Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Feel Good Legacy

You can if you like just look at the picture of the pretty lights on Ferensway and move on. I'm going to prattle on about the City of Culture and stuff like that so if that bores you terminally press on to better things ...

Just the other day there were reports on local TV and in the local paper of the final evaluation report by the University of Hull on the year 2017 and the City of Culture and what , if any, its long lasting benefits might be. I've tried to find a copy online but failed so what I'm commenting on is second hand, might not be accurate, indeed may be a pack of stale tosh but that never stopped me before so here goes. 
The picture I get is one of desperation. For example nearly 80% of the "visitors" to "events" in 2017 came from either Hull or the East Riding neighbourhood, of the other 20% I bet a fair few came from Lincolnshire just across the Humber Bridge. Less than 1% of visitors were from abroad. It seems that, despite being the "national" UK City of Culture, they now claim that the year of culture was to be a local thing, aimed at Hull folk and they never intended to be aiming to attract a foreign (or indeed national) audience, well that was at least one measurable success they had. This was local culture for local people we now hear ... well more on this below.
It's claimed that five million people came to Hull to see the "events" but this figure cannot be anything but a guesstimate (or, as I call it, an outright lie): I came to Hull several times during the year, I "saw" some of the "events" but I was there to do my shopping and would have been there in any case much like many of the so-called "visitors" from Hull and hereabouts. I can only assume I was counted several times as a "visitor". It was not so much a case of "Let's go see the big thing in Queen Victoria Square" as "Oh look there's a big effing big thing standing in my way, and what the F*** is it doing there?". Surely passive (or irate) "visitors" like this cannot count, indeed should be counted as a negative visitor ... and anecdotally I should add I did not notice more folk in town during the year. I admit, though, I was asked once by a tourist where Humber Dock was ...
Still and yet there's the glorious legacy, as they like to call it. It seems those who volunteered to be part of the show did, on the whole, think it was positive for them. How nice for them I'm sure; but then these were only a few, a very few out of the many thousands who live in the place. Young people apparently were not too impressed by it all with mainly 50+ year olds attending most of the offerings. Also youngsters at school apparently missed out and continue to miss out due to curriculum requirements (shame, indeed, that their educational needs should take priority over this cultural hogwash).
Surely all that money has left something behind, something tangible ... (I love that word! tangible!) Well it seems there was a 1% increase in tourist spending in 2018 over 2017 but then inflation was ~2.5% so that actually is a decrease in real terms ... There have been some hundreds of millions of public and private investment spent in the town in the past six years but the best the report can say is this could "at least be partly attributed to the UK City of Culture" or maybe it is partly due to this splendid blog or who knows? ... like I say : desperate.
Now, look around the town: has it got better? Are the shops full of wealthy customers eager to keep the local economy thriving? Hardly,  they're shopping online or going out of town to Sheffield or York. The photo shows the old House of Fraser shop, Binns, as I call it draped with lights but it shut back in summer (I'm told it will open as an "artisan food hall" whatever that is ...) and there are dozens more shops like this some empty for many years.
There is apparently a legacy organisation, with the absolutely ridiculous title of Absolutely Cultured ("core purpose is to put culture and creativity at the heart of people’s lives to drive Hull’s ambition and aspirations.")  that is described as "vague in terms of resources, responsibilities and modalities of implementation." which is I take to be a polite way of saying they haven't got a clue ... I can say I've heard of it but cannot see anything that it has actually done and its website hardly inspires.
Ah but culture is not to be measured in such crude financial ways, the benefits to the people of Hull are intangible, some might say. They get a boost somehow from all this publicity, they get to feel good, to have pride in their city. Hmm well in 2018 4% fewer Hull folk felt better about Hull than in 2017. I guess those who took the £32 million or so that was raised, the out-of-town installation makers, the out-of-town providers of torch lit parades (Continentals do such a good torch lit parade, don't you find?), the strange out-of-town American guy who took photos of hundreds of naked folk on the streets of the town (for a big fat fee, of course), the gangly out-of-town oik who was in charge and the out-of-town journalist whose sole qualification seemed to be that she went to Hull University once and was second in charge (for oh so reasonable a fee) I bet all these and so many more out-of-townies who selflessly had to force their snouts into the trough (again the fees were reasonable)  are indeed feeling a lot happier about Hull.
Let us, therefore, seek the cultural legacy elsewhere since it clearly ain't here, mate.


  1. That core purpose sounds like it was written by someone either deliberately misleading... or hopelessly drunk.