This weekend past, Hull hosted the 3rd annual Humber Street Sesh, the brainchild of local promoter Mark Page. Featuring everything from live music to silent discos to graffiti artists, it was the coming together of not only the creative people of Hull, but also those who enjoy the local scene and those who may be strangers to it.
I didn’t make it as I was working, which also explains my absence from this site recently, but a man gotta get paid, you feel me? No? Anyway, my news stream on Facebook has been filled with it enough, to know that is was a roaring success that people want back next year.
A quick glance at the numbers (40,920 at midnight) showed the talk around it wasn’t just hype and that in “dreary, old” Hull there is an appetite for events just like this, if they are done in the right way. Now firstly, I’m not here to be sycophantic about anything or anyone. Lord knows, there are enough writers in this city doing that and if you’re reading this, you know who you are and you’re more of a hindrance than a help as to how people view the cultural scene in Hull, so just lay off the scripture reach-arounds okay? Credit where credit is due though, and the event did set my mind whirling about whether Hull is starting to turn a corner in not only how people view it, but also how the people who inhabit it also view their surroundings and embrace events put on for them?
Make no mistake, the event is one put on off-the-backs of ordinary people with a passion for the city and raising it’s spotlight. David Cameron would love to grasp it as his Big Society, but really, as with anything in Britain, it’s just about the normal citizen fighting back against the daily tedium enforced by a Government all too dismissive of the positive impact that arts and culture can have, not only on the country’s mood, but (and listen up here geniuses) also the economy.
Now, the event of course benefited from warm weather and cold beer, but doesn’t everything in Britain? Imagine London 2012 or Euro 96 or Glastonbury, without balmy summer evenings, and a dripping bottle clutched firmly in hand (if that doesn’t sound too phallic). Yet, an event largely consisting of bands with guitars, when people are so indifferent to said bands with guitars, that still goes on to attract huge numbers should make someone sit up and take notice.
Those who may just sit up and take notice are those keeping an eye on Hull’s City Of Culture bid. Lots of people on the outside (and inside) of Hull laugh at the idea, but it’s not that preposterous. Sure, Hull has it’s problems but the majority of those are dwelled upon by the media etc due to poor PR and to say that Hull is the only city in Britain that is let down by a small minority of idiots or a lack of funding, is downright unfair- that is an epidemic that flows through the whole of the country in 2013.
In many ways, Hull is just unlucky it hasn’t had that huge, great breakthrough artist who defines a musical era to stamp it as a “cool” city that can marketed as such. Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool all have those in the form of the various bands that have imposed themselves on the national consciousness, Hull just got unfortunate that theirs was the housewives favourites- The Beautiful South. Mmmm, music to hoover to…..nice. There have of course, been plenty of fine bands linked to Hull, but people do not flock there as they do as a result of The Stone Roses/Oasis, Arctic Monkeys/Pulp and The Beatles elsewhere.
All of the above cities have nice areas to visit and shop in, and ultimately settle down, but there are large parts of them that you sure as fuck wouldn’t like to walk around late at night, and Hull is no different than that. I live in the Avenues area of Hull, and would happily stay there for the rest of my life. It’s quiet, the neighbours say “hello” and I feel like Richard Briers from The Good Life. Two minutes away is the house I used to rent, where kids smashed footballs against my wall every night, my Sky dish was snapped and someone tried to pull my Sky box through the wall via the aerial at 3am (don’t fuck with my Sky man!). Hull has great bars such as down Princes Avenue and Newland Avenue, that you’d recommend to anyone visiting, that unfortunately can have drunken idiots in them that hospitalise people for no reason in the toilets. These things come with living in a city, and it’s one for society as a whole to try and fix.
Events such as the Humber Street Sesh will change people’s views of Hull and hopefully, there were lots of students at it that hadn’t gone home, so they could spread the good word to those who live outside the city.
These events also suggest that there is siege mentality in Hull by the people who live there, that they are sick of being trodden upon by those outside its borders. Siege mentalities are good, they often breed success. They occasionally breed events like Waco, but mostly success.
As people in Hull finally decide that they are going to prove the doubters wrong, and show them just what can be done here, they are doing what the good people of Britain have had to do for every major event we have ever put on, with the disapproving eyes of the world upon it. As you may have noticed, failure rarely comes. It looks like Hull may have just come out in fine fighting form, you can almost hear the Joe Esposito song from Karate Kid building in the background. I will be booking the weekend off next year to join all my friends at Humber Street Sesh and I’m sure many more will visit as the success grows.
There was a time when there really was nothing to do in Hull, but the bands are coming back and there are more than two options for a night out. Bars are closing sometimes and not every venture is a success, but that shouldn’t dishearten anyone from their path, the booming nineties this is not.
Look, Hull isn’t perfect, I get tired of living here far too often, but to turn my shoulder on it, would be to turn my back on all that is northern, working class and vaguely bittersweet about it, and I’m not about to do that.
To paraphrase Morgan Freeman quoting Ernest Hemingway, at the end of Se7en, “Hull is fine place and worth fighting for”, I agree with the second part…..and who knows, maybe I’m leaning towards the first part too as time goes on?
Paul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff