among others by Bacon, Freud etc. I went round three times, there was so much to see. I had been informed that the Cairns Sculpture Trail was worth a look so, on Sunday morning I took a walk up from my hotel near Herries Rd. I took my time and stopped off for breakfast in one of the many cafes and bars along the way. The quality and variety was equal to those in any other British City I’ve been in. I don’t recall the name of the area, but it looked like a fine area to hang out in. Have to say I’d hit upon a pocket of good weather and that always helps when you’re in a strange town. I arrived at the University campus where the sculpture trail was and found out that there were two exhibitions on inside the Library. There was a National Portrait Gallery show featuring various famous people, JK Rowling, Ian McKellen to name but two. Great stuff to be honest. The other exhibition was from the University’s permanent collection which is filled with top quality pieces that would grace any collection. The Sculpture trail by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir was excellent and took in the carefully manicured grounds of the Uni.
I have to say the City centre was a bit tired looking, but there were sign that work was going on apace to get the place spruced up for the festival proper. The focal point where the City Hall, The Ferens and the Maritime Museum is beautiful. The usual suspects dominate the High St and it’s only when you venture away, or get lost, from the centre that things get more interesting. The marina looks pristine with expensive looking yachts and boats filling all the moorings. Cafes and bars line the harbour and would be a fine place to hang out in good weather. I got lost on the Monday afternoon and found myself in the Old Town area. This is full of beautiful old buildings, houses, shops, churches and banks show the wealth that once came through here. Alas I did not have time to explore further.
So my trip to Hull opened my eyes to a real jewel in the east. The people I met were friendly and the volunteers were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It’s a beautiful city, the posters that lined the walls of the bars and cafes tell me there is a lot going on. This year the Turner Prize will be judged in the city and a spotlight will shine on Hull. It’s about time too, it’s a fabulous city and I look forward to going back, maybe for a bit of a longer stay next time. If you get the chance to go there, please take it, you won’t be disappointed!