The lights of New Year fireworks hadn’t even flickered out before the esteemed pinnacle of journalism that is The Sun, launched a tirade against Yorkshire’s own City of Culture - complete with rather dubious sounding ‘quotes’ from unnamed visitors. What more reason did I need to go to Hull?
To many, the name Hull is synonymous with Yorkshire’s medieval Thieves’ Litany which calls upon the Almighty to deliver us from ‘Hell, Hull and Halifax’. The first location is obviously a less than desirable holiday destination. The latter is in reference to the Halifax Gibbet, an early form of guillotine. Hull’s inclusion is due to the historical reputation of Hull Gaol and bears no relation to the city today.
That said, the tabloid in question has form when it comes to condemning northern cities, not least Liverpool (2008 European Capital of Culture), which has boycotted the paper since 1989.
Such cheap shots from London based rags are not only symptomatic of shoddy tabloid journalism, but underline the repeated, indeed incessant, damning of the north by capital-centric media. Hull is in many ways an ideal candidate to be UK City of Culture. Its chequered history mirrors that of the whole of Yorkshire. A prosperous port linking Yorkshire’s industry to the rest of the globe, Hull showcases Yorkshire’s heritage. Over the last century, the city, like many across the Ridings, suffered a period of decline; neglected and all too often dismissed by Westminster governments.
Now however, Hull is a city on the rise.
The centrepiece of the illuminations, which launched a year of events for the 2017 City of Culture, was a breathtaking spectacle of light and sound. The installation, which dramatically depicted the trials and triumphs of the past 70 years (the devastation of the Second World War, optimism of the 1960s, tragedy of those lost at sea and scenes of recent sporting success), had the power to move onlookers and fill even a non-native like myself with pride for a city that has given Yorkshire and the country so much. The energy amid the crowd was palpable.
Organisers have done a magnificent job. Blue-jacketed guides provided information and warmly endeavoured to answer questions from visitors whilst security services ensured the smooth and safe flow of people as we moved between the various exhibitions, including a light projection on The Deep celebrating Hull as a gateway to the world, yet one which retains its own rich cultural identity. Completely the opposite of the impression given by the aforementioned fish-wrapper.
I arrived back in Queen Victoria Square in time to witness the conclusion of another display. Rays of blue light and letters of glittering gold proudly announced to the world ‘We Are Hull’!
Whilst I am not going to stand in the way of anyone who wishes to boycott the paper, to my mind the most apt way to challenge such spurious articles is to visit our City of Culture for yourself. The condemnation of Hull is a condemnation of Yorkshire. So as you get off the train and leave Paragon Station, raise your hand in the air, stick two fingers to The Sun in a Kes-inspired gesture of northern defiance and celebrate our City of Culture because ‘We Are Yorkshire’!
Note: Published in the Yorkshire Times - 'Why Doesn't The Sun Shine in Hull?' on Monday 9th January 2017.