Back to Ours

You’re throwing a party. One that’s going to make such a splash that everyone wants to be on the guest list. Some local celebrities are certs (you couldn’t not invite them) and a lot of others have done everything they can to make it onto the red carpet for the twelve-month party that is Hull’s year as City of Culture.

However, there could never be room for all…

From the point of view of local artists working in the city, many of whom had been slogging away for years with little or no funding, the sudden surge of opportunities and expectations was always going to present some challenges. The Creative Communities Programme pot was a relatively small one and decisions on its funding allocations last summer produced in many deep disappointment, though perhaps not the ‘fury and outrage’ as described in The Hull Daily Mail (30/7/16). As ever, local journalism mimics tabloid convention: people must always emote to the max; they can’t be just mildly hacked off!

Full disclosure: I was one of The Rejected Ones. Of course in the nature of project bids some must fail and in this case the City of Culture team received 650 applications of which 60 were successful. Yet woolly criteria, no feedback and eight automated emails telling me that my bid had been unsuccessful didn’t help matters. Not long after this I, along with thousands of others, experienced frustration in trying to get tickets for the opening firework display from a clunky, non-user friendly website.

However, to dispel any impression of negativity (a charge made, at times unfairly I feel, at the merest whiff of criticism), I must point out that I’m one of a thousand City of Culture volunteers (plans are for a further 3,000) who have already experienced an excellent training programme and have access to a huge range of master classes. Enthusiasm for the city and 2017 is stitched into my “scandalous blue, ludicrous purple and mischievous pink uniform”, which I wear with pride.

Our celebrations are being held in over 90 venues, a veritable A-Z of performance spaces from Artlink to Zebedees Yard: pubs, clubs, parks, cinemas and community centres are all being utilised. There are the obvious ones: for example Hull Truck Theatre is hosting the premiere of Richard Bean’s new play The Hypocrite, a collaboration with the RSC whose run has been extended because of high demand. By way of contrast Depart, an outdoor circus type event by the Australian group Circa, takes place in a graveyard (which I’m tempted to say, had I not designated these blogs a pun-free zone, is dead cool).

Back to Ours is a series of festivals of family friendly shows, some of which will take place in schools and shopping centres on estates outside the city centre. The first takes place during this February half term when we are promised: “stories that will bring a tear to the eye, belly laughing jokes, magical moments and even a bit of puppet nudity”!

Other projects are focussed on refugees, travellers and those with special needs: the desire to spread the net wide with regard to audiences is clear and perhaps goes some way to explaining decisions referred to earlier.

Hull’s party was not one with a slow, awkward start but rather one where you heard the noise and excitement from some distance away and couldn’t wait to get inside and join the jollity. There may well be some complaints (better that than nobody noticing it’s happening) but without a doubt this is going to a memorable do.

Gatecrashers welcome.