Tag Archives: Culture

Fire Up The Incubators (The Creative and Cultural Column in HullMag 2nd Article)

Fire Up The Incubators

Winning the City of Culture for 2017 may well be the most significant thing to happen to Hull this decade, which is saying something after the scare Hull City gave Arsenal in the  2014 FA cup final. For one year, Hull will be the UK centre for arts and culture, giving the city a much greater international profile. People will literally fly halfway around the world just to visit Hull. The legacy of 2017 will hopefully be a vibrant cultural sector, which may in turn, help change the image of the city for the better and attract more investment and build greater prosperity.

For some, this may all seem a bit too good to be true and sure enough, there are rumblings of concern in some quarters. What seems to be exercising the minds of the local arts community and many local citizens is the worry that the City of Culture will simply mean loads of outsiders coming in to ‘do’ all the arty stuff while we locals are mere onlookers or members of the audience. This is something we need to think about.
Let’s be honest, we didn’t win the City of Culture bid because Phil Redmond and the other judges thought that Hull already had a world beating local arts scene. If this was the case then we wouldn’t need City of Culture status. All we’d need is a half decent promotional budget and maybe a five star hotel and then the glitterati would no doubt come flooding in, or at least visit now and again. Secondly, outside of London, I would suggest that no English city has a world class arts scene capable of supporting a year-long City of Culture programme without the support of ‘outsiders’.
The City of Culture isn’t about putting on a local talent show. It is about holding the biggest and best arty-party of 2017 and to do that we are going to need outside help and it needs to be world class. So we shouldn’t be overly concerned about those big ticket events being run by and featuring professionals from outside Hull. It isn’t an admission of defeat and we aren’t being robbed of local jobs. Here’s a way of measuring where we stand. If you are an organiser do you have Sir Peter Bazalgette’s personal phone number? If you are an artist does he have yours? And if you’re wondering who the hell this guy is, well that’s another matter.
And yet, it’s still our party. Whoever wrote the bid and however well it was done, the people of Hull won it. Don’t take my word for it, Phil Redmond made that perfectly clear when the result was announced. We may need the City of Culture, but we also REALLY want it. And when the well-earned hangover has worn off in January 2018 Hull’s cultural scene needs to be bigger and better, and we need to have great memories, of what we saw and heard but also what we did and what we can continue to do in culture, the arts and beyond.
Hosting City of Culture isn’t in itself enough to create a positive and sustainable legacy.  Thankfully no-one has come out with the old adage that a rising tide raises all boats, at least not yet. If they do here’s an answer – that’s great as long as you’ve got a boat. In order to develop and sustain a vibrant creative sector well beyond 2017, we need structured, well supported creative paths and artistic opportunities. And we need to make use of those opportunities to create great art and put on better events. We need to be doing these things up to and during 2017 if we are going to do them after.

We should, of course, be realistic and we need to be fair, both to ourselves and to the City of Culture team. None of us expect to be asked to step in at the last minute and programme the opening ceremony, but we also shouldn’t be satisfied with standing by the side of the road hoping to sell a few beads to the cultured tourists.
incubatorDerry-Londonderry (so good they named it twice) was the last UK City of Culture in 2013, a city previously best known to many for its role in ‘the Troubles’ and ‘Bloody Sunday’. 2013 undoubtedly helped to give the city a new image but it’s legacy was perhaps best summed up in the words of actress and singer Bronagh Gallagher; “Think of Derry as a child with a new voice. A place of thousands of nests with wee eggs about to hatch.” To make the most of our year in the spotlight we need to give serious consideration to the process of incubation.

Rant over 🙂 Discuss!

My new Creative and Cultural Column in HullMag

I am writing a new column with support from The Creative & Cultural Company Team in Hull.

Printed in Hull Mag Issue #17 2015

The Creative & Cultural Column by Alan Raw

Can You Name 10?

larkin selfportrait with camera

The European City of Culture this year is the Belgian town of Mons. If this has passed you by, you’re not alone. As our cultural neighbours we should follow their progress over the next year, share in their triumphs and hopefully learn from their mistakes.

