Hull offers groups a big welcome and in preparation for its year as UK City of Culture 2017, the city is being revitalised and transformed. Brenda Watkinson discovers the choices for groups in the months ahead.
Located on the coast in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull was founded on the banks of the River Humber in the 12th century. It soon established itself as a thriving port through which wool was exported to Northern Europe, and raw materials were imported from the Baltic countries. Trade declined during the 16th and 17th centuries and since then Hull has been a market town, military supply port, trading hub, fishing and whaling centre and industrial metropolis. Its rich past and many contemporary achievements led to its designation as UK City of Culture 2017, and as a result the city has been transformed thanks to the City Council’s huge investment programme aimed at improving the public realm. During 2017 there will be new public art installations – many will use the city’s impressive maritime architecture as a backdrop to add to the experience – and an innovative artistic and cultural programme of events will run throughout the year.
Hull is a great city to discover on foot with its historic Old Town, Fruit Market and shopping zones all within easy reach of each other. A guided tour is an excellent way to learn about the city’s fascinating heritage and for groups of 10 or more, there are several to choose from. In fact, Visit Hull and East Yorkshire offer six Shop Ahoy! packages, each following a standard itinerary but with options available for each element of the visit allowing GTOs to tailor the trip to their groups’ requirements. Packages include coach parking, welcome on arrival, morning coffee, a walking or coach tour with an English Heritage accredited guide, and lunch. For first time visitors, the original Shop Ahoy! package is a good choice taking in the Old Town – home to the Museums Quarter – Hull Marina, Victoria Pier, Trinity Square and many hidden alleyways and courtyards. After lunch, your members will be able to spend the afternoon at leisure exploring either Hull’s free museums in the Museums Quarter, which connects via a pedestrian bridge to the Marina and Hull’s premiere attraction, The Deep, or in the Fruit Market where galleries, restaurants and attractions can be found. For a little retail therapy, head to one of the modern shopping centres or wander through the Hepworth Arcade, a Grade II Listed covered arcade, where Messrs Marks and Spencer opened one of their first penny stores. It’s still home to local traders including the famous, 80-year old, Dinsdale’s Joke and Trick Shop.
As you tour the city, you will undoubtedly hear about William Wilberforce, an MP for Hull and Yorkshire, who was responsible for leading the fight that led to the abolition of slavery. His birthplace is now the Wilberforce House Museum and his former school, Hull Grammar School, is the Hands on History Museum. To find out more about Hull’s important son, the tour Walking with Wilberforce is also offered as a Shop Ahoy! package.
Full-day itineraries are available such as the Craft Odyssey package, which starts with a tour of the Yorkshire Brewing Company and a chance to taste some of their specialist beers. After lunch at the Mission Public House, the two-hour guided Hull Ale Trail takes in the city’s most historic and architecturally important public houses including Ye Olde White Harte, Ye Olde Black Boy and The George. It’s also worth noting that the CAMRA Real Ale Festival Hull will take place from 27th to 29th April 2017. Other full-day itineraries include Discover Larkin, Fishy Foray and Ecclesiastical Architecture.
At the heart of Hull Marina is the spectacular aquarium The Deep, which tells the amazing story of the world’s oceans through stunning marine life, interactive and audio-visual presentations, and is home to 3,500 fish including magnificent sharks and rays. Discounts apply to groups of 10 or more.
Continuing on a maritime theme, the whaler’s craft of Scrimshaw is told at Hull’s Maritime Museum. The Museum is housed in the beautiful Victorian Dock Offices in Queen Victoria Square, designed by Christopher G Wray, and originally opened in 1871. The collections are divided into three main categories – whaling, fishing and the merchant trade – and concentrate on Hull’s maritime activities from the late 18th century to the present.
Hull 2017 – UK City of Culture
Hull 2017 is a wide-ranging, multi-art form programme, which will bring 365 days of transformative arts and culture to neighbourhoods citywide. National and local artists, performers and cultural organisations will create an extraordinary variety of work aimed at all audiences whether from Yorkshire, Britain or overseas. There’s something for groups and independent visitors alike and it will re-enforce Hull’s status as a first rate destination for culture lovers and for those wanting to experience something a little bit different.
Amongst highlights is the reopening of the Ferens Gallery, one of Britain’s finest regional art galleries, and it will feature the newly renovated panel painting by Pietro Lorenzetti – Christ between Saints Paul and Peter. Located in the heart of the city centre, the gallery’s forthcoming shows will include five of Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes series as well as the Turner Prize.
The 2017 line-up of classical and popular music at Hull City Hall and at the refurbished Middleton Hall, part of Hull University, will suit a range of tastes. The Hallé, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras will all perform in the city and Opera North will premiere a new commission – and musical installation – that turns the iconic Humber Bridge into a piece of music.
Theatre lovers will be able to enjoy new work at Hull Truck Theatre, including the world premiere of The Hypocrite by award-winning Hull born playwright, Richard Bean (of One Man, Two Guvnors fame), which is a co-commission with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a new production of Richard III.
The 2017 artistic programme is entitled ‘A City for all Seasons’ and has four phases, each with something distinctive and intriguing to say about Hull and its place in the world. The year-long celebration of history, connections, culture and diversity will conclude with a view of Hull’s future as a ‘city reborn’ in the Northern Powerhouse. The first season, ‘Made in Hull’, runs from January to March, and will welcome the world to the city with the aim of shaking up people’s preconceptions.Curated by award-winning documentary film maker Sean McAllister, it will see artists using large scale projection on buildings, illuminated skylines, soundscapes, shop windows and live performance to mark the last 70 years of the city.
This will be followed by ‘Roots & Routes’ (April to June), which will explore Hull’s unique place in a constantly changing world. The summer season ‘Freedom’ (July to September) is an excuse to rip up the rule book, allowing people to create, debate, reflect and re-imagine on their own terms, while ‘Tell the World’ (October to December) looks to the future.