Hull-born comedian Lucy Beaumont looks at the cultural treats that will be taking place in her home town - and whether being City of Culture will transform Hull forever.
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-Five, four, three, two, one...
The start of 2017 was a bit special for my home city
because this year, Hull was crowned the UK's City of Culture.
The opening ceremony saw a dazzling light show
with Hull's biggest moments from its recent past
beamed onto buildings across the city...
..kicking off a year-long arts festival
boasting hundreds of events.
As a comedian, I used to have a joke that went -
"You've got London that hosted the Olympics
"and Hull that hosted Zumba classes you can smoke in."
But, to be honest, I wouldn't say it now.
You see, Hull's always been the butt of the joke -
I've gathered most of my material here -
but it's all changed now with the City of Culture.
We're cosmopolitan, don't you know?
Most of us used to think it was really fish and chips and rugby,
and then realising there's great history,
there's great culture.
So many great things have come from Hull
and I think it has a lot to do with the fact
that we are single-minded and stubborn and outspoken,
and we won't be put down.
If you come here, you end up making art.
You end up doing something creative.
But Hull has got more than most and it's time that was celebrated,
not just by the people of Hull but by everybody.
It's finally our chance to show off,
so we've hoovered around, put on our best frock,
and we're ready to host the best arts festival ever.
We've got a saying up here, "It's never dull in Hull."
Welcome to Hull!
Just to attune your ears to the accent
cos it is quite strong.
Erm...if you can repeat after me...
And that's telling your mother you've arrived.
'I've long ribbed my home city for its accent and quirks,
'but in all seriousness, I'm so proud of my roots.'
So when this happened...
The UK City of Culture 2017 is Hull.
..well, I was over the moon.
It felt like it was our time.
We deserved it and, really, we needed this title.
If you don't know us, our city, officially Kingston upon Hull,
sits halfway up England on the East Yorkshire coast.
Here we are.
For centuries, we've been a thriving port and a gateway to Europe,
but our city's weathered some tough times.
With us being an east coast port town,
in the Second World War,
we were a sitting duck for German bombers.
It was the most bombed city outside of London.
More than 90% of our housing was damaged in the Blitz,
but gritty resilience is what we do best here.
After all, this is a city built on the tough industry of fishing.
Once it was all trawler fleets here,
but, in the 1970s, new fishing restrictions
in the North Atlantic wreaked havoc.
In this city, if you weren't a trawlerman,
then chances are you were a docker,
or a fish house worker or a shipbuilder.
So when the industry collapsed,
literally thousands of people lost their jobs almost overnight.
The '70s and '80s were a tough time for Hull.
But even during its darkest days,
our city has always been an inspiration,
a haven, even, for artists.
There's something about being by the sea,
being on the edge of things,
that gives the city and its creativity
a really unique spirit.
My mum's a playwright, so I grew up with theatre in Hull,
but the art scene has been hidden away, to a certain extent,
without much funding or recognition.
But finally that's changing.
We have a new district
with galleries and music studios opening up
in disused warehouses in the old docks area.
Hipster-style, shall we say?
But not all our art galleries are so new.
Ferens has been our much-loved city art gallery since the 1920s
thanks to this dude - Thomas Robinson Ferens.
Ferens got rich managing a local factory
that made cleaning products and disinfectant
and, with the money, he paid for this building to be built
and filled it with lots of lovely artwork.
So, thank you, Mr Ferens, and your Dettol.
I don't mean to boast,
but we've got our fair share of big names here.
Check these out.
I like this one, although I wouldn't want to meet him on a dark night.
And this sculpture has been a favourite of mine since childhood.
For the City of Culture, Ferens has undergone a £4.5m revamp.
Throughout the year, we've got special loans on display,
like these Francis Bacon paintings of a so-called screaming pope.
And later this year,
the Turner Prize will be hosted here.
But right now, these galleries are showing off work by local artists
in what's called the Open Exhibition,
now in its 50th year.
My granny and grandad were artists
and they used to enter the Ferens Open Exhibition when I was a kid,
so it was a really exciting time.
This year, there was nearly 2,000 entries from the region.
It just goes to show how much creative talent there is here.
I've found my favourite.
There's something about this, it makes me feel real comforting.
I think she'd make really good roast potatoes.
'One of the judges this year was actress Maureen Lipman,
'another daughter of Hull.'
Maureen, you were asked to judge
the Hull Ferens Art Gallery Open Exhibition.
How did you find that?
Well, it was fun.
It was a...
A busy day.
There was thousands, so it was a long day,
but we all agreed about everything, which was a bit disappointing.
What's extraordinary is the materials that people use, that's...
The things they can do with wood,
the things they can do with ceramics,
the things they can do with etching and egg tempera,
-and stuff that you only read about.