All of which set me thinking about an old party game: name 10 famous Belgians (we didn’t have an Xbox). This game now seems particularly unfair as they produced a fine crop of artists and continue to do so. And do you know who invented the saxophone? Then there’s Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone.

Which also set me thinking: what do we (Hull) bring to the year-long party in 2017? Could you and I name 10 Hull citizens with a national or international reputation in the arts?

Here’s my starter for 10 in no particular order:

1. Philip Larkin. One of Britain’s favourite poets, a literary A-lister. He unwittingly and perhaps unwillingly caused a cabal of 1st class poets to live and work in Hull. Many people rightly point out that Philip Larkin wasn’t born in Hull, but he lived here, worked here, wrote in and about the city; and put Hull on the international literary map. In true local style he was also the second Hull Poet to turn down the post of Poet Laureate.

2. Alan Plater. One of the telly and radio script writers from the golden age of TV drama. Another ‘famous son’ who wasn’t born in the city. He moved here from Jarrow when he was 3 years old but he grew up and went to school in the city. He gave Hull one of its few starring roles, in The Land of Green Ginger, a one off drama featured on A Play For Today. He was also called Alan (Good Man!).

3. Mick Ronson is arguably Hull’s greatest musical export; his appearance with Bowie on Top Of The Pops was seminal. He was a key player in some of Rock’s finest moments.

4. Throbbing Gristle. Part performance art, part “pop” music, the band and its members were in turns ignored and demonized by much of the press for their dark and challenging sound and subject matter. Band members moved on to projects from the comparatively poppy Psychic TV to a less audience friendly Dadaist performance art.

5. Sean McAllister. A Hull factory worker turned film maker and responsible for some of the most emotionally powerful documentaries of recent times, check out The Liberace of Baghdad.

6. Hull has turned out so many well know actors, it’s hard to choose just one, but I’m going with Sir Tom Courtenay. Dr Zhivago, Billy Liar, The Dresser, need I say more.

7. J Arthur Rank, a flour magnate turned movie mogul, as you do. The result was the Rank Organisation, Pinewood Studios and classic films such as Kind Hearts and Coronets & Whisky Galore. He gave the creative freedom to some of Britain’s best film makers including Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger & David Lean. Legend!

8. Barrie Rutter. A TV and stage actor turned director, he set up the Northern Broadsides Theatre Company, which proudly gives a northern voice to Shakespeare.

9. Jean Rook. Self-proclaimed First Lady of Fleet Street, she was the first female editor of a national Sunday paper and a long-standing opinion columnist at the Daily Express and yes Jean was from ‘Ull.

10. Last but not least, Sir Alfred Gelder. A nationally renowned Architect of the Victorian period, he came to Hull all the way from North Cave to make his fortune. He was responsible for making Hull one of the finest cities during his lifetime.

So that’s the first 10 out of my head. How did you do? Who said Maureen Lipman first…? And you can’t count Ben Watt & Tracey Thorn as separate ones, you just get 1 for Everything but the Girl. You could have had The Housemartins or Dame Jenni Murray as she went to Hull Uni, as did our City of Culture champion, Rosie Millard, along with actor and president of Equity, Malcolm Sinclair, award winning film director, Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain, Truly, Madly, Deeply, The Talented Mr Ripley, The English Patient), and poet Roger McGough. John Godber worked in Hull Uni, as did former poet laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, so you can have them too.

And what about Norman Cook, Roland Gift, The Watersons, actors John Alderton and Ian Carmichael, 50s pop star, David Whitfield, League of Gentlemen actor/writer, Reece Shearsmith, stand up comedian, Isy Suttie, 17th century poet, Andrew Marvell and…I could go on and maybe we should. In fact, let’s play this game more often and start telling more people who and what Hull can bring to the party in 2017.