UK’s City of Culture 2017 – Hull

UK’s ‘City of Culture’ in 2017 to be… Hull!

Since the conception of the UKs “City of Culture” in 2009, two cities have had the honour of this title, awarded every four years. The first was Derry-Londonderry for 2013  and on 20th November 2013 Hull was announced as the winner for 2017.

11068506753_8c0ca3b2b5_bHull Pier
Photo by Keith Brown – Flickr

In a nutshell the UKs Culture Secretary in 2009 (Andy Burnham) created the “City of Culture” award, after his home city Liverpool held the title of “European City of Culture” (2008). In 2008 Andy Burnham wrote in The Guardian Newspaper ‘I feel a huge sense of pride about the way Liverpool has shone in that spotlight’. The aim of a “City of Culture” was for cities to host such events as the Man Booker Prize, later widened so chosen cities held events, such as by the BBC, the Poetry Book Society and Arts Council England. The Working Group also suggested chosen cities were to be given an opportunity to demonstrate their unique attributes via unique events. Finally the “City of Culture” was partly to help in “taking events out of London once every four years can help refresh them and create a big impact in the receiving city”. Each “City of Culture” is decided by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, then designated to cities by judges for the period of a year. Andy Burnham recently wrote “the winning city would be one with the most ambitious plans – the one promising to take the coveted British city of culture tag and do most to inspire its people”.


White classic phone boxes of the Hull Telephone Company Hull Town Centre East Yorkshire 2013

Flickr Photo by Califlier001


On Hull’s 2017 bid victory Phil Redmond (City of Culture panel chair reportedly said “[Hull was] the most compelling case based on its theme as ‘a city coming out of the shadows’”.  Redmond, in the same report, said “[the panel was] particularly impressed with Hull’s evidence of community and creative engagement… including a commitment to enhance funding beyond 2017”.

So what about Hull’s bid, plans and cultural heritage makes it stand out? A crucial element to Hull’s “City of Culture” bid and events was its focus on Philip Larkin’s work. In fact, since 2010 there was an event Larkin with Toads centring around 40 toads to mark Larkin’s significance.


Another bidding-initiative for Hull’s “City of Culture”  was that a video was produced showing “what is at the heart of Hull…and highlights the city’s individuality”. Use of social media such as Facebook and Flickr was also a factor of the bid, as it was in bid from other nominees. The positive impact that using social media has had can be demonstrated by the fact that social media were used by in excess of 16,000 people to back the Hull’s bid. During its year as “City of Culture” in 2017, the pledge from Hull is to put £15m towards 1,500 cultural activities. An online BBC News Entertainment article also hints at several fantastic events, including theatrical elephants and a spectacle of light in the opening ceremony . The city’s annual Freedom Festival, and aerial show will be based on part of Philip Larkin’s An Arundel Tomb’s. Hull also guards various cultural jewels. A BBC online report indeed reminds us that since 2009 Hull has been the base of the Hull Truck Theatre Company, and the Ferens Art Gallery. David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust band The Spiders from Mars was from Hull . Hull is also a notable poetic magnet. 

Ferens Art gallery



Benjamin Zephania photo by David Morris (Flickr)

Hull’s future as a result of being “City of Culture” looks promising. Indeed the BBC reports Stephen Brady (councillor leader for Hull) being enthusiastic about Hull’s “City of Culture” win and its effect on the city; it quotes him as saying “it will give Hull a platform to tell the world what this great city has to offer”.  At the time when Hull was merely a contender, one BBC reporter predicted “securing the accolade could generate an extra £184m for the East Yorkshire city over five years”. More recently £60m was the figure the council hoped to raise in 2017, “for the local economy”. When Liverpool was “European City of Culture” it also influenced tourism; the city’s status (research suggests) attracted 75% of visitors to Liverpool. A Wikipedia article writer relates tourism to the idea of the “Urban regeneration” effect of the “City of Culture” title. Andy Burnham further suggested that the title is good in terms of community too, when he said “culture has helped put the heart and soul back in one of Britain’s oldest and proudest cities”. There was also an aspect of the bid, namely the Hull 2017 Angels, which was supported by around twenty local and around-centre businesses.  Other benefits that have been mentioned in discussing the “City of Culture” are those to infra-structure, education, and socio-economic advantages.

3136186_361ba272Maritime Museum

In conclusion then the latest “landmark” in Hull’s city-history is as unique as those that precede it. Indeed Hull has at different times been a centre of trade, a war-torn city, a retail hot-spot . It now prepares to embrace its new challenge with determination and to rise above the soot of the hidden industrial city from whence it came.

Amanda Lynsdale



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