One of the highlights of our recent trip up north was taking the opportunity to visit Hull on the way back. Poor old city – it has endured being the butt of jokes for years, seeming to only come top of lists of the worst places to live in the UK. However, especially with it enjoying ‘UK City of Culture’ status this year, it seemed like a good time to visit it. I’d previously got as far as Beverley (which we stopped at enroute to pop into the fabulous Beverley Minster) but never into Hull itself.
Driving in, it reminded me of some patches of London that I know – not an entirely flattering comparison, as I think that came from seeing the combination of solid old housing stock with a miscellaneous collection of grubby looking businesses. That continued for a bit as we walked into the centre after dropping off our bags at the bed and breakfast we were staying in. However, once we got to the city centre we could see a more admirable side of the place. We spent some time in the Ferens Art Gallery (sadly the Turner Prize exhibition was only opening this week, but there was plenty to feast our eyes on), had a decent dinner at Silvers (on Silver Street) and saw the National Theatre’s production of Jane Eyre at the New Theatre.
What impressed us most though was the attitude of Hull’s horde of volunteer welcomers. One of them took a few minutes break from the training session she was attending at the gallery to give us a run down of places we might like to go to eat. Later, we met another who, even while off duty and out of uniform, stepped up to offer help while we looked at a map and then threw in a quick introduction to Hull’s smallest window and most exotic address (both on the street known as The Land of Green Ginger).
It is a city that has had years of being overlooked, underappreciated and mocked and which has its share of troubles. Even in this special year, it seemed relatively empty compared to the crowds we are used to in Oxford. However, based on the number of people we met who were passionate about their homeplace and enthusiastically generous about sharing it, I think it deserves a brighter future; I wouldn’t be at all adverse to paying a return visit and staying a little longer than just one night.
I’m also going to count the photo at the top of the article – created using the iPad’s panorama feature which we recently discovered how to use – as another contribution to my 52photos project.