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?
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.