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In new situations, we have all been guilty of using small talk to get by. The generic mast of social acceptability, we cling to the worn out sentences that are recycled over and over again out of a British sense of politeness.
Although this favoured conversational method has certainly seen its cringe-worthy moments, those who attend or have attended a university Fresher’s week know that there will never be a higher ratio of fresh faces ready to ask you the same questions in a hamster-wheel format. Willing to interact and share your university moments with as many fantastic people as possible, the same three questions became common parlance—what is your name, what are you studying, and where exactly do you come from?
It’s the latter question that always proves to be a problem.
As soon as the name Hull is mentioned, all common modes of politeness descend into chaos. Clinging tightly to the 2005 episode of Best And Worst Places To Live In The UK, a large chunk of the population goes into a Kirsty and Phil-style overdrive. “Hull, err, that’s interesting,” say the more PC conversationalists. “Hull’s that shit hole, isn’t it?” say others. Sometimes I sigh in disapproval. Sometimes I try to reason and pity the more ignorant. On rare occasions, I have mimicked the Incredible Hulk in frustration. In their rash judgment and scornful tone, these acquaintances express a wider snobbery at large in the UK—the questionable culture of city bashing.
For those who don’t know a lot about Hull, a brief educational tour may be wise. Once a maritime city of great import, the seventh-biggest city in England thrived as a sea-faring town. However, this was recognised both in England and abroad. In WWII, the Yorkshire market hub was ripped to shreds in the blitzkrieg, with mainly buildings, docks and homes blasted into utter disrepair. The Cod Wars (as humorous as they sound) cemented Hull’s economic depravity. Trying to weather the industrial decline, Hull has become lesser known as a maritime metropolis and more as a scene of social depravity.
It is undeniable that Hull is struggling. Product of a Conservative agenda, Hull’s unemployment rate currently stands at 8.3%. Finding its feet again just a year or so before the recession began, the city was cruelly knocked down once more. Empty shops have become a feature of the town centre, vacant signs reading of closing down sales and bargain bonanzas. Parents, parents such as my own, spent months relentlessly hunting for jobs that didn’t exist, becoming innocent fodder for tabloid headlines. Failing to understand the beating heart of the city, those who haven’t visited Hull are quick to blame its citizens for the state of affairs, citing unreliable benefit figures, petty crime rates and the high volume of social housing. Not only are those blame seekers snobs, but ignorant snobs too.
As the turn of phrase goes, there’s always two sides to a story. A few streets away from the main strait of the city centre live the numerous arts hubs that are just waiting to be discovered. Once an innocent backstreet near the marina, Hull’s Humber Street is taking on a life of its own. Thanks to local music veteran Mark Page, the city piloted a local festival—The Humber Street Sesh—down the road, which boasted a 25,000 rich audience who waited to see Hull’s gravely underestimated musicians, and explore the local arts scene and the flurry of cafés and diners that are giving Hull that touch of independent magic.
Looking to take the city by storm once again this year, the “sesh” is at the pinnacle of what Hull has to offer. To namecheck just a taster of the fun that goes on in the city, just look for Fruit, Welly, The English Muse, Pave, Hull Truck Theatre and Thieving Harry’s in google and you’ll be onto the magic. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, think back to the city’s Radio One special last year, which dedicated a week’s worth of airtime to Hull.
John Godber writes for us. Philip Larkin moved to live with us. Steve Lamacq has praised us. Rather than seeing Hull as an infirm pensioner, it’s time to swap the specs and realise that the city is going places. I’m proud enough to be on board as a matter of birthright. You are more than welcome to join us on the bandwagon too.