It's the variety and the fact that people you know
have, sort of, enriched their lives by just...painting, drawing,
just looking in a different way.
It was a lovely competition
and I know the Ferens Art Gallery as well.
I had taken my gentleman friend
to see the portrait of me by Humphrey Ocean,
which last was seen in the canteen,
curling up, with the smell of egg on it, but...
Then, when I went, it had been down in the vaults.
But now I'm told that it's out, so I'm thrilled about that.
And, of course, I had quite a history
with the Ferens Art Gallery
because my father's shop,
Maurice Lipman, gentleman's outfitters,
was two doors from it, separated only by a fish shop.
So often I would go into the Ferens and I would always go to see,
not the Frans Hals,
which is the famous Portrait of a Young Woman -
she's fantastic, and their greatest painting, probably -
I would go to see
Meredith Frampton's lady playing cards,
which was very Art Deco and very stark...very 1930s.
And I have it in my hall,
as I have a picture of the front of city square there, yeah.
Cos you can take the girl out of Hull,
but you cannot necessarily take Hull out of the girl.
No, that's very true.
Or get rid of the accent, in my case.
-Well, no, you are a dead loss in that department, love.
When I went to drama school, and I got into doing improvisations
..and I went back to the Hull New Theatre
and I saw something, and there's a long, long bar.
And I said to the manager, "This is an incredible space", I said.
"Have you ever thought of doing improvisations here?"
And he said, "Aye, we are improving it gradually."
Maureen isn't the only theatrical talent to hail from Hull.
The playwright Richard Bean grew up just down the road
and has gone on to pen smash hits like One Man, Two Guvnors,
a hilarious adaptation of an Italian farce
about the antics of an out-of-work musician.
Does he prefer eating or...making love?
It's a tough one that, isn't it?! I don't know!
And now, for the City of Culture,
Richard has a new treat in store for us.
The Hypocrite will play at Hull Truck
until the end of March, before transferring to the RSC,
and rehearsals have been underway in a local hall,
with Caroline Quentin among the cast.
It's a farce about how Hull started the English Civil War
and, no, that's not a joke - that's a fact.
-IN A FRENCH ACCENT:
-Then the English Civil war starts now.
Who will make the first advance?!
The plot revolves around a real historical figure,
Sir John Hotham, a Governor of Hull -
here played by Mark Addy.
In 1642, Sir John closed the city gates on King Charles I
in an act of defiance that kicked off the English Civil War.
That sort of worked. Could we do that again, please?
I'm off to meet Richard in a local pub.
This building used to be the Governor's house
and so it was within these very walls that Sir John
hatched his plot against the King.
I mean, growing up in Hull, I knew that story and I enjoyed that story
because it's kind of, "Oh, yeah, we're kind of dissident,
But when I started reading it,
-it started reading like a French farce...
..because...Sir John Hotham takes the town for Parliament
and...as soon as...
Pretty much as soon as he's taken the town
and refused the King, he starts having regrets.
And the next 14 months or so is him and his son basically scheming
to give Hull and the munitions to the King.
This is why it's called The Hypocrite.
That's why it's called The Hypocrite.
And we follow him through...
Eventually he's executed by Parliament, actually, in 1645.
But he would have been executed by the King,
if the King had won the English Civil War,
so that's why he's a, kind of, double traitor
and an interesting character to drive...drive a play.
Sir John Hotham, I'm arresting you for treachery to Parliament.
What is the nature of this treachery?
A conspiracy to surrender the town to the papists.
Captain, my dear chap, whatever do you mean?
I see it a lot in your work,
and I've seen it in other Hull writers,
that...the ability to make an audience laugh
and then instantly make them cry.
I find...I found, growing up, that there's a dryness,
and a kind of dourness and a dryness,
in people who are consistently trying to make you laugh,
but their face doesn't show it.
You know, it's...it's a kind of Buster Keaton thing,
going on in Hull.
I think I am indebted to the city for...for that.
What about you? Cos...
Yeah, no, the same and...
I think, you know, the genetic humour,
I'm sure that is very dark.
That kind of fatalism mixed with...
"Well, there's nowt you can do about it, is there? So, you know..."
-Just get on with it, you know?
When we got awarded Hull City of Culture,
I think it was the weekend after Hull City were playing.
We were 3-0 down at home or something daft like that,
and then Hull City fans started chanting,
"You're only here for the culture.
"Here for the culture.
"You're only here for the culture."
Erm... Which I think is a great...
It kind of sums up Hull humour, you know?
"Yeah, we might be losing, but we're going to have a laugh."
I love the dryness of the humour in my home city
and I think it's something that can be found in the work
of our most famous cultural figure -
the poet Phillip Larkin,
who is commemorated with a statue in the station.
Larkin wasn't actually from Hull but lived in the city for 30 years,
working here at the university library,
right up until his death in 1935.
He was head librarian...
..and this was his office.
Larkin often alluded to his adopted city in his poetry.
In his 1961 poem Here, he describes a place
"Where only salesman and relations come
"Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
"Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum
"Tattoo shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives..."
Larkin certainly had a way with words -
and librarians too, by all accounts -
but as a city, we owe him a lot.
He's helped put Hull on the map and secure City of Culture status.
I wonder what Larkin would have thought of
a year-long arts festival.
I think he probably would have hated it.
"Everyone's a flipping poet now."
Larkin is something of an establishment figure,
but even when he was alive,
Hull had a thriving artistic subculture.
This bohemian aspect of the city is being celebrated
in a new contemporary art space,
the Humber Street Gallery, down by the docks.
Here, the builders have been in a race against the clock
to get the gallery ready for opening night.
The arts collective Coum Transmissions
is the subject of its very first exhibition.
The group emerged out of the countercultural scene
in the late 1960s in the city and went on to shock the arts world.
They were even described as
"the wreckers of Western civilisation".
Now, that's cool.
It was Coum's 1976 exhibition at the ICA called Prostitution
that earned them that label
and a place in the history books.
At the same time, Coum members were also making history as
pioneers of industrial music with their band Throbbing Gristle.
But it all started in Hull.
Now, 50 years on, one of the original Coum members,
Cosey Fanni Tutti, has returned to curate an exhibition
celebrating the group's work,
which draws on her own personal archive.
That's inside of Prince Street.
It was just really joyous cos we were always having such fun.
Coum was formed in 1969
by an artist and musician called Genesis P Orridge
and Cosey joined soon after.
Their early musical work was rather challenging.
The instruments we used early on were like...
bongos, talking drums,
Jew's harp, mouth organ,
any kind of small toy, even, that would make a noise.
So it was, at the beginning, kind of anti-music, if you like,
or no structure as such.
It was just fun.
It was quite a cacophony, to be honest.
It was just a way of freeing people up to express themselves.
# On-screen red-haired, green-eyed boy... #
Coum's work was often the very epitome of bizarre
and a lot of it performed out on the local streets,
as this never-seen-before footage from 1972 shows.
We'd sort of do interventions, if you like,
with...with the shoppers, as they went about their business,
in very, very bright gold, copper, silver, Day-Glo outfits,
so they couldn't miss us, really.
Bizarre little scenarios, quite surreal, Dada-based.
It's hard to believe now,
cos so much like that goes on every day in the streets,
but they'd never seen anything like it before.
The children enjoyed it, some didn't,
so we just..."Well, see you, then." You know?
If it's not your cup of tea, then that's fine.
But, yeah, it was confrontational in terms of...
Not us being confrontational,
but just the situation of us being there,
and it being so unusual and not what...
in their daily shopping, weekend shopping.
The group would become infamous in Hull
for a piece of conceptual art known as the Wagon Train.
It was my usual pram for popping to the laundrette,
something as mundane as that, you know,
and then gradually it got decorated up
and became a wagon train with a...like, a hoot...hood on it,
which was, like, fluorescent pink polythene,
and it was sprayed gold
and had gold frying pans and all kinds of objects hanging from it.
The Wagon Train ended up being
an exhibit in the Ferens Art Gallery,
which was an ironic statement for us,
because we were so anti-establishment art
and art institutions,
but that appealed to us.
That is what Coum was all about -
infiltrating, contradicting, doing the unexpected.
Hull people are very...
They have a...an attitude to life which I really like,
cos I'm from Hull, you know.
And it is confrontational,
and it's almost like a self-preservation attitude,
you know, and...
That confrontational approach to life is really, I think,
what we built our work on.
When it comes to the locals, I think plenty of people
are sceptical about a year-long arts festival
and what difference it will make to the city and their lives.
When I found out that Hull had won the Culture bid
to be City of Culture,
I suppose my only real concern was
would it be - and I hate to say this -
a middle-class arts festival,
you know, for people who can access the arts anyway, and do so,
or would it be an arts festival for everyone?
This is Thornton Estate,
home to 4,500 people,
and one of the less affluent areas of Hull.
For the City of Culture,
preparations are underway in the local community office
for a large-scale art installation involving residents
that will see coloured filters applied to their communal lights.
It was the idea of Italian artist Silvio Palladino,
who previously spent a year on the estate
as an artist in residence.
While I was here, I got to know a lot of the residents -
I mean, I was one of them.
But I also got to talk to people living outside the estate.
And there is a lot of stigma attached to this estate,
probably going back to how it was 20, 30 years ago.
So I wanted to challenge this and I wanted to tell other people,
"Come here, see who lives here, see...
"Learn about the stories of people who live here."
Studying and researching about Hull history
and the history about the area,
so I came across the international maritime communications system,
which is a flag system that ships use to communicate with each other.
And I found out that a very simple flag, yellow and blue,
means "I wish to communicate with you".
And I guess that was a good kind of starting point.
So this working with the lights and with the colours
and the title I Wish To Communicate With You
means "Come here, let's start a conversation."
I feel under the cosh here, you two, you're going so fast.
This is the production line of our filters
that go into the communal lighting, so it's very hi tech - not.
Sharon Darley has been a community worker on the estate for ten years.
We're using all the colours of the rainbow
and people get to choose their colours
that we install in the lighting outside their flats.
Over the last few weeks, Sharon and her team have been busy
installing the filters to three of the blocks.
-Sorry to disturb, but we're just fitting the filters now.
So if that's all right, it'll only take us a few minutes.
Yeah, that's fine.
-And you asked for purple.
Purple is what you get.
Ruth Langdon lives here with her family,
including 11-year-old daughter Rosa.
Since the lights and starting doing this thing,
people are talking to each other a little bit more,
so it's brought a little bit of community.
It's not every day that you're the City of Culture
and you're going to be asked to be involved in it,
so we thought it was a really nice thing.
We let the children pick what colour they wanted,
so it's nice, really.
I'm really proud to be part of it.
We fitted one of these blocks in 58 minutes the other day,
so we're getting good at it now.
We're getting good at it.
It feels absolutely amazing.
It's one of the best things I've had the privilege of being involved in.
This is just the first.
We will put as many lights out as possible over the next few months
and it just really exciting.
Erm, I think it looks really nice when I go to school and when
I come back, the colour of it.
This is one of 60 community-led art projects
that forms part of the year-long programme
run by director of the City of Culture Martin Green.
I Wish To Communicate With You
is the perfect example of what it's all about.
This is indeed where art brings us together.
We live in uncertain times,
where too many people seek to divide us.
And in this beautiful project, everything comes together, you know,
and I love it.
It just...it took my breath away.
A 365-day arts programme is a terror and a joy.
I think the basic thing that I tried to do with the team
was make sure that, in every place, somewhere,
the fabric of the city, or the story,
or the voice of the city
was contained in what we were programming.
To tell the story of a city, you have to deal with who we were,
who we are, but importantly, who we wish to be.
And so you will see, growing through the year,
much more of a focus forward.
Having celebrated the stories of the past,
what does that actually mean for this city
and its inhabitants for the future?
And what's going on is a city refinding its pride,
and proud cities are confident cities
and confident cities can do anything they like.
My final stop is our city square,
where a vast new art installation nods to our city's future.
This is a blade from a wind turbine made in
a newly opened factory in Hull.
75 metres long and weighing 25 tonnes,
it's a tribute to local craftsmanship
and claimed to be the largest single cast product in the world.
Although the artwork is certainly dividing opinion...
Look at that monstrosity there.
-I know. It's a butter knife.
-Built in Hull.
It makes an impact, 100%. I just hope it don't fall down.
Well, I'm not sure whether it's art or not,
but it is bringing people in.
I've never seen the city centre look so busy in so many years,
so I think it's really done a lot for us.
It's unusual, isn't it?
Why would you want to come and see one-third of a wind turbine blade?
That's all it is.
I love it. I think it looks brilliant. Work of art.
I'd call it more of a display than an artwork...
-But that's just me.
-And I love it.
With more than ten months of brilliant events yet to come,
I've only had a small taste of what the City of Culture has to offer...
..but I'm excited by what I've seen.
There's a buzz in the city again and it's really emotional to see.
Finally, we can silence the critics and stop putting ourselves down.
This year, we're the City of Culture.
Next year, who knows?
I'm sure we'll be the capital of the north.
I'll leave you with a love poem to Hull,
created for the City of Culture,
written by local poet Shane Rhodes.
Peel back the writer and you have a filleter
Peel back the filleter and you have a trawlerman
Peel back the trawlerman and you have a trawlerman's dad
Peel back the trawlerman's dad and you have a stowaway.
Hull is the UK's City of Culture for 2017. In this BBC Arts documentary, the wonderful Hull-born comedian Lucy Beaumont, writer and star of the Radio 4 sitcom To Hull and Back, looks at the cultural treats that will be taking place in her home town - and whether being City of Culture will transform Hull forever.
Lucy talks to key figures in this historic year for her home city, including the writer Richard Bean and actress Maureen Lipman, as well as discovering the rich cultural life that already exists in Hull. She will also explore the more avant-garde side of Hull with the performance artist Cosey Fanni Tutti, who invented industrial music with the band Throbbing Gristle